Michel, my Dad, is an IBMer. By now he is retired, but I guess he still is and always will be an IBMer. Having grown up in a farm on the West coast of France, he found his way to an Engineering school in a booming field in the 60s: electronics. Right after that he joined IBM for a drive lasting 36 great years. He grew as an engineer and a leader on multiple assignments, including 3 years in the USA which changed his life and that of our family. While the attributes of IBM in the 70s and 80s are a thing of the past, my memories as a kid are of a man who was passionate about his work, his team, and his company. Witnessing him give the very best to his professional life certainly coloured mine in an intense way. What was the essence of his passion? The IBM culture was certainly a key ingredient. Do not look at that statement through your 2016 eyes. This is not about whether the IBM culture in the 70s or 80s was great. This is about the role of company culture in being successful and fulfilled. This is about a 71 year-old man who can still testify to the fact that IBMers knew what they stood for, had big dreams and were committed to fulfill them. “Culture? That was the core engine of the company, because that’s what federates folks.” Yes, they certainly had a strong culture.
When Michel joined IBM in the late 60s, electronics and semi- conductors were booming. Send 10 applications letters and you would get 10 job offers if you happen to be an electronics engineer. So why IBM? “Because my future manager was 3 years older than me and already leading a team of 300 people. IBM sounded like the place where everything was possible. In addition to that, the commitment of the company to develop people was amazing.” Coming from a country-side farm, that sounded like a passport to the world. Even more so, if you asked him how he would confirm if candidates would fit with the IBM culture in the hiring process, he would respond: “We were looking for people who would take charge and always push the envelope, as opposed to people who would just follow the flow, which was strong and very comfortable in the 70s.”
Your company culture is what you and your team members stand for. Your company culture is in the words your customers, partners, team members, friends and families use when they talk about your professional life. Your company culture is the foundation of your professional memories, and will be remembered with more acute detail than quarterly results or product launches.
At Scality we are convinced that if we build a strong culture our dreams will come true. We have bold ambitions and a strong sense of purpose. We aim to put a dent in the data storage industry and build a strong company. And we are doing it with style. Our 200 staff compete every day with formidable teams of tens of thousands of people. We win because of our dreams, our collective talent and our culture.
Our culture is like the trunk of our tree. Everything we do, every leaf connects to this growing tree in some way.
Simply declaring that “culture is a key topic” does not take you very far. As Frank Roesner, photographer and intimate observer of Scality since our inception phrases it: “Companies are living organisms. A lot is already rooted in their DNA, i.e. the founders’ and management vision, mindset and character. As a young – and small – start- up, company culture is predefined. It is not difficult to be innovative, agile and curious when you are small. As soon as the company grows up, it becomes a challenge to remain a living – or more to the point, a learning – entity. Especially when growing fast and even more so when expanding globally. Here the company culture becomes crucial. One may define a particular company culture and carve the commandments in stone, but obviously that is not enough. Those ideas rarely have any effect if they are just buried in powerpoint. They only take root if everyday corporate lives are inspired by the principles which define the culture of the company. That can be achieved solely by enough people living them.”
How do we embody our culture at Scality? Ask our team members, customers and partners to describe our culture and you hear words such as engagement, commitment, passion, global/international, strong taste for challenges (“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” is a frequently quoted reference here), technology disruptors, a certain “rock’n’roll” spirit and camaraderie. Culture is so important to us that we created the position of a “Culture Captain”, i.e. an executive position dedicated to the company culture. And beyond all the concrete actions and projects our Culture Captain Claire Forest rolls out, what matters most is that she keeps us honest: She is the guardian of our culture, with total freedom of speech.
Focus on culture is an everyday and everywhere topic. Our approach to hiring is a good example. Sure, we are interested if new hires can do the job. But we also want to know if their personal drivers are compatible with ours. And we make sure that they will be happy working with us and we working with them. Termed “skills fit”, “motivation fit”, and “culture fit”, our interviewers are trained to take all three into account. Another example is our motto. Like many companies, we have one: “Work Hard, Play Hard, Eat Well and Amaze The Customer”. It is printed on our walls. Much more important to us is actually living it. That is why we have translated it into our Sports and Wellness program, to our lunch service at the office and much more.
Culture is a wonderful platform to express creativity. As such, we openly recognize our top performers and publish their personal stories on our company blog. In the same creative vein, every 12 to 18 months we publish a book where Frank shares his unique point of view on who we are and who we are becoming through his pictures. In fact, you are holding it in your hands right now.
Culture is a broad and living topic. That is why we share our experience with others. Earlier this year we delivered a meet-up on this very topic at The Family, a startup incubator in Paris. We also invite our team members to join us in shaping this joint treasure of ours, inventing new ways to embody our unique culture.
We have the opportunity to put our mark on the storage industry. It is not a walk in the park, it is a moonshot. Every morning I am fired up about it, and not only because a bunch of business indicators show that we are on our way to the moon. I am fired up because we have put together an amazing team, and we are building a great company. It has been 3 years for me personally. I have had wonderful times in my professional life, all around the globe. This is the most exhilarating one.
Welcome to Scality.