Why I Work @ ThoughtWorks – my version

Aaron Erickson is a co-worker I’ve not yet met. As the New Year turned over he wrote a great post, Why I Work At ThoughtWorks (and why you should too…). I do not disagree with anything Aaron wrote, but I want to add some amplification based on some very personal opinions.

Pretty much every company says they care about their employees. I’ve worked in companies that said they cared about me. One of my first jobs was in fast food; they proved they cared by giving me a discount on food & a 2% annual bonus. My next job in fast food gave me even less.

All too often (in almost every case), companies put the employee high on the list of priorities, but not high on the list of investments. I worked for a company that made a profit each and every quarter, but it wasn’t enough. In order to improve company profits, the training budget was cut to ZERO for 3 years in a row!

ThoughtWorks isn’t like that. Here’s how I know.

1. They let me take care of my family. My daughter recently caught E. coli O157:H3. The doctor told me this in the same breath she said, “Your daughter’s kidneys are failing and we cannot help you. We have already called the transport unit to take you to another hospital.” It the kind of thing you watch about on the evening news. It’s fast, it’s serious, it’s every parent’s nightmare. When your family member gets this, and it usually strikes children or the very elderly, it takes weeks to recover.

As a father, there isn’t a choice. You take care of your family. Nothing else is an option. So I sent an email to a few folks, “My daughter’s sick. I’m taking all my vacation and sick time for the year. Effective immediately.” I didn’t put it in nice terms. I was too wrapped up in our family to care about nice.

And the response I got back was, “Do you need anything else?”

ThoughtWorks didn’t say, “What about the stories your team needs?” “Where is the presentation you were going to give to extend our client business?” Or even, “What about the huge project you’ve been working on for 13 months?”

Nope, they offered to bring dinner for my wife and me. They sent a nice gift, immediately. But other than gently asking how my daughter was doing, they let me have my time and space. (post script: My daughter is doing much better now.)

1 (continued). The insurance rocks. I don’t know how much treating a child for four weeks in a children’s hospital costs, but the price has got to be huge. More than I make in many years, even though I’d gladly pay it if I had to. I’d pay anything for my daughter’s life.

When the administrative staff asked for our credit card, the amount was closer to $100 dollars than it was to $500. Read that again. Our bill was far less than $500 because ThoughtWorks offers great insurance. And in a time of crisis, I needed it. You have no idea how grateful my family feels about their foresight.

2. Employees can (and do) lead initiatives. I want to grow the Business Analyst skills at ThoughtWorks. We hire the very brightest candidates, but business analysis has never received the same focus our world-class developers have experienced. I want to change that. So, I talked to some folks and we started working on somethings last year, but clients and projects and life got in the way; it petered out. But this year I’ve picked up the ball and I’m running with it. I didn’t ask anyone for permission. I didn’t beg for time. I just said, “I’m starting this thing over here. I’m doing this action. I’m planning this other event. Let’s make this happen.”

You know what? It’s happening. We’re starting to meet more often as a community. I’m really excited about the upcoming annual meeting where I’m pushing a track of BA topics. I’ve got experts who are planning to fly across the globe to share with us. All because I said, “Let’s make this happen.”

And the official response from ThoughtWorks? “Good job, Jeffrey. Do you need anything else?”

This is not the only example I have where employees take a bit of time and effort and it ends up shifting the company. Don’t you want to work in a place where you can make a difference?

3. We might just change how people work. Seriously, we are starting an initiative I think is revolutionary. It’s got a silly name, but the Continuous Development & Performance has got some real meat behind it. I love this thing so much, I wrote an internal response to it.

Some firms, a few of them, claim to let employees develop a personal career path, but mostly they just abandon their workers to chance. A small number of corporations do a good job of developing their employees, but typically only for a very select minority tapped to be future leaders. Most companies don’t do a damn thing to really help their employees.

This plan—combining encouragement to own your own career AND giving you the tools and opportunity to act AND supporting this with the review process—is unheard of. I don’t know any models for us to follow and it doesn’t sound like anyone else does either.

Wow, what a bold and audacious undertaking!

And with our boldness, stepping into what no one else is doing, I want to offer my own encouragement. If you are an employee reading this and thinking, “What does this mean for my next review?,” then I want you to ask two more questions. Ask yourself, “What have I done to grow professionally?” and “What have I done to help my peers reach their goals?”

For this new plan to take hold and take root, we have to invest our time and effort in more than just a process change. We need to invest in changing ourselves, our people, and our culture. Changes like this take time, small changes can take 1-1/2 years, this could take us 3 years or more. But can you imagine how cool it will be when we achieve this? When all of us are equipped to own our own career development? When every ThoughtWorker is working to grow and help each other grow?

This is big. This can change someone’s life. This is something everyone needs. Not every ThoughtWorker. Everyone. My sister, your cousin, and the kids down the block, figuring out whether to ditch class or not. Everyone can get something from this. This is change that can make a difference not only at ThoughtWorks, but in the world of work.

If we make it work . . . If you figure out how to grow yourself and help others do the same . . . If you embrace this change . . . We can change the world, again.

Jeez, I love this job.

If you want to read the reasons why a technical person should check out ThoughtWorks, then read Aaron’s post. And if you care about equality, using technology to help social problems, and positively impacting society and community for future generations, then check out ThoughtWorks’ website.

Join ThoughtWorks

And if you’re someone who wants to work for a transnational employer that knows how to care for you, then checkout join.thoughtworks.com. It’s not easy to get hired here and the job isn’t for everyone, but I struggle to think of a company that’s better.

Jeez, I love this job. 

  4Comments

  1. sudr   •  

    Thanks for posting. I’ve followed ThoughtWorks and ThoughtWorkers for a long time now and was always impressed by the technical chops at ThoughtWorks. Now it’s nice to get an insider view on the company as well. It sounds like a company to be admired just like Atlassian. On the subject of career development, my current employer, Nationwide does a great job similar to ThoughtWorks. In fact I could’ve simply replaced ThoughtWorks with Nationwide in your post and that would’ve bee just as true.

  2. Nikhil   •  

    hi my name is nikhil. After seeing your post i really made a decision to work for thought works if u can guide me.iam awaiting graduation results.hope i think i would have a positive reply.thank you

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