How employees build and shape the rock-solid cultures at 5 local tech companies

by Michael Hines
April 25, 2018

If you want to learn about a company’s culture, you could read its mission statement and memorize its core values.

Or, you could just ask someone at the company. Everything from the way teams collaborate to the charitable and social events employees organize and participate in are indicators of culture.

We spoke to employees at five local companies to learn more about the roles their teams play in both shaping and maintaining culture.

 

Enova Chicago tech company

Enova is an online lender that uses machine learning and analytics to assess the creditworthiness of both consumers and small businesses that can’t access traditional lines of credit. Copywriter Ashlyn Keefe said the company’s core values help create a culture that makes Enova — the city’s seventh largest tech employer — feel smaller and more tight-knit.


What is the foundation of Enova’s culture?

If I may grossly generalize and speak for the majority of the millennial workforce, workplace culture is a big job-hunting factor. Of course, we want to make decent salaries and have access to good health insurance. We also want to be spending those 40 or more hours per week with people we enjoy working with, tackling independent and collaborative work, constantly learning new things, and developing our skills — all of which Enova does a great job of cultivating.

I have never worked with more talented, driven team members. They are absolutely what make Enova such a great place to work.”

How do employees shape your company’s culture and drive its growth?

Enova's culture is truly driven by its people. Many people say this, and I certainly won't be the last. I have never worked with more talented, driven team members. They are absolutely what make Enova such a great place to work.

Thanks to two core values, “Operate as an Owner” and “Accountable for Results,” an individual contributor’s input and work is always heard and valued. Have a new project idea or way to speed up a process? You'll almost always have the support and encouragement from your team members and managers to give it a go.


What keeps your culture rock-solid?

Enova puts on all kinds of non-work-related events like trivia nights, an annual pumpkin carving competition, monthly happy hours and more. That's in addition to all the fun stuff you'll do with your team. I work on the Enova Studios team, and with all the great stuff we've done and continue to do as a group (including a team book club, movie trips, crawfish boils, Friday afternoon movies and much more), our team is a tight-knit and fun-loving bunch.

 

Geneva Trading Chicago fintech company

Geneva Trading is a principal trading firm that celebrates an entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to cutting-edge tech to help it stay ahead of the competition. Trading team lead Richard Stern said the company’s culture is influenced by its flat management structure and encouragement of entrepreneurialism.

 

What is the the foundation of Geneva Trading’s culture?

Geneva's organization is structured so that there is a small and almost nonexistent middle management layer. This structure encourages managers to speak with their hearts at management meetings and for employees to share their ideas freely within their groups. The office environment is set up to encourage employees to share innovative ideas and to collaborate when possible.

The office environment is set up to encourage employees to share innovative ideas and to collaborate when possible.”

How do employees shape your company’s culture and drive its growth?

Geneva provides trading groups with a proprietary trading platform. The platform is pliable enough so that it can be manipulated by individuals or groups to perform specific tasks. Growth is driven by individuals developing unique strategies that can be implemented on the trading platform. Individuals are essential in the entire process from trade idea to project planning and implementation. The entire pipeline is very hands-on for all employees.

 

What keeps your culture rock-solid?

Monthly, informal all-company meetings help lighten the mood while keeping everyone informed and connected to the core mission of Geneva, which is to be the best technology and data-driven trading firm we can be. Geneva also sponsors several employee events throughout the year. These events have been held at Cubs games, local restaurants and even a shuffleboard club.

 

DialogTech Chicago tech company

Even though we live in a digital world, people still make phone calls, especially to businesses. DialogTech’s platform is used by businesses to see how their marketing efforts are driving calls and to create personalized caller experiences. Multiple employees said a wide variety of charitable and social events keeps its culture intact.

 

What is the foundation of DialogTech’s culture?

DialogTech’s culture is built on hiring SWANS — employees who are smart, hard-working, ambitious and nice. Every day you are surrounded by people who are very passionate, friendly and encouraging, which is infectious. Everyone is incredibly supportive and works hard to see each other succeed. We know we can always trust our coworkers to be there when we need them.

Employees are constantly developing new ways to be involved with charitable organizations, cultural events and even just other teams.”

How do employees shape your company’s culture and drive its growth?

Employees are constantly developing new ways to be involved with charitable organizations, cultural events and even just other teams within the company. Our lunchroom is packed at noon every day because employees actually want to eat lunch together, and nearly one-third of new hires come from employee referrals.


What keeps your culture rock-solid?

We host weekly formalized social events, from Friday beer bashes to fundraising initiatives. Recent events have included Grilled Cheese for the Bees, which raised money for the Cook-DuPage Beekeepers Association; a holiday gift and school supply drive; a Girls Who Code Pizza Party and Panel, and a Dress For Success clothing drive. We also host a monthly women’s group to discuss issues faced by women in technology and leadership.

 

Avant Chicago tech company

Avant’s big data and machine learning-powered platform makes it possible for consumers who can’t secure credit from banks and other financial institutions to receive loans. Production engineer Samantha Skinner, data scientist David Quach and HR associate Stephanie Vargo all weighed in on the company’s culture and how individual employees help maintain it.
 

What is the foundation of Avant’s culture?

Skinner: Avant's culture is based a lot around letting the best idea win. No matter what part of the business someone is in, if they have an idea that really shines through and will resolve the issue at hand, they are heard. In my experience, even if you’re not in your domain, people will listen to you as long as you come in with a clear spec. If you ask for something and have a good explanation as to why it’s needed, you can get it.

This is very different from my experience at other jobs where I would express my frustration with something and would hear back, “Well, that's just the way it is.” Nothing is “just the way it is” here: If you see something that needs to be changed, you can make it happen. Individuals and their diverse ideas are really the basis for success at Avant. We cannot succeed without each other's viewpoints. Everyone can bring something to the table and be heard.

Individuals and their diverse ideas are really the basis for success at Avant.”

How do employees shape your company’s culture and drive its growth?

Quach: No one sits in a corner office. All employees sit at an open plan desk no matter their level, which helps humanize executives and makes them feel more approachable.


What helps keep your culture rock-solid?

Vargo: We have an unofficial fun committee that likes to initiate surprise flippy cup tournaments. There’s also a demo day every other Thursday that keeps us up to date on the new and exciting projects our coworkers are working on. Avant's diversity and inclusion committee will hold a “Walk the Line” event, which helps employees understand how identity influences privilege. On top of all of that, there are regular lunch and learns, Ruby hack nights, Excel classes, a Cheese Club and more.

 

CSG International Chicago tech company
Katie Tuohy (L) and Kelly Lein (R)

Although it may seem like magic, a lot of hard work goes into ensuring you can watch TV on-demand and on just about any device. That’s where CSG comes in. Its technology helps media companies and entertainment providers launch and monetize new services. Solution consultant associate Katie Tuohy and product owner Kelly Lein said CSG’s culture is defined and shaped by its people, not perks.


What is the foundation of CSG’s culture?

Tuohy: There seems to be a current trend that correlates culture with the number of fun perks a company provides its employees. While I understand that a company wants to attract talent with neat perks, I believe culture can be boiled down to: who are the people you work with and how well you work together.

When it comes to the foundation of CSG’s culture, I would say it’s people-focused. In my five years here, I have found the office to be full of smart yet down-to-earth people who genuinely support one another and are dedicated to moving our products and clients forward. I have seen more day-to-day benefit come from hiring similarly motivated, intelligent and outgoing people than by offering free Swedish Fish.

Lein: Our company’s culture centers on being innovative and authentic people who are customer-obsessed. CSG builds very complex products that affect people’s day-to-day lives. Because of this, we put a lot of effort into striking a balance between innovation and thorough diligence when building products.

Collaboration is at the heart of our culture and guides everything from how we build our teams to how we organize our desks and plan our work.”

How do employees shape your company’s culture and drive its growth?

Lein: Team members play vital roles in ensuring that we think of problems from every angle possible. We use collaboration to both brainstorm new ideas and push the limit of what we think we can do, as well as to keep each other honest by poking holes in theoretical approaches and to see potential problems before they happen. Collaboration is at the heart of our culture and guides everything from how we build our teams to how we organize our desks and plan our work.


What keeps your culture rock solid?

Tuohy: During each major software release, we have themed spirit days that would make you think it’s Halloween. We have happy hours, spontaneous potlucks and office-wide events. It’s also a known fact that if you want to make something happen in the office, you have free reign to do so if it is in line with our policies.

Lein: We have company-wide hack days where employees are encouraged to work with people on other teams to create something cool. This initiative is great for letting people’s imaginations and creativity run wild, and we have had a lot of new features added to our products and processes because of it. We also do smaller events, such as team outings and potluck lunches that encourage our teams to have fun and get to know each other better. The outcome is happier teams who work better together. This also encourages each team to develop its own personality and most efficient way of getting things done.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog80 open jobs
All Jobs
Finance
Data + Analytics
Design + UX
Dev + Engineer
HR
Internships
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Content
Design + UX
new
CSG
Chicago
HR
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Enova
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Operations
new
Enova
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Internships
new
Geneva Trading
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Sales
new
Avant
Chicago
HR
new
Enova
Chicago
Finance
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
CSG
Chicago
Sales
new
DialogTech
Chicago
Developer
new
Geneva Trading
Chicago
Developer
new
Geneva Trading
Chicago
Marketing
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Product
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Enova
Chicago
Sales
new
DialogTech
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
CSG
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Content
new
DialogTech
Chicago
Internships
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Product
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Geneva Trading
Chicago
Product
new
Avant
Chicago
Marketing
new
Enova
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Marketing
new
Enova
Chicago
Operations
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Internships
new
Geneva Trading
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Sales
new
Avant
Chicago
Sales
new
DialogTech
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Finance
new
Enova
Chicago
Sales
new
Geneva Trading
Chicago
Developer
new
Geneva Trading
Chicago
HR
new
Enova
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
DialogTech
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Enova
Chicago
Product
new
Enova
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago

Chicago startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Software Engineer Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Sales Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
LOCAL GUIDE
Your Guide to Healthtech in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Data Science & Data Analyst Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Marketing Jobs in Chicago