Before joining Qumulo eight months ago, I thought I had left behind the creativity and collaborative culture of my college days. At Harvey Mudd College (class of ‘15), I learned and collaborated with a stunningly intelligent and motivated cohort inside and outside of class.

On a problem set or a presentation, I could count on my classmates to work together, and on upperclassmen and professors to be available to tutor.

Leaving the Classroom Experience Behind

But my summer internships gave me a dose of reality, and I realized that the industry (the “real world”) rarely operates like a college classroom.

My internships involved working on projects in large part alone. I was on teams, but these teams organized around ownership of products with individuals owning subsections of those products.

Collaboration in that world meant divvying up a large problem into sections, and then assigning those sections to each team member (as opposed to working together on each component in sequence). Questions could be asked of each other — and some exciting whiteboard sessions or hairy debugging consultations — but the rule was working alone, and then surfacing after a week or a month to see where the rest of the “team” got.

I didn’t really expect to find a collegial, collaborative experience like that of a student after graduation. And I’ve harbored thoughts of returning to school at some point, where I could again find close and equitable collaboration.

Qumulo Prioritizes Collaboration

And then I joined Qumulo in January.

After eight months, I can say the collaborative culture at Qumulo is strong. My team pair-programs more than we work alone. We actively work to spread knowledge and learnings. We strive to own our work, bugs, successes, and failures as a team and to let the team manage itself. The company as a whole has decided to let teams of engineers manage themselves.

From my first day, when a teammate asked me to pair-program with them, Qumulo showed me it is different. Quickly, I was introduced to my Onboarding Buddy, my Agile Coach, and a Peer Advisor — three roles that help new employees transition into the company and help existing employees grow.

Between these advisors and my team, I was not given the opportunity to sit and flail. Every member of the team has given me in-person feedback at some point in the last six months and solicited feedback from me about how they’re doing. The team treated me as a peer from the start, and they expect me to be able to articulate what is and isn’t working, giving the team an opportunity to address it so we all work our best.

Engineers Own Values, Standards Matrix

Fundamental to any relationship is a set of expectations of conduct, a working agreement.

In an academic setting, this relationship is defined by the syllabus or a code of conduct. In almost any business agreement, there is a detailed contract. Even in a gym, there’s clearly written rules about how long to use equipment and where to put it when you’re done.

But, in past jobs, I’ve found it hard to figure out what exactly was expected of me. There’s a job description, but it’s not detailed. There’s regular feedback meetings, but the feedback tends to amount to “keep it up.”

Qumulo’s engineers have tried to address our community values and standards through a 3,300(!)-word expectations matrix. Engineers own this document. It includes technical criteria as well as value statements like a “proven track record of building an open, trusting, supportive and respectful environment” and “demonstrates a hunger for knowledge.” It is the standard by which we evaluate ourselves and others during feedback cycles, and thus it sets the standards for how we want to see ourselves and each other grow.

The best part of a collaborative culture is that it’s open to change. I feel capable and empowered to make change happen. I look forward to growing here and seeing others grow.

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Nick Carter is a member of Qumulo’s Technical Staff.

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