Dec 272013
A Garlando style table with a game in progress

A Garlando style table with a game in progress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been pretty quiet after Samhain this year, maintaining a laser-like focus on getting version 1.0 of one of Netchemia’s new products ready for the new year.  My birthday (Scorpios UNITE) and Thanksgiving slipped past with barely a nod.  Originally, I meant for my return to social media to be a Christmasy post, but the sad truth is that I was sick on Christmas and celebrated the incarnation of our Lord by eating reheated pizza by myself and watching Family Guy.  This is not the stuff of which epic posts are made.

In the absence of holiday-related material, I spent some time reflecting on why I enjoy working at Netchemia so much.  After all, I’ve worked in almost every .NET development shop in Kansas City either as a consultant or a full-time employee, so what makes Netchemia different?  There are many reasons, but most of them boil down to three, main ones.

NOTE: None of these reasons have anything to do with foosball, which is a game specifically designed to lower my self-esteem.  My only notable foosball tactic is to throw a spare foosball in my opponent’s face and hope that gives me enough time to score.

3. Kaizen

Netchemia has been up and running in some form or another for about ten years and has racked up around 80 employees (probably 90 by the time I finish writing this if the growth rate holds), but if you spend some time there, it very much feels like a startup.

Everyone in every department is constantly working to hone their craft, including upper management.  There are no sacred cows.  There is no “this is how we’ve always done it.”  Running lean, being agile, and continuously improving are elements baked into the culture long before I got there.  This has ramifications for software development, definitely, but it also rigorously applies to sales, marketing, customer service, and operations.

Challenging others (respectfully) is encouraged and sought after in employees.  Passionate debate is frequent and welcome, all done in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.  You can march over to the CEO’s cubicle and tell him you don’t believe we’re making good decisions, and you’ll get treated to lunch instead of fired (this is how I get my lunch these days – inventing challenges).  When was the last time your company shared its financials compared to its goals with all the employees?  Netchemia does that every month.  Ideas and innovation about any aspect of the company from any quarter is much desired.

2. They’re a real team.

Although most companies would say they operate as a team, they really don’t.  Most departments in companies would also say they operate as a team but don’t.  What you usually have is a group of silos in a company that hand work off to one another, and you have a department where everyone is doing the same kind of thing, but they do it separately.

Netchemia is perhaps the only place I’ve ever worked at where I would call the entire organization a legitimate team.  Everyone from every department routinely communicates with the others on virtually a daily basis to move company goals across the finish line.  Almost daily, I talk with someone in sales, marketing, customer service, and upper management for the specific purpose of helping each other accomplish our work.  Within my own department, any feature of reasonable size typically has two or more developers on it working together and collaboratively to complete that feature.

I realize this may not appeal to everyone.  Some people like to be off on their own working alone, and I sometimes like that as well for a change of pace.  But generally speaking, complexity in delivering business value is best addressed by teams, and I love the level of collaboration and teamwork that doesn’t just exist at Netchemia but is intrinsically required to do your job and help others do theirs.  The environment is hyper-collaborative.

1. The people are awesome.

This is not to imply that there aren’t awesome people all over Kansas City, because there are.  The people I consider colleagues, friends, and enemies are all high-caliber types and work for or run a wide variety of companies.  But there is something about the crazily intensive hiring process at Netchemia that has produced a certain characteristic batch of individuals.

First of all, the overwhelming majority of employees are attractive.  Now, this fact doesn’t really mean a lot to me, but the implication does.  This means that, statistically speaking, my employment at Netchemia provides very good odds that I’m also attractive, so that’s an ego boost right there.  I may be one of the exceptions, but it would be really rude to point that out.

The main thing, though, is that most of the people who make it through the hiring gauntlet turn out to have several of the following characteristics: entrepreneurial, intelligent, articulate, energetic, thoughtful, sacrificial, dependable, competent, tough, hilarious (sometimes unintentionally), and they love the company as much as you do, if not more.  They are the kind of people that motivational authors encourage you to surround yourself with.  Being around them is a motivation to go to company events outside of work hours.

Sure, the organization has its weaknesses and some days you may not like everyone equally well, but for me, the company is a perfect fit.

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