MetaRad: Life at MetaLab
It's been a while since I really sat down to write anything more than a tweet, and this blog has seen some serious neglect this past year. That being said, I believe it's seen such neglect due to the sheer amount of life that's been going on in our family. We bought a house in Portland, moved to a new neighborhood, got even more involved in our church family, and adjusted to life with two kids. Quite a year.
Before all of that madness happened, I switched jobs and joined the team at MetaLab after a year and a half at a startup. What followed was ten months of some of the most rewarding work I've done in a long time, alongside the best team I've ever been a part of. I realized I needed to stop and reflect when I tried to summarize the year in a twitter thread:
@metalab I now realize this is going to have to be a longer summary in a different format. I'll leave it at that for now.— Benjamin Krogh (@benkrogh) December 23, 2016
Needless to say, when you have such a monumental year, a twitter thread doesn't cut it. So I thought I'd take a moment to share my experience with this amazing team and why it's been such an encouraging and challenging time for me.
Joining The Team
"Ben + MetaLab = <3" I read the email subject line that contained MetaLab's job offer as I took the bus home from one the most difficult working days I'd ever experienced. For the previous year and half, I was a part of a startup that was making an excellent product for some of the world's top brands. I should have been thrilled, but I was miserable. I was keeping my ears open and reached out to a few different agencies about opportunities. I was initially surprised to hear from MetaLab, but the ensuing conversation meant the world to me.
What struck me right away was how comfortable I was during the interview process. MetaLab has a "no assholes allowed" policy in our handbook, and that showed from the first person I chatted with to see if I was a right fit. It was conversational, but not shallow or fake. There was talk about expectations, answers to questions I had, along with a (paid) test project and design interviews with the leads. No matter what I asked, the team was happy to answer my questions and we covered enough ground to make sure that, if I were to join the team, it would be the right fit for everyone.
By the time I got the offer, there was no question that I would accept, and I've never been more excited to join a team. Needless to say, it started everything out on the right foot.
Loads of Talent, Lack of Divas
I work with some of the best developers and designers I've ever had the pleasure to meet, but that's not what's remarkable. What truly sets the MetaLab team apart is that in the midst of all this talent there's an incredibly collaborative spirit. There aren't lone wolf "heroes" that want to do their own thing at the expense of the team, or folks who throw a fit because you critique their work. It's a tight-knit, badass crew, passionate about making good work and helping each other along the way.
We take time with "lunch and learns" to teach each other new skills. Our Slack channels are full of questions, answers, discoveries and debates. Team leads check in and share knowledge about our struggles or discoveries. We had a workshop on radical candor, where our entire team learned how to give and receive feedback. It's great to be a part of this team.
I joined the MetaLab team when my oldest daughter had just turned 2, and my youngest was only a few months old. The idea of actually having a "work/life balance" was intriguing to me, and a remote position seemed to offer the flexibility that I was looking for. However, my previous job held a view that remote employees couldn't truly add to a collaborative environment. That definitely colored my perceptions and expectations. I started the job a little bit anxious about being remote and how I'd relate to the rest of the team.
Luckily, MetaLab is committed to their remote team members, and I've felt like a part of the team since the first day. Being a remote employee has been amazing. Every day I get to have lunch with my kids, set my own hours, and have flexibility that I've never had in another job. I can take breaks to go for a walk with my daughter, or be there when they need a big hug after naptime. I've been able to travel to visit family while working, so we haven't felt tied down to my home office. It's something that I definitely don't take for granted, and our family is incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
People Over Profits
This one is huge. In our handbook, one of our Core Values is "People over Profits." It might sound like a nice idea rather than a real policy, but it's something that MetaLab takes very seriously and sees through.
There have been a few instances this past year where certain team members needed a break or a change in position to accomodate personal situations. No matter the need or circumstance, the team has rallied around their teammates to show them appreciation and care, and leadership has been supportive through it all. It's a special thing to witness.
It's so unique to be in a company with this much talent, working with some of the best clients in the world, but everyone feels safe enough to reach out for help from our fellow teammates. I'm thankful that our leadership and People/Ops team is so committed to seeing the vision of "People over Profits" come to life at MetaLab.
This last one is big for me. I've worked at a lot of places that touted a great "Culture," but at the end of the day it was just a word they thought described their office decor and ping pong tables. It's pretty hollow. When the going gets rough, most companies have a hard time holding people accountable to their work and actions. Folks who aren't a good fit don't know they're not a good fit, and sometimes bad apples are left hanging around, frustrating their team and stunting growth.
This year at MetaLab has taught me that you really can have a great team, a caring culture, and still hold people accountable to their actions. It's possible to let people go and still have a great culture. It's possible to have tough conversations about output or behavior and still be respectful and caring. Because, in the end, you're not cultivating a great culture if you're not committed to weeding out things that might not be great for your team.
It's For Real
The past ten months have shown me that with MetaLab, there's no catch. There's no secret bad process or grumpy team members that come out of the woodwork after your first 30 days are over. It's been a great 10 months in both the high and low points, and I'm really excited for what 2017 holds in store for us.