After a rigorous interview process, I happily accepted a position as a Project Manager at Mediacurrent. With over 90 teammates spread across 30 states, a centralized office in Alpharetta, and this role being my first full-time remote position, I was concerned about how I would align with the existing culture of the company and how it could affect my professional growth. Those fears were addressed head-on during the interview process, but the realist in me still had some reservations. So, during the past 90 days, I kept my notes app open on my Mac and wrote my observations. Here are the top five things I learned in Mediacurrent in my first 90 days.
Mediacurrent is a collaborative community.
I kept hearing about the open source community and how Mediacurrent is one of the leading contributors. With my digital background mainly in closed CMS platforms, I was intrigued about being part of an open source community, especially a platform like Drupal. After 90 days, I can see how we are able to collaborate so well and have the output to become one of the leading contributors: it’s all about how we manage internally. Mediacurrent is a microcosm of the Drupal community and its values while still holding on to its own effervescent company culture.
Everyone wants to help
Being the newbie at Mediacurrent and OSS, I had a lot of questions but thankfully, I’m not afraid to raise my (virtual) hand and ask. Anytime I had a question, I immediately received multiple responses from different departments along with additional links and details for further reading. When I had a technical question, our developers were eager to answer and point me to the in-house SME on the topic.
Along with a staff meeting every Tuesday, a Mediacurrent team member volunteers to present a topic for the rest of the team to learn from. The topics range from What Client Success Means to Mediacurrent to Powering Your Decoupled Static Site with Serverless GraphQL to Halloween Decorating!
Feedback and Mentorship keep us all thriving.
Mediacurrent prides itself on operating under the Radical Candor model. If you haven’t read the awesome book, Radical Candor is a management philosophy balanced on two dimensions: caring personally and challenging directly. Managers have bi-weekly feedback loops with their reports where they discuss what’s happening in and outside of work, successes or challenges from the past two weeks, and any goals or initiatives they are working towards. More importantly, the reports take this time to provide candid feedback to their manager and leadership team. With the feedback going both ways, everyone is constantly improving.
In addition to the formal feedback loops, the team does not hesitate to praise another member right away. You don’t have to scroll far in either our #general Slack channel or client channels to see shout outs like these:
And then, there’s Trophy Thursdays - around 3 pm EST every Thursday, appointed team members pass out trophies to MCers (Mediacurrent team members) exemplifying amazing things. The trophies include
- The Golden Ticket of the Week - for creating and grooming extremely detailed tickets in Jira that proves to be helpful and efficient
- Strategic Thinking Award - for thinking outside of the box to solve challenges the team or the clients are facing
- Branch Manager of the Week - for the (usually) four-legged officemate that helps us keep on pushing
Part of the onboarding is a six-week mentorship program where the new hire is paired with a team member of the same department to offer support and guidance as we fully immerse into Mediacurrent. I was paired with Patricia Chang and it was a great match! I’d ask her all the odd questions and the ones most relevant to the Client Services team. She was a great mentor and although our six-week program is complete, she is still my go-to for any of the unwritten rules and expectations at Mediacurrent.
Video Conferencing is not just to see what we all look like.
I was extremely surprised to learn that conference calls weren’t simply phone calls but also video calls. We’ve all been in that meeting where someone calls in and isn’t exactly giving their full attention, but the video calls prevent that problem. Video conferencing also allows for sharing screens, not just to have the agenda as a persistent reminder of what we need to talk about but to also have transparency on the notes we take away. Lastly, video conferencing allows us to see each other’s reactions - there’s so much more to communication than an exchange of words that even tone doesn’t convey. With video, we can read each other’s facial expressions and body language.
Clients love it
We have had clients provide feedback on how helpful the video is for relationship building. We no longer feel unknown to our clients - we can pass each other on the street and be able to recognize the other without the awkward, “Hey! Aren’t you that person on my weekly calls but I only slightly recognize your face from Gmail and Slack profiles…?” It’s the rapport we have with the clients that solidifies our partnership and collaboration.
And so do MC team members
Video conferences are not limited to client interaction. They’re also used internally. Different departments use it for team building and communication. For Project Managers, we have an optional call every Monday to just say hello, have lunch together, and talk about everything and anything but client work. I’ve used that time to get to know my team members. You’d be surprised by what you learn just by seeing their workspace and video background!
Work Life Balance is critical.
Most of us aspire to reach that ever-elusive work life balance, especially those working from home. When you like what you do and the people you do it with, it’s difficult to just step away from the laptop and the phone at the end of the day. It’s so easy to fall back into the habit of responding to just one more ping, but in reality, we really need to step back in order to face the following day refreshed and ready to take on more challenges.
At Mediacurrent, this balance is taken so seriously that time was carved out during orientation to discuss our “Shutdown Ritual.” It may differ from person to person, but ultimately, you log your time for the day and walk away. We turn off Slack and email notifications and don’t expect to receive a response back when someone has logged off for the day. Our Slack client channels have tumbleweeds after 5 pm EST because the team respects each other’s time and priorities outside of work.
9/80 Work Schedule
Mediacurrent offers a 9/80 Work Schedule. Team members can elect to participate in this work schedule and most people take advantage of this amazing perk. Basically, you work 80 hours in 9 days and have every other Friday off. That additional day has helped me maintain my personal life. It’s so much easier to schedule personal appointments, lunch with friends, travel, or just simply catch up on sleep.
Culture is EVERYTHING.
All of the items above contribute to the culture at Mediacurrent. It truly explains why the hiring process is long and intensive. With a distributed team, there’s a lot of trust placed on each individual, but it takes the entire team to uphold and continue the expectations of collaboration and partnership. But we also like to have fun! And yes, it can happen remotely.
We have more Slack channels than I can count. Some are for collaborating on client projects and some are open just to chat about the topics. Being able to talk about things you like with your colleagues really helps narrow the geographical gap while getting to know each other. Some of my personal favorites are:
- #misc-pets - who doesn’t love sharing cute pictures of their animals?
- #mis-accessibility - we talk about the challenges the industry faces when it comes to accessibility. I’m learning so much about this topic and we’re currently putting a training curriculum together.
- #mis-women-in-tech - constant support and encouragement for all of us that are underrepresented in technology. And no, this channel is NOT exclusive only to women, we have male participants, too.
- #general - daily chit chats on anything and everything! We host Trophy Thursdays and competitions like Best Halloween Costumes and Ugly Sweater.
Mediacurrent believes that we have the ability to make a difference in our community and are dedicated to creating a culture of giving in our organization. Our most recent volunteer day was on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Our Atlanta team chose to participate in The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program and the rest of the team was encouraged to volunteer at their local Salvation Army or anywhere else we wanted to contribute. Some of the other organizations that we volunteered were the San Diego Public Library, Greater Chicago Cage Bird Rescue and Adoption, and Curl Troy.
Within my first 90 days at Mediacurrent, my fears aligning with the existing culture of the company and how it could affect my professional growth have been resolved. I work with an amazing team of committed, passionate, and enthusiastic people that not only I can learn from but have also welcomed my challenging ideas and fresh perspective.