All Hands on Deck: Companies That Foster Communication Attract Top Talent

True company-wide transparency unlocks more opportunities for employees to be heard — and it starts with regular, open-forum conversations.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Jun. 16, 2022
All Hands on Deck: Companies That Foster Communication Attract Top Talent
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“All-hands,” “all-elbows,” “all-paws”: No matter what their moniker, organization-wide forums are the cornerstone of a communication culture that sets top Boston tech companies apart. 

But why are all-inclusive gatherings so crucial?

“In a tech environment, the direction of the business is constantly evolving, the customer base is growing and team size can double in a matter of weeks,” said RapDev Engineering Manager Eli Kapetanopoulos. “Without proper communication, changes can leave team members with doubts.” 

Alexa Shanahan, senior technical solutions recruiting manager at Datadog, similarly advocated for the practice of open meetings — and shared Datadog’s collective affinity for dog puns: “We support open communication and transparency through our quarterly all-paws meetings.” 

“The sessions are led by our CEO,” Shanahan added. “Employees are trusted and kept in the loop about where Datadog stands and what we are working towards as a business.” 

Embark has dubbed their bi-weekly meetings an all-elbows affair, while Immersive Labs hosts quarterly ask-me-anythings, during which employees’ questions are answered live by their leadership. 

Snappy names are a charming plus, but the bottom line remains the same. “Meetings should be a forum to share information, gather ideas and discuss the current company roadmap,” said Beth Keil, VP of people at Lightmatter

A culture of robust communication begets more assured employee inquiry, which empowers individual contributors to ask for — and receive — professional development resources, working models and business decisions that align with their wants and needs. 

Call them kikis, fireside chats or symposiums: Organizational meetings make a company’s investment in open communication tangible. Built In Boston sat down with six Beantown’s tech leaders to learn more about how they’re building thriving communication cultures from the top down. 

 

Datadog reception desk with a neon company logo on the wall
Datadog

 

Alexa Shanahan
Senior Manager, Recruiting - Technical Solutions • Datadog

 

Datadog is a monitoring and security platform for cloud-scale infrastructure and applications. 

 

What is one standout career development opportunity your company offers employees?

There are so many career development opportunities here at Datadog — it’s hard to pick just one. What stands out is the encouragement of internal mobility. This opportunity is available not just within current teams, but across cross-functional teams and departments.

For example, we’ve had folks move from technical recruiting to support engineering, coordination to marketing, pre-sales to post sales, and sales to recruiting. We’ve even had several geographical moves too. Some of these have been from individual contributor positions into leadership roles, which is amazing to see. 

Overall, this speaks to the investment Datadog makes into each employee. It’s a safe space to try new things, there is an opportunity to be proactive about what you want to learn and you’re in control of growing your career in the direction that you choose!

What stands out is the encouragement of internal mobility.”

 

What is one way your company supports open communication and transparency?

Open communication and transparency is extremely important to Datadogs, including our leadership team. We support this through our quarterly company-wide meetings, known as “all paws.” We love our dog puns!

These sessions are led by our CEO: He shares insight into how the company is performing, plans for the future and the overall business priorities.

The meetings often feature other leadership speakers, as well including finance leaders, customer success leaders, DEI leaders and so many others. Time is always left at the end for an open Q&A session. Employees are encouraged to speak up and ask questions to our leadership team. It’s always such a valuable meeting — it’s no surprise so many employees love this experience. 

 

What is your company’s approach to flexible work?

Datadog offers a hybrid working environment, which incorporates both in-office and remote days into employees’ schedules. This allows for the best of both worlds. You have the opportunity for in-person collaboration, social events and building relationships with folks you may otherwise not interact with on a daily basis. 

Datadogs can benefit from all this while still having the flexibility to work remotely throughout the week. This gives each employee the ability to work with their manager to take control of their schedule and to structure their week in a way that best suits their needs. 

While we do have this hybrid environment, each employee does still get their own desk in the office. Datadogs don’t have to share their desk — and are welcome five days a week!

 

 

Curriculum team photo outside
Curriculum Associates

 

Bryan Deyermond
Talent Partner • Curriculum Associates

 

Curriculum Associates is an edtech company that offers diagnostic and instructional support to K-12 students. 

 

What is one standout career development opportunity your company offers employees?

Curriculum Associates does a spectacular job of investing in its people. In addition to offering professional learning and training tools through LinkedIn Learning, our HR and talent department is committed to supporting professional development. The company offers robust internal mobility plans and has excellent strategy and planning in place to make sure each employee is growing. 

Not only have I been able to sharpen my technical and soft skills through LinkedIn Learning, I’ve been able to use that training over the last four years as I’ve advanced from coordinator to specialist to senior talent specialist and, now, talent partner. 

Curriculum Associates offers comprehensive opportunities for internship and entry-level employees. 

Curriculum Associates does a spectacular job of investing in its people.”

 

EARLY INVESTMENT: DEVELOPMENT FOR INTERNS AND ENTRY-LEVEL EMPLOYEES

  • Management development program: A three-year rotational program that provides future leaders the opportunity to work across departments and develop their management skills.
  • Ed-tech fellowship: A six-month program that offers interns the opportunity to work on real projects while learning the ins and outs of the business.

 

What is one way your company supports open communication and transparency?

Curriculum Associates is one of the most transparent organizations I’ve ever been a part of. Though most of the company is remote like myself, it is easy to get into contact with the entire team, including managers and leadership. For example, I can — and do — email the CEO, Rob Waldron, and I know that he will respond in a timely manner despite there being 2000 employees at Curriculum Associates. 

I think our culture of transparency and open communication is driven by our company values: “We say it like it is, with grace” and “We are high in confidence, but we keep our egos low.” 

At Curriculum Associates, our employees feel the difference: People are honest, kind, and eager to advance our mission to make classrooms a better place for kids. This means that feedback is received, resolutions are found and co-workers are quick to respond. All around, there’s a feeling of camaraderie and trust.

 

What is your company’s approach to flexible work?

Prior to the pandemic, the organization was around 50 percent remote. Now, we’re about 80 percent remote. As someone who works remotely, I think it works for us well. In fact, we recently had a team retreat in Massachusetts. It was unbelievable to experience the strong community we built despite being physically distant. 

I think this goes back to Curriculum Associates being a very human-centric company. In addition to flexible work, we have unlimited PTO — because the company believes when you’re feeling the best, you do the best work. 

Personally, I can say that there have been busy seasons that I’ve worked, but in those times, I’ve had managers that recognized my work and asked me to take an extra day off, just to give myself a break. I feel supported, valued and appreciated when I’m at work — and that’s an incredible feeling.

 

 

Three RapDev team members gathered around a computer monitor working on a project together
RapDev

 

Eli Kapetanopoulos
Engineering Manager • RapDev

 

RapDev is an information technology company that creates enterprise-ready CI/CD pipelines that help organizations build velocity with their release cycles — and contributes them to the open-source community. 

 

What is one standout career development opportunity your company offers employees?

This past year, there has been a significant push for people to get into the tech world — but it can be difficult to really break in without “proper” experience. At RapDev, we acknowledge that the best talent can come from anywhere and focus more on finding people who have the drive to learn a new skill.

As a result, we created RapDev University, which serves as an associate engineer program. We invite our new hires to join us in the office for three weeks, during which we cover the ins and outs of our company. 

It’s a fast-paced program, but it allows our new team members to really delve into the new platforms and ask questions before they start shadowing on customer calls. We empower our engineers to expand and grow their skill sets through challenging engineering tasks and collaboration with their senior teammates. We’ve had great success with our current class and continue to recruit great talent eager to find their place in the tech world. 

We acknowledge that the best talent can come from anywhere and focus more on finding people who have the drive to learn a new skill.”

 

What is one way your company supports open communication and transparency?

At RapDev, there is constant communication and transparency from leadership. During our monthly team meetings, we introduce new team members and recognize our customer success. Our quarterly all-hands meetings always include a direction of the business decisions and an open forum for the team to ask any questions.  

Day to day, we encourage our team not to wait for a scheduled meeting to ask a question — Slack any team member to get an answer.

 

What is your company’s approach to flexible work?

At RapDev, we empower our employees to work from anywhere. Our Boston office is pretty awesome, so many of our local team members take advantage of a hybrid schedule —  spending a few days a week in the office to collaborate with other employees and enjoy social time.  

We understand that everyone works differently and want our team to work in the environment which is most comfortable for them. 

 

WORK LIFE BALANCE AT RAPDEV

  • Employees maintain a healthy work-life balance with an unlimited PTO policy.
  • Team members are encouraged to take a week off per quarter.
  • During the summer months, employees enjoy half-days on Fridays.

 

 

Immersive Labs team members celebrating an award
Immersive Labs

 

Polina Shalts
Director, People & Talent US • Immersive Labs

 

Immersive Labs enables organizations to measure real-time cyber efficacy as it relates to cyber teams, developers, engineers and executives.

 

What is one standout career development opportunity your company offers employees?

Immersive Labs supports our employees on their journey and helps shape the vision of their growth through personalized development plans. 

Giving each individual the ability to be able to explore other departments and avenues within the business has, from day one, been something I’ve found super cool and exciting. A lot of organizations talk about it, but I’ve seen very few who genuinely follow through with the amount of support our leaders do.

Allowing people opportunities to create roles that encompass what they are truly passionate about — at any stage of their career — is something I can’t geek out about enough!  

Along with an array of internal career development tools, we aim to customize resources around what each team needs by working with department leaders. We have an internal learning and development manager we have brought on board to help further customize our programs.

Allowing people opportunities to create roles that encompass what they are truly passionate about — at any stage of their career — is something I can’t geek out about enough!”

 

What is one way your company supports open communication and transparency?

We strive to find more opportunities to push transparency further: from a slew of slack channels and communities — both employee and company driven — to talking about their mental and physical health journeys, to providing a safe space to talk about some of the struggles we’ve encountered during the pandemic.  

Additionally, we use OfficeVibe which sends out anonymous surveys each week to which employees provide feedback on an array of topics. Leaders are able to respond and communicate within the comfort of each employee. 

 

What is your company’s approach to flexible work?

Immersive Labs believes in providing the right environments, tools and flexibility to allow everyone to perform at their best and stay connected wherever and however they work. 

To do this, we follow a hybrid working model that should allow Immersers to benefit from the advantages of both in-person and remote working. We’re a global company, so our approach allows for flexibility on location and working hours for both remote and hub-based employees. 

As some form of normalcy is returning to the world, we’ve encouraged department leaders to start looking at how they want to define that working model within their teams and what balance looks like for each of them. We want to provide transparency into the process: We want Immersers to be a part of shaping our ways of working. 

 

 

Lightmatter team photo in the office with a company logo neon sign behind them
Lightmatter

 

Beth Keil
VP of People • Lightmatter

 

Lightmatter is a startup photonics company that has created semiconductors designed to enable the growth of computing, reduce harmful emissions associated with this growth and democratize computing.

 

What is one standout career development opportunity your company offers employees?

We are expecting to grow by 50 percent this year. With this comes the opportunity for career development through learning, assignments and new roles. We have 100 patents and patents pending with more to come — innovation abounds! Employees are encouraged to work on patentable products, publish papers and speak at conferences, elevating them as experts in their field.

 

What is one way your company supports open communication and transparency?

We live by our company value: question everything. Lightmatter was born from questioning the efficacy of transistors and high-performance computing limitations, specifically in regard to Moore’s Law and Dennard Scaling. 

We put this principle into action by encouraging open dialogue and healthy debate. It is important to us that everyone is clear on our purpose and is inspired to achieve our ambitious goals. Our management practices include bi-weekly company meetings, team meetings and one-on-one meetings.

It is important to us that everyone is clear on our purpose and is inspired to achieve our ambitious goals.”

 

What is your company’s approach to flexible work?

At Lightmatter, we treat our employees like adults: We trust them to manage their work and personal lives. We have a hybrid model, with people located near an office coming in three days a week to maximize collaboration and connection. We hire people who are driven to succeed personally and as part of a winning team. Managers and employees work together to determine work schedules that meet the needs of the business and the employee.

 

 

Kevin Antonellis
Director, Talent Acquisition • Embark Veterinary

 

Embark is a pet healthtech company that aims to educate pet owners about their dog’s breed, health and ancestry through DNA testing.  

 

What is one standout career development opportunity your company offers employees?

Embark is proud to offer a continuing education program to our employees. We offer reimbursement in areas such as tuition, conferences, seminars, workshops and more to help folks take advantage of opportunities to enrich their knowledge.

 

What is one way your company supports open communication and transparency?

One of the great ways Embark is able to ensure we have open communication and transparency across the board, is through our bi-weekly “all-elbows” meeting. During this time, the entire company meets as a group to discuss business updates, look at future plans, recognize employee accomplishments and meet new team members. Additionally, we always make sure to save time for questions, where employees are encouraged to ask anything that may be on their mind.

Through having the utmost trust in each other, we are always able to achieve our goals — whether we are in the office, at home or enjoying time outside with our dogs!”

 

What is your company’s approach to flexible work?

At Embark, we understand that each employee has their own preferences around work arrangements. While some folks enjoy spending most of their time in the office, others prefer the majority of their time to be working remotely. 

We utilize technology, such as Slack and Google Meet, and encourage teams to schedule occasional in-person gatherings to help drive collaboration and build strong relationships. 

Through having the utmost trust in each other, we are always able to achieve our goals — whether we are in the office, at home or enjoying time outside with our dogs!

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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