Recently, we interviewed Marta from Piktochart about their company culture as part of the founder’s interview series.
In this interview series, we collect and share stories of founders, leaders and change makers that are building their own Future of Work. We asked them about their journey with building an organization. They all have created a unique environment that fits their needs, their strategy, and their values, and developed their own approach and they are very happy to share their stories with us.
Do you want to receive Marta’s full interview on video PLUS 5 more? Download them here!
Q: How many people are working within Pikochart and how is it organized?
We’re around 60, we’re split into two main functional teams that consist of PMs, UIUX designers, front and backend developers. We also have Marketing, Design Assets, HR, Finance and Operations, Customer Delight and Customer Success. Nearly 30% is remote.
Q: Piktochart is a semi-remote company, can you tell us how that was decided?
It was mostly influenced by wanting to be close to our customers which are mostly in the US so we needed people who can help us in those time zones when it comes to CD but also marketing and community building. It coincided with the moment I decided to move back to Europe from Asia and were given a big credit of trust from my CEO. From then on, we’ve decided to make a commitment and to give this remote arrangement a try. I started bringing people into the team from different parts of the world.
Q: What do you think are the upsides of a remote culture?
Find people with the best skills not being bound to looking in the same location. In Malaysia, it became increasingly challenging to find great candidates specialized and experienced in the field. I find that those working remotely (in most cases) have a strong self-drive and motivation, which should be the case of any employee regardless whether its remote or not.
Obviously, from the company perspective, it’s also more cost effective to invest in remote teams rather than opening offices in each place you need people in.
Personally – You can be wherever you want to be. I cannot imagine going back to the office-bound job.
Q: And what are the downsides?
Cultural differences that lead to miscommunication – it takes a lot of getting used to the other side before you know how someone likes to be approached, how they communicate and what works for them. What helps is to have a 1 pager about yourself, about the way you like to work, how you like your feedback to be delivered, and what you expect from other people.
Watercooler – Not being able to always jump on a spontaneous brainstorming session and have the organic watercooler moments you normally get when you’re at the office.
Misalignment – When two core teams of the company such as Product and Marketing aren’t in the same space, it can lead to misalignment, so it’s extremely important to drive common understanding and make sure everyone knows what the vision and goals of each team are and how they can support each other.
This year, we’ve organized an empathy session where it was 1 team on 1 team. Kind of like a group one on one. We talked about challenges each team faces in relation to the other team and worked on solutions together. It helped put us on the same page and was a great step to establishing a common ground.
Q: What is it like to work in a distributed team?
It allows for big flexibility and work-life balance. It means you’re learning from other cultures and becoming humble and more empathetic. It also means becoming better at communicating and usage of the tools you might not normally use (virtual whiteboards, live feedback tools, etc).
Q: How would you describe the culture within Piktochart?
The culture promotes autonomy and inspires trust.
Every new person has a job description, goals and scope, but how they go about them it’s almost entirely up to them (of course within the constraints of business, like budget, frameworks available). Giving people this space allows for innovation and growing talents.
We’ve been promoting radical candor (honest and direct feedback but also delivered with care) and trying to give people lots of room to provide honest feedback and not to be afraid to ask questions. People have become much more vocal and challenge new initiatives, new projects, which helps others grow, become better at pitching ideas and for the ideas to be way more refined.
People are open to others and keen on learning about new cultures, in that sense it feels like family.
Q: How would you describe your relationship with your colleagues?
I think we all respect and value each other’s strengths and try to help each other in reaching common goals as much as we can! We’re all friends in the team and are happy about every chance we get to meet in person.
Q: We talked before about your “Hopeful” company values, can you tell us what they are and how are you using them to attract and retain talents?
H – humble
O – open up
P – passionate
E – excellent
F – fun-loving
U – user-focused
L – love
Attract talent: when we hire people, we want to make sure they not only a fit from the technical skills standpoint, but that they also are a cultural fit. Culture-oriented questions are a big part of our recruitment process and as much as we want to find someone who is a fit for us, we want to be a fit for people.
So, we ask them questions related to our values and if we see that something isn’t really a match or would pose a problem, we usually “try to convince people not to join” or in other words give them reasons not to join, calling on the certain values or realities of working at Piktochart they might not feel comfortable with. We want people to be 100% convinced and comited upon joining. Mostly to be passionate about what we do and wanting to build products with us, because they really believe in them.
Retain talent: I think they serve as a glue that holds us together in a way. We are all in the same boat and if people around stop exhibiting some of the values, we try to help them as much as we can to cultivate them more.
At the end of the day what holds you within the company is the passion of your teammates and wanting to excel at reaching the common vision. Those are just some of our core values but we try to maintain levels of excitement, cultivate talents and help people grow, as well as communicate a clear vision for people to keep engaged and on board.
Q: It sounds very interesting but I can imagine that critics will say this is a nice marketing trick. Can you explain how you have made sure these values are authentic and how Picktochart lives up to them?
I think first of all its because they were born out of our early core team that started Piktochart. It wasn’t something we invented out of the blue, but we asked everyone to describe the way they felt being part of the company and hopeful is a sum of all the replies people gave back then.
We don’t want them to be just vague words on our website or wall. We have a bunch of initiatives we all participate in:
Kudos points – we have a platform where people can give each other points as a thank you for great teamwork, help with a specific project, bringing snacks to the office, etc. When you give points, you use hashtags related to our values. At the end of each month, each person can exchange their points for tech equipment, things for the office, courses, but most importantly charity donations.
Hopeful awards – each year on a yearly company trip, we give out awards for the most HOPEFUL people and those are based on the Kudos points scoring.
Open up: we organize AMA’s with the company’s leadership where people can ask any question and it’s going to be answered during our weekly meetings. People also provide open feedback through frequent p2p reviews.
User-focused: During our previous company trip, we all organized workshops around understanding user anxieties and motivations. So we all listened to user interviews in groups and had to come up with solutions.
Q: We also talked about the challenge you have with finding people that connect to your values now you are in the scale-up phase, can you tell a bit more about it?
Finding a really good technical lead and knowing the person just wouldn’t be able to communicate well in our diverse team. Or someone driving for results and excellence, but not allowing feedback. Sometimes you need to let go of those candidates even though they look good on paper. The cost of hiring a wrong person who can potentially damage your culture is too high. Good candidates are worth a wait.
Mistakes happen and if they do, it’s best to try to spot the mismatch early on and take necessary action.
Q: What are the most important lessons you have learned?
Admit to mistakes early on. Be bold enough to let go of people who you know in your gut are not good for the team and company. Do it early. Be honest about your weaknesses. This way people can help you overcome them. Inspiration is the best way to keep people motivated.
Q: What are your best tips for startups that are looking to build an awesome culture?
Start thinking about it very early on. Care about people, their growth and development. Hire slow and with patience. People will make your culture so invest in them. In building proper relationships with them. Trust people to do their best job. Be generous with time off and allow people to have space. Invest in company activities and bondings. It can be about work but not always. Implement small initiatives where people can acknowledge each other and create space for people to suggest new activities.
Want to receive the full video?
In this interview series, we collect and share stories of founders, leaders and change makers that are building their own Future of Work. We asked them about their journey with building an organization. They all have created a unique environment that fits their needs, their strategy, and their values, and developed their own approach and they are very happy to share their stories with us. Do you want to receive Marta’s full interview on video PLUS 5 more? Download them here!
Photo by rahmani KRESNA on Unsplash