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Zapier Inc

Culture And Values At Zapier

Below is an article originally written by Wade Foster, the Co-founder and CEO at PowerToFly Partner Zapier, and published on January 26, 2018. Go to Zapier's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

We help people be more efficient at work. We want to help you focus on the work that matters and automate the work that's tedious.

Today we serve two million people. We hope to one day serve everyone at work.

To make that happen, though, we have to invest in each other and invest in our team—especially since we're a small, but fast-growing company. Our culture is the primary way we achieve our organizational goals. And the way we've defined the culture is through a shared set of common values that every team at Zapier uses to help them make decisions, interact with each other and our customers, and get work done.

The Zapier Team Values

Each of these values are fleshed out through a simple good vs. bad comparison:

"A successful Zapier teammate does this"
vs. "A struggling Zapier teammate does that".

1. Default to Action

What this means: Most decisions are changeable. It's better to deliver something real today over something maybe better later.

Tips on how to apply this value:

"When I see a problem, I take action."
vs. "When I see a problem, I ignore it because it's someone else's job."

"If I'm unsure about something, I seek out help from my manager or a teammate."
vs. "I don't like to ask questions or raise issues because I'm afraid I'll look bad."

"I prefer to make a quick, decent decision instead of pursuing perfection."
vs. "I hold myself to making perfect or near-perfect decisions no matter the cost."

"When prioritizing my day, I focus on tasks that align with my team's goals."
vs. "I spin up new projects frequently and get frustrated when no one dedicates time to helping me."

"We tackle big hairy problems and take big bets diligently as team."
vs. "I make big, tough to reverse decisions on my own."

2. Default to Transparency

What this means: When working in a distributed, worldwide team staying on the same page is tough. Sharing context, goals, objectives, and in-progress work in public helps us all achieve a common goal.

Tips on how to apply this value:

"I keep my team members in tune with relevant information as it can be appropriately shared with context so there's rarely surprises."
vs. "I hold back information until the very point it needs to be shared, even if it is a surprise to my teammates, that's OK."

"I share my work with my peers early and often so we can course correct quickly."
vs. "I share my masterpiece at the end in a big grand reveal."

"I make it easy for others to follow my work by summarizing tasks accomplished and decisions made, and providing links to source material (such as a Slack thread) for deeper context."
vs. "I share raw notes and all details of my work and decisions, and expect others have the time to consume it all."

"I distill reporting to what's relevant to my audience, linking out to details that are already understood."
vs. "I share everything out of concern my audience might question my decision-making or productivity."

"When sensitive details come my way, I think twice and consult a manager before sharing publicly."
vs. "I share far and wide just for transparency's sake."

3. Grow Through Feedback

What this means: We all have personal goals and ambitions. Let's work together to help us all achieve our goals.

Tips on how to apply this value:

"When I hear feedback, I improve with it."
vs. "When I hear feedback, I disengage."

"I assume positive intent when receiving feedback."
vs. "I feel attacked when receiving feedback."

"When a teammate's work helps me, I say thanks by sharing how."
vs. "I keep feedback to myself."

"I reflect on and engage with learning opportunities."
vs. "I prefer to gloss over missteps or mistakes because it is more comfortable than addressing them head on."

"I participate in other people's development."
vs. "I stay silent to avoid hurting feelings or feeling uncomfortable."

"I provide feedback directly and compassionately."
vs. "I provide feedback without the ultimate goal of helping the other person."

"When change happens, I embrace new opportunities."
vs. "When change happens, I fear for the worst."

4. Empathy, No Ego

What this means: All of our teammates are smart and talented. When we work together we will be successful.

Tips on how to apply this value:

"I work with others to build on great ideas."
vs. "I work alone because my ideas are the best."

"I take interest in my teammates' and users' well being. I know with strong bonds we can go through any tough time together."
vs. "I treat my team as resources to help me achieve tasks that advance my interests."

"If the floor is dirty, I sweep the floor."
vs. "I wait for the janitor to sweep the floor because some jobs are below me."

Sometimes it's not about a big ego. Sometimes we need guidance on how to handle a bruised ego and learn to be forgiving of ourselves to take the next steps. These rules help give guidance for this set of situations:

"When I fail, I learn."
vs. "When I fail, I'm no good."

"I can learn anything I want to."
vs. "I'm either good at it or I'm not."

"When I'm frustrated I persevere."
vs. "When I'm frustrated I give up."

"If you succeed, I feel inspired."
vs. "If you succeed, I feel threatened."

5. Don't Be a Robot, Build the Robot

What this means: Invest in tools and processes that lead to outsized impact so Zapier can be more productive than a similar sized company.

Tips on how to apply this value:

"If I see repetitive tasks, I find tools, process, or code that can help us grow efficiently."
vs. "I keep doing things they way they've always been done because it's familiar."

"If I find something that works, I continually optimize the process."
vs. "When something works, I don't change it in fear of messing it up."

"I'm eager to find a better way to do my role, even if it works myself out of that role."
vs. "I avoid exploring new ways to do something out of fear that it'll impact my role."

"I prioritize effectiveness and impact over perfection and precision."
vs. "I make sure I achieve perfection in my work."

"I seek alternatives to growing headcount, searching for efficiencies first."
vs. "I default to encouraging hiring to solve the problems in front of us."

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Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Told to Be Chill, Not Shrill

The Dated, Everyday Tech Stifling Women's Voices Shows the Importance of Diversity in Tech

"You're not like other girls. You're so...chill."

I've gotten that "compliment" from multiple guys in multiple contexts — and I'm ashamed to admit that until a few years ago, I took it as one.

Occasionally I'd wonder why. After all, anyone who knows me well knows I am the Anti-Chill: a tightly wound stress ball, ready to explode into tears at any given moment.

So what was giving these guys the wrong impression? As it turns out, it was my voice. My cool, unnaturally-deep-for-a-woman, never-shrill voice.

And if I'm honest, I always prided myself on not sounding 'like other girls.' No uptalk or high-pitched squeals of glee from me. I thought I sounded smarter and more serious. Talk about internalized misogyny.

This isn't just me though. There is a societal double bind that forces women to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the right pitch and tone for each situation.

Just consider the advice that Democratic-debate coach Christine Jahnke gave female candidates to avoid being labeled as shrill: "… go slow and low. Very purposefully slow your pace and lower the tone a bit, because that will add meaning or gravitas to whatever it is you're talking about."

In a nutshell: try and sound chill, not shrill.

What I didn't know, until recently, is how this bias against women's natural voices is being reinforced and amplified by century-old technology. (Just one of many examples of how technology designed by and for men ends up hurting women in the long-run.)

Author Tina Tallon explains this little-known fact in her recent New Yorker article, summarized below:

How 20th Century Tech Is Holding 21st Century Women Back

With the rise of commercial broadcast radio in the 1920s, women's voices began getting critiqued. As Tallon explains, station directors asserted that "women sounded 'shrill,' 'nasal,' and 'distorted.'" So when industry standards were set, directors didn't take women's voices into account.

When Congress limited the bandwidth available to each radio station in 1927, station directors set a bandwidth that would provide the minimum amount of information necessary to understand "human" speech.

They used lower voices as their benchmark, so the higher frequency components of women's speech necessary to understand certain consonants were cut, making women's voices less intelligible.

  • Researcher J.C. Steinberg asserted that, "nature has so designed woman's speech that it is always most effective when it is of soft and well-modulated tone." He explained that if a woman raised her voice on air, it would exceed the limitations of the equipment. As Tallon says, "He viewed this as a personal and biological failing on women's part, not a technical one on his."

Why You Should Care

Women have always been told to lower their voices, but this 20th century approach to sound frequencies is still accepted as the standard, literally forcing women to lower their voices if they want to be heard.

  • To this day, many algorithms and speakers distort women's speech by limiting higher frequencies, causing women's voices to lose definition and clarity.

Tallon sums it up well:

"Consequently, women are still receiving the same advice that they were given in the nineteen-twenties: lower the pitch of your voice, and don't show too much emotion. By following that advice, women expose themselves to another set of criticisms, which also have a long history: they lack personality, or they sound 'forced' and 'unnatural.'"


----

So as we continue to grapple with implicit biases against women, from what it means to be "presidential" to who's considered an "innovative leader," let's remember the importance of diversity in tech.

Had a woman been involved in researching/setting the standards for radio frequencies, she might've been able to steer the industry towards a voiceband that would allow men and women to be heard equally well. And perhaps had a more impartial voiceband been established, I'd have heard a more diverse range of female speakers growing up, and internalized fewer biases myself.

That's why we care so much at PowerToFly about making sure cutting-edge companies have diverse teams.

Times were different then, sure, but the fact that Depression Era standards are still impacting how we hear (or don't hear) women's voices is a vital reminder that what we do today impacts our world for centuries to come.

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