My First 3 Months at Unito

I crossed the three-month threshold at Unito several weeks ago.

All employees get a 3-month review. It’s a chance for everyone to give feedback after they’ve had some time to work with someone. Benefits kick in after 3 months too, so it’s considered a probation period.

It’s also a good chance to reflect on decisions and early impressions like those I outlined in this post when I took the job.

My decision has turned out well, for all the reasons I suspected it would, but there have been some growing pains too. 

In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts after three months at Unito.

Team is Everything

I can’t stress enough how much a great team makes a difference, and Unito has a great team.

Our hiring process is thorough, but I think what really separates us is making sure we hire good people. 

The benefits of hiring people good people who are great to work with are difficult to quantify but make a massive difference.

Day-to-day, people are excited to come to work. We can work remote whenever we like at Unito, but many people don’t. Why? A lot of it has to do with the people at work. If you enjoy spending time with your colleagues, you want to come to work. It’s an opportunity to see friends.

The same applies outside work. We tend to spend a lot of time together - whether for company-sponsored volleyball, grabbing drinks Friday night, or playing hockey together - because we’re friends. It becomes much easier to work together when you develop that respect and friendship.

Long-term, I have no doubt that it will translate to a lower turnover rate, which is an underrated cost for the majority of companies, but particularly for startups, who have to move quickly and ramp people up faster than elsewhere. 

Learning Required

I wanted “fast, high-intensity learning and growth” when I decided to take the job, and I haven’t been disappointed.

There is an overwhelming amount of things to do in a high-growth startup, and your learning limits are restricted only to what you have time for.

I’ve been learning new products, frameworks, strategies and best practices at a rate I hadn’t reached since Techstars NYC.

At times that can be overwhelming, as any challenging work can be, but it’s rewarding to do your weekly review and realize that you’ve learned a bunch of new things, or look back over a few months and see the progress you’ve made.

Decision-Making & Prioritization Become More Important

I’ve always been interested in decision-making and prioritization, and how to improve my own skills in those areas.

It becomes even more important when you’re working in a large team and high-growth company.

In the same way that there are an unlimited number of things to learn and areas to contribute, you will be asked to do too many things. Deciding which are important and which can wait becomes a critical skill.

Making decisions about how to work and structure your week also become more important; if you’re not careful, others may schedule your meetings or set your priorities for you.

Fighting for time free of meetings is important too - it’s very difficult to get serious work done without a 3- or 4-hour window free of distractions. It’s why I like working on Saturdays - not only are you not going to be disturbed, but you know you aren’t going to be disturbed, and that makes a big difference.

Communication May Need Adjustment

Spending years working on my own startup projects developed my ability to do independent work, set my own priorities and get things done. That remains valuable.

However, working independently or in small teams meant that communication processes were unstructured or informal, which was sufficient for our team size.

In a larger company, my default tends to be execution (the same as before), but in this setting, informal communication doesn’t cut it.

My work is now often dependent upon others, or vice versa, and other decisions in the company depend upon the outcomes of my work.

I’m still improving this, but particularly in the early days, it became clear that I wasn’t communicating my own progress and work clearly enough. Team members or stakeholders wouldn’t know the status of a project or why a decision was made, and no one likes feeling left out of the loop, particularly when it may impact other decisions or work they have to do.

We often talk about communication skills, which seem to get defined as the actual acts of communication - how to present, how to talk to another person one-on-one, how to communicate ideas or thoughts clearly - but we rarely talk about communication requirements for different situations.

I’m still adapting to those in the larger company, which has been a transition.

Working in a Team

Team sports taught me a lot growing up, but among the most valuable has to be learning to successfully work in a team.

Working in a team isn’t just about how to do work with others. It’s about much more, like how to become respected by new teammates, or to adapt to the personalities of others.

There are a lot of subtleties to being a great teammate, which are too long to list here, but team sports teach you all of them.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity to learn them through sports, and then refine them in other contexts (Coast Guard, to name one); it’s a skill that has continued to pay dividends.

“Culture” is Made of Many Things

But, I think the biggest contributor is who you hire. There’s an emphasis on hiring high performers at Unito, of course, but there’s also a conscious effort to hire good people, and avoid assholes.

Of course we have company values, and processes, and all sorts of other things that affect the culture, but ultimately, it’s the people that drive (or ruin) it. 

The result is friendships that form, and surpass the workplace: camping and hiking trips, going out on Friday nights, organizing Halloween events, personalized birthday gifts (both jokes and serious), and more.

I don’t know how long it can last; I’ve heard many stories of companies growing so quickly that the hiring standard drops, which results in bad outcomes (look no further than Zenefits).

Until then, though, the people will continue to drive the culture at Unito, and the many factors that contribute to such a great atmosphere.

Needless to Say

...I’ve been enjoying it. 

Marc (CEO at Unito) often says that he wants people to do the best work of their lives at Unito, which sounds trite, but the atmosphere and people support that vision.

I know he and the team work hard to continue making it a reality.

Continuing to maintain the culture, work environment, and pace at Unito will be a job that goes on forever, but for now, I’m happy to be along for the ride.

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