Why do you work where you do?

“When you work with your friends, it hardly seems like work.”

I’m fortunate enough to work at a great organization.  Well, I say “fortunate”, but it was actually a conscious decision.

A little more than nine years ago I was applying for a co-op position following my 3B term at UW.  This would be my second-to-last term, and this is the stage at which many students start getting serious about their career.  In my case, I’d carefully managed my development as I transitioned from quality assurance, to development, to project management, to ???.  To what?  Decisions, decisions.  I knew that I wanted to move into the more “businessy” positions, and my previous role had given me some exposure to product management.

Poring over the job postings, I spotted a “Product Management Specialist” role at Sandvine, a company I’d been casually following for a couple of years.  What excited me most about Sandvine was the aura around the company:

  • they’d been in stealth mode for quite a while initially, and I thought it was interesting that people were speculating and hotly anticipating what they were actually doing
  • they emerged from the ashes of one of Canada’s largest tech acquisitions
  • the team had a great reputation

I envisioned my future being one of entrepreneurship, and in my opinion there was no better place to go and learn.  See, it isn’t just the job you’re doing that’s important, it’s also where you’re doing it.  So, I applied, I got the job, and here I am nine years later.

Where am I going with this?

Every so often I need to interview people; either I’m hiring for my own team or another manager has asked me to participate in the interviews for their own hiring.  Sometimes, the candidates actually recognize me from their research of the company (I’ve appeared in quite a few of our videos and am occasionally a company spokesperson in the media).  Sometimes they’ve really done their homework and are familiar with my long history at Sandvine (I get a real kick out of it when this happens).  Almost inevitably during our conversation, but particularly in that latter case, they’ll ask me why I’ve stayed with the company for so many years.

Typically, my answer has a few parts (e.g., exciting industry, growing company, opportunity to learn, etc.), but the number one point I always make is “because of the people”.  At any company, you’ll find smart people, hard-working people, and fun people; but it’s rare to find a company in which practically everyone embodies all three of those qualities…and this is where I feel I’m lucky.  I joined to learn about entrepreneurship and I’ve stayed so long because of my wonderful colleagues.

I look forward to heading into work each day because of my coworkers, and I genuinely miss them when I’m away from the office, be it for work or for vacation.

“Yeah yeah, keep drinking the Kool-Aid“, you might be saying.  In my defence, it’s not just me: for seven consecutive years, Sandvine has appeared on the list of Canada’s great places to work, so we must be doing something right.  Plus, while nine years at the same company is extremely uncommon in tech, there are many people at Sandvine who have been here longer than me.

But this post is not an advertisement for Sandvine (although we do always have openings); rather, this post is about the importance of people.

I simply can’t imagine a job where the people aren’t one of the major motivations for working there (maybe I’m just spoiled).  I suppose an obvious lesson here is that hiring for fit is extremely important.

So the other day I was filling out this year’s Great Place to Work survey, and I’m asked, “What motivates you most to work for the organization.”  No-brainer!  The people!

Wait, what’s that?  That isn’t an option?

The second-to-last question on the survey.

The second-to-last question on the survey.

I mean, those are all fine and rational reasons to work somewhere, but it just boggles my mind that there isn’t a people-focused option.

To me, everything else comes second to being part of a wonderful team.  After all, as our CEO is fond of saying, “When you work with your friends, it hardly seems like work.”

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