At the following Chicago tech companies, “company culture” isn't just a buzzword.
“We truly enjoy spending time together outside of the office,” said Daniel Pak, scrum master at RedShelf.
For Pak, that means team lunch-and-learns and Taco Tuesdays. Team collaboration plays an important role in employee retention. According to Gusto, 54 percent of employees say a strong sense of community — fostered by kind co-workers, celebrations for milestones and a common mission — kept them at a company longer than they otherwise would have stayed.
For job seekers looking for a sense of community in the workplace, look no further. Eleven tech professionals told us about their company cultures, team traditions and which traits they look for in new hires. Besides agility, humor and dedication topped the list.
What they do: SMS Assist helps over 186,000 commercial and resident locations maintain their properties. When the A/C breaks or a restaurant fryer stops working, SMS Assist’s cloud-based platform and network of service providers step up to assist in HVAC, landscaping, floor care and other maintenance needs. Elizabeth Rieveley, vice president of human resources, said the company’s personal touch is the result of its value, “passionate about people.”
What’s one thing that would surprise people about your company? Because we know that outside life can creep into the workday, we focus on providing stress management resources, programs and skills to help support SMSers during the day and outside the office. We offer free monthly mindfulness classes taught by Chill Meditation + Massage.
On top of our standard employee assistance program, we offer a free behavioral health app, Ginger.io, that allows employees and their families to receive on-demand coaching and self-guided content whenever needed. And we provide free seasonal yoga classes during the summer.
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? One of our values is “passionate about people.” Our work is very personal because it impacts the places where people live, work, shop and go about their daily lives. SMSers and service providers put their hearts into everything they do and approach their work with a high level of care and empathy, and we look for candidates who can bring that same passion and sense of community.
What they do: Cisco Meraki offers cloud-controlled Wi-Fi, routing and security. The company hosts over a million networks nationwide. With its technology, Cisco Meraki aims to help small businesses and global enterprises save time and money. Lorenzo Garth, networking engineering manager, said company-sanctioned volunteering is one of his favorite perks.
What’s one thing that would surprise people about your company? We all have a common bond, which is to make our communities a better place. We even have paid volunteer time off, which employees can use to volunteer with a cause they are passionate about.
Everyone on the team has an innate sense of community.”
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? “Everybody in,” is one of the core values that help bring us together as Merakians. In the Chicago office, we fully embrace it. Everyone on the team has an innate sense of community and we are always looking for ways to help out our fellow teammates as well as the local community. Whether we are working together to resolve a tough technical issue or doing our part to support the mission of our local community groups, such as volunteering at local food kitchens or helping to pack meals for thousands of families in need, all of us enjoy helping out and giving back to the community.
What they do: ActiveCampaign helps over 85,000 businesses in 158 countries engage with their customers better. By using their customer experience automation platform, businesses have access to pre-built automation tools for email marketing management, CRM and more. Account executive Erik Arnone said the company’s non-traditional growth structure is one of its key assets.
What’s one thing that would surprise people about your company? As someone who has spent over two years at ActiveCampaign with roles spanning across three different teams, there has always been an abundance of resources to help me advance to the next level.
As the company goes through rapid growth, we are encouraged to make our own path within the organization. A colleague of mine put it perfectly: “Our company is non-traditional when it comes to career advancement. It’s more of a jungle gym than a ladder.”
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? There is an unspoken understanding between all teams that we are in this together and here to raise each other up every day. We all know what we have to do when we come in each and every day. We learn and grow from our losses when they come, but celebrate the wins we achieve.
What they do: Textbooks can be expensive and worse, outdated. RedShelf wants to make education accessible and affordable for all. By replacing print publications with digital content and accompanying study guides, students can learn from anywhere. For scrum master Daniel Pak, the bonding experiences that occur in and out the workplace only make the company stronger.
What’s one thing that would surprise people about your company? We truly enjoy spending time together outside of the office. We go out to lunch as a team fairly often, which is one of the perks of working in a neighborhood like River North, where you have so many great food options. We even have Taco Tuesdays and team lunch-and-learns, which are great opportunities to bond outside of our typical day-to-day.
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? Agility. Being able to adapt and pivot our process, our way of thinking and our objective is what really sets us apart. Putting into practice the mantra of “individuals and interactions” over “processes and tools” has really changed the mindset of how we get work done and grow as a team.
What they do: Yum! Brands umbrellas familiar restaurants such as KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. Their Chicago office creates software that powers 49,000 restaurants in 145 countries to make quality food fast. According to Android Engineer Erica Schugart, Yum! is an appealing work environment because it combines the best elements of large and small companies.
What’s one thing that would surprise people about your company? I think people would be surprised to learn that Yum! pulls off the perfect combination of being a big company but feeling like a small one.
Yum! has the security, benefits and career-growth opportunities provided by a large corporation; yet the flexibility, culture and ability to have an impact that a small company offers. Having previously worked in both large and small offices — and seeing the pros and cons of each — I feel that Yum! draws from the benefits of both, which leads to a more fulfilling career.
Yum! has the security, benefits and career-growth opportunities provided by a large corporation.”
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? The drive to create a better product than what already exists. Everyone on the team truly cares about the product we’re developing. The knowledge that our product will one day impact, directly or indirectly, every customer that interacts with our restaurants is something to be excited about, and we all want to see it succeed. Our work is more fun because of this personal investment.
What they do: SDI Presence is an IT consultancy and managed services provider (MSP) that leverages its strong team presence to advance clients to a secure digital enterprise. To optimize clients’ technology experiences, SDI delivers IT consulting and hybrid infrastructure solutions. Robert Griffen, senior project manager for enterprise asset management, emphasized the company’s hyperlocal perspective and commitment to its clients.
What sets your company apart from everyone else? SDI is a hyperlocal IT services firm with a rich 20-year history that brings a high caliber of technical expertise to leverage the strategic advantages of emerging technologies. Led by PMP-certified project managers, SDI delivers comprehensive IT services to support the systems and infrastructure that keep the city of Chicago running every day: the security systems at both Chicago airports, the corporate IT infrastructure for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), customer information systems (CIS) and asset management systems for several Chicago utilities.
We also manage more than 260 million square feet of commercial and industrial real estate property information throughout the United States. We do big things from a local client perspective, as well as in our business community. SDI is not only a minority business enterprise (MBE), but we also mentor our own team of MBE firms through the Chicago United Five Forward initiative.
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? Our shared values and core principles directly link to our presence-based culture where the success of SDI is powered by our commitment to be present for our clients, colleagues and community. We invest in building a hyperlocal presence for our clients so that we consistently deliver extremely responsive IT services.
What they do: Maven Wave consults companies as they make a switch toward digital operations. Combining consulting and technology, Maven Wave provides solutions that are agile, mobile, based in analytics, and built in the cloud. Derrick Nadonga, solutions engineer, cites the company’s high expectations of all its employees as part of its appeal.
What’s one thing that would surprise people about your company? Despite the tight-knit culture that a lot of Mavens have, it’s surprising that a majority of them only physically see each other a handful of times per year. We have three physical locations, and everyone else works from home or at a client site. We truly have and encourage collaborative work, even down to the day-to-day meetings where most of us turn our cameras on so we can have face-to-face conversations with our colleagues.
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? Mavens are all hungry for knowledge, opportunities and snacks in our kitchen. There is an expectation that new Mavens immediately start adding value either internally or with customers within days, not weeks or months. This is only possible because everyone we hire also expects this of themselves, and they’re willing to jump in to learn something new or to lead engagements right away.
What they do: Not all aspiring architects have time to study at the library. Black Spectacles is an online educational platform that offers ARE exam prep and software curricula. For aspiring architects looking to advance their careers, Black Spectacles is the only NCARB-approved test prep provider for all six divisions of the ARE. Customer Service Manager Elaine Deveney said you don’t need a background in architecture to be a valuable employee, though.
What’s one thing that would surprise people about your company? The majority of us don’t have a background in architecture, but a lack of experience in the industry doesn’t hinder our performance. We get to use our skills to manage and develop projects we’re all passionate about.
We take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? There’s nothing typical about our team, but we all have a few things in common. We take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our brains are big, but our egos aren’t. Each person on our team is honest, caring, empathetic and genuine. You’ll never hear anyone say, “That’s not my job.” We’re all in this together.
What they do: Founded in 1973, OCC operates as an equity derivative clearing operation. They focus on sound risk management principles. By operating as a guarantor in negotiations, they set out to ensure contract obligations are fulfilled. VP of Enterprise Architecture Dan Mannisto said OCC’s current transformation will significantly improve its employee-client relations.
What’s one thing that makes your company an exciting place to work right now? OCC is currently in the midst of a significant transformation, which is a multi-year technology project that will make our company more nimble and improve how we work and serve our clients.
As a clearing house, OCC is the backbone of the U.S. equity options market. We provide market stability by serving as the buyer to every seller and the seller to every buyer. Technology underpins everything we do, and we are using cutting-edge technology to secure our foundation in the equity options market.
What’s one trait all the members of your team share? The ability to lose one’s ego and contribute to a team in order to solve problems and implement solutions.
What they do: Homeadvisor operates an international home services marketplace. Their software provides homeowners the tools and and resources for home repair, maintenance and improvement projects. The company has over 3,000 employees across six locations in the U.S., with headquarters in Golden, Colorado.
Our team is great because we all bring something different to the table.”
What's the one thing that would surprise people about your company? “I believe that training and developing our employees is a significant part of our culture and identity. There’s not a single leader in this company who would shy away from an opportunity to work with someone on their growth as a professional,” Director of Training Amber Asher said.
What's one trait all the members of your team share? “Our team is great because we all bring something different to the table, but the one thing we definitely all have in common is our dependability,” Sales Recruiter Rebecca Schneider said. “I always know they'll have my back and that I'll have theirs in order to get the job done.”
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