Slack Internship

My vision was foggy and my cheeks were marinated in tears as I laid down Emily Chang's "Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley" in the ruffles of my blankets. I raced through the book as my blood boiled because once again, I felt frustrated by the culture our industry has fostered. But the last chapter gave me hope. The frustration evolved into inspiration. It highlighted how Stewart Butterfield built Slack as a company with diversity and inclusivity cemented into its core. They prioritized growing people instead of the company and evidently, that worked— they successfully did both and are still continuing to do so everyday. I wanted in on the action.

Shortly after writing my previous post about my bittersweet parting with San Francisco, I accepted an offer to join the Demo Engineering team as an intern at Slack. The spark of inspiration that I felt in my heart when I read about the company's work culture grew and continued to fill my heart throughout the internship. For Slack of a better phrase, I am in love.

Slack is the product of 1) passion for connecting people and 2) great software lodged between 3) intentional culture.

I kept a growing list of bullet points in the back of my Moleskine that felt special to me:

1. Empathy

It feels silly I had this as the first item because everything after relates to this in one way or another, but it's true. Slack cares about their people and their people care about each other. My mentor called me the week before I started my internship asking me what I was hoping to get out of the internship— not what I can do for Slack, but what Slack can do for me. She gave me the space to communicate what this internship meant for me after I had already accepted the offer in a non-interview setting. I mentioned that I wanted to build upon my software engineering skills, but I wanted to do more than just that. I was interested in building projects end-to-end. From research, writing out product requirement docs, tech specs, building out and deploying my projects, all the way to user adoption. My manager and mentor, both having been through a breadth of different technical roles before, understood what I was looking for and guided me through it. My input was honoured, and I was given the opportunity to fulfill a hybrid role between a software engineer and a PM.

2. Look for culture add, not culture fit

Slack meticulously eliminates the overused term of "culture fit". When a company seeks "fit", they will hire people who are exactly like existing employees to fit the mold. Diversity comes from a desire to have someone be an addition to their culture.

3. No games, no dinner and leaving on time

Foosball, ping pong, serving free dinners at 8pm all encourage employees to stay at work for just a little longer. Work was work— we had fun during work, but work shouldn't permeate into the rest of our lives. When we were at work, we worked hard. But by 5-6pm, the office would be cleared out. Noticing this pattern from my coworkers, my mentor, my manager made me realize that it was important for me to pursue more than just work, which leads me to my next point.

4. Social #channels allowed coworkers to bond over shared interests

Anyone and everyone in Slack could create a channel about something they were passionate about. Consequently, everyone else can join them if they too, were interested in it. There were a lot of active channels. During my time there, I helped kickstart our SF book club. Awestruck by all of this, I started a podcast with a fellow intern— Derek Fang, to chat about what people do outside of work. For me, that included finding my way back to the studio for ballet, aerial silks and yoga after a hiatus.

5. Be transparent with mistakes and grow from them

Slack is growing, and rapidly at that, which means that mistakes are bound to happen. There are very transparent conversations both in and outside of Slack about these issues. These dialogues drive the culture of growing from mistakes. You can find examples of this here and here. This applies to both the company and our day-to-day work.

6. The people

I fell in love because of the people.

I had the opportunity to pick many brilliant brains through Donut.

I love my team— both in Demo Engineering and Solutions Engineering.

I love the interns. Because of them, when I think back to this term— I think of string lights that fueled late night conversations, neon signs from diners that painted our faces, roadtrips out of the city while jamming along to mom rock, climbing up Angels Landing with trembling legs and unsteady breath that ended up being my favourite hike (despite my fear of heights), recording songs in the middle of a little living room in the Mission (as a joke 😉), and friends that made me happier that I have been in a very, very long time.

That marked the end of my Moleskine, but the beginning of the rest of my journey.

Thank you for coming along with me. I'm excited to finally be back in Vancouver and school! I can't wait for the new year. I hope 2018 treated you well, and that 2019 gets even better!

Thank you, Slack.