No cookie-cutters here: 7 Chicago tech teams share what makes their cultures unique

April 3, 2019

Companies love to talk about their cultures, and with good reason. A strong company culture makes an impact on everything from product development to hiring and employee retention. That said, it’s important to remember that companies are made up of teams of individuals, which often develop their own unique cultures — and that’s a good thing.

When tech teams face major challenges, having a diverse group with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds naturally lends itself to tackling problems with ingenuity and fresh perspective. We recently spoke with seven Chicago companies to learn more about what makes their tech teams unique, traits the team members all share and what they look for when hiring.

 

Echo Global Logistics Chicago engineering jobs
PHOTO VIA ECHO GLOBAL LOGISTICS

Echo Global Logistics is a technology-enabled provider of transportation and supply chain management services. Software Engineering Director Andrew Tople said one of the things that makes his team unique is the wide variety of non-work interests they bond over.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

There are a variety of interests across our team whose group participation we encourage and support. We host a number of weekly tabletop roleplaying game sessions, with food and drinks provided! There’s also a music fan discussion group, an Echo e-gaming league team and we sponsor teams for various sports leagues in the city. We recognize that our time together shouldn’t just be about work. We need to make time for fun, too.

We recognize that our time together shouldn’t just be about work. We need to make time for fun, too.”

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

We look for individuals who have a passion for learning and the confidence to solve technical challenges. We believe that you can always “build a better mousetrap,” and we know that adding someone who has a record of solving problems in creative and efficient ways will make us all stronger. Our engineering team members have mutual respect for each other’s knowledge and experience. Communication is candid, and collaboration drives our mutual success.

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higi Chicago engineering jobs
PHOTO VIA Higi

With over 10,000 health stations in grocery stores and pharmacies in the United States and Canada, higi makes it easier for people to track their blood pressure, pulse, weight and BMI, and then share that information with their healthcare provider. VP of Engineering Robert Bakos said that while his team works in a complex industry and on a variety of products, they’re able to move quickly, thanks to their unique structure.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

In addition to our stations, we support native iOS and Android applications, web applications for consumers and administrators, and a number of integrations with third parties. All of this occurs within an FDA-regulated environment that also has to contend with HIPAA compliance. This dynamic, complex environment necessitates an agile product development team.  

What makes our team unique is its structure, which empowers small teams of product managers, front-end engineers, back-end engineers, mobile engineers and QA team members to autonomously work to identify problems, define solutions and implement them rapidly. Our trust in our team members to collaborate effectively to build the right solutions and develop and deploy software rapidly — in an industry that traditionally tends to move at a glacial pace — helps us stand out.

Our team members have a few key traits in common: They are hard workers with solid technical skills and have a constant drive to improve.”

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

We look for individuals who have proven that they are intrinsically motivated to push themselves to build quality, scalable software. We value highly collaborate teams, and we look for folks with proven success working within teams and as leaders. We also strive to constantly improve both our software and our development practices, so we want people who are willing to listen to feedback and mentor others.

Our team members have a few key traits in common: They are hard workers with solid technical skills and have a constant drive to improve. In addition, we greatly value diversity. Having a team made up of engineers with different backgrounds, from different industries and with different personalities and thought processes allow us to tackle problems from a wide number of perspectives.

 

Carminati Consulting Chicago engineering jobs
PHOTO VIA CARMINATI CONSULTING

Carminati Consulting provides a wide range of IT products and services, including custom software development, data analytics and project management, and website design, to private and nonprofit companies as well as government organizations. Manager of Web Development Michael Brower said part of what makes his team so special is that everyone works full stack.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

On a daily basis, our development team is working on a variety of projects and using a number of different technologies, such as .NET, Sitecore and Salesforce. Within each project, our developers aren't limited to one area of development: We each work full stack. From optimizing complex queries in the data access layer to implementing new user interface libraries on the front end, our team members do it all. This not only keeps our skills sharp and provides continuous learning opportunities, it also keeps things interesting. And because our team is small in size, yet mighty in strength, each developer makes a big impact.

Within each project, our developers aren't limited to one area of development: We each work full stack.”

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

We look for engineers who are self-starters, bring ideas to the table and make an impact out of the gate. We welcome those who rise to a good challenge and then come back with a really cool, creative solution. We also seek out innovators who are always looking to maximize a technology's value and collaborators dedicated to understanding our client's needs and how to get them to their desired end result. Additionally, we look for growth-minded folk who are excited by the idea of working on both SaaS solutions as well as custom software development. If said developer also likes Funko POPs and Apex Legends, they will undoubtedly fit in well!

 

OneMain Financial Chicago tech jobs
PHOTO VIA ONEMAIN FINANCIAL

In addition to its brick-and-mortar storefronts, lending company OneMain Financial also has a digital division that’s working to simplify the online lending process. Software Engineer Manager Afra Ahmad said that while his team brings a variety of skills to the table, the common trait that unites them is a strong sense of pride and ownership in their work.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

The multitude of skill levels present within the team always ensures that we learn from each other on a wide variety of topics. For example, some have great SQL skills and some have great JavaScript skills, and constant communication is encouraged and helps bring out those strengths.

The common thread within our team is a strong sense of pride and ownership.”

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

The passion to learn is a trait we always look for in candidates. We also look for those who are both creative and resourceful within the technology field, and who strive to constantly improve their skill sets.

The common thread within our team is a strong sense of pride and ownership, which often manifests itself in how people contribute to projects and their impact on larger goals. Whether it's architecture and design or helping with the implementation or QA, there are many areas in which each contributor can learn new technologies or refine their knowledge on current ones.

 

Ascent RegTech Chicago engineering jobs
PHOTO VIA ASCENT REGTECH

Ascent RegTech’s AI-powered cloud-based software helps companies working in highly regulated industries stay on the right side of the red tape. Software Developer Caroline Joseph weighed in on how her team’s unique makeup gives it a broader perspective when it comes to problem-solving, while CTO Chris Doyle shared what he looks for when hiring.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

Joseph: The best thing about our team is its distinctive set of experiences and backgrounds. Some of us live in Nigeria, some of us had many different careers prior and none of us have the same exact technology experience. That’s what makes us special. Each of us brings a unique perspective to the team, no matter the expertise on the subject.

Each of us brings a unique perspective to the team, no matter the expertise on the subject.”

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

Doyle: We sometimes liken the ideal candidate to a firm handshake — someone who's going to fully engage with the rest of the team, sharing their own perspectives and meeting others with mutual respect. We've assembled an amazing team of people who are doing just that! Everyone at Ascent cares deeply about the rest of the team and shares an open and curious attitude toward new ideas and points of view. This allows us to build each other and our ideas up in order to develop solutions that none of us could have envisioned alone.

 

Supernova Companies Chicago tech jobs
PHOTO VIA SUPERNOVA COMPANIES

Supernova Companies’ cloud-based technology enables banks and wealth management firms to offer loans backed by a consumer’s investment portfolio, or what the financial industry refers to as securities-based lending. Chief Information Security Officer Ahmed Fawaz said one of the most unique things about his team is how their approach to problem-solving is shaped by Supernova’s mission.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

Security-based lending has always been reserved for high-net-worth investors. We aim to expand the reach of this important financial tool to allow people to make better investment decisions. At Supernova, we are not afraid to make drastic changes to our systems and processes. Our teams are encouraged to find the best solution to solve a problem, even if it goes against the way we do things. Our culture celebrates employee successes and hard work. We are proud of the work we do and the mission we are carrying.

Our teams are encouraged to find the best solution to solve a problem, even if it goes against the way we do things.”

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

We are looking for tinkerers and curious characters who are willing to take things apart to discover how they work. When hiring a new engineer, we are looking for someone who wants to teach us how to do things better, smarter and more efficiently as needed.

 

Community Brands Chicago engineering jobs
PHOTO VIA GIVESMART BY COMMUNITY BRANDS

 

GiveSmart by Community Brand’s event fundraising software is used by nonprofits, schools and foundations to fundraise, manage events and engage donors. Principal Software Engineer John Polacek said one of the most unique things about his team is their desk arrangement, which is shaped by a commitment to seamless collaboration.

 

What are some of the most unique things about your team that make it special?

When it’s not work-from-home Fridays, our desks are arranged in an outward-facing circle with a circular table in the center. At our daily stand-ups or whenever we want to have a chat, we simply spin our chairs around and get instant collaboration.

As a company dedicated to helping nonprofits fulfill their missions, we tend to attract people who have a generous spirit.”

 

What do you look for when hiring? How can you tell when someone has something unique to add to your culture, and are there any traits all your team members share?

As a company dedicated to helping nonprofits fulfill their missions, we tend to attract people who have a generous spirit, and therefore our team does a great job of supporting each other and collaborating to achieve our goals.

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