What it’s Like to Work at Gem
CTO and Co-founder
May 16, 2019
Get an inside look at how Gem's company culture has evolved as the company has grown.
At Gem, we help companies build relationships with top talent — a bit like Salesforce for recruiting. Gone are the days when recruiting teams relied on inbound applications. The best companies are proactively engaging with talent months or even years before they’re ready to interview. Gem powers this new wave of recruiting by enabling recruiters and hiring managers to collaborate on candidates, keep in touch, and never reach out to the same person twice.
Our team has been thoughtful about our culture from the beginning — we prioritized identifying our company values when we were only 10 people, much earlier than most startups. We’re now a larger group, and choosing our values early on has served us well as we’ve grown.
A blog post about how we identified our values is coming soon, but to start, we’re excited to share our company values and traditions so you can learn what it’s like to work with us!
Transparency is easy when things go well and important when they don’t.
At Gem, transparency is core to how we operate, from the leadership down. We believe that when everyone knows what’s happening, they’re empowered to make better decisions.
Most companies recognize the importance of clear internal communication, but at Gem, we treat it as mission-critical. That’s why every member of our team has full visibility into Gem’s progress: deals won or lost, fundraising timelines, and key leadership decisions.
We recognize there’s a tradeoff here: telling everyone about every lost deal or offer rejection can mean disappointment in the short-term — that’s why most companies don’t do it. But we’ve built a culture of trust that makes it possible, and we’re confident that being honest with ourselves makes us a stronger team.
We move fast and (try not to) break things.
Gem is growing incredibly quickly: we’ve gone from 3 to 25 employees, outgrown our office three times, and increased revenue 10x — all within the past year. That growth is thanks to the velocity with which we operate: taking calculated risks, saying yes to crazy ideas, and building and shipping quickly are all hard-coded into our DNA.
Sometimes, moving fast means getting creative on engineering. From scraping the public web, to reverse-engineering private APIs, to diving deep into inner workings of Chrome Extensions, we’ll build what it takes to move fast.
When it comes to product, we know there’s a tradeoff between building fast and building right, and we think we’ve found a good balance. As we build new features, we sprint to an MVP to get something in the customer’s hands, then iterate based on feedback from a core set of users. A tight feedback loop ensures that we’re always building the right thing and not burning our efforts towards the wrong goals.
Every team member speaks directly with customers, including engineers.
Some companies are design-driven or vision-driven; at Gem, we like to think we’re customer-driven. Customer empathy is always top of mind, from customer support and sales all the way down to our code. Engineers sit in on sales, customer success, and support conversations every two weeks to stay in tune with what excites our customers, what’s broken, and what they wish we’d build. When building a new feature, we always engage with customers to understand what pain points we should be solving for. Our roadmap is heavily shaped by feedback from current (and potential!) customers, because their feedback provides the single strongest signal on what to do next.
Being customer-focused has served us well. Recruiters love our product, which has led to amazing word of mouth growth and 100 enterprise customers like Dropbox, Pinterest, and Slack in just 18 months.
Our product helps recruiters put diversity first. We can’t build it right without being a diverse team ourselves.
Tech has a diversity problem, plain and simple. At Gem, we care deeply about this issue, and as a recruiting software company, we’re uniquely positioned to actually do something about it. We strive to lead our industry to a more diverse future in two ways:
Providing a product that makes hiring a diverse team easier.
Walking the walk ourselves, and becoming a truly diverse team that builds great products.
We’re building a product that puts diversity first. Most companies want to hire a diverse team, but we’ve found that often they don’t know how. Even the best recruiting teams with good intentions can fall into the trap of conventional hiring processes that introduce bias or fail to cast a wide enough net. Part of the problem is data: if you don’t track it, you won’t make it better. By providing full-pipeline diversity metrics, Gem helps recruiters measure (and improve) their sourcing, events, and communications to prioritize diversity and inclusion.
We’re also doing everything we can to build an incredible and diverse team ourselves. Not only does it make our product better, but it’s also the right thing to do. Like many of our industry peers, we’re definitely not yet where we want to be — we’re looking to hire more women and people of color, among other underrepresented groups, to make our team stronger. Since starting our post-Series A hiring push, we have:
Consciously focused 100% of our outbound sourcing efforts on diversity of all kinds.
Run diversity-focused referral sessions as a company.
Begun partnering with programs like Recurse Center
And it’s working. In the past quarter, 75% of our onsite candidates have come from groups underrepresented in tech, including candidates considered for leadership roles.
We know it’ll be a long journey — both for us, and for our industry — but we believe that diversity is critically important, and we’re proud to be building a product and a team that will push things in the right direction.
Life at Gem
We take care of our people.
Many tech startups embrace a culture of constant grind, always-on hustle, and crushing all-nighters. Gem is not one of them. Our founders are both technical, and our engineers average 5+ years of experience from companies like Facebook, Dropbox, and Uber. All of us understand that “working smart” is infinitely better than just working hard. We believe in getting things done, but in a way that optimizes for the long game.
Our team members are our single most valuable resource, so we consciously prioritize work/life balance through policies like:
Generous vacation time: We actually encourage folks to take time off regularly, not just accrue vacation days that go unused.
Flexible work schedules: Need to take your dog to the vet, pick your daughter up from school, or work from home while you wait for the plumber? No problem.
Weekends that are actually weekends: We rarely work outside of Monday to Friday.
So far we’ve seen great results: in our last employee engagement survey, 100% of our engineering team agreed that they have a good work-life balance.
We’re building an incredible team at Gem, and we care deeply about our people. Our work is important to us, but it’s not the only thing. Having the time and space to dedicate to personal relationships, hobbies, fitness, and personal development makes us happier, healthier, and better.
Eating Lunch Together
We hope you like hot sauce.
We’re always surprised to hear that some teams don’t eat together, because to us it just makes sense! We’re a small team that genuinely enjoys working together, so we value lunchtime as a chance to hang out, take a break, and get to know each other as more than just coworkers. (We get lunch catered every day from Forkable, which lets you order from a menu in advance.)
We love having guests join us to have lunch, take in the amazing views of downtown San Francisco from our office, and sample our eclectic and ever-changing collection of 20+ hot sauces, amassed from all of our international travels and a serious need for heat. Come by and meet us some time! We’ll feed you.
Wear Many Hats
Try all the things!
Gem is a small, cross-functional team, and people spearhead all sorts of projects to help the rest of the company.
At Gem, when you see gaps or potential for improvement anywhere in the company, you’re empowered to do something about it. Your teammates will back you up. We’ve had engineers generate lead lists for sales, plan events, build customer success dashboards, analyze our data for recruiting best practices, and get heavily involved in recruiting — all because they saw an opportunity to help out. Similarly, an account executive evaluated and implemented pulse surveys as a way to help scale our culture.
We don’t expect new hires to have experience outside of their immediate role, but we value the curiosity to learn.
Thanks to the engineering team, especially Drew Regitsky, for helping to write much of this post.
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