Dear future colleague, understanding and belonging go hand in hand

December 14, 2018

Read time 4 min

Dear Future Colleague,

What I wish I’d known before joining my previous employer is that in joining firms we don’t just join a team and a boss – we join entire cultures. I had never worked in a corporate environment before accepting that position and I was looking forward to trying something different. But when I signed my name on that contract I also agreed to a set of cultural values, ones that I see now were at odds with what I believe makes work and life fulfilling.

When I arrived at Reaktor after that job I felt a deep desire to right the course of my career. There was a lot that I could point to that was flawed about my previous employer, but upon reflection, I also began to see the ways in which I had been a bad fit into its culture. Moreover, I saw that I had done next to nothing to actively understand the company I was working for: How could I have known what kind of an effect its atmosphere would have on me if I couldn’t even see the ways in which I agreed or disagreed with its principles?

When I first heard about Reaktor, I was intrigued by the lack of bosses, its Finnish connection, and the firm’s emphasis on a healthy work life. I was also quite skeptical given my previous job experience. The fact that Reaktor was a different kind of organization came up in the interviews time and again. It seemed as though Reaktor rewarded organizational curiosity. I liked that, so I kept learning more. As part of my preparation before coming to Reaktor I read The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins. It’s a book about ways to get to know an organization you’ve recently joined. One strategy it suggests is interviewing new colleagues with a short set of 5 questions on how they themselves see the organization. I liked it a lot and put it into practice. In the interviews, my new colleagues shared many stories with me about their experiences within Reaktor. The company doesn’t have an organizational chart, so those stories quickly became an essential tool for me in understanding how the people within the organization were connected.

I heard from colleagues the story of how the New York office was founded by a small group. Hearing that same story multiple times from different people had the effect of giving that story a dimensionality that otherwise wasn’t as visible or readily available. There was one person who focused a lot on the finances involved in those earlier days, while another focused on challenges around recruiting. The more I heard and spoke to people, the clearer the image was that I was able to put together of what had happened during those first months. Although I was not with the company when the New York office opened, I had, through the interviews, gained a view of what happened in those first days that no other person in the company had.

Remembering something you didn’t witness can be a powerful tool in orienting yourself in a new space because it gives you an access point to the cultural context of that very space. Said in another way, as I heard more stories, those stories became my own stories, and by extension, the organization felt like a place where I belonged because those stories produced a deep understanding for me.

Understanding and belonging go hand in hand. Hearing how people dealt with challenges and loved the company gave me that understanding and the fact that they were sharing those stories with me made me feel as though I belonged.

I started the interview project in order to learn more about Reaktor. I thought that if I knew the organization well enough I would be able to learn how to align my talents and interests with the company’s goals. But the further along I got the interviews, the more I began to realize that I was getting to know better my coworkers, and most surprisingly, myself. I loved what I was doing with an abandon that was unlike me, or at least I had forgotten was. I was wondering how it was possible to be having so much fun working at a company. That, in turn, gave me valuable insight into why I was suffering so intensely at my previous job; the fact that cultural fit matters. It was healing.

If I could leave you, dear future colleague, with one lesson from this experience, it’s that Reaktor harbors a culture that’s adaptive and inclusive. We put people at heart of everything we do and we always try and find ways for you to grow in a way that builds on your particular skill set. It’s a great culture and I can’t wait to see what you’ll bring to it.


-Jabari Bell, Reaktor NYC


P.S. You’ll find our open positions here.

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