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Growing a Sustainable Culture at a Remote Tech Startup

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January 23, 2024|5 min read

Years ago, I remember reading Sam Kim’s blog post about joining a remote company during pandemic times - and I thought “Wow, I could work for a company like this.” Before even bringing on a person to focus on the people aspect of the company (hi, that’s me!), AuthZed was focused — from the beginning, and quite by default — on protecting the time of each team member with regular meetings (and not meetings for meetings’ sake), strong written communication between every team member, and longer design and technical questions via video call.

This is my favorite bit of that blog post:

“I’d summarize my onboarding experience as being welcomed into healthy tensions. The autonomy of figuring out how to work towards a weekly theme but the accountability of shared daily goals. Working remotely but having deeply connected moments. Welcoming different opinions but sharing the commitment to get to better solutions for our users. One thing in harmony, though, is as we continue to improve how we work together, the better we get at building the best product for our users.”

Since 2021, when Sam’s blog post was written, our company has grown sevenfold. How do we continue, as we grow, to embrace those new healthy tensions? How do we have deeply connected moments virtually, when there are more people and projects to manage daily? How do we have a strong remote work culture? How can we continue to improve ourselves — individually and as a team — to get better at building the best authorization products and tools?

And ultimately - what is our culture?

What is our culture?

As companies grow and the makeup of each team within a company changes, company culture changes too. Especially remote work culture! This is less of a “how to build team culture remotely” post (although that is a great idea for another post!) and more of a snapshot in time. I want to give you a feeling for how we answer the question of “What is the culture AuthZed?” at this time in our history.

Our culture can be summarized into one sentence: “Trust each other.” From this stems the agency for each AuthZedder personally to do their job well. The tenets of our company culture include:

  • Agency

    • Everyone should have the capability, freedom, and confidence to bring about changes to our business and product. Organizational processes for remote teams exist to clearly define our goals but not restrict how progress is made. Going slightly further, processes should mirror how you and your team work while working remotely. We take the time to listen and dive into how each individual works and find a process — together — that every AuthZeder can participate in. We want every single person at AuthZed to own and execute their job functions with zeal!
  • Collaboration

    • Success is defined in various dimensions and no single person can be an expert in all of them. When you value the opinions of others, find compromises, and share mutual trust and respect, you arrive at the best possible solution. We allow the time and space for collaboration and thus success to happen within each team, giving each person the feeling of accomplishment in their own work. Perhaps most importantly, we find time to connect (employee engagement should happen organically), share experiences, and encourage each other to be our favorite selves as well.
    • Healthy tension can only truly remain healthy when we make sure it’s productive and actionable. We know that tension can often lead to employees feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or like their voice is unappreciated. We work to keep tension healthy, keep communication open between every individual at AuthZed, and collaborate together to make sure all priorities and expectations for the company are met.
  • Open-mindness

    • We ask questions, test assumptions, and question our pre-existing biases so that we can do the best work and have the best products possible. We take the time and set up processes and communication avenues to keep each other accountable and test our own assumptions.
    • We celebrate the representation of diverse perspectives and backgrounds as a catalyst for creating an inclusive work environment that everyone can appreciate. We seek to over communicate instead of under — if you are questioning if you should ask or answer a question, do it. Your voice is important.

Evolving our culture

I’m excited to see how our AuthZed team grows and changes as we add more remote employees; how the tenets of our company culture evolve as our digital world changes and the work we do in the authorization space becomes more and more necessary. We are on the edge of something BIG with Zanzibar and SpiceDB, we have seen huge adoption with our open source and our products — and I can’t wait to see where our journey takes us.

Are you a remote worker and enjoy having the work life balance a remote work environment brings? We are building a strong remote workforce - join us!

P.S. - here are some of my favorite photos from our last offsite (and some team building activities!), 3 days after I started at AuthZed.

12 AuthZed employees smiling outside on a driveway surrounded by grass

An AuthZedder at a kitchen counter surrounded by chopped vegetables

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