Building a Culture-Focused Team
A conversation with Michele Maley, Culture & Engagement Lead.
What is “company culture”? And what makes it “good”?
The first step to talking about company culture is to define it.
Company culture is the behaviors, beliefs, interactions and attitudes that determine how work gets done at a company. A number of factors drive a positive company culture; the most important being that it’s authentic. Culture needs to genuinely reflect the team and its values and priorities. That is how culture endures through rapid growth and inevitable change.
Healthy culture is thoughtful and proactive. At Shield AI, we’ve been purposefully curating our culture from the start. Our culture is rooted in our mission and values which guide and influence all our decisions from business to product. We believe that our values such as trustworthiness, kindness, the ability to deliver messages with candor, and the willingness to put the team before themselves, are helpful indicators of whether an individual will contribute to and thrive within our company and the culture we have worked to build. Being rigorous in adherence to values has allowed us to grow a world-class team from 40 to over 120 in the past year.
Another characteristic of a positive company culture is that it is fungible. Culture is ever-evolving. As such, it must be flexible enough to allow for growth, change and evolution as our team grows and the needs of the company evolve. At the end of the day, a constructive culture is one that enables and empowers people to do their best work. What this looks like has differed at different stages in our company, but the essence of what we stand for as a company has not and will not.
What is the role of company culture? What purpose does it serve?
Company culture shapes how organizations operate and the interactions people have with one another. For us, these principles are our values, and our values are what unite us as a team.
Each of our values are important. Here are a few examples of how our values affect culture:
“Put the team first.” We put the team’s success above our own. We care to know our teammates as people. We coach, mentor and foster the learning and growth of teammates. John Wooden reminds us “there is only one start that counts: the team.”
“Take on challenging commitments and deliver.” This statement speaks to the attitude and approach of Shield AI. It summarizes how we tackle the projects we take on and the problems we set out to solve. It speaks to our team’s determination to contribute to something great, even in the face of formidable challenges.
“Be kind.” At Shield AI, kindness is the key to our ability to collaborate and develop world-class products. We consider kindness to be table-stakes; it influences how we treat each other and how we conduct ourselves. Most importantly, it fosters inclusiveness, a sense of community, and support among teammates for one another in and out of the office.
“Be trustworthy.” Trust is at the center of all successful teams. It is what allows a team to work together effectively. Being trustworthy means being a reliable teammate. By remaining true to our word, the team at Shield AI is able to execute with excellence.
What is the relationship between company culture and a company’s mission and values?
At Shield AI our culture is very much rooted in alignment with a meaningful mission and a shared set of values.
Culture and mission and values are not the same, but a company’s mission and values are the foundation of any strong culture. Values guide our behavior as teammates and set expectations for how we approach our work each day. Our mission provides the foundation for the work we do and the shared goal toward which we are all working.
How would you describe the culture at Shield AI? What makes it special?
Our CEO, Ryan Tseng, said it best. In one sentence, at Shield AI you will “do something meaningful and be someone great.”
It is rare to find an opportunity which combines shared purpose and world-class people and applies that to developing cutting-edge technology that can make a critical difference. The work we do together possesses a much greater impact than any one of us could contribute individually. When you can combine coming to work each day alongside people who are smart, kind and genuinely excited about their work, it brings out the best in you.