Distributed Teams, Centralized Culture

posted on
May 19, 2022

Albedo is building a distributed team with a centralized culture, glued together by core values and a shared mission.

Every Monday, we have a short team Zoom meeting to come together and get our ducks in a row for the week. A different person each week shares a piece of motivational content at the end to bring that Monday hype. Last June, our Principal Systems Architect shared a video of the speech President John F. Kennedy gave at Rice University in 1962, “We choose to go to the Moon” (if you haven’t heard the whole speech, here’s your cue), followed by these inspiring words:

“So, we are not quite Apollo — we are not quite that amazing (wink) —  but absolutely there is a new opportunity emerging in the world. This unique combination of these new technologies, which have never previously existed as an option before?  We have an opportunity — or at least someone has an opportunity — to put them all together. So who is going to do it first? What values will they have? Are they going do so in a responsible fashion? What precedent will they set? And what we're choosing to do here is hard. Achieving 10 centimeter resolution is super hard! Flying in very low earth orbit: very hard! Completely changing how the entirety of commercial remote sensing ground systems work and making them accessible is hard! So we're going to ‘go there’. We're going to solve those problems ‘for the good of all industry and people’. And ‘we choose to do these things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard’: ‘it will organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. It is the challenge we are willing to accept and unwilling to postpone and it is one we intend to win’... have a good week!”

I shared a Drake quote the week before... so there's that...

During a recent group interview, a candidate asked “What tools are made available to enable success in one’s role at Albedo?” (Great question!) Across the board each interviewer agreed that the most valuable tool they have is their teammates. Don’t worry, we’re not out here doing this thing with broken shovels and our PCs from college. Fortunately, we’re equipped with every amazing bell and whistle we need, but ultimately, our teammates are without a doubt our greatest tools and drivers of success.

How have we been able to capitalize on our teammates as a remote-first company? We've consciously invested building a strong culture. Here are five things we’ve done to prioritize our company culture across every time zone in America.

1. Trade morning commutes for morning catch ups on social Slack channels

Balance and moderation are key, but there’s something magical about well organized and executed Slack channels. Getting the hot wash on everyone’s weekend, laughing for 15 minutes straight at memes, snagging the tea on industry news from articles posted, or giving your colleague a shout-out for stellar work in #gratitude all beat sitting in traffic.

2. Trade Friday company happy hours for Friday company “Zens”

Friday Zens are for life stories, introspective questions, virtual art, or cooking classes host by Mini Exhibitions. At Albedo, both mental and physical health are prioritized; laboring at something for 8 hours a day can significantly impact one’s steady state, especially once personal life matters are factored in. Learning more about a co-worker’s background or engaging a different part of the brain in a hands-on activity has been a really sweet way to wind things down for the week.

3. Trade obligatory, awkward break room chats and cringy office gossip for intentional 1:1 syncs and “onsite” retreats

While our company culture defies traditional norms, it certainly did not form from thin air, and it’s taken a great deal of work and thoughtfulness. Everyone has influenced it organically, and everyone will play a role in authentically sustaining it. We’re stoked for the fresh contributions each new hire will undoubtedly bring. Team onsites are like our Super Bowl; our last was held in Austin, TX a month ago. Onsites are about team bonding, fun, and strategic planning - but mainly fun! We did just about everything Austin has to offer: Peter Pan Mini-Golf, Karting at COTA, pool and two stepping at White Horse, a sunset barge on Town Lake, Karaoke at Ego’s...and of course consumed a disturbing amount of Franklin’s Barbecue. Pics or it didn’t happen:

4. Trade preconceived notions for open-mindedness

Personality tests can help unlock unconventional yet powerful synergies across teams, and we've found success with Clifton StrengthFinders. Not a day goes by where we fail to recognize the massive gift it is to have the opportunity to work on something we’re passionate about, be in roles that are refining and transforming, and work with people that take equity in the growth and well being of those around them.

5. Trade assumptions for anonymous quarterly surveys

Our company culture has fully adopted, adapted, and is thriving with remote-first! We know this because we make it a requirement to capture direct and anonymous feedback from each team member each quarter. As the most extroverted person at Albedo, even I can even confidently give remote work 5 stars...but then again, so did almost everyone else:

As the team has grown, so has the appreciation for our remote first culture.
We're doing important work, and it shows - our team is amazing! 

The Laws of Physics are our bread and butter, but the Law of Attraction has also been instrumental. Albedo’s team culture is a reflection of our mission, customers, and core values. Our mission is to make our ultra-high resolution satellite imagery easily accessible to spur new applications and problem solving. Creativity, passion, drive, humility, and curiosity are a few adjectives I would use to describe the hundreds of customers I’ve spoken with around the world over the past year and would use similar words to describe our team. Shoot! So did our team in the last anonymous quarterly survey:

A Culture Built Upon Core Values

Gotta give a shout out to our Core Values because none of the above would be possible without them! Establishing core values early on created a solid infrastructure for effective collaboration, decisions making, and relationship building and quickly eliminated those pesky grey areas that so often saturate remote work environments.

We salute companies on a similar journey and look up to the accomplishments of those who have gone down this path before us.

Over the past year and a half, we've learned that culture is similar to a muscle - exercising it on a regular basis is key to staying healthy and without regular use, it will atrophy.

As we gear up to grow our team, I speak on behalf of or founders, investors, advisors, partners, and customers: we can't wait to welcome more to our amazing team and can't wait to see our new talent crush it their thing!

So, if you’ve made it this far 1) you’re a real one 2) we’re beyond thankful for your support and urge you to reach out if you’re interested in learning more about Albedo or roles we’re looking to fill soon!



Head of Business Development