Welcome to a new series of interviews about company culture. What creates good company culture? What are organizations doing to support their people? If you are looking to change careers, you need to do both inner and outer work, including understanding how to evaluate company culture before joining it an organization.
This is why I invited Natalie Estrella, the Lead Technical Recruiter at Relativity Space to share some of her thoughts on company culture.
Natalie is a Talent Acquisition leader with over 7+ years of experience in both agency and in house recruiting. She has worked for the largest recruiting firm in the US (Aerotek), as well as innovative companies such as Virgin, Hyperloop One, and Relativity Space. At both Hyperloop and Relativity Space, she was hired as their first recruiter, implementing recruiting strategies that scaled as both companies went through hypergrowth. She enjoys building strong relationships, creating and implementing processes, and ensuring a great candidate experience.
Relativity Space is the first autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellite constellations. Its platform vertically integrates intelligent robotics and patented 3D autonomous manufacturing technology to build the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran 1.
Repurpose Your Purpose: How would you describe “good” company culture?
Natalie Estrella: Culture is highly specific to what an individual wants out of an organization, so I’m sure there are many right answers to this question. For me, these are the top three things that make for a good baseline:
- Transparency (where it counts)
- People first mentality
Transparency is a tricky one that most companies can’t seem to get right—and it’s very difficult to do so. Being transparent doesn’t mean inundating everyone with every bit of information about the company (don’t distract people with insignificant details!) To me, transparency means that we are forthcoming with information that may be tougher to digest. This could be information about fundraising, attrition (with legal considerations of course), or why certain deadlines aren’t being met and what we are going to do to push forward.
Secondly, alignment is making sure everyone is on the same page. Relativity Space has grown from 15 people (back when I started in May of 2018) to now 100+ people (as of August 2019) We all used to fit in one conference room and our internal messaging system made it very easy to ping the whole company—you saw everyone that came through the office and everyone had a direct pulse on the day to day. As we grew, our communication styles had to change to be able to reach the whole company. This meant having large meetings together less frequently, but increasing the smaller group meetings. We also had to keep great documentation and continuously educate/over communicate the important stuff.
Lastly, people are everything! The market is so tight right now, especially for the incredibly niche skill sets that we are trying to hire for—this means that we have to make sure they come first. Not everyone lives to work—people have other responsibilities outside of work and we have to make sure people are living out the best lives they seek.
Repurpose Your Purpose: What does Relativity Space do best when it comes to culture?
Natalie Estrella: Relativity is great at the alignment piece: we have regular meetings on discussing lessons learned from previous companies, monthly all hands meetings, a centralized place for documentation.
Repurpose Your Purpose: What are three of your best tips to create a positive work environment for managers or employers who are struggling with it?
Natalie Estrella: Celebrate the small and big wins! It could be anything from champagne to a shout out on your internal messaging system. During our monthly all hands, we allow people to call out a coworker they think went above and beyond and it’s definitely made a difference in the attitude around the office.
Secondly, make sure you’re asking people what benefits they would like. If there are hardships to providing certain benefits, tell people why you’re not able to and provide alternatives or a timeline for being able to provide it (we recently added a small 401K match to our program because there was an overwhelming request for it).
Lastly, I think positivity comes from the top. If your senior leadership team seems overly unsatisfied, the rest of the company will mimic them and feel their frustrations. Make sure that there is engagement and buy in with your leaders—it will flow down to your team.
Repurpose Your Purpose: What are some signs job seekers can look for to identify a healthy environment vs. a bad one?
Natalie Estrella: When you are going through the interview process ask the people you are interviewing with how they like the company—is there anything they would improve? If they care about their role and the company, they are usually very upfront and honest about what needs to be improved. Does your recruiter respond to you in a timely manner? Do they give you all the right information to be prepared for your interviews? If it is a company that is going through hypergrowth, ask they what their strategy is for keeping alignment and a consistent culture.
Repurpose Your Purpose: Is Relativity Space hiring?
Natalie Estrella: Yes! We have about 50 open requisitions all across the company from finance to engineering to our other location (Stennis, MS)
Repurpose Your Purpose: What are some tips for career changers who would like to apply?
Natalie Estrella: It could be very discouraging to apply to startups like Relativity because we typically have very niche types of openings (literal rocket scientists!) but I would say keep a look out on our website. As we grow, we will increase our needs for people who may not have as much experience. Also, don’t be afraid to move to a lateral role or step down to a role. There is a TON of potential at startups, and if you can learn quickly, you can definitely move up in organizations like ours in a very short period of time.
What do you think makes for great company culture? Share in the comments!