A Culture That Evolves: Our Values at Cockroach Labs

A Culture That Evolves: Our Values at Cockroach Labs

Company values show up in some facet of our roles every day, whether we’re making a hard choice or determining priorities. They help guide our team towards shared business goals and, in doing so, shape company culture. With many technology companies having faced working remotely in the past months, culture has become a greater priority and a shared responsibility. Getting everyone on the same page about culture begins with defining values.

At Cockroach Labs, we have four values that are shared across the organization. At a surface level, each of these values is hard to argue with. It’s important that we elaborate on what each of these values mean in practice, as each individual’s interpretation can vary.

  • Commit to Excellence - We commit to shipping products and serving customers with a singular focus on excellence. We take pride in breaking boundaries, constantly improving, and aiming to produce great (not just good) work in order to win the market. Excellence is how we build a category-defining company.
  • Communicate Openly and Honestly - We are our best when we communicate openly and honestly – understanding both our successes and our failures in order to continuously improve and enable each Roacher to effectively contribute to solving difficult problems.
  • Respect Each Other - Everyone is here because they’ve spent years studying and working hard. We approach discussions with humility and an open mind to guarantee that we’ll learn something new or appreciate a problem from a new perspective. And that, in turn, leads to better outcomes.
  • Establish Balance - We believe that whole, healthy individuals produce consistently exceptional results. Whether we find work-life balance through time with friends and family, a healthy lifestyle, or intellectual pursuits, maintaining a healthy balance enables high performance.

Moreso, company values need to be authentic. Your team wants to see these values reflected in your company’s day to day, as they drive individual engagement and retention. In a 2018 LinkedIn study, 71% of professionals say they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that has a mission they believe in and shared values. 

Our values were established early on within the company, with the understanding that they may evolve as our company evolves. At first, the company had six values determined by the company founders. Using these as a starting point, when the team was about 50 people, we all engaged in a collaborative brainstorming workshop, where we discovered the themes bubbling up and established the four values that resonated most with our team. At the time, they were:

  • Aim High and Build to Last
  • Be Transparent about Both Highs and Lows
  • Respect
  • Establish Balance

It’s fairly easy to see which of these values evolved into our current values today. As the company has reached different stages of product development, grown different departments internally, and set intention to our new vision, it’s important that our values can reflect these changes as well. Here are some of the values we’ve evolved throughout the years:

Aim High and Build to Last → Commit to Excellence: This change was intended to capture the essence of our commonly held desire to really build a product (and a company) that works well. It’s on display every time we collectively debate a new policy and every time a customer runs into a problem with our product.

Be Transparent about Both Highs and Lows → Communicate Openly and Honestly: This change was to clarify the value, highlighting that we all benefit and learn from sharing successes and failures. The new value was written to emphasize our commitment to clear communication and to making collaborative, distributed work possible.

Before you even start at Cockroach Labs, we’ve incorporated our values into your interview process. While you are tasked with completing an exercise during the interview session, we ask interviewers to evaluate candidates for exemplifying our values:

  • Commit to Excellence: Does the candidate demonstrate resilience when faced with resistance? Does the candidate take pride in the work?
  • Respect: Does the candidate communicate with candor and respect at all levels? Does the candidate approach discussions with humility and invite diverse perspectives?

On your first day at Cockroach Labs, we kick off our “Welcome” meeting with a presentation of our company values and some of the processes we have internally to support them. With the new transition of a new job, an introduction to our values on Day 1 helps reinforce what drives us all forward to our goals.

At the end of each year, we kick off the Roacherness Awards, which recognize Roachers who embody the Cockroach Labs’ values. The awards are given out based on a peer nomination process, so every Roacher is encouraged to nominate someone who has exemplified our values throughout the year. We ask Roachers to consider:

  • Who has really committed to excellence in their work? Or who strived to provide the best solutions?
  • Who have you learned something from through communicating openly and honestly? Or who has been open about their projects that went well and others that have not?
  • Who shows respect day to day with every Roacher they collaborate with? Or who encourages different perspectives outside their own?
  • Who have you seen be productive through establishing balance in their life? Or who’s pursuits outside of Cockroach Labs have you admired?

The nomination process recognizes those who make a positive impact on our business, and it’s even more felt in our company culture. With a growing company, we found that it’s important to check that there’s still alignment for your values through the scaling and changes. We understand that these values may take on their own meaning for each Roacher, but we want to ensure that their intention still resonates across our team. In our Employee Engagement surveys, we include questions about our values to keep our finger on the pulse of how our team is feeling. In the past, these questions have been:

  • Cockroach Labs demonstrates a commitment to the company values.
  • The company values of Cockroach Labs align well with my own values.

This blog is meant to kick off a series of blog posts diving deeper into each of our company values. We want to share where they show up day-to-day at Cockroach Labs, and how some of our Roachers interpret them for their own work. We’re looking forward to sharing more of what makes our culture at Cockroach Labs and hearing from the different perspectives of Roachers across the globe.

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