Oh, it’s dog-friendly too?!
80s arcade games. Kombucha taps. Fully stocked kitchen. These are the typical bells and whistles we’ve come to expect of tech startups that present as fun, friendly, and non-hierarchical. By the end of week two, however, you’ve already found the cracks in the facade. The office Machiavellian who hoards information and know-how in the name of self-preservation. The VP who’s already blacklisted you for not meeting the daily facetime quota. The backend engineer who’s brilliant, but is also condescending and combative. You’re treated less like a real person and more like an expendable resource. And c’mon, you’ll never put a meaningful dent in that “unlimited PTO” — let’s be real.
Companies like this have lost sight of the key elements of a good culture. At Pex, these key elements are a top priority.
Not on a conveyor belt: our interview process
The common thread throughout my interviews with the Pex team was how humanely and respectfully I was treated. Deadlines for follow-ups were honored. My interviewers were honest in their assessments of my skills and experience, while remaining friendly and attentive. Even if they were extremely busy, they never made me feel like an inconvenience. Best of all, they never ghosted me!
In my final round, I spoke with Pex’s CEO, Rasty Turek, who kicked off our half-hour rather unconventionally:
“So, tell me about yourself. What does a typical weekend day look like for you? How do you start your day? What do you do for fun?”
No questions on how to optimize a query. No Python coding on a whiteboard. No brainteasers. Rasty did not want to gauge my technical chops. And rather than determine if I would fit within a predefined Pex monoculture, he wanted to know if I would be a culture add.
To this day, I have never in a job interview talked so much about my love of powerlifting and mixing adult beverages.
This is just my take on my interview process. You can learn more about our hiring process here!
While technical prowess and communication are imperative to success at Pex, we also look for people who are receptive to feedback while embracing the growth mentality. Our holistic approach to recruiting inspires takeaways such as:
- Will they hold a vendetta against the critic?
- Can the candidate provide candid feedback of another’s work without inflammatory comments or condescending tone? Do they seek to help others, rather than “put them in their place”?
- Is the candidate willing to avail themselves when asked for help? Will they try to quickly rid themselves of the person asking because their time is “too important”?
- If the candidate is not facile with X-language or Y-application, do they have the resolve to learn it? Do they have an innate drive to evolve and adapt, or are they looking to coast?
We all need help
As we evaluate candidates holistically before making hiring decisions, we at Pex are willing to accept a few minor shortcomings in technical skills and industry knowledge. That is why we expressly encourage every employee to both ask for help and take time to help one another.
Having transitioned from a career in finance into data analytics, my Python and SQL skills were as good as what I learned in my self-paced MOOC. Translation: They were a good starting point.
Had the previous data analyst not so graciously sacrificed his time to show me the nuances of advanced PostgreSQL and our extremely complex data, I would have floundered in my role. “Career development” is not a mere buzzword to us. In fact, the reason why the data analyst position was opened was because the previous one was transitioning to a development role internally.
We’re not fans of informational asymmetry and obfuscation, which engender resentment, office politicking, and discriminatory practices. So we choose to be transparent.
Performance discussions are fair and not misleading. All employees are made well aware of where they excel and where they need to improve. We do not communicate these via hints, implications, or facial expressions.
Compensation packages for all employees are known company-wide. For each position, there is no deviation from what is stated. A Machine Learning Engineer II receives as much cash and as many equity units as all other Machine Learning Engineer IIs. To further ensure adherence to the existing figures, Pex does not negotiate compensation when offers are extended to candidates. This has served as a great deterrent to gender- and race-based pay discrimination.
Just say it
Many startups boast of a “flat org structure” that allows the free exchange of thoughts and ideas, regardless of job title. Seasoned startup workers know this principle does not always apply to those at the director level and above. But at Pex, we believe in a company-wide policy of “respectful candor.” The ability to offer ideas or criticisms freely and in our own voices opens up communication so we can work more efficiently and are encouraged to speak up.
If it’s clear you do not intend to demean or insult, it’s probably OK to say it.
It also means we are free to talk about topics that are important to us, and to share our bold opinions without fear of repercussions. Our Slack channels are full of lively, impassioned discourse on a variety of topics – music, film, local restaurants, and even politics.
As of publication, there have been no intense fights resulting from discussions on potentially divisive issues. We acknowledge one another’s fundamental humanity, rather than rush to condemn.
Thanks for coming to my Pex Talk
Every other Wednesday at Pex, we host a Pex Talk in which an employee presents a topic they are passionate about. Offroading, the ocean, sound engineering, ultrarunning, cake baking, sumo… few things are off limits.
- One colleague shared his love of meat, including pictures of his (literally) all-meat dishes.
- Another shared her experience with and recommendations for a minimalist lifestyle. She lives unencumbered, free of the burdens of a TV, a coffee table, Instagram, and physical media.
- One of our managers shared his experiences with his stutter and how he overcame it. That he felt comfortable sharing that with his coworkers speaks volumes of the safe environment we cultivate.
Stick your head in the sand
All Pex employees are given 30 days of paid time off. At first glance, this may seem like a downgrade from the unlimited PTO offered at most startups. But since we can accrue no more than 30 days, we are actually encouraged to use our allotment. We’d rather you be recharged and motivated than overworked and burnt out, waiting for that one annual trip.
We hope to speak with you soon!
I hope this gives you a more comprehensive understanding of our culture and how we put it into practice. While we at Pex are all imperfect human beings prone to mistakes and lapses in judgment, we consciously try to hold ourselves to the principles that enable a great company culture.
So if you’re interested in joining a very cool company doing very cool things in licensing and rights management, we encourage you to apply here! If you don’t see anything that matches what you’re looking for, shoot your resume over to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always thinking of new ways to expand our team.