Non-political, values-driven work

Previously the MD and Talent Manager of Brighthouse (now known as This Way Up), Nadia has worked at Gitlab since 2017 simultaneously recruiting to scale the company from 75 to 767 hired team members and building up her career in People Operations at the company. She moved into a management position at Gitlab a couple of months ago.

All 767 Gitlab employees work from home. It was decided from the start by the founders that the company would always stay remote.

“If we say all-remote, we really mean it. We have no offices anywhere in the world.”

How does Gitlab maintain a productive remote company culture?

  • Every 9 months they have a Contribute (what we at Hi5 call a Retreat), which is like a summit where everyone gets together and realign team strategies.
  • Team video calls are important. Keeping notes on outcomes of calls/meetings to help you keep day-to-day perspective and focus. We at Hi5 call these our Daily Standups.
  • Consult the Gitlab Handbook (we have a Playbook) for figuring out processes to keep the team effective.
  • Set work hours and make sure you keep pursuing your personal passions. Say no 🚫 to meetings after hours.

In terms of scaling the Gitlab company culture — what they prefer to call Values — Nadia says it’s important to call people out on misalignment to the values very quickly. By far their most difficult value to live up to, is Iteration (it’s challenging for engineers to work agile). Their work is always evolving and nothing stays the same, so this value really reflects an important part of how they function.

“We prefer to use the word culture for its true meaning — cultural diversity among people.”

When she interviews people in different countries, she can almost immediately tell if it will not work out depending on how open the person is to other cultures. As a global all-remote team, it’s imperative to be able to get along with people from diverse backgrounds.

“We are non-political at work.”

The Values-driven work at Gitlab is not only the responsibility of the management. It’s very bottom-up as opposed to top-down and Nadia reckons it’s up to everyone to help each other stay aligned.

Currently Nadia’s team is working on on-boarding and off-boarding and making sure it’s more of an experience than “train-stopping” for the employees entering and exiting the company.

In a discussion around Hi5 pulses, Nadia mentions it could be better to run 90-day pulse surveys than to run bi-annual 360 degree reviews. It’s also great to go back to what was said in the crucial time of on-boarding in the first 90 days to assess growth and alignment to values.

“Sticking to values-hiring as opposed to ‘bums in seats’ has definitely been game-changing.”

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Timestamp notes:

0.11 — Intro

2.35 — About being an all-remote company

8.15 — Scaling the culture at Gitlab

13.28 — An average day for Nadia

15.12 — What she’s reading at the moment: The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. Crucial Conversations by Al Switzler et al.

16.07 — On employee feedback & bi-annual 360 reviews

18.37 — Favourite productivity software? Gitlab for building tables and for onboarding, her calendar for blocking time on schedule.

20.46 — How to reach Nadia: Twitter, LinkedIN, nadia@gitlab.com.

If you have any feedback, comments, ideas or suggestions, please get in contact with us on twitter @giveahi5 or email us on podcasts@get5.io.

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