Being at Heap is exciting — whether you’re an engineer, salesperson, or a culture builder (like yours truly). It’s the reason we’re #1 in the Glassdoor 2019 Best Places to Work. Our culture and values are unique, so I wanted to share a behind-the-scenes look into the effort and results we’ve had in team building. We’ve worked hard to create a great experience for our Heaple (Heap + People = Heaple), and we’re proud of what we’ve built.
This blog is truly a choose-your-own-adventure experience:
If you’re a prospect, HELLO!! This will give you a better idea of what it’s like to work at Heap. You can also skip to the chase and find a great career here.
If you’re on a People team at another company (or a culture builder), hopefully this provides inspiration on how to structure events.
Heap Gives People Something to Talk About (and Cookies)
Sometimes the best social initiative is the simplest. For example, once or twice a month, we invite two teams (ones that may not traditionally collaborate — think engineering <> recruiting or marketing <> finance) to have lunch together in a conference room with the promise of cookies as a reward for participation.
This has been an extremely successful initiative. So far, these cross-team lunches have yielded high company buy-in and great feedback. Most teams have started asking when it’s their turn for a lunch and as it turns out, it’s not just for the cookies anymore!
A similarly delicious initiative is the infamous Dessert Cart. Every two weeks, new hires push around a metal cart full of treats (are you sensing a theme?). They go around the office introducing themselves and learning fun facts about their new coworkers. Some favorite questions our new hires have come up with include:
If you could become a master in anything, what would it be?
What’s something you know that nobody else would?
This has been a great way to get people across multiple teams engaged in conversation and introduced to new hires without making it seem forced or awkward.
The Importance of Play
The balance of work and play is something we take seriously at Heap. One of the first times we tried to spice up our Heappy Hour (you guessed it: Happy Hour + Heap = Heappy Hour) was by introducing a sweet event: the Marshmallow Challenge.
In this challenge, cross-functional teams work together to build the tallest free-standing structure possible using 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti, 3 feet of tape, 3 feet of string, and 1 marshmallow (that must end up on top). The scene was utterly laughable (a bunch of adults playing with spaghetti and marshmallows while eating Taco Bell), but it was entertaining nonetheless.
A few valuable lessons built into the Marshmallow Challenge centered around productive communication (I recommend watching Tom Wujec’s TED Talk on the subject). On average, groups of kindergarteners built structures ~26 inches tall, whereas MBA students averaged ~12 inches. Unfortunately, our Heaple came nowhere near beating the kindergarteners, but I’ll cut them some slack because they were given nearly half the time. The concept of “let them play” has enabled our Heaple to interact and creatively solve absurd problems in unique ways. Not to mention, it’s really fun to watch.
With Events, Teams Lead the Way
Heap is incredibly democratic — we provide feedback to each other all the time and empower everyone to make a difference. And that trickles down to events and team building. Case in point: team-run Heappy hours. Every Friday, a different team gets a budget, comes up with a creative theme, and then engages with rest of the company for some well-deserved fun!
For me as a culture builder, it felt unnatural to let go of the reins of event planning. But this initiative has increased buy-in and investment for social events, and it also provides a fun and novel experience every week. Plus, we’re all interested in what other teams are going to plan, creating an air of mystery. And most importantly, it created a pseudo-competition: every team wanted to one-up the team event from the week before. For example, engineers have hosted a Bingo event complete with facts about Heaple and Heap history. Our Solutions team hosted a fondue event. And our Sales team put on a World Cup beer-pong tournament. Watching Heaple work together to serve the company as a whole is exciting to watch and provides autonomy and engagement.
Similarly, Heap also hosts regular Life & Learns — a forum for connecting and sharing Heaple’s hobbies and interests, usually over lunch. So far, our Life & Learns have been extremely successful, entertaining, and educational. Who wouldn’t want to learn about the 12 steps to Korean skincare, how to make sauerkraut, and also the ins and outs of coffee making and how the engineering mindset can greatly improve any coffee tasting experience (seriously!)?
This cultural initiative speaks to so much about why Heap is so great. We have incredible humans who are not only excellent at what they were hired to do, they’re also excellent at a million other things (and are willing to share those things with their teammates). Heaple are actively participating in learning and experiencing and partaking in the passion projects of their peers. Lunch & Lifes speak to the strong, intelligent, and sharing community we’ve been lucky to be part of and foster at Heap and also how powerful cultural initiatives can be in the hands of the people.
Living Our Value: Slope Over Y-Intercept
At Heap, we make sure all of our initiatives reflect our company values. Check out how Heap CEO Matin Movassate describes one of our most unique values: Slope Over Y-Intercept.
The Next Step? Join Us at Heap!
Working at Heap is an incredible experience and we’re trying new cultural initiatives all the time. And you can be part of that! Just check out our careers page and see more. And if you have other ideas for unique social and cultural activities, let us know.