Finding Your Fit: Company Culture Makes a Big Difference

Employees from four Chicago tech companies share how they knew they’d found the job they love.
Written by Dana Cassell
September 6, 2023Updated: September 6, 2023

Studies consistently show that workers’ job satisfaction has a lot more to do with company values and culture than salary and benefits. A recent Glassdoor survey found that this held true across various industries and countries: finding a good job fit means finding a company whose values align with your own.

But that’s a tricky thing to figure out. Compensation and benefits are laid out in clear charts and spreadsheets when the job offer comes through — assessing the culture of a whole organization takes a bit more work.

Built In sat down with employees from four Chicago tech companies to learn how they knew they’d found the right fit. They told us stories of meeting the CEO during an initial interview, managers who invested significant time onboarding them through daily one-on-one meetings and colleagues who welcomed their contributions to finicky logistics challenges as early as the interview process.

Samantha Lawson, product manager at Applied Systems, learned to know her colleagues well during the interview process, discovering early on that “they were missionaries in a world full of mercenaries.” It turns out, paying attention to values and culture during the interview and onboarding processes proves highly valuable. 


Samantha Lawson
Product Manager • Applied Systems

Applied Systems creates innovative technology for the global insurance industry. 


At what point in the interview/hiring process did you realize that Applied Systems was the company for you? 

I started with Applied Systems in October 2022 and the defining moment for me was during my final interview with two product managers from the product team at EZLynx, a division of Applied Systems.

During the interview, our discussion delved into the challenges and opportunities their team was facing, and I was struck by the genuine enthusiasm they had for their work as well as the support they offered one another. 

It was clear that they were innovative and not afraid to take risks. They were passionate about their products, but most importantly they were passionate about solving problems for their customers. They were missionaries in a world full of mercenaries.


They were missionaries in a world full of mercenaries.”


Coming from the startup world, I enjoyed the thrill of working hard, working fast, taking risks and learning from mistakes but not letting them slow me down. It was during this final interview that I realized working with the EZLynx product team at Applied Systems would allow me to get the thrill of working for a startup but in the context of a stable, thriving company.


How did your colleagues set you up for success and help you get acclimated once you came aboard?

When I joined the EZLynx team, I was fortunate to have incredible colleagues who were willing to go above and beyond to ensure that I was set up for success and felt like an integral part of the team.

One of the most impactful experiences was the three weeks of daily, hour-long one-on-one sessions I had with the subject matter expert (SME). The SME showed me the ins and outs of the entire EZLynx product. 

I was prepared to do all of my learning by watching videos and shadowing since that was all I had experienced with previous employers. The one-on-one training was a new experience for me, and I am very grateful for it. It played a huge role in my quick success at EZLynx. 

I took ownership of my own product within my first month and I was able to make quick decisions on my own because of the knowledge I had of how the entire system worked.

Since joining your company, what's your favorite success story? 

My favorite success story is taking my first project from start to finish, a complete redesign of EZLynx's Sales Center. This was an exciting project for all involved as it is the first step in our customer relationship management initiative. 

I tested the limits of the engineering and design team, we took risks to provide a sales pipeline tool that would address the unique needs of each of our users and we worked hard to complete this project in two quarters.



Aaron Smith
Client Relationship Manager • Lessen LLC

SMS Assist provides a technology platform for the facilities maintenance industry.


At what point in the interview/hiring process did you realize that SMS Assist was the company for you? 

During the interview process, there were several moments that made me realize SMS Assist was the perfect fit for me. From the initial conversation with the hiring manager, their genuine enthusiasm for their work and the company's vision resonated with me. 

SMS Assist and Lessen went through a merger earlier this year, and the combined companies have a lot of opportunities to garner new business because of their new, unique offering. The direction of the merged companies is exciting. 

During the merger process, I had the opportunity to meet some of my potential colleagues and their passion and expertise further solidified my interest. Additionally, when I learned more about the company's culture, values and commitment to professional growth, I knew I had found a place where I could thrive. It was a combination of these factors that made me confident in my decision to join this amazing organization.

How did your colleagues set you up for success and help you get acclimated once you came aboard?

SMS Assist instantly provided me with the tools I needed to be successful. After completing the new-hire onboarding training, I had a grasp on my team’s everyday processes, the larger business initiatives and how my individual responsibilities would play a role in the organization’s success. 


SMS Assist instantly provided me with the tools I needed to be successful.”


My colleagues took the time to introduce themselves, share their knowledge and experiences, provide insights into the team dynamics and offer their support whenever I needed it. They went above and beyond to provide me with the necessary resources and guidance to navigate the company's systems, processes and tools.

My colleagues actively included me in team meetings and responsibilities, allowing me to contribute and collaborate effectively. They encouraged open communication and fostered a supportive environment where I felt comfortable asking for help or seeking feedback. 

Their willingness to share their expertise and offer guidance proved invaluable in my professional growth and integration into the company. I am truly grateful for their support and camaraderie, as they played a significant role in helping me succeed and feel at home in my new workplace.


Looking ahead, what do you hope to accomplish with your team?

I am excited about the possibilities and potential for what SMS Assist, my team and I can achieve together. There are several goals I hope to accomplish in collaboration with my team. 

First and foremost, I aspire to drive innovation within our projects and processes. By encouraging creativity and embracing new ideas, we can continuously improve our work and stay ahead of the curve. I believe that by fostering a culture of innovation we can find fresh solutions to challenges, explore new opportunities and make a meaningful impact in our industry. 

Ultimately, my goal is to work together with my team to achieve outstanding results, exceed customer and leadership expectations and create a fulfilling and rewarding experience for every team member. We all win together; we can accomplish great things and make a lasting impact in our work. That is what I believe it means to drive meaningful change.



Anna Paris
Product Manager • Supernova Technology

Supernova Technology provides clients with digital wealth management software for securities-based lending.


At what point in the interview/hiring process did you realize that Supernova Technology was the company for you? 

As part of the Supernova standard interview process, all candidates talk to the CEO. I had never done an interview like this before. I prepped heavily and was quite nervous.  

However, Tao just wanted to get to know me as a person during this interview. He asked me about my family and my newborn and shared stories about his new granddaughter. He very openly shared how he determines the direction of the company, the products we build and his goals for the future. We simply had a great conversation.  

It made me realize that Supernova's hiring process is not just about filling the role with a certain skill set but also looking for people who will fit the company culture. They put a lot of emphasis on my ability to learn instead of if I met all the checkboxes of the role they were looking to fill.


Supernova’s hiring process is not just about filling the role with a certain skill set but also looking for people that will fit the company culture.”


How did your colleagues set you up for success and help you get acclimated once you came aboard?

My new manager had me shadow him for weeks. He invited me to every meeting and spent at least an hour a day with me to teach me the product. He sat at a desk next to me so I could turn and ask questions as they came up.  

Once I had learned the product, my manager gave me his full trust in owning my product. I now determine how it works and what we can accomplish in our roadmap.

Since joining your company, what's your favorite success story? 

When I started, we had just finished building a brand new version of our platform and we had a very tight timeline to migrate all of our existing clients and implement our new clients onto this new version. This was a major change from data structure to UI, and it required all teams to be fully involved and communicate nonstop.  

It took months of whole staff meetings, continual iterations on our development, and lots of quick turnarounds, but we successfully launched all clients on the new version in only a slightly delayed timeframe. It was a company-wide push and it was amazing to see.



Seth Thomson
Partner & Chief Administrative Officer • Geneva Trading

Geneva Trading is an international, proprietary trading firm, offering its users risk management, market enhancement, technology innovation and alpha generation solutions.


At what point in the interview/hiring process did you realize that Geneva Trading was the company for you? 

I joined Geneva Trading on Feb. 1 of this year. I have the duty of optimizing our shared services operations for scalability as we grow our business, something I have been doing in the finance industry for 23 years. I have joined the firm as a partner. 

I had attractive opportunities at other firms, but it was my conversations with Rob Creamer, my manager and our CEO, that convinced me I was making the right move for my career by joining Geneva. His devotion to integrity, people-focused leadership, data-based decision making and entrepreneurial spirit was very inspiring and resonated with my own beliefs and goals.


How did your colleagues set you up for success and help you get acclimated once you came aboard?

My colleagues have been incredibly welcoming and quickly embraced the changes I brought to Geneva. Rob did a phenomenal job preparing the company for my arrival and getting all of the ships pointed in the right direction. I was anticipating resistance to change but was delightfully surprised.


I was anticipating resistance to change but was delightfully surprised.


Looking ahead, what do you hope to accomplish with your team?

As we continue to onboard new trading teams and bolster the growth of existing ones, my primary ambition is to seamlessly optimize operations across the entirety of the firm. We'll achieve this through a combination of good management and leadership practices, process optimization using actionable and meaningful metrics and hiring key staff.  

I've onboarded a director of project management and a director of security, and we're in the process of recruiting an IT director.  We’re also in the process of instituting a scalable project and portfolio management framework that capitalizes on our unique advantage of being small and agile. By doing so, we aim to improve project execution and prioritization, ensuring that every endeavor aligns with our overarching mission and that we are hyper-focused on the correct objectives.  

I’ve also been very impressed with our technology capabilities since joining, which, along with our optimized operations, will enable us to scale our trading expansion.


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