How to create an inclusive environment at a SaaS startup

Last edited on March 20, 2021

0 minute read

    During my first week at Cockroach Labs, our company held its annual Roacherness Awards, a ceremony to recognize and celebrate Roachers who embody our values. I was pleasantly surprised when my colleague Chelsea received an award for our value ‘Establishing Balance,’ celebrating the boundaries she sets between her work and home life through using benefits like our flexible Paid Time off policy to explore the world.

    This being my second job out of college, I was shocked. My experience post-college was one in which companies asked me to dive into my work with cult-like abandon, to define myself by the goals of the company first, and to let who I am come second.

    From my experience at Cockroach Labs, it's so apparent to me now that we should all be valued at work for more than what we do— we should also get to be who we are. Cockroach Labs has many of the markings of a tight-knit community - a culture of open communication, collaboration, and respect. Still, it is ultimately a company of incredibly talented people who show up each day to build something fantastic together, but who are defined by so much more.

    Even more surprising was that while we emphasize encouraging our people to establish balance in their lives, we are equally committed to providing every opportunity for Roachers to authentically represent themselves at work in a community that respects them for it. When I joined the team in December, we had about 130 Roachers (now over 165), and well before I arrived, we had established the CREWS program, which other companies call Employee Resource Groups.

    CREWS (Cockroach Employees Who Support) are groups intended to create an inclusive environment for Roachers from underrepresented backgrounds and help employees connect with their peers on a deeper level. Groups host events to support and advocate for their members, both internally and externally. These include talks with guest speakers, reading groups, member lunches, and events to provide the broader company with meaningful education and resources. While these groups are company-sponsored, they are run by employees for employees.

    Some of our current groups include:

    • Women of Cockroach Labs - a community of women and allies at CRL that promotes professional and personal development

    • Roacher Pride - a group dedicated to celebrating pride and educating the broader company on how to be an LGBTQ+ ally at work and in the community

    • POC-at-CRL - a community of people of color at CRL that promotes professional development and belonging

    • Infinite Colors - A group dedicated to raising awareness and sharing resources around neurodiversity in the workplace

    An effective Employee Resource Group allows employees to feel a sense of belonging and educates the company at large on perspectives and experiences that may differ from their own. These groups are spaces for collective learning and collective action and are a massive contributor to the culture at the core of Cockroach Labs.

    In June of this year, the CREWS program evolved to add executive sponsorship and expanded company support for group initiatives. Each group is assigned a member of our executive team to serve as an advocate at the executive level while also providing visibility and recognition for their group’s efforts. Additionally, an introduction to the program was added to our onboarding curriculum so that new Roachers can make closer connections at a growing company from day one.

    CREWS groups are also welcome to allocate Connect & Contribute (C&C) time for their groups to make space to engage in an event, workshop, or an issue within their communities. These are times when managers are encouraged to move or cancel meetings to allow group members to support their group’s mission while providing the rest of the company with resources and means to interact.

    As our team grows, our CREWS will grow with it. If you are thinking about joining Cockroach Labs (and you should, it’s fantastic over here) and don’t see yourself represented in our current set of CREWS groups, start your own! My job as Culture and Workplace Associate is to make sure that everyone here can bring their fullest selves to work, and almost ironically, remember that they are infinitely more than just this job.

    To join Cockroach Labs and our CREWS, visit our careers page.

    employee support