A Guide to Building Tech Team Culture

In my career, I have worked across so many types of companies. (List not in order)

  • A large tech company
  • A large non-profit
  • A small non-profit
  • An early-stage tech startup
  • A small boot-strapped Azure and DevOps consultancy
  • A medium-sized venture-backed Microsoft-focused consultancy
  • A publicly traded consultancy that focuses on Government contracts
  • And lastly, an enterprise organization that is in both the insurance and banking industry.
  • Does the military also count? Sure. Why not?

The small Azure and DevOps consultancy was the sweet spot for me. It wasn't because of the size of the company, where the company's money came from, nor the fact that I was consulting. Those things were nothing on their own. I could have been absolutely miserable there if the company had a poor culture. But they didn't. And looking back, that was the absolute highlight of my career up to this very day. But why was that the thing? Why did I feel like I thrived in that environment?

It's probably hard to find someone who hasn't sat through a company culture seminar or something similar at some point in their career. You know – one of those workshop type events where some random person comes and make you do uncomfortable exercises and talks to you for several days while you are feeling very stressed about the work you'd rather be doing? Yeah. Those. They are the worst. I have been through a few at previous companies, but something was different about the consultancy. Why was my experience there so different?

The approach

I'll lay it out to you straight. In those other companies where I went through the culture sessions, the person leading the sessions wasn't bought in to what they were doing. Why not? Because they were checking a box. Why? Because the person who requested them to come in was also checking a box. In contrast to that, my time at the consultancy was so great, because the leadership was fully bought in. I saw tears in the eyes of my boss, the owner of the company, right in front of me while we worked through some difficult things once in a session. I had no doubt that he was bought in. Not only from that, but also from the MASSIVE amounts of money that he spent to keep an Organizational Psychologist on retainer, to provide us quarterly multi-day workshops with her, and pay for each individual to have full access to her community and online platform. But what's more is that Laura, our Organizational Psychologist took a unique approach that mixed in a very interpersonal and whole-human approach to culture. The benefits were clear. The payoff was great. As a company that preached DevOps, we could not let one of the three pillars (culture) of DevOps die in our own company.

The benefits

Yeah, it was a lot of money. And I mean A LOT. But the return was far greater. And I think the owner of the company regularly saw that in our daily interactions and work. For me, I was more effective in that job than I ever have been at any company. I was able to communicate more clearly and concisely. We were able to have disagreements and conflict and resolve it in very healthy ways with highly positive outcomes. We were all able to be our true individual selves at work and be so different from each other while still coming together and accomplishing great things. For a small consultancy, we had big-time recognition across the industry. Beyond the fact that we had great talent, our success was largely due to the effectiveness of our ability to thrive individually and as a whole. This was all made possible through the creation of a regenerative culture. Ultimately, the benefit was that we were far more effective with 12 people in a healthy culture than we could have ever been with 24 in an unhealthy culture. That's obviously not an exact calculation, but it's not hard to see why spending money on building a healthy culture is worth a lot of money. Even if it's the price of one or two salaries for a team of 10-15 people, the return is always going to outweigh the cost as long as you fully commit yourself and your team.

My Recommendation

If you are looking to build a very solid culture, I highly recommend getting in touch with the team over at Gallaher Edge. The work we did with them was instrumental in growing me personally and professionally while also growing the team in every possible way you can imagine. They are incredible at what they do, and I'm certain you will reap the rewards from working with them.