Hi all, Sarah Flaherty here, VP of People at Orum. 

Building culture and a People function at an early stage company can be challenging. Add in the fact that Orum is fully remote, and things get even more interesting. Something I get asked about frequently is how this impacts moving up in your career? Let’s dive in. 

Creating culture and company values

One of my first big tasks when coming to Orum was designing a People strategy that has defined who we are as a team and how we operate. Our Company Values serve as a guidepost for what ‘great’ looks like with our teammates. We use our values both as we hire and as we think about career growth opportunities and promotions. 

Growth at Orum starts with our values and mastery. The pursuit of knowledge to consistently raise the bar in the role you currently fill is key and seeing someone exceed expectations is the starting point for finding bigger roles within the company. In addition to that, when we think about promotions, we are not only evaluating the results our teammates have delivered, but the way they work. Promotions at Orum happen because someone has the drive and bias to action. They push us harder every day while showing up and delivering results with our values in mind. 

Why everyone needs feedback

We believe feedback is a tool that should be taught, reinforced, and viewed as an asset in an empowered organization. When it comes to career growth, feedback is information that helps us regulate our behavior so we can achieve things that are important to us (whether that be a promotion or something else). This happens to line up nicely with our values: showing up with curiosity, and leading with good vibes and good intentions. 

However, giving and receiving feedback can be difficult, especially in a remote environment. We can’t read each other’s body language, it’s more challenging to build relationships that make it comfortable to give each other feedback, and it’s hard to share ad hoc, i.e. you can’t just step out for coffee to chat about how this morning’s presentation went. In order to deepen our working relationships, we’ve built a culture where feedback is the norm – celebrated and reinforced through regular weekly and monthly rituals. At Orum we believe this is a critical component of career growth, and leads nicely into our next point: ownership.

The importance of ownership

As a Series B stage company, we don’t yet (and won’t for some time) have a process or policy for everything. And that’s ok! One thing this means, however, is that anyone who is waiting for a formal review period or a guaranteed progression based on tenure may end up disappointed. 

Something that is especially true for smaller, earlier stage companies is that you have to own your career progression and professional development – finding the opportunities and leaning in to them. Leading with a bias to action and driving forward momentum when nobody’s watching. Advocating for others and their ideas. Speaking your mind, taking the risk of raising the next big idea. Offering a hand to those around you to mentor, educate, and support. Being someone else’s hype person and showcasing the great work happening around you. 

Perhaps most importantly, be your own advocate. You are the person who has 100% responsibility for your own professional growth and trajectory. If there is something that is especially important to you, be that a set of responsibilities, a specific title, compensation, it’s really critical to get clear on that for yourself and then communicate those things to your leader. Your leader can then be a partner to you in figuring out a plan that helps you get there. This effort ensures you are both clear and share a common set of expectations on what kinds of things need to happen in order for you to realize the growth that is important to you. 

Filled with opportunity

Early stage companies are filled with opportunities to grow and stretch yourself in innumerable ways. The key is to remain flexible and recognize that growth is rarely linear or guaranteed to be recognized by others without putting in the work to communicate and manage expectations. Advocate for yourself and manage expectations by contemplating the way you show up for your colleagues as you deliver results. Regularly solicit feedback to understand and track with the expectations of your role. Communicate regularly with your people leader about what matters most to you. Last but not least, be flexible! Growth takes a variety of forms and opens up opportunities we may not have ever considered. 

PS: We’re hiring!