It all happened so fast.
In a matter of weeks, companies everywhere shut down offices and went fully remote — with employees working from home and connecting over video and email instead of in-person. And those are just the people lucky enough to still have jobs.
To say this has made work more difficult is an understatement. But what about people who are just starting new jobs and those who are responsible for onboarding them? How do you get someone up to speed when you’ve never actually met them? How do you make them feel like part of the team when the team itself is scattered across the country and around the world?
How do you foster and maintain the culture when so many people are never in the same place?
This post aims to share lessons from leaders who run distributed companies — including GitLab, Elastic and others — about how to onboard employees and maintain culture in a remote work environment. Done right, these steps won’t just make things easier during this tough time; they will also help over the long-term as some teams move to more distributed, remote environments.
The lessons themselves fall into three main buckets:
Write it down
Writing things down may sound like more work, but having a record also forces people to think through processes and make sure they are consistent. Winging it isn’t good enough anymore. Neither is accepting different levels of training depending on who your manager is. It’s time to make what was somewhat informal and ad hoc more formal and concrete.
When it comes to onboarding, every company should ask themselves:
- What is the process for onboarding?
A 4 Point Test To Know If You Are Ready to Hire BigCo Folks
It’s easy to say “only hire people with start-up experience.” It’s also very tempting to hire folks that have worked at the partners, in the ecosystem that you work in, and at the companies you aspire to be like.
And at some point, you have to scale. To scale, you do need some folks that have been there. Not everyone can be doing it for the first time.
So when are you ready? When can you that risk on a Big Company hire? That seemingly great sales leader, marketer, etc. from Twilio? From Box? From Datadog?
I offer up a 4 point test to know if you are ready:
Roughly, you are ready to hire folks with no start-up experience at all once you:
- have a proven onboarding program
- have documented systems and processes
- have a second layer of management
- have a brand
These are table stakes for BigCo folks to thrive in a start-up. That, and enough capital to run. BigCo folks, especially VPs, cost most. Not just in salary, but because they hire more folks under them.
Let’s break it down a bit.
Is your onboarding good enough? It’s terrible at most start-ups. How do you guarantee a new hire hits the ground running in her first two weeks? If you’ve never worked at a great BigCo, you may not even know what this is. But the best BigCos really onboard their hires well. You learn how things work, what resources can help you, what the cadence is, who to talk to, and often, who your mentor is. BigCo folks cannot learn by osmosis.
Are your systems and processes well documented? They almost never are at a startup. This will profoundly confuse BigCo folks, who need documented processes and systems in sales, in engineering, in product releases, etc. And you want these systems and processes. You will sell better, and ship better features once you have them. It’s just, they are rarely there before you hire your first true VPs.
Do you have a second layer of management? If you only have VPs, you probably aren’t ready to hire BigCo folks yet. VPs without a layer of Directors or something similar under them just don’t have the time to train and teach. That’s the Director of Sales’ job in many cases, at a practical level. Together with the head of sales operations (do you even have one of those?). Without that extra layer of management, they may never learn the product, the sales motions. They may never learn the secret sauce.
Do you have a brand? This is subtle but important. Sales and marketing and feature priorities are tough at Big Companies, too. But they are different. When you have a brand, you are generally the default choice already, or at least one of 2. Your real competition is often budget, and time. The question is often Why Now once you have a brand. Before you have a brand, the question is generally very different. Before you have a brand, the question is Can This Crazy New Vendor Solve My Acute Problem Better Than a Brand? There so little in common here. BigCo folks know the Brand playbook. How to leverage it, how to compete with folks with lesser brands, how to sell trust in that brand. But that’s what you need before you have a brand.
Once you are at $10m-$20m ARR, have a layer of good VPs, and enough cash in the bank, you’re ready to hire BigCo folks. Earlier can work, too. But if you hire them too much earlier, make sure you can at least meet this 4-part test.
Elon Musk tweeted a meme of “7 Things Every Kid Needs to Hear”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is back on Twitter just a month go after Musk said he was off tweeting for a while. “Off Twitter for a while,” Musk said in a tweet on June 1. Last week, Musk tweeted: “Who controls the memes, controls the Universe.”
Today, Musk tweeted an image post of “7 Things Every Kid Needs to Hear.” Not sure what prompted the tweet. Among the seven things included in the list is the failure of Communism. The list is an adaptation of the popular Internet memes.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 5, 2020
NASA is offering $35,000 in prizes to design toilet that will work on the moon
Do you have what it takes to design a futuristic toilet that will work on the moon? National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking for people to help design and innovate space toilet concepts as part of its Lunar Loo Challenge. NASA is giving away $35,000 in total prizes to the winner of the challenge.
As NASA prepares for it return to the Moon, innumerable activities to equip, shelter, and otherwise support future astronauts are underway. These astronauts will be eating and drinking, and subsequently urinating and defecating in microgravity and lunar gravity. While astronauts are in the cabin and out of their spacesuits, they will need a toilet that has all the same capabilities as ones here on Earth. NASA is calling on the global community for their novel design concepts for compact toilets that can operate in both microgravity and lunar gravity.
These designs may be adapted for use in the Artemis lunar landers that take us back to the Moon. Although space toilets already exist and are in use (at the International Space Station, for example), they are designed for microgravity only. NASA’s Human Landing System Program is looking for a next-generation device that is smaller, more efficient, and capable of working in both microgravity and lunar gravity. The challenge includes a Technical category and Junior category. NASA is giving away $35,000 in total prizes to the winner of the Technical category. The Junior category winner will receive public recognition from NASA and from HeroX, a winner’s certificate, and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise.
The Artemis astronauts exploring the Moon will use the most advanced space systems of the 21st century – including some of the most basic home comforts, like a toilet. NASA is calling on the global community to help innovate space toilet concepts through the Lunar Loo Challenge.
The evolution of the space toilet began with the space shuttle, so astronauts living aboard the International Space Station use a toilet designed for long-duration missions in microgravity. Astronauts exploring on the Moon, however, will need a smaller, lighter, simpler toilet inside their lunar lander, because every ounce of mass on the lander is carefully allocated. For every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of mass, 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of propellant is needed to descend to the lunar surface and launch back to lunar orbit.
The Lunar Loo Challenge seeks novel design concepts for low-mass, compact toilets that can reduce the current state-of-the art toilet mass by more than half – from 54 kg to 31 kg – and reduce the volume by 70% – from 0.17 cubic meters to 0.12 cubic meters. For comparison, the standard toilet you might have in your house weighs 30-60 kg, but the complexity of operating in reduced gravity environments requires more components for a space toilet.
“Our astronauts accomplish amazing feats of science and space exploration. But at the end of the day, they’re still human. We need to provide them with the same necessities as here on Earth so they can continue to do their job,” said Mike Interbartolo, manager for the Lunar Loo Challenge out of NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Crew Compartment Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Lunar toilet design concepts must allow astronauts to urinate and defecate in both lunar gravity and microgravity. Gravity on the Moon is approximately one sixth of Earth’s gravity. Microgravity is what is generally considered “zero-g” and is experienced as weightlessness.
The Technical Prize is open to anyone age 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. The Junior Challenge is open to anyone under the age of 18, participating as an individual or as a team. Entrants 12 years old or younger will need to have a parent or guardian register to submit on their behalf.
Submissions will be evaluated based on proposed capabilities, technical maturity, safety, and overall innovation. The Lunar Loo Challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the top three designs. The top three participants in the junior category will each receive public recognition and an item of official NASA merchandise.
Getting back to the Moon by 2024 is an ambitious goal and NASA is already working on approaches to improve existing space toilets. The agency is also aware of the value in inviting ideas from the general public, knowing that they approach problems with a mindset different from traditional aerospace engineering.
“The global community of innovators provides valuable insight and expertise we might not have in-house,” said Steve Rader, deputy manager of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL). “Challenges like this allow us to tap into that creative thinking and find unknown or undeveloped solutions.”
If you are interested in participating in the challenge, you can learn more by visiting https://www.herox.com/LunarLoo
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