I’m the new employee.  How are the first 30 days? I started my job at DeepSurface 30 days ago. I left a great job.  I had good friends, supportive colleagues, a great team and growing career.  I moved from an organization of over 9,000 employees to a start-up where the entire company is smaller than the team I managed.  What have I learned?  I feel at home.  I am truly enjoying getting to know my new colleagues and have been able to participate in a few in-person meetings.  I’ve worked at start-ups before, but DeepSurface is different.  Maybe I’m different?  It’s been a while (or a decade) since my last go-round with a start-up, but in my first month, I am reminded of a few key foundations that have drawn me back to this environment and specifically to DeepSurface:

A unifying vision

If you don’t think culture is important, you probably won’t care about the vision.  A company’s vision is important to me and one of the things that drew me to DeepSurface.  A small company with a very laser-focused, intentional group of humans.  The mission is clear:  DeepSurface is creating a safer world for tomorrow by protecting companies and people.  Just words, but set a vision of why we’re doing what we’re doing. 

Empowerment is important

Empowerment is a powerful thing.  The company philosophy is customers first, everyone is an entrepreneur, and we will support each other, especially when we make a mistake.  We are encouraged to think outside the box.  No bureaucracy or presentations to justify why what we are doing matters, just hard work and the understanding that everyone is hired as experts in their area and presumably know more about their subject than anyone else in the organization.  We are empowered to think and make decisions for the good of the company.  And we are there to support each other through our common mission and vision. We are a true team and it’s great. 

Finding a culture that suits you is important   

Whatever kind of culture you enjoy, understand what’s important to you. Embrace it.  Find it.  There is no single more important aspect of a job.  Don’t think it’s important?  Then find like-minded folks who don’t want to do happy hours and getting-to-know-you activities.  That’s not me.  Want to see who can put in the most hours and attend the most meetings?  Not me either (anymore).  I’m still friends with colleagues from my first job more than 20 years ago.  I’ve found that surrounding myself with people who make me think differently and encourage healthy discussions helps me to become a better employee, leader and friend.   

The importance of work/life balance

My husband and I worked non-stop. My now nine-year-old was too young to remember the days when his dad and I would carefully coordinate our travel schedules because I was off to Singapore and he was off to Germany leaving him to stay with a grandparent.  But it got worse with the pandemic.  We were all home.  All. The. Time. He made drawings of keyboards and created cell phones out of cardboard.  As with many of us, he was emulating what he saw. He would ask how my project was going with Jim (whom he’d never met) just to be able to participate in the conversation.  That was a new low and I knew things needed to change.

At DeepSurface, we have specified times of focused deep work where we block off our calendars to maximize productivity.  Three months ago, I would have thought it was nuts.  At other companies, I would block my calendar, but the time was almost always taken by meetings and any work was completed in the evenings and weekends.  At DeepSurface, our calendars are visible to anyone in the company.  After a month, not one person has asked for a meeting during my deep work time.  I truly forgot how productive I could be without constant interrupts.  All employees were required to read Deep Work by Cal Newport. Some can dedicate more deep work time than others, but it has helped add structure to my day.  I also love lists.  I’ve taken an honest assessment of what I can accomplish in a day so I can feel I’ve accomplished what I needed to within that day.  I’ve found I’m more focused in both work and home life.  As an aside, I’ve been told by a few people in my household (there are three of us so it’s unanimous) that I’m much more pleasant to be around too.

Active listening – a novel but important concept

People at DeepSurface listen.  Actively.  I was in a meeting on day three – new industry, new colleagues and in a new to the company position.  Very intimidating situation.  We had a few topics to discuss and at each point, our CEO asked my opinion.  Not to be polite, but because he wants to understand all perspectives.  He asked about the reason for my answer.  I felt very heard.  As a woman who has worked in nearly all male-dominated industries, it was nice to feel that even on day three I had an equal seat at the table.

Be the 5:00 colleague

One of my mentors gave me some food for thought a few years back during an interview.  He said that when he interviews he wants a 5:00 Friday colleague.  The type of collaborator who is either calling to have a virtual cocktail, or someone who wouldn’t call unless absolutely necessary and needs help. Someone you would gladly pick up the phone and help because you know they would do the same.  I’ve used that as my hiring mantra ever since.  Would I want to pick up the phone if this person called me at 5:00 on a Friday? 

The takeaway: When I told people I was leaving my job managing a big team with a lot of growth potential, most people thought I was nuts.  This is where I’m meant to be.  It’s not the size of the company, or honestly even the product, though even my 77 year-old dad thinks it’s pretty cool.  It’s about how you feel at the end of the day.  Are you making a positive contribution?  Can you engage at work efficiently enough that you can engage at home without worry?  Do you have an environment where you feel you can thrive?

So, cheers to my friends and family members who have read this far and supported my journey. I’m having a blast, learning a lot and looking forward to enjoying one of our office perks (half day Fridays during the summer!) that are right around the corner.