Home The Wired CIO Make culture your hiring priority, says Splunk VP

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It’s not inevitable a high-growth company has to sacrifice the close and non-bureaucratic culture it enjoyed as a start-up. The key is to make culture the number one piece in your hiring, says Simon Eid.

Eid should know; in his role as area vice-president for Splunk Australia and New Zealand, he oversees a team which has grown from 15 merely three years ago to offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and New Zealand. Globally, Splunk’s growth is outpacing that of its competitors.

Conventional wisdom says the things that make a company a great place to work are ultimately sacrificed as it — so it may be thought — matures, into a proper sensible grown-up company.

Yet, company culture shapes the workday experience of every employee, and it’s a topic pertinent to The Wired CIO as we strive to build high-performing teams together.

Louis Gerstner, former IBM chief executive, said: “Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organisation’s make-up and success – along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like ... I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organisation is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”

In fact, David Bowie, SAS’ vice-president, ANZ, says workplace culture is a key to helping people manage, and work against, depression even if that depression is not related to the workplace.

As leaders, it’s imperative to shape and protect your company’s culture. It cannot be left as an afterthought but must be implicitly built-in to your growth plans.

With Splunk enjoying hyper-growth, but yet rightfully taking pride in maintaining a close, start-up-style employee culture, iTWire asked Simon Eid his advice.

“Culture, for me, is the most important piece of your hiring,” he said. “When hiring I will go through the cultural aspects - have fun, be diverse, win as a team, don’t lose by yourself, take risks … it’s ok to take risks and it’s ok to make mistakes if you learn from those. We don’t play politics and we don’t embrace bullshit.”

Eid explains he will sit with the candidate and talk through these things. “If this is not what you want, don’t join,” he says. “You will not make it. As soon as someone introduces bullshit and politics is when it falls apart. It’s too important when running a high-growth company to have team collaboration and bring people up-to-speed quickly. Everyone has to be in it, not for themselves, but for the broader team. It’s a massive difference in how Splunk grows as an organisation, and here in Australia particularly. Culture is the most important piece.”

Eid says his definition of success is “if everyone internally never wants to leave, and everyone externally wants to join. That’s success - the right people want to stay and people on the outside are looking in and want to be part of this community".

“It’s more of a family,” he adds. “We’re not hierarchical and my door is always open. My view is you learn from different people no matter where they’ve come from. How do you continue your own development in other organisations where people don’t talk to each other?”

Yet, would conventional wisdom again suggest an executive with such an open-door policy is going to find all their time taken dealing with trite employee issues? Again, Eid says it doesn’t have to be that way.

“If something is escalated to me then something has gone wrong and that’s not perfect, but [for the most part] it is all dealt with at the team level. If the teams see someone not doing the right thing they chat with them,” he says.

This statement is profound in its simplicity. It’s reasonable to expect most regular folk don’t enjoy difficult conversations and strive to avoid conflict and confrontation. However, Eid directly says when a company has a strong culture, teams will actively work to protect it.

“If they get away with it, it becomes an acceptable practice. Everyone loves being inside the organisation and nobody wants to see external forces come in and disrupt it. [Our staff] have a different mindset to other organisations, they treat it as the family. At Splunk, we have something unique and people see it, creating a work environment which is really nice.”

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

 

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