When Mr. Vineet Nayar was entrusted with turning around HCL in 2005, he quickly realized that HCL’s culture was the biggest impediment to its growth. The BD and Sales team was never confident enough to even bid for big projects that Infosys and TCS were bidding. He realized this “losing attitude” has seeped through all the organizational crevices and the only way to change the company is to change it from within. He hand-picked a small team of 30 people and name them “young sparks”. They were tasked with coming out with a strategy to revive HCL from within.
Thus the “Employee First, Customer Second” mantra was formed and then he went on to implement multiple small projects to make that mantra a reality and thus HCL’s turnaround was drafted. In the span of 8 years (2005–2013) that Nayar was in charge, HCL leapfrogged from $764 million to $4.7 Billion in revenue and grew to an employee strength of 85,000. This is a turn around story of a multinational that had resources and time to try out multiple pet projects to fix its culture and thereby transform itself.
But as a startup, you don’t have the luxury to set aside a 30 member team to set and fix the company’s culture. Like most things in a startup, culture evolves and sometimes the team sets the culture through its action and this post is an attempt to derive learnings out of such behaviors and actions and define our culture.
At Heptagon, a few weeks back, a 24-hour intra-company Hackathon was announced. 4 cross-functional teams were formed and were asked to choose a mentor through lots. As soon as the teams were formed, they started the ideation process post office hours and each team submitted a proposal that was vetted and nudged in the right direction by the mentors they chose.
What transpired over the 24 hour Hackathon was a window for us to peek into the culture that the company has been nurturing on its own.
- Place: Heptagon — Coimbatore
- Date & Time: 28-July-2017 : 6 PM — 29-July-2017 6 PM
- Priya, who heads the testing team in Heptagon is also the wife of Vijay(C.E.O.) was at the office for the entire Hackathon just like everybody else. This was the first time Anjana (5 year old kid of Vijay & Priya) stayed away from her parents because both Vijay and Priya wanted to stay honest to the Hackathon format. A fresher who joined us few months back felt homesick because this event was the first time she was staying out of her home the entire night. When she was asked if she wanted to go home, her response was “No! Let me sleep for 20 minutes and I will be fine, I don’t wanna let my team down”. She wanted to stay true to her teammates much like Vijay & Priya. Vignesh, who is the C.T.O. stayed up the entire night along with his team to crack the logic behind a Robotic Process Automation which will be the engine for automated hiring. All these incidents drive home one particular value which is, honesty.
#Hackday Night — 1 AM
2. When the Hackathon got over, someone tapped on my shoulder and asked “Sam, you are an employee right? Why were you mentoring a team and why were you at the dias with the three Founders and 2 Chief Guests?” I did not have an answer to that then and don’t have an answer now. But it shows the level of humility that the founders have to trust an employee and give him equal rights. I have seen this humility have a ripple effect on everybody. Our A.V.P. of Technology doesn’t walk around with an aura of “know-it-all” in fact he is glued to his seat all day even during lunch hours because if he falters the projects could over shoot its schedule and cost. Our Design Head engages the new designer all day to get the work done and keep re-iterating that tools don’t matter as long as you have an eye for form that would complement the function. Rajesh, who is the C.O.O. comes to office at 8:30 AM everyday to open the office door for the cleaners to clean the office. I can quote infinite events such as these and what we will see is humility at its raw form. Formal titles have little meaning in our company as everyone is treated at par and that emanates from the inherent humility.
3. Though we had two separate conference rooms allotted for people to go and take power naps most were not willing to do that because they were worried they won’t be able to finish the prototype on time for the demo. Even people who were not actively involved in coding or designing or testing or preparing the presentation deck stuck around and made sure everyone was happy. An impromptu “Hep TV” was formed and our HR manager became the cameraman while our General Sales Manager wielded the microphone to ask people about their experience and quipped with witty one-liners to keep the melatonin at bay. Sheena, our Accounts Executive was busy co-ordinating with the food and coffee/tea delivery guys to make sure everyone was well fed and fit enough to sit through the 24 hours. The above incidents make me realise that hard work is in our gene and that’s what is gonna take us big strides in the future
Not sure who wrote this, but this is the board that welcomes our team in the main development area.
Thus I can squeeze down the learnings and extract three core values that define us — Honesty, Humility and Hard Work. Academics reckon that a company’s values should be weaved into its cultural fabric but in our case Honesty, Humility and Hard-work are the threads that make our cultural fabric and we just figured that out through a rinse session like the #Hackday.
We are not a jazzy startup with millions in funding, we are not a startup run by people from the IVY leagues and hence we don’t have/get a coverage on fancy magazines and newspapers but we stand as a single unit that is built on our humility, honesty, and hard work with a single purpose which is to create innovative technology solutions for customers on-time and on budget.
We took a tiny step towards creating an innovative work environment but it has been a giant leap for us in terms of learnings and more importantly it has brought us all together as a team though we are spread across different cities. This is a team that has formed, stormed, normed and evolved itself and this is a team I can take a bullet for!
Explore the projects our team came up with during the Hackathon
Want to be a part of this team? please drop a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org