What Work Culture Is Right for You? These 8 Austin Companies Have You Covered

Our monthly guide to the fastest-growing startups highlights one organization that celebrates Beefsgiving, another that allows workers to shape company values and others that prioritize employee development.

Written by Jeff Kirshman
Published on Feb. 02, 2022
What Work Culture Is Right for You? These 8 Austin Companies Have You Covered
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At healthtech company SubjectWell, what started as a team-building exercise led to epicurean adventure. 

Animated by a voracious appetite for oddities and innovation, the Austin-based startup celebrated a recent Thanksgiving with an investigation of gastronomical importance: a companywide search to see who could find “the saddest food in existence.”

“SubjectWell has a handful of goofy traditions,” Software Engineer and Chief Enthusiasm Officer Casey Woods said. “But the origin of our events — primarily a love for and pursuit of novelty — amplifies the authenticity of our office.”

Fast-casual dining establishment Boston Market was eventually declared the winner, but the firm’s gluttony for punishment could only last so long. 

“A couple of years in, the novelty of eating terrible food eventually wore off,” Woods conceded, exemplifying the firm’s keen eye for innovation. Yet the company’s hunger for culinary celebrations still remains.

“Instead we started using the date as an excuse to order Hoover’s Cooking, a local Austin favorite,” Woods said. “Beefsgiving was born, and it’s been that way ever since.” 

SubjectWell isn’t the only organization cultivating a unique company culture. To learn more about the fastest-growing companies in the area, Built In Austin spoke with eight local industry leaders to discuss how they distinguish themselves in a competitive job market and what they’re looking for when satisfying their cravings for new talent.

 

Mary Hallewell
BI Data Engineer • Babylon

 

What makes your company culture special?

During the hiring process, I was drawn to how honest and smart each one of the interviewers was and how motivated they all were to try and build an excellent product and company. It was that drive to improve that made me interested in working here.

Now that I’ve been working at Babylon for a little more than a year, I find it unique how self-service the setup is here. Analysts have the skills they need to do work beyond the scope of other analytics teams I’ve worked with, and they don’t often have to wait for people upstream to enable their work.

I was drawn to how motivated they were to try and build an excellent product and company.”

 

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? 

Early last year, our marketing team needed access to mobile app data from a third-party provider, and I set up the cloud function to automate that call. It was intimidating because I had never written a cloud function before and I hadn’t interfaced with APIs much in a professional setting. But I ended up learning a lot, and I’m really proud of the end result, which enabled that team to better understand our app usage. I value working on a team where my technical development is a priority and appreciate that this is the case here.

 

 

Neena Wanko
Senior Accountant • OJO

 

What makes your company culture special?

Despite how big OJO Labs is, there is still a sense of inclusion and participation. Our biweekly syncs always feel welcoming; you can unmute yourself and chime in. To me, this atmosphere comes from the top. Our CEO is never scripted and always speaks off the cuff with humor and sincerity. It’s a very inviting environment. We have an operations manager who is passionate about the convenience store Buc-ee’s, and it somehow always becomes the topic of conversation during our companywide meetings. The meeting might get a bit derailed, but I love it! I don’t want to work for a company that takes itself too seriously. I think we are serious when it matters, and we can relax and be ourselves when the time is right.

Our CEO is never scripted and always speaks off the cuff with humor and sincerity. It’s a very inviting environment.”

OJO Labs team on a sports field posing with green scarves
OJO Labs

 

What’s a company resource, program or benefit that has enhanced your experience as an employee? 

I became a mother a year ago, and the most beneficial program I’ve experienced is our maternity leave. At OJO, maternity leave is three months paid, which is amazing! I worked for a company prior to OJO that only offered two weeks paid leave. As a new mother, there are so many things happening and so much healing that goes on. Without the support of my company, as well as my family, I don’t think I could have handled those first three months.

When I returned, even though I missed a lot of changes, it felt like I was diving right back in where I left off. Each month we have “OJO Celebrates” meetings, which includes a segment where you can share good news with everyone. When I returned, I was able to share with the company that I had had a baby, and people were genuinely interested and wanted me to show her on Zoom. It didn’t matter that there were more than 150 people on the call and most of them had never interacted with me. It’s just a part of our culture to support one another and make time for good news.

 

 

Maddie Tarr
Product Manager • Red Ventures

 

What makes your company culture special? 

In my opinion, working at Red Ventures in Austin offers the ideal combination of the resources, culture and benefits of a large company mixed with the energy, opportunity and community of a startup. When I first started a few years ago, I remember not truly understanding the scale of Red Ventures. I knew the statistics, but I hadn’t ingested them. I continued casually meeting high-ranking team members in the office, confidently walking up to their desks and engaging in strategic discussions. It wasn’t until weeks later, after visiting the company’s headquarters outside Charlotte, South Carolina, that I realized the magnitude of this company. I had VPs and senior directors of a multibillion-dollar company sitting next to me, listening to and engaging with my ideas. No matter my title, experience or seniority, my voice was heard. 

In my first few days alone, I was invited into sprints on our newest product with our founder and — prior to the pandemic — encouraged to travel to meet team members in other offices. Ultimately, the team was just open to whatever I could provide and encouraged me to advocate for the work I wanted to be doing. That led me to different teams and roles, gathering a range of experiences.

No matter my title, experience or seniority, my voice is heard.”

 

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? 

The coolest project I’ve worked on has been participating in the creation of the Points Guy app. This product is highly complex, not just due to the feature set, but also the industry and problem the product is trying to solve. While frustrating at times, my favorite part of this project was the number of times the problem got more complicated. The awards space combines travel and finance with many unique cases when it comes to cards, points, redemptions, airlines and routes. These challenges required an immense amount of teamwork, knowledge and dedication to the overall problem. It was rewarding when we could figure out how to simplify each part of the user’s journey. This complexity was just further validation of the need to help users — and a bit of an ego boost knowing we were probably the only ones who could do it. 

On a more personal note, I also love this product because it helped me grow. A product manager ultimately needs to be a jack of all trades, and this app helped me expand my tool belt. Red Ventures has granted me incredible opportunities to participate and own important projects, and the app is a phenomenal example of just that.

 

 

Casey Woods
Software Engineer & Chief Enthusiasm Officer • SubjectWell

 

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? 

At the beginning of the pandemic, my team at SubjectWell was tasked with building an appointment-scheduling system and integrating it with our call center software to support patient recruiting for Covid-19 vaccine trials. I worked specifically on a subfeature to help expedite patient qualification — adding a series of screening questions during the signup process. The timeline was tight, and it required the combined effort of every developer, but we got the appointment system built in two weeks, and it worked very well. I’m incredibly proud of the impact that my team made.

I’m incredibly proud of the impact that my team made.”

 

 

Sandhya Srinivasan
Director of Software Quality Engineering • TrustRadius

 

What makes your company culture special?

Company culture is something that can make or break an organization. At TrustRadius, our core values define our culture and create a vision for the company. 

Our core values are summed up by the acronym, T.R.U.T.H. — which stands for transparency, respectful, unstoppable, trust and human — and serve as the guiding principles that enable our employees to work together better. We embrace these values actively and hold them in high regard. These values help in day-to-day decision making. They also inform our product’s end users and the customers who we serve. Culture is a strong factor that guides our recruiting. We are always actively looking for these values when interviewing potential candidates and ensuring we hire the right people who will fit our culture.

I love that we recognize and give shout-outs to team members on a frequent basis when they show exemplary performance against any one of our five core values. Doing this helps keep our culture grassroots strong and healthy.

Our motto was to fail fast, fix fast and continuously reflect and improve.”

 

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? 

The coolest project I’ve worked on recently is redesigning our product page experience by tailoring it to meet our end users’ needs. Being a software professional myself, I’ve been through a software buyer’s journey before. Having had that experience greatly helped me see through the lens of a buyer. I knew and understood their pain points, which helped my team visualize, conceive, build and deliver an experience that caters to a buyer’s needs. Our prime goal was to make the buyer’s journey less cumbersome and more insightful so that they can make an informed and confident software purchasing decision. 

What I enjoyed the most about this project is the technical and process challenges that it presented. I appreciated how the engineering and product teams collaborated closely and communicated frequently and effectively, with a lot of transparency. Our motto was to fail fast, fix fast and continuously reflect and improve.

 

 

Amanda Zhang
Client Success Coordinator • Gembah

 

What makes your company culture special? 

At Gembah, our uniqueness is our people. The company’s leadership takes many actions to ensure each employee is valued and that their voice and contributions matter. They invest in employee growth and learning. 

Company leaders have also created a business initiative called the “culture crew,”which brings together team members from across all departments to promote strong team synergy through our beliefs in humility, values, communication, accountability, openness and care. At bimonthly meetings, the crew discusses ideas to improve employee work satisfaction, coordinates local volunteer events and organizes company retreats. By fostering and maintaining a strong and positive team culture, we can then create tremendous value for our clients and employees.

By fostering and maintaining a strong and positive team culture, we can then create tremendous value.”

 

What’s a company resource, program or benefit that has enhanced your experience as an employee? 

During the onboarding process, each new hire is assigned a mentor to provide daily guidance and coaching. For me, having worked in corporate finance for the past several years and then switching to the manufacturing industry came with its challenges, but access to a comprehensive training curriculum shortened the learning curve and made the transition seamless. Furthermore, this mentorship program helped me quickly learn about the industry and internal work processes, while also supporting me during my adaptation to a new work environment.

 

 

Tiffany Adams
Employee Engagement Manager • Acrisure Innovation

 

What makes your company culture special?

Employee-driven values. As a startup, we at Acrisure Innovation were thinking about what made it a special place at which to work and what needed to be identified and cultivated as we grew. Instead of doing a top-down approach, we asked every employee to get involved, and everyone did so enthusiastically. We had a 100 percent response rate on surveys and held sessions to really develop and think through our core values. This is still a work in progress as we focus on adoption and accountability, but it’s unique that all employees were invited and participated in creating a shared, positive and inspiring environment for everyone.

I am always amazed by how exceedingly kind and supportive this team continues to be. Acrisure maintains an exceptionally high technical bar for talent, and being in one of the few non-technical roles in the company, I appreciate how inclusive and approachable every member of the team is. This is an especially challenging time to form and maintain connections with your coworkers. When the majority of your communication is online, it’s especially important to be an effective and empathetic communicator, and that is something that I truly appreciate about the people at Acrisure.

When the majority of your communication is online, it’s especially important to be an effective and empathetic communicator.”

 

What’s one company resource, program or benefit that has enhanced your experience as an employee? 

Acrisure invests in its employees’ thirst for knowledge. One of our core values is “never stop growing,” which is why we provide every employee with an annual $1,500 learning and development stipend they can use to develop professionally. This stipend lets us continue growing while also allowing people to “choose their own adventure” and seek out what they are most interested in. The stipend can be used for books, conferences, online classes, career coaching services or whatever is relevant to the employee. It’s such a great way to pursue your professional interests in ways that may not normally present themselves in your day-to-day role. I appreciate that Acrisure is actively investing in the growth of its employees and encouraging them to put that budget toward opportunities outside of the company. And then we can hold a fun lunch and learn session to share what we’ve learned with the team.

 

 

Adam Zedler
Head of Product • Chipper

 

What makes your company culture special? 

As a mission-driven startup focused on helping people burdened with student debt, our superpower is our scrappiness. Every team member at Chipper is empowered to push changes and test solutions through no-code platforms, ensuring we figure out solutions before overinvesting in ideas that don’t help our users. From banner messaging and student loan articles to product walkthroughs and landing page content, everyone is encouraged to try hypotheses that help our users crush their student debt. These tools allow us to stay scrappy, not crappy.

Our superpower is our scrappiness.”

 

The Chipper team.
Chipper

 

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? 

Given that student loans disproportionately impact women and people of color, we wanted to investigate how that held true with our own users. Through a few rounds of analysis and iterations on our user data, we developed an impact report, which highlights just how varied the effect of student loans can be. This report has been instrumental in fundraising, establishing partnerships and hiring employees who are fired up about helping those who need it most.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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