This week, in our ongoing series Culture Collective, we sat down with Nicole Gendusa, the Office and Culture manager at Jackpocket. Nicole oversees employee relations, office management and all things culture. She is a native New Yorker with a passion for people. When she’s not in the office, she spends her time traveling and hanging out with friends. She is also pursuing a Masters degree in Human Resource Management at Stony Brook University. Read more below.

Culture Collective Nicole Gendusa quote

What are three words to describe your workplace culture and why?

I definitely think our culture is communication driven. That is key. Everyone is very in touch with not only their pod or their segmented team that they’re on, but they are also able to cross collaborate. Our CEO and exec team are really great about relaying information and being transparent, so communication is definitely key here. 

I would also say, we have a very inclusive culture here. This is something that we’ve worked hard to build, not only from a recruiting standpoint or a benefit standpoint, or even in job opportunities, but everyone that we have here comes to work and brings something different. Instead of fitting our culture they’re actually adding to our culture. We always like to look at culture as culture adding not a culture fit.

Lastly, to describe our workplace culture, I would say something like effervescent. We’re pretty enthusiastic here. Everyone has a really upbeat day no matter what and really roots everyone on. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone here having a bad day. If someone is struggling or they’re hung up on something they’re working on, they know they can turn to their teammates to help and bring a positive mental attitude. 

What is your office super power?

To be honest, I feel like my position calls for me to be kind of like a swiss army knife and do a million different things. I guess I like to think that my office superpower is that I’m approachable. I think having that ability to create this environment where people know they can turn to me no matter what the situation is is important. Sometimes at work, you’re not sure where to turn and who to go to. Having that resource is really good. 

Why is company culture important?

I think culture really defines your company. Your business leaders can sit down and map out all the goals and have all the data to report back on goals and what metrics they’re trying to hit and things of that nature — but at the end of the day, if you don’t have that core company culture where people are coming into work and they’re excited to be there and they have the resources they need to grow — you’re never going to hit any other goal. You’re never going to see the company vision come to life. I think that’s why company culture is so important. 

I also think that sometimes company culture is talked about, but it’s not acted upon. You can sit here and say, “Look, we have all these things,” but if your culture is on a very surface level where you’re not doing anything internally to make sure things are happening, you’re really never going to have that strong culture to project your company’s goals. It’s more than just having happy hour and having food in the office. It’s really about building that team environment and making sure everyone’s voices, opinions and thoughts are being heard. 

I think a lot of people don’t even realize that’s what culture is. It’s not the perks and the benefits. It’s everything that draws you into work every day and why you’re staying at your company. It’s something that I think should be differentiated and I think it’s very apparent the companies that are investing in their culture. 

What does your team normally do for lunch? 

Food here is huge. People joke around that we’re ‘Snackpocket’ and not Jackpocket. We actually have a Slack channel just dedicated to food and what people are eating for lunch. When we do something team driven for lunch, we do this thing called “Friday wins” where every other Friday, we bring in catered lunch. I like to make it a democracy, so I’ll send out a survey of five top restaurants in the Midtown area and say, “Ok, what does everyone want for lunch this week?” It creates this fun thing where people are seeing what’s going to win and it gets really competitive. Whichever restaurant ends up getting the most votes, we’ll bring in catered lunch. Then, during Friday wins, everyone grabs a plate and people are able to present what they’ve been working on for the week, whether it’s individual projects or a team-wide thing. Maybe there’s new software that’s being launched internally or maybe there’s an app update that’s creating a better user experience. It’s a really cool way to bring everyone together and it’s kind of bringing fun to the business side of things with voting for the best restaurant. 

What are ways your company brings your team together?

This is something that my CEO and I have talked about a bunch, because we want our culture to be very deeply rooted and not a surface level thing with perks and benefits. We like to put together a culture calendar for each month where there will be different events. It goes beyond things like happy hour, because, as great as happy hours are where everyone is getting together, you need to do more than that to get everyone to be together at work. We like to do different kinds of activities. We did a big field day this summer where everyone was on different teams and we would pair people up who don’t normally get to work together. It was a mix of brain activities and physical activities. 

We also host a lot of different tech meetups. That way, not only people on our team, but people who might be looking for a job can come and meet with our team here and get to see what we’re about. So that’s another thing we do. I think on an internal daily basis, we like to make sure that projects are driven by cross team collaboration. That’s something that, in my experience at other companies, has been such a segmented thing and when one team is finished with their portion, they kind of just hand it off. It’s different here. Everyone’s involved from the get-go. 

If you could propose an idea to positively impact any company’s culture, what would it be and why? 

I think it is important to put the human back into human resources. You can come up with all of these ideas for company culture and you can automate it and create all these processes around it. But if you’re automating it, are you really seeing that return or are you just going through the motions? I think when it comes to positively impacting culture, you’ve got to sit down and really ask yourself the questions like, “What drives our decision making in the company? What are the values we all share and how do those bring us together?” From there, that’s when you start to build out, “Ok, this is who we are. This is why. This is how we got here.” If you’re not asking those questions on an introspective level, I feel like culture is never going to evolve. You have to sit down with your team and really think it through. It can be something as simple as sending out a sentiment analysis, just to get that feedback and figure out who your people really are. 

It really comes back to the people portion of culture and seeing why everyone loves coming to work and why they chose this company and then building your values and your culture out from there. If you’re sitting there and dictating, “This is who we are. This is why we do this,” but it’s not really relevant or connected to the people who are actually working there, then that’s not culture. That’s just saying what someone might want their culture to be. If you’re not asking yourself these questions, then you’re kind of just coming up with answers you see best fit. You’re not really going to ever figure out what the issues are at the bottom of what your culture is and then you’re never going to be able to build something that’s great.