Sales Director Ken Rahn on Learning and...
What does the Medallia Sales team have in common with a Navy aircraft carrier’s nuclear power plant? Ken Rahn says there are more similarities than you might think. In this...
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When I talk about Medallia’s rapid growth with candidates, one of the most common questions I hear is, “How do you keep the culture so strong?” Candidates often assume that our co-founders and executives must be very invested in our culture — and they are. But that’s not all there is to the story.
At Medallia, we have a largely grassroots culture. Our leadership team doesn’t designate certain charities for donations during the holidays, determine which organizations to all volunteer at once a year, or tell us exactly how and when we’re going to have fun. Instead, it’s up to every Medallian to be owners of the culture — to create their own meaningful ways of contributing to it. And that’s what’s been central to keep the culture vibrant, strong, and consistently Medallian.
So what’s this look like in practice?
Take January 2014 as an example — I was having a casual lunch with a colleague when our conversation turned to a serious topic: gender equality. It turned out that we both shared a passion for promoting this issue, and what started out as lunch chat quickly catalyzed into action.
Energized by our conversation, we decided to organize a fundraiser for V-Day: a global movement to help end violence against women and girls. By collecting funds for V-Day, we would be directly supporting domestic violence shelters for women in Egypt and Iraq, leadership workshops for women in Afghanistan, and creative performances around the world that more broadly raise awareness of the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women in the world are victims of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
Regardless the cause, a hallmark of a Medallia initiative is creativity, and our work for V-Day was no exception. For starters, we were naturally inclined to center our activities around Valentine’s Day — it seemed fitting to fight violence with love. From there, we tapped into the inspiration of a common fixture at most high schools — Valentine’s Day “love grams” — to get people excited and engaging with the cause. We developed a “candy-gram” ordering system in which Medallians could send and receive bundles of candy with personalized notes of appreciation. And each candy-gram came with a minimum donation of two dollars to V-Day.
We couldn’t have anticipated the overwhelmingly positive response and support our inaugural V-Day campaign got in 2014. Which is, of course, why we decided to go even bigger with it this year.
In fact, we didn’t know just how big it would be, nor what exactly we were getting ourselves into. In the year after our first V-Day candy-gramming, Medallia had grown significantly — on multiple continents. The result? We. Got. A. Lot. Of. Candy-gram. Requests. Medallians in London wanted to send them to Medallians in Palo Alto. And vice versa. Our co-founders Amy and Borge decided to get one for everyone in Palo Alto and London. Oh, and the rest of Medallians? Over 600 of them? Well, they were averaging about 2 or 3 candy-gram requests each.
It’s safe to say that our two-person team was outnumbered. But, as often happens at Medallia, the size of popular response to an initiative is met with an equally sizeable team of eager supporters. Not just folks to cheer you on — but who will actually join ranks with you, collaborate with you, and help bring your cause to life. Before we knew it, a dozen people across Medallia had stepped up and volunteered their time to help us bring V-Day to life.
Hours of candy-gram preparing later, our growing group of V-Dayers put on our pink and red shoes, our Cupid wings, and set out to spread some joy around the office — and awareness for the cause behind it. Delivering candy-grams, watching faces light up, and hearing people laugh as they read the messages their friends sent “anonymously” made all our efforts more than worth it. It could have been the sugar high, but it seemed like everyone was in an especially good mood that day.
Over the course of 2014, Medallia grew from 340 employees to 640. Our candy-gram event grew by about the same — in 2014, we had 750 candy-gram requests and $2,000 donated to V-Day, and this year, about 1,500 candy-gram requests and $3,500 donated to V-Day. We couldn’t believe it.
But what’s even more exciting is how the V-Day cause has become a part of the dialogue at Medallia. Like the lunchtime salsa classes, holiday gift collections, workout programs, and French clubs before it, it’s a seed that has taken root in our culture. When it comes to this grassroots phenomenon at Medallia, our VP of People & Culture, David Reese, says it best: “If you feel like your company culture is missing something, take ownership and figure out a way to change or improve it.”
V-Day is just one example of the kind of ownership we’re given by our executives. Where once there was a void, there is now a tradition. And we’re confident that it will have a lasting place in — and impact on — our culture for generations of Medallians to come.