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An organization needs healthy employee relationships to stay organized around its goals as it scales. Building connections between the people at HashiCorp allows us to adapt and keep moving forward when something changes—whether it’s a team member who’s been assigned to another project, a competitor that’s expanded its offerings, or a global pandemic affecting the worldwide economy. The more person-to-person links you build up, the more options you’ll have when you need support.
As a woman in tech, it’s sometimes tough to be vulnerable—to say I don’t know or ask for help. But it’s much easier for me when I already have a relationship with the person I’m asking.
Of course, great things can happen by chance, and that includes building strong work relationships. But at HashiCorp, we are intentional about building personal connections—especially because we are a primarily remote and distributed global workforce.
Types of Relationships
Many of us maintain relationships with people outside our company, including customers and open source contributors. In terms of internal connections, most of our relationships fall into three categories:
1) Casual Mentors. A mentor in this sense is a casual relationship with someone at HashiCorp from whom you can learn. This group may include your manager, other leaders in the organization, and also your peers. Anyone who has unique knowledge or experience can serve as a mentor to you, either as someone who helps you develop in your career, helps you develop a skill set, or just provides a little in-the-moment guidance.
A majority of my relationships at HashiCorp provide me with some kind of learning or knowledge. I’m always Slacking people for info or sharing an early version of a doc to get an opinion from individuals I’ve identified as likely to have knowledge or abilities I don’t yet have.
2) Collaborators. This is the most important group because nothing is accomplished at HashiCorp by a single individual; even an idea you have is the product of countless conversations that came before it. Collaborators might enable us to push something forward or simply add diversity of thought to make our decisions better. Some collaborations happen within our own teams, but it’s critical that we work together across functions as well.
On the Sales team, we depend on product managers for help with roadmap delivery, the Finance team for custom invoices, execs to assist on alignment meetings, and Support to go the extra mile for critical customers. Strong relationships are the key to our success.
I maintain connections with people in almost every department and across Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Things go better when you draw on the skills and experiences of other teams, and I feel better about my work and the company when I know the people making it all happen.
3) Friends. While our friends may also be collaborators or mentors, friendships are more informal; these are our confidants. That said, work friendships are usually still very “worky”—they often begin because we respect someone’s ideas or contributions, and work friends tend to talk mostly about work. Just like other types of relationships at work, these make us better at what we do.
My friends at work pull me up when the going gets tough, provide honest feedback, and help me navigate the environment to achieve better outcomes than I could achieve on my own.
Regardless of the type of relationship you’re building, HashiCorp’s processes and culture are designed to make it easier. The first step is simple: Take advantage of situations you’re already in. The company will provide a variety of opportunities to get to know people. The second step is to follow up. Further relationships with the people you meet in these company-led opportunities by planning to talk again. The third step is to identify people you want to meet or with whom you want to create a relationship and contact them directly.
Company-Led Opportunities to Build Relationships
When you join the company, your manager will assign you a peer Bridge Guide (hashi means “bridge” in Japanese) to be one of your touchpoints and help you onboard over your first few weeks. This is your first casual mentor! We also host monthly Bridge Connection Days for new hires. Members of our executive team introduce themselves and do a Q&A—and at the end of the session, they invite anyone to Slack them, anytime.
We know good ideas can come from anyone, in any role, so we do whatever we can to break down the power distance between new team members and executives right off the bat.
You’ll also be part of a virtual “HashiCafé,” which is like a facilitated social hour. We make sure everyone gets a chance to talk and meet some folks who just might become your friends. In addition, you’ll have 1:1 meetings with your manager and members of your team. These 1:1s are good chances for both formal and informal relationship building.
With my teammates, weekly Zooms are a time for whatever we need from each other. Sometimes it turns into an hour-long code-pairing session; sometimes we chat about Animal Crossing or our dogs.
For team leaders, formal opportunities to build relationships also include New Manager Orientation, where you’ll discuss HashiCorp leadership principles with your peers both live and on Slack—and then take part in a “Team Jumpstart” designed to help you build your relationship with your new team as a team, rather than just via individual 1:1s.
Managers and individual contributors alike also have lots of informal opportunities to build relationships, including happy hours (we haven’t quite nailed virtual karaoke yet, but we’re working on it), virtual games, and Chat-Roulette-style Donut meetups, where you’ll be randomly paired with a colleague from either your team, a group you’ve selected (such as female-identifying and non-binary employees), or the entire company. Finally, we encourage you to browse our countless “#talk-” Slack channels, which cover everything from Dungeons and Dragons to parenting, pets to live music, baking cakes to lock picking (yes, really!).
I’ve met some amazing people through Donut chats, and I think it’s great that our leadership team does them, too. My first one was with our founder Mitchell, and it’s still a highlight for me.
I was amazed to see how many people across the company I had common interests with when I joined #talk-cycling. We discuss bikes, share weekend routes, and live vicariously through photos of each others’ adventures.
We have all sorts of Slack channels, whether you want to discuss music, pets, neurodiversity, etc. Being in a primarily remote company, it feels natural building relationships remotely and it generally doesn't feel like people are in different countries. When my US teammates are sleeping I can jump in the #talk-emea chat or just have a quick Zoom and a coffee with people from other departments.
We also get together in-person each year for HashiCorp Exchange (HEX), our multi-day all-employee summit. Whether we’re playing board games on a rooftop bar or just talking through a project face-to-face, it’s a chance to take our “long-distance” relationships to another level. (While the in-person portion of this event is on pause because of the pandemic, we expect to get everyone together again once it’s safe to do so. We hosted an interactive virtual event in 2021.)
HEX is really fun, and those moments of laughter go a long way. When you’re facing something serious with your team, you have that shared experience to draw on.
Relationship Building on Your Own
Your relationship building doesn’t end with company-organized opportunities. Instead, we encourage people to take the next step, whether it’s breaking off into a smaller group discussion (or Zoom breakout room) after a training session or taking the lead on a second session with your HashiCafé group. Whenever you make a new connection with someone, follow up with intention. Put something on both of your calendars to talk again.
I had a chance recently to pair with Evan Phoenix, one of our engineering leaders, on a problem that was new to both of us. We’d never been on the same team—but we knew each other from #talk-parenting, so we already had common ground.
Finally, you can and should chart your own relationship-building path—by reaching out to the people you want to talk with. We want everyone at HashiCorp to feel a sense of agency in making those connections happen. So take the third step, and identify people who could serve as casual mentors, collaborators, or friends and request some time with them.
If you’re wondering where to start, begin with your questions about the work. Maybe you’re struggling to start a new project and need to ask yourself, “What should I know to have full context, and who has that information?” or “Whose perspectives have I included—or excluded? Is there someone else I could ask?” Maybe you’re working to improve a product, and need to ask, “Who could make this better, stickier, more beautiful?” or “Who could improve the outcomes for our customers?” Or maybe you’re simply interested in learning more about the work of one of your teammates—or want to explore what it might be like to work on a different team.
I DM folks periodically just to stay connected, and I’ve had lots of relationships start that way. I’ll share something I think they’d be interested in, or follow up on a conversation, or celebrate a success they had. It’s really as simple as being genuinely interested in someone beyond what they can do for your project or your career.
Whatever you want to achieve, the relationships you build with your mentors, collaborators, and friends can help you make it happen. Take advantage of company-led opportunities, follow-up with the people you meet, and make the effort to identify people across all of HashiCorp who can serve as casual mentors, collaborators, or friends. Here are some suggestions for starting and nurturing relationships with mentors, collaborators, and friends.
Casual Mentor: Is there something you want to or need to learn? Ask your manager or peers who might have that skill set, and send them a DM. Or ask your manager to help you find the right person within the company. With over 1,000 employees, each with unique experiences and different tenures at HashiCorp, someone will likely have the knowledge you're seeking. When you find the right person to be a casual mentor, let them know you are looking for info, guidance, or some tips and ask for 30 minutes. After you meet, follow up and share how you are using what you’ve learned.
Collaborator: Working with a collaborator improves work outcomes, but can also make the work more enjoyable. Find someone who shares common or similar goals. Meet with them to see if there is enough synergy in what you are working on to warrant some shared work. Be explicit about what that will look like and make a plan together to determine what you’ll do, how you’ll do it, and by when.
Friend: Anyone you meet and enjoy can be a friend. The more you have in common job-wise, the easier it will be to nurture that relationship. However, having friends across the company and across geographies will help you—and them—increase their empathy and understanding of HashiCorp. Even though it’s a little more work, make a point to stay in contact with the people you meet who are located elsewhere or work on another team. Schedule 30 minutes during their available working hours to update them on your world and get updated on what’s going on in theirs. Check in on Slack every now and then to stay connected. No need to be shy—people generally love to have friends who can add different perspectives to their thinking.