Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How "team" is different in a small tech company

Guest post: Michael Prospero, FirstRain Director of Research

Throughout my professional career, I have worked for large financial organizations employing 100s to 1,000s of people. Therefore, I was one member of a very large so-called "team".

Every organization I have worked for attempted to make me feel as though I am a part of a team working toward a common goal. However, if I am one analyst or one person in accounting ( or whatever your job function may be ) I really never feel like my group and the other departments, functions or locations are all working together. In fact, I would rarely interact with other departments unless for some reason I was required to because of some need of theirs or mine. I always felt like just an employee in a large organization. Often the CEO never knew who I was and I may have only met them briefly at some function. There wasn’t any team building to bring us together. We never really got to know many of the others in the organization unless they sat near us or worked in the same department. In fact, employees were only in the same room together during a rare HR requirement or speech by the CEO, who wasn’t necessarily in the same office as us.

Three years ago, I accepted my current position knowing that I was about to begin working for a small company, which was essentially a mature start-up at the time. FirstRain continues to have a aggressive small company - like a start-up - type of culture, which is so different from a corporate environment that it would require a much longer post to describe it all to you.

To me, the refreshing part of working in this type of environment is truly being part of a team. Not the team that corporations pretend to be, but really a team of people all working hard at their respective positions to reach a common goal. To use a sports analogy, it is like being part of a football team. If each person doesn’t perform well at their respective position, the team may lose. If someone misses a block or a defensive assignment, the whole team suffers and may lose.

I guess working at FirstRain brings me back to those days when I played competitive team sports. Today, many of the employees at FirstRain are very different and we work in three different locations and in two countries. We bring different backgrounds, skill sets and even cultures together in a unique way and we are all working very hard to do something that hasn’t been done before. To bring us together, every so often, we have an activity set up where we are doing something outside of the office from movies, to half marathons to bowling. During our company outings, we are provided with an opportunity to get to know each other in a real way and it’s invigorating. Also, we have frequent all hands meetings where our CEO will hold a call to discuss everything going on with the company and responds to all questions from any employee.

Working as part of a team is the reason sports are so popular around the world. If you ask any retired athlete what they miss most about their playing days, they will almost invariably respond that they miss being part of a team. In many ways I’ve learned more in the past three years working at FirstRain than I have in my entire career. I feel my work contributes to each win that we have as a team.

Note from Penny - I promise I didn't ask Michael to write this - I think he's having fun!

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