Humility, respect, diversity: What 3 Chicago companies look for in new hires

Andreas Rekdal

If you're looking to build a company with a major impact on the world, you can't afford to skimp on culture. Particularly in the early stages, the people you hire will play a huge role in determining what kind of company you'll grow into.

In order to figure out what really matters to recruiters in Chicago tech, we reached out to three companies to ask what they look for in new employees. From humility to diversity, respect and honesty, here's what they're looking for when expanding their teams.
 

Pangea is on a mission to make international money transfers easier, faster and safer. As a startup whose largest client base transfers money to friends and family abroad, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the company believes firmly in the benefits of including a broad number of perspectives. But according to CEO Nishu Thukral, Pangea looks way beyond national origin when thinking about diversity.

What unique traits do you look for in new employees?

The Pangea way is about welcoming differences. When you work here, you have to value that, and in terms of leadership, you have to make that point.

I look at diversity pretty broadly. To me, diversity is about even more than skin color, sexual orientation or gender — it’s about bringing in people with different points of view. When you bring in people with different worldviews, whether that is work, life, or cultural experience, they bring something to the table that we all collectively learn from. That’s what makes us stronger.

Diversity is something that doesn’t just happen. You can value diversity, but you have to put a process and culture in place that values this frame of mind. You have to be inclusive. Having women in leadership at Pangea didn’t happen by accident. It’s because I’ve focused on that. It’s not about meeting quotas — we have to work really hard to make sure that there’s an infrastructure in place that’s welcoming and attractive to all kinds of people.

How does that influence Pangea’s culture?

Building a team with different points of view helps us approach problems differently, and that’s how we come up with creative solutions. At Pangea, we’re trying to solve big problems, and we can look at it through more than just one lens. This helps with our creativity and overall strength as a team.

 

With a recipe of “behavioral science, great writing, purposeful humor, mighty tech and oregano,” Jellyvision’s software helps people make tough life decisions about complex things like healthcare and finances. Its users include millions of employees at hundreds of companies, including a whopping 71 of the Fortune 500.

But senior VP Mary Beth Wynn said they don’t want employees who’ll get too caught up in their own success.

What unique traits do you look for in new employees?

Jellyvision puts a lot of emphasis on hiring people who are humble. Like everyone else, we want people who are smart, talented and driven, but we also find that folks who combine those traits with humility tend to be the best fit. We have a collaborative work environment, and the employees who shine here are just as quick to recognize the ideas and achievements of others as they are their own.

Which is not to say that we don’t want people who are confident in their skills. To the contrary, we find that the more confident people are, the more they recognize the contributions of others instead of trumpeting their own. It may sound like a contradiction to say that we like really confident, humble people — but we really do believe those two traits are key, and go hand in hand.

We also recruit for skills rather than specific experience. Say you’re applying to be one of our project managers who work with benefits information. Having experience in the health industry is obviously a plus, but even more important is being organized, a problem solver and a great communicator. And you may have developed those skills in a variety of different environments.

How does that influence Jellyvision’s culture?

When you bring together people with a wide variety of experiences and an appreciation for the talents of others, you can create some really neat stuff. Different perspectives allow us to challenge the status quo, and working with a team of confident and humble people means that we can give and receive feedback both honestly and kindly. That keeps our work, and our working relationships, growing and improving every day.

 

Emmi leverages technology and behavioral science to provide patients with actionable information they can use to become more involved in their own healthcare and improve their health outcomes. The company’s solutions place particular emphasis on tracking patients’ engagement and progress toward key objectives.

All the while, said Human Resources VP Sharon Ray, they stay focused on a simple motto: “Keep Emmi Weird.”

What unique traits do you look for in new hires?

We embrace diversity in thought, background and experiences as we know it leads to greater innovation and better decision making. Along these lines, we believe it is critical that people are collaborative and demonstrate to us that they will treat their colleagues with respect. We also look for people who are passionate about improving healthcare.

In addition, our company is made up of individuals who have a strong desire to make an impact. Despite Emmi’s tremendous growth, we maintain an entrepreneurial culture, where regardless of level, people feel like they are a true partner in the organization and are able to make real and significant contributions.  

How does that influence Emmi’s culture?

At Emmi, we have an internal motto: “Keep Emmi Weird.” The meaning is simply that we celebrate different cultures, interests and experiences. We want to create a work environment where individuals feel like they can be themselves and can make contributions in their own unique way.

We live by a "work hard, play hard” mantra, and although our people are passionate about the business and work hard, we also make time for play and connection with colleagues. We try to create a family environment, where people feel supported professionally and personally.

Images via participating companies.

What's your company's story? Shoot us an email to fill us in, or follow us on Twitter @BuiltInChicago.

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