Our Culture

Who we are

Philharmonic Orchestra

Entry into the world’s best orchestras is enormously challenging; it takes years of preparation, practice, and obsession with perfecting your craft. Once in, the bar and stakes are very high. Each musician practices diligently and brings their best self to the floor because they are deeply driven to make sure the group as a whole succeeds in performing wonderful music.

As in a great orchestra, we set and maintain a high standard - anyone out of tune or rhythm can be the difference between a beautiful song and a bunch of instruments all being played at once. The quality, diversity, and cohesion of our talented team is by far our greatest asset. We meticulously refine our individual crafts and bring those to bear so that, in synchrony, we produce more than the sum of our parts. Like any great orchestra, there is no single role or instrument that stands above the rest; each is necessary for a song to sound complete. And like any great orchestra, we need the best player possible at every seat, and we need a high degree of trust, accountability, alignment, and shared vision.

To build and maintain our world class team, like any great orchestra, we need to:
  • hire carefully and rigorously
  • compassionately let players go when they’re not effectively playing their part and lifting the rest of the team up
  • invest time in building trust and strong alignment within teams

Impact over optics

If we find ourselves creating a deck, implementing a feature, or fighting a fire purely because “my manager wants it” something has gone wrong. Either the team hasn’t done a good enough job communicating how the work drives value to our end users, or we’ve fallen into a trap that led us to prioritize work that isn’t optimizing for value to users.  Situations like this should alarm us, and it’s on us to act quickly to ensure we get clarity of understanding on how our work drives value to users and optimize for impact over optics.

Given every team member’s top focus should be to have a positive impact on customers, we minimize title hierarchy. The presence of a title hierarchy with ever-more-laudable labels introduces internally-focused motivation to work and present oneself in a way that optimizes for “the next title” and can create an unhealthy environment of deference.
We give team members descriptive titles to clearly indicate their role. Being a people manager is not rewarded or revered any more highly than being an excellent individual contributor; for clarity, we simply add “lead” to a title if the role includes people management. This means unlike some companies where pay bands are associated with particular levels/titles, our pay bands are very large. Two “software engineers” might have very different pay depending on the market rate for similar roles’ scope and impact. We pay top of market for every role, and even higher for folks with sustained, proven impact that exceeds the expectations for their role. HiPPO = “highest paid person’s opinion.” Guess what a group of hippos is called? A bloat. We want to avoid bloat.

How we work

Bias towards action

When we notice gaps, issues or opportunities for improvement, we take action to force progress. We are not hindered by indecision and imperfect solutions, and we are wary of tendencies for premature optimization. We don’t fall victim to diffusion of responsibility, and we don’t silo ourselves based on predefined scopes. When we see issues that need solving, we take responsibility for those issues lest they go unnoticed by someone else and we miss potential improvements.

Solving the root cause

When a problem arises, we dig deeper to uncover the root cause rather than just treating surface level symptoms. A problem superficially solved is likely to reappear and cause problems for a team member in the future. Taking the time to solve problems at the source has compounding benefits for everyone.

Take extreme ownership

We don’t micromanage; we seek to maximize alignment and autonomy so teams and individuals have the freedom and creative space to solve the problems that unlock value for our users. Our management ethos is Context over Control: give people the information they need to make the best decisions without ever dictating what to do. If teammates make mistakes or poor decisions, we don’t reactively add constraints to prevent similar issues in the future, but instead we work with our teammates to ensure they’re set up to act with good judgment going forward. If a teammate exercises poor judgment consistently or egregiously, they are likely not a good fit for the team and will be let go so that we can maintain a loose process and a liberal working environment for everyone else.

Feedback culture

One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is honest feedback. Everyone should understand that it is their mission to help all the people around them be the best versions of themselves and deliver the best possible product for our customers. This means being honest, thoughtful, and supportive by sharing feedback with each other.

Candor is key and must always be done with:
  • trust (continually invest in building this)
  • positive intent
  • and a path to improvement

Continuous improvement

No matter how well we’re executing, we will always find room for improvement.  After celebrating our wins, we consider how we could have done even better. We set ambitious goals, and each new high becomes our status quo. This drive for continuous improvement should not mean that we sprint at unsustainable paces, but rather it speaks to our motivation for continued growth and development.