How 3 Chicago Tech Companies Created Cultures Their Teams Love

by Alton Zenon III
September 17, 2019

What’s the secret sauce in creating a work environment that encourages team members to be their best selves and do their best work? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and three different tech companies will tell you three very different accounts of what makes their company cultures distinct. 

We asked three Chicago companies to spill the beans on some of the ingredients that make their cultures special, and their employees eager to come to work each day. 

 

OppLoans team members in conference room working

Giving employees the freedom to express themselves at work, both professionally and personally, is a key part of cultivating a meaningful company culture. Software Engineering Manager John McCormack, at online lending platform OppLoans, said the company encourages staff of all levels to take initiative in their work and to let their fun-flags fly through a variety of company-sponsored after-hour activities.

 

How is your company culture here different from what you’ve experienced at previous companies?

We’ve fostered a culture of inclusion, growth, camaraderie and a dare-to-win attitude. We invest in our people — not just through trainings and workshops, but also by giving them the trust and autonomy to pursue their own ideas. By giving people the freedom and tools to excel, we have created an extremely collaborative environment geared toward lifting everyone up and delivering a quality product to our customers — all while having a ton of fun.

By giving people the freedom and tools to excel, we have created an extremely collaborative environment geared toward lifting everyone up.”

 

How are employees empowered to help shape or participate in the office culture? 

Our culture is entirely driven by its people. We believe in letting the best ideas win and that extends to company programming as well. You don’t have to be a manager or a member of the C-suite to get something off the ground. Many of the sports we do, for example, are led by passionate folks from all levels of the company. There is a little something for everyone here. From game nights, happy hours, Dungeons & Dragons, climbing, escape rooms to karaoke — we do it all. We all spend so much of our lives at work, so being part of a culture that puts people first, values work-life balance, and allows you to work not just as colleagues, but also as friends, is something truly special.

 

Two Ulta team members chatting and working

Beauty retailer Ulta Beauty is a large company that places an even larger emphasis on humility. The company has over 1,500 local employees, and Director and HR Business Partner Fiona Thompson said each one is encouraged by the C-suite to speak up and drive impact where they see opportunity.

 

How is your company culture here different from what you’ve experienced at previous companies?

There is a collective sense that we are all contributing to something great. There is a lot of pride in working for a fast-growing Fortune 500 company that values its associates as their greatest assets. 

Ulta values its associates as unique individuals and gives us the space to share our voice and influence outcomes.”

 

How are employees empowered to help shape or participate in the office culture?

Ulta values its associates as unique individuals and gives us the space to share our voice and influence outcomes. Our leadership team is very approachable and always looking for associates to share ideas and insights, which we can then put into action. The power of our guest- and associate-centric, values-based, high performance culture is of utmost importance to our success for the short and long term.

 

Braintree team member playing PlayStation

The diversity and inclusion team at Braintree has taken the phrase “Let’s get coffee,” to international heights. Business Analyst Ismail Ali said that to date, the social committee at the payments facilitator has partnered hundreds of staff members on different teams across all of Braintree’s global offices — simply so they could connect and get to know one another. 

 

How is your company culture here different from what you’ve experienced at previous companies?

Compared to my previous experiences at companies with more than 100 employees, Braintree places an emphasis on teamwork that gets you up and running very early on in your tenure. When I arrived on the analytics team, it was the start of a sprint. I remember pairing with teammates on work that went live in production by the end of the same sprint. We also encourage heavy involvement with the local tech community, including hosting meetups like Chicago Hack Night in the office. 

We also encourage heavy involvement with the local tech community, including hosting meetups like Chicago Hack Night in the office.”

 

How are employees empowered to help shape or participate in the office culture? 

Our diversity and inclusion team has been super supportive in efforts to bring people together across different parts of Braintree. We put together a tool to support that by matching employees across our global offices to get lunch or coffee every month, so that folks could get to know their colleagues from different teams on a regular basis. This year we’ve matched just over 400 groups to connect with each other.

 

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