Our team at CircleCI has been hard at work this past year. From rolling out major product additions like CircleCI Insights and private orbs, along with educational resources like our developer hub and State of Software Delivery Report that includes the first CI/CD benchmarks for high-performing engineering teams, it seems like every day there is something new to look forward to.
All of this has taken place during unprecedented times for everyone across the globe. So, we’ve doubled down on our employee benefits to ensure our employees feel comfortable and safe to do their best work — more holidays off, meditation apps and professional learning subscriptions, meal delivery stipends, and investing in training and development for our team.
Others have noticed this work as well.
I am honored to share that CircleCI has been named on Forbes’ list of America’s Best Startup Employers for 2021.
Forbes partnered with market research company Statista to identify the up-and-coming companies liked best by their employees in their second-annual ranking of America’s best startup employers. The list was compiled by evaluating 2,500 American businesses with at least 50 employees on three criteria: employer reputation, employee satisfaction, and growth (For the full story and methodology, click here).
It is always validating to be recognized. This list is special because it deeply factors in employee experience. We do things differently, especially in these three areas that are core to our mission and values.
Supporting a healthy, hybrid workforce
Our team works together across three main regions: Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America. As humans, we strive to be connected to a larger purpose but we also want to feel connected with the people around us. When we mostly interact with people in the shape of pixels in video calls or icons in chat apps, it’s easy to forget there are humans at the other end of the screen. This is especially true when your organization is in high-growth mode.
A few years ago, the engineering team at CircleCI had doubled year over year and became more globally distributed. Conversely, the management team was incredibly small. After all this growth, we were running into challenges around evolving our engineering culture. Our knowledge was very siloed and we needed to find a path forward that would allow us to scale the business.
So we created an engineering competency matrix, which is woven into everything we do. From hiring, to structured feedback, to performance reviews, it helps us hold everyone to the same standards and clarify expectations as we scale.
Check out some other helpful resources from CircleCI team members on onboarding best practices here:
- Essential checklists for onboarding remote employees
- Onboarding Expectations outline
- Engineer Onboarding checklist
Our collaboration processes and tooling enable everyone to access the information and resources they need to do their job and make informed decisions, regardless of time zone.
Because of this, we bring different backgrounds, experiences, communication styles and collaboration preferences, and many more differences to the (virtual) table. Much less happens organically through osmosis, or at the literal water cooler, but at the same time, many of the communication difficulties all teams face are exacerbated when we’re distributed across locations and time zones.
We’ve found five ways to combat these challenges:
Build trust. The first step in creating structure is building relationships. At CircleCI, for example, we’ve built structures such as regular pair programming rotations and engineering talks to help our distributed teams connect.
Structure around how you collaborate. As our engineering department has expanded, we’ve moved to a more streamlined engineering delivery process. But each team decides how to implement day-to-day processes like daily standup meetings, planning sessions, or collaboration. Every team has specific needs, and they know how to best address them.
Remove blockers. We all know how frustrating it is to be stuck. Building pathways — for example, investing in self-serve information access, supporting each other across teams, and establishing knowledge-sharing — can help keep things moving forward.
Continuously improve. Use retrospectives to discuss and improve how your teams work together. Blameless postmortems are also a great tool to help understand problems and drive solutions. Code reviews, mentoring, and knowledge-sharing can help team members learn from each other. How you talk about learning — especially the way you discuss mistakes — matters. These decisions will fundamentally shape the culture of your teams and determine whether people feel safe or threatened in their core needs.
Drive toward alignment. Communicate strategy, direction, and relevant tactical details to your teams — and remember that it’s almost impossible to over-communicate these details. Always repeat what’s important.
Here are some of the best reads by our employees about working from home:
- How to communicate on a remote team: tools and templates for engineers
- Maslow’s hierarchy of remote worker needs
- How my distributed team communicates so no context is left behind
- What it means to be remote-first vs. remote-friendly
- What to expect as a remote CircleCI employee
Bringing people together
Our teams regularly gather virtually to get to know each other and build relationships, sync, collaborate, and strategize face-to-face.
These are individual-led activities such as weekly crosswords, guided yoga and meditation sessions, virtual happy hours and various team building events like “bring a llama to your meeting” and “team Quiplash.”
Additionally, CircleCI sponsors four Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which currently include CircleSHEi, Queersphere, Onyx, and Circle Minds. These groups meet regularly to talk about the individual needs of each group, corporate policies and benefits that need to be in place, and what the company can do to better meet their needs.
“CircleCI is truly a great place to work. We have a strong product, a great work/life balance, and quality team members who both push and support us,” – Vinny Thanh, Senior Solutions Engineer (celebrating his second year at CircleCI this month)
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