Culture

The Give Hugs Rule: Takeaways from Buffer’s CultureLab Interview with our CEO

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Last month, the team at Buffer announced they were taking a big leap and launching a podcast called CultureLab. Although most of the team are avid podcast listeners, they knew launching their own podcast would be full of twists and turns – and they’d learn a lot along the way.

As a fellow podcast listener, I had a feeling that I’d really enjoy going on this journey with them. Buffer is known just as much for their unique company culture as their amazing social media tools. When I read posts about Buffer’s company culture (like this one about their values), I always feel inspired.

“At Buffer, we’re slightly obsessed with creating happier, more human work,” the iTunes podcast description details. “Our podcast explores the culture of work from a variety of diverse perspectives. We’ll look at how and why we work, and how to give work more meaning, and hear from guests who are innovating and evolving the future of work.”

The topics discussed on the first seven episodes have been fruitful and interesting. From the pros and cons of openly publishing salaries to the merits of infamous “unlimited vacation” policies, I’ve learned from amazing thought leaders about how they are redefining culture in their own companies.

Culture Lab.png

Source: https://open.buffer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/CultureLab-art-libsyn.png

I instantly knew this was the perfect platform for our own Ai Ching Goh, co-founder and CEO here at Piktochart, to share what we are up to. Piktochart’s company culture is something many of us rave about internally. From a monthly wellbeing allowance for remote team members, to using Bonusly to give each other microbonuses, to catered breakfasts and lunches at our headquarters in Penang, we are creating a company culture that sticks.

“I loved what I knew about Piktochart’s culture,” said CultureLab host Courtney Seiter. “I was also very intrigued to learn more about being ‘semi-distributed.’”

Ai Ching’s episode went live on June 19, 2016, and our team enjoyed every minute of the interview. Courtney’s thoughtful questions helped Ai Ching to share our team’s unique and powerful story with listeners.

“I really loved Ai Ching’s openness around the origin of Piktochart’s values,” said Courtney after the interview. “She shared with me which of the HOPEFUL values she had anticipated and the two values that really surprised her, and that was such an honest and insightful thing to share! I also really appreciated all the care that has gone into creating the best environment for both in-office and distributed teammates; that feels so special.”

Visual.png

Source: https://open.buffer.com/culturelab-ai-ching-goh-piktochart

Here are my favorite 3 takeaways from the interview:

Piktochart’s early growth and the evolution of our culture.

Ai Ching shared that when Piktochart’s team was a mere 10 people, the company culture looked more like friendships than professional bonds. “We’ve always tried to be open and be with people. We spent a lot of time together in the early days, and it was easy to do when the team had 10 people,” she shared.

Once Piktochart hit 15 people, Ai Ching felt it was important to have stated values to define the company moving forward. We call these values HOPEFUL, and you can read a little more about them on our website. We are 50 people strong now, and we’ve found that having company values helps us to speak the same language.

HOPEFUL.png

Source: https://piktochart.com/blog/how-piktochart-creates-a-culture-that-sticks/

How Piktochart became a semi-distributed startup

Ai Ching noted that she envies Buffer in a sense because they started out as a fully remote company. She also said she has read articles in the startup world about the downfalls of a hybrid headquarters and remote set-up. As with many things at Piktochart, she admits that having a semi-distributed team was not planned and shared the story of how Piktochart opened up to the idea of having a semi-distributed team.

It all started with allowing that very first remote team member Marta, our current Head of Marketing, to leave Malaysia and head back to Europe to be closer to her family. Ai Ching mentioned that the concern revolved around how someone could lead a team in a completely different timezone.

“But I had high regard for her and trusted her,” Ai Ching recalled in the interview. “I trusted her ability to manage a remote lifestyle. It became an experiment, but it worked out so well that now we have 10 remote team members at Piktochart covering 6 different timezones.”

Ai Ching noted that to fill the gap between the headquarters team members and remote team members, Piktochart has embraced technology to record meetings and, we use tools like Slack to allow for easy communication.

We also have a policy to allow team members that are normally based in our office to work remotely for up to a month so they can experience what it’s like to be a digital nomad.

Remote team members are also encouraged to work from Piktochart headquarters when they first join the team. Below is a photo from my first day at the company in the office!

Piktochart.jpg

Source: https://twitter.com/jackiemjensen/status/616115525240799233

Who is someone you need to thank more?

What a great interview question! When Courtney asked Ai Ching this question during the interview, it really struck me as something I should ask myself more often, too.

Ai Ching talked about how she thinks she needs to thank her husband and co-founder Andrea more often. Since listening to the interview, I’ve asked myself the same question! Such a great reminder to be intentionally and actively grateful, Courtney.


Our team was proud to see Ai Ching interviewed for this amazing podcast. If you’d like, come listen to the full interview here. You can also read an in-depth recap from Courtney here. And don’t forget to subscribe to this wonderful podcast to catch other thought leaders!

“We have some really great upcoming interviews with folks including David Cancel, Rand Fishkin, Christina Morillo of Women of Color in Tech, and lots more!” shared Courtney.

Our special thanks to Courtney for giving us a platform to share what we’ve learned with the community!

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