When I was asked to write this article, my topic was supposed to be about the engineering culture at Cherre, and how our values foster it.
Before I can talk about culture though, I need to talk about trust.
Like most organizations, we have defined values: Hunger, collaboration, empathy, responsibility, and excellence are a few. But at the heart of all those is trust. It’s what powers our values, and ultimately our culture.
Our engineers are hungry. They’re passionate, and want to grow our products and company, along with their careers. In return, we give as much as we ask, including trust: the autonomy, scope, and space they need to satiate that hunger. And on the flip side, if I see an engineer taking on too much to the point of risking burnout, I will have a very real, trust-based conversation with them about taking time to decompress.
Collaboration works only if people trust that everyone will be genuinely curious, asking thoughtful questions of one another. The industry de facto for collaboration is actually very siloed: An engineer writes her ticket, writes the code, submits her pull request, and the team reviews it. At Cherre, we promote paired coding, where two engineers work side by side on one ticket. When engineers trust each other, they can share ideas without fear, coming to a better solution than if they had simply worked alone.
To have good collaboration, you need a strong sense of empathy, which I define as the ability to understand how someone came to a conclusion, and the motivators behind that conclusion. Empathy is possible only if colleagues are willing to be vulnerable and trust that their coworkers will take the time to understand their point of view before rushing to a contrary opinion.
Responsibility is the ability to see a void, and step in (and up) to fill the gap. That takes hunger, but also (you guessed it) trust. The duality of responsibility and trust was evident to me when I first joined Cherre as a consultant. Every time I came to co-founder Ben Hizak with a small change, he would say “You’re the expert. I trust you.” Within two months, my requests went from “Here’s something small I’d like to change” to “I need to build this system and destroy this other system to build it.” Ben gave me the responsibility to step up to fix what was needed. Ben had trust that I was doing the right thing, just like I trust in my engineers.
Finally, we come to excellence. As I mentioned earlier, we ask a lot of our engineers, and we trust in them to do good work. This is because we hire specifically who we call “snow leopards” – people at the top of the metaphorical mountain who are the best at what they do. If you’ve been hired at Cherre, we feel that you – as a snow leopard – deserve our trust. And if something goes wrong (which it will inevitably do), our engineers have trust that we’ll resolve the issue blamelessly.
Now that we’ve talked about how trust is at the foundation of our values, we’re ready to dive into culture. I’ll discuss our culture in more detail in future posts, including how culture should be like a magnet and how you can prepare for an interview at Cherre.