Rocketium's culture code
Prime Directives are principles that guide our thoughts and actions every single day. The name is a reference to Star Trek that has an inviolable guiding principle of the same name.
We created the V1 of our Prime Directives in 2019 when we were a team of ~20. During one of our quarterly hackathons, we split into groups to come up with this list that was representative of what we already do and aspirational enough to push us to do more.
By striving to be better every day, we became a wholly different company in the two years since we crafted these Prime Directives. As the team grew, we realized we needed to revisit our culture code. In our first hackathon of 2022, we did the same exercise to come up with our newest Prime Directives.
Similar to how our product keeps evolving, our Prime Directives will keep evolving as we scale our team. Diversity of ideas, opinions, beliefs, and behaviors that are brought in by every new team member will continue to shape how we think and operate.
We are at work for at least a third of our waking hours and want it to be more than just a way to pay our bills. Our work gives us a reason to be exceptional. We like smart and talented people and want to be the smart and talented people that our teammates look up to. We appreciate first-principles thinking and a fresh approach but we do not want to learn our craft on the job.
We are here because we are already very good at what we do. We do not need anyone else telling us how to do our jobs. We are proud of our craft and make sure anything we put our name on has enough elbow grease put into it. We expect the same from others with whom we work. We say no so we only sign up for something we can ship with high quality.
- Hiring the best - Our interview process for each role involves evaluating future teammates for their ability to enhance our current capabilities. This keeps us on our toes and builds a team that helps us become the best version of ourselves. Settling for what we get now has never worked for us and so we wait instead of compromising.
- Interviews about turpentine not style - Picasso said that “when critics get together they talk about style but when painters get together they talk about where you can get the best turpentine”. We hate interviews that test our theoretical knowledge because anyone can Google that. That is why when we interview, we focus on real problems that we have solved and those that showcase the craft we hone on a daily basis.
- Rewarding the exceptional - We are proud of every teammate and love the outcomes we achieve every day. However, there are folks who go way beyond what is expected of them. When this happens, we go way beyond rewarding them without caring about their years of experience or seniority. The same holds for appraisals where generous raises are based on market rates even if no one is expecting them.
Below are real examples of how our team members live upto being "Exceptional at our craft"
- Yashank (SDE-II), has consistently proven that age is just a number when you have the hunger to learn and rightfully execute. Over the past months, he has helped the team solve many problems that previously looked unsolvable. He has faced challenges head on and delivered exceptional results.
- Nafees Khan (Director, Design) has awed everyone with the commendable quality and foundation he has brought into the design of our product. Internal teams as well as the users have testified how his UX knowledge has made the life easier for not only our developers but also the customers.
Being exceptional at our craft does not mean we are static and self-satisfied. We believe perfection is a journey and not a destination. We are happy about our work but know there is more we can do. Anything we ship is a compromise between “done” and “perfect”. We keep looking for ways to get better at our craft. We are OK with failing but we learn from our mistakes. Our past achievements feed our ego but not at the expense of knowing that we are still far away from being the best version of ourselves.
- Co-pilot program - Just as airline pilots have co-pilots, anyone at Rocketium can pick another teammate as a co-pilot. Co-pilots help in learning new skills, having a friendly chat, or enhancing our experience in any other way. The program skips all hierarchy and encourages everyone to mentor and seek mentorship. More details of this program are here.
- Monthly reviews and biannual appraisals - Everyone meets their manager once a month to share and receive feedback. Things change fast at startups and we use this as an opportunity to ensure that there is no mismatch between what we are focusing on and what our manager thinks we are focusing on. These reviews are also an opportunity to talk about our individual competencies and how they contribute to our career goals.
Below are real examples of how our team members live upto "Strive to be better everyday"
- Nickhil Kumar (Business Development Representative), takes conscious initiatives to improve his sales skills. He is always open to feedback and actively collaborates with other teams (marketing, design, product) to learn more about our product so he can refine his messaging with creative approaches.
- Rethin Vipinraj (Marketing Associate), has self-learned and transformed from being an SEO executive to a fullstack digital marketer in less than a year. Him levelling up and taking on extended responsibilities has helped the team save significant time with the right amount of control over deliverables.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We believe that our ideas get better under the sunlight of each other’s feedback. In sharing with others, we sharpen our thinking and improve our craft. Our ego makes us seek inputs from multiple experts to make sure what we ship is exceptional. The same goes for improvement areas in our teammates’ work. We share our feedback directly so they can benefit from our unique viewpoint. Feedback is a gift and we make sure we give it often and thank others who give it to us. Being too nice can actually be a bad thing.
- Anonymous monthly Q&A - We have learned by action that trust-building starts from giving everyone the opportunity to be candid without the fear of being judged. As humans, we are psychologically built to think of the repercussions first and impact second. To focus on impact first, we invite the team to share any questions on their mind anonymously prior to our monthly Open House. These questions can be directed towards specific individuals, specific teams, or the entire team.
- Openly sharing when someone quits - Businesses often see open acknowledgement of team members leaving as a threat. They assume it influences others to think about their own future with the company. The reality is that news reaches everyone anyway and trying to hide it just makes things worse. Whether a teammate leaves us voluntarily or we part ways due to performance reasons, we make sure we share this openly with the rest of the team. During farewell celebrations, we share all the good we did together instead of focusing on why they are leaving.
Below are real examples of how our team members live upto "Share openly and often"
- Tejas Nikhar (SE-II), has been extremely vocal while working alongside his own as well as other teams. He openly shares concerns and improvement areas, that have kept everyone else striving for building a better product.
- Himanshu Garg (Software Engineer II), is constantly looked up by his team for openly sharing feedback that helps everyone build best in class architecture, practices, and technology. His suggestions have often helped us mitigate loopholes well in time.
Most of our work involves convincing someone to do something - join our team, buy our product, use our new feature, refer us to your friends, invest in us, …. An inside-out way to convince someone is to focus on why we want it and what benefit we get from it. We believe in the outside-in way, where we figure out the benefit for others in doing what we want. Empathy allows us to put ourselves in their shoes and focus on their hopes, dreams, and challenges. We tap into this superpower to see reasons beyond our own motives. This empathy is not all goody-goody but extends to doing the right thing for someone even if it causes short-term pain - sharing negative feedback, nixing a project, turning down a potential customer. These tough decisions become easy when we know we are doing this for someone else’s best interests.
- #RefuelDay - Working at a fast-growing startup can be both stimulating and exhausting. One of the challenges with building a team of high-performing folks is that they often prioritize work above all else. Just because we do not ask does not mean we do not need a break. To make it easier for us to prioritize ourselves and not our work, we give ourselves one long weekend every month. We call this a Refuel Day. It helps us refuel, declutter, and come back recharged.
- Ultra-flexible notice periods - Everyone hates waiting months for their future team members to join. But those same companies expect their teammates to serve months of “notice period” before they move on. No one enjoys being forced this way and we empathise with our teammates who have decided to move on. Depending on what they are owning and how quickly they can transition their responsibilities, they have the option to move on to their next adventure in days not months.
Below are real examples of how our team members live upto "Empathy is our superpower"
- Saurabh Jain (Director, Finance), has been called out for his empathy by multiple team members. His natural ability to stay calm and composed has not only helped several team members plan their personal finances better but has also come handy during many negotiation calls with different business vendors. He has often put himself in the shoes of others and supported with solutions in the best interest of the team members and the larger team.
- Srijan Kumud (Director, Customer Success), has been consistent at delicately balancing the needs of customers, customer success team, and all other teams that he works with. Given the nature of his role, managing expectations of every stakeholder is not for the weak hearted and Srijan has displayed just the right amount of empathy in making sure he is able to translate pain points into solutions for others.