Introduction

Chapter 1

Welcome to the Helcim team!

A first day on a new job is typically filled with a mixture of excitement, nervousness and a healthy dose of imposter-syndrome. The latter is especially common at Helcim as we so often hire passionate, yet less experienced individuals (more on this later). Take a deep breath, and know that we recognized something great in you. We’re here to help you achieve it.

The purpose of this book is for you to understand how you can best thrive at Helcim.

Every company is unique, and most people join organizations without a manual on how they can do their best and grow – so we decided to create such a manual for Helcim. These lessons may not work everywhere – every organization has different expectations of what excelling means. But these reflect our expectations here at Helcim and they will provide guidance and help you find alignment and guidance.

Ultimately, culture is the way people behave and make decisions.

This is especially true when no one is looking. If people behave in similar ways even when isolated from one another, then we can say that they share a similar culture. Culture is also always evolving, and so is this book. As you learn your own lessons and find clarity, we invite you to share these with us. We also invite you to reach out in times of difficult decisions so we can find direction together, and then share those discoveries with the rest of the team through this book.

You’ll also learn about our core values – the foundation behind our decisions, actions, and ideas. Our values form our identity – we stick to what we think is right over what is easy and, as a result, we’ve attracted like minded people full of passion, integrity, and talent.

So welcome to Helcim, we’re thrilled to have you join us on this adventure!

Who we are

Chapter 2

Mission statement

Our mission is to build the world’s most loved payments company. Our vision is a future where small businesses are empowered to compete on par with giants.

Why love? And why small business?

As an organization, we need to collectively aim for a greater purpose. Beyond a paycheck, what makes us get up in the morning and bring our best to our work? What is our purpose as an organization? A concise mission statement helps us define who we want to be. The vision statement communicates the impact that we hope to have. We filter our decisions through those statements and they give us a clearer idea on the right path to take.

At Helcim, our mission is to build the world’s most loved payments company. Love is a bold word to use, but bringing humanity and heart behind our decisions has always been a huge part of who we are. Love also encapsulates so many aspects of our service that we strive to make great. If our customer service isn’t great, if our payments are not fast, if our software is not seamless, then merchants will not love us.

We’re also passionate about small businesses, and the giant impact they have on the economy and our society. We care about how they are treated. We care about them not getting dragged through the mud by an unkind payments industry. We care about their experience with us and the value they get from our service. Ultimately we truly care that our merchants love the choice they made in picking Helcim.

We’re also very ambitious, and we want to build a giant payment and technology company right here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We want our mission to reflect that, and we feel that by aiming to be the “world’s most” helps solidify that goal. We want to show the world that you can build big, successful companies while never losing your heart.

What is Helcim?

Often misspelled as Helium, Hellsim, Helcium, and it is six letters “H E L C I M” and is pronounced “hel-sim”. When we started the company, we picked an old latin word with little meaning so that we could mould the world’s understanding of this word to be singularly and entirely our own:

Helcim means doing things right, even when it’s harder.

At a young age, doing the right thing seems obvious. Be honest, be kind, be fair. Those lessons are repeated throughout our childhood and children take pride in seeing themselves as stewards of these values.

But when you enter the business world, things blur and those values are constantly being questioned. “They screwed everyone over and they’re now rich – does doing the right thing get in the way of success?” As we built this company in an industry known for deceptive practices, we constantly faced those decisions. “Do we take the easy way, but erode trust? Or do we take the hard way, and hope that our team and our customers will appreciate our decision?”

We decided early that the hard way was our way. That short-termism and profit-at-all-costs is what ultimately leads to the downfall of companies. We believe that the 21st century is bringing a new generation of companies that will rise above the old ways of doing business. That this is the era of companies with values and character.

People want to be part of something they believe in, whether that is as a team member, a merchant or a shareholder. By being that company, we believe that we will continue to attract the best people. These passionate and talented individuals will continue to create the best products. Our merchants will feel appreciated and spread the word about our brand, and we will ultimately build a wildly successful company that will outlast others.

So when facing a tough decision, we continue to ask ourselves “Is this the way of the Helcim?” That question will help us determine how to proceed. Be honest, be kind, be fair.

Do things right, even when it is harder.

This is what Helcim means.

Our values

Chapter 3

We are builders

We build things ourselves and we build them well. We use technology and our creativity to overcome challenges that would seem beyond the capability of a company our size. We improve what is already there, invent our way out of problems and we never stop dreaming of better.

Why build?

As an organization, we’re constantly faced with the following question: should we build, or should we outsource or acquire?

We choose to build, because greatness is achieved by builders. Great companies, great products and great experiences are built. We cannot acquire nor outsource our way to the quality that we want to deliver to our merchants – it is only achieved by rolling up our sleeves and pouring ourselves into the work. It allows us to be our most creative and to take bold steps.

Building is also key to learning and the growth of our team. By building things, we learn by doing and we’re therefore more likely to remember lessons learned and be able to apply them in our next iteration. It also gives us a better understanding on how things work, and on what works and what doesn’t. Even when our first iterations fail, we learn so much through the exercise that it is worth the pursuit.

So what do we build at Helcim? We build software, we build products, we build our brand, we build trust, we build relationships, we build our people, we build our talent, we build our skills, we build our future.

We are builders.

We choose the harder path

We believe that the right decisions are usually the harder ones, so we embrace the challenge and endure when others quit. We choose what is difficult because it is more rewarding in the long-term, and makes us resilient, so that we not only survive but thrive.

Why choose what is hard?

“Easy” oftentimes means winning in the short-term at the expense of building for the long-term. Too many companies are a house of cards, with artificial short-term wins masking their long term problems. Those few at the top may exit unscathed, while their customers, their partners, their shareholders, and their employees bear the ultimate burden of their fall.

We instead choose to be a 100-year company, to denounce short-termism and instead aim to build something that will outlast all of us. Most quit when things get hard, which means there is reward waiting for those that persevere.

Choosing transparency instead of hidden fees is hard. Building amazing experiences for our merchants is hard. Always committing to honesty instead of excuses is hard. Outworking our competition is hard. Staying creative is hard. Training and investing in the people around us is hard. But we will continue to create a successful and long lasting company thanks to those hard decisions.

We choose the harder path.

We are trustworthy

We earn trust by striving to be our best selves every day and by lifting those around us. We recognize that trust is hard to earn, easy to lose and is tested continuously over time, so we make trust our way of life.

Why focus on trust?

Trust is in short-supply, and continues to remain scarce in many aspects of our lives such as our trust in our government, in politics, in companies, in people choosing to do the right thing. As consumers, we’re constantly exposed to companies that break our trust. We experience poor quality, hidden fees, dishonest practices, bad contracts, terrible customer service. Trust is so easily broken and so hard to earn.

But because trust is in such short-supply, those that are trustworthy have become a sought-after commodity, who will clearly stand above the rest. We always aim to be that company, that brand, that employer.

We build trust with our merchants by honouring their choice in our service with honesty, great tools and great customer service. They continue to trust us when we make hard decisions instead of easy ones at their expense. That trust in our brand ultimately results in them referring more colleagues to our service.

We build trust with our team members by continuously investing in their growth, empowering them to make an impact on our company and our merchants, choosing transparency over opacity, and creating a company for which they are proud to work. This results in us attracting and retaining the best talent.

And we build trust with our shareholders by remaining focused on executing our vision without succumbing to short-term thinking at the expense of our long-term goals. That results in bringing in investors and partners that are also focused on our long-term prosperity.

We are trustworthy.

We are a company of many

We are stronger because of our collective passion, diversity, and fellowship. We believe only great teams can accomplish great things, and we ask the very best of each other. Together we create our own future.

Why our team comes first.

As an organization, we believe that our individual team members, not our merchants, should remain our number one focus. That is not to say that we don’t obsess over the well-being and success of our customers – it is only to say that in order for our merchants to be well-served, we first need to take care of our people.

Of all the companies that claim that their customers are #1, how many of them are able to deliver on that promise in the long-term when their staff members are underpaid, under resourced, and unmotivated? By failing to take care of their people, they are ultimately failing their customers and themselves.

Amazing people create amazing companies, and amazing companies create long-lasting relationships with their customers. That’s what we aim to be every day.

We also believe that diversity and having an inclusive culture is not only the right thing, but key to our long-term success. Diversity brings more experience, view-points, knowledge and insight about our future. It also brings understanding and compassion for others, which results in team members who better understand our merchant’s needs and are empowered to meet them.

We are a company of many.

Three key lessons

Chapter 4

1. Always build people up

How do you feel when you walk in the office in the morning? Are you excited about working with a bunch of passionate people on something meaningful? Or do you get a pit in your stomach because of disgruntled co-workers, bad bosses or unchallenging work? Our collective goal is to make sure that it is the former, and we’re all responsible for creating a supportive environment for everyone that joins our company.

We don’t hire assholes at Helcim – no matter how talented or smart they are. If your intentions are to hurt others for your own sake or put your ambition in front of the needs of the team, then this is not the company for you, and we will promptly show you the door.

This is very much a “we” company, not an “I” company. People that thrive at Helcim and advance their careers are those that devote themselves to helping their peers succeed. Regardless of age, gender, orientation, ethnicity, background or even technical ability, when a new team member is introduced the immediate reaction for everyone around them should be to build up that person, help them learn and help them succeed.

Conflict is healthy - don’t avoid it and do it right

We’re an organization that builds people up, but that doesn’t mean that we avoid conflict. You’ll often find team members wholeheartedly disagree on topics and debate on the best course of action, but this is always done professionally, respectfully and with the right intent – to make Helcim better, our team better, our product better, and our merchants happy.

2. Value trust and transparency

We believe that in order for you to do your best work, you need to feel trusted.

Trust is a two-way street – we must trust you, so that in return you can feel comfortable trusting the people around you. As a Helcim team member, you will be entrusted with a lot of responsibility and information. All our livelihoods are dependent on you honoring that trust. As a financial technology company, the stakes are high. Our merchants put their trust in us to keep their information safe, their businesses online and their transactions flowing.

In exchange for that trust that we place in you, we ask you to trust that we will support you in solving issues and learning from them. It is ok to make mistakes; it is part of the process of learning and trying new things. We ask that you’re upfront about those mistakes and communicate them early to your fellow team members so that problems can be fixed quickly before they become calamities. We’re in this together.

Open-book management

As a Helcim team member, you’ll also become a shareholder through our equity / stock-option program. Understanding how our business works, how we survive and prosper, how we make money, is an important part of learning how you can contribute to our collective success. Once again, trust and transparency are key to that, so we practice open-book management.

The company’s financial statements are open and accessible to anyone at the company. These financial statements are extremely sensitive and impact our ability to do business, establish banking relationships, access capital, and reveal a lot about how we operate – so treat them with care.

3. Take ownership in everything you do

Taking ownership is the most important action you can take at Helcim – not just for your career growth, but also to build trust with your teammates and develop as a professional. If you look at any leader at Helcim, this is the common trait that you will find and serves as a major factor for all career advancements and hires. It’s impossible to cover all the scenarios, but this is what ownership looks like:

  • You openly admit when you’ve made a mistake and how you intend to fix it or prevent it in the future.
  • You don’t make excuses.
  • You don’t blame circumstances or other employees.
  • You follow through to completion.
  • You work to exceed expectations.
  • You pay attention to the details.
  • You actively improve your skills.
  • You take initiatives to improve the effectiveness of your function.
  • You take responsibility for everything that affects your task.
  • You help everyone you can, never saying “that’s not my job”.
  • You get it done, and do it well.

Taking ownership makes you trustworthy and dependable, and this translates well to any role or task that you take at Helcim. Ask yourself: would you rather work with – someone that takes ownership, or someone that is negative, delivers shoddy work, and blames others or the environment for the shortcomings of a deliverable? So follow things through to completion, pay attention to the details, actively increase the effectiveness of your function, and admit your mistakes. This never goes unnoticed, and is one of the biggest factors when making major advancement decisions.

Demonstrating true ownership in your work makes you dependable, and dependability translates well into all roles – both current and future.

Good communication

Chapter 5

Don't be afraid to talk to anyone

We want Helcim to have as little organizational barriers as possible when it comes to communication and solving problems. You can talk to your manager, your manager’s manager, you can talk to executives, and you can talk to Nic – without the need to ask for anyone else’s permission to do so.

If you believe that there is a communication breakdown that is stopping a problem from being resolved or have a new solution that could benefit the whole company, we encourage you to break hierarchical structures or department silos and find the right person to communicate with.

The "sundown" rule

Based on Sam Walton’s “sundown rule”, all emails, voicemails and phone calls should be answered within the same business day. This is especially important when dealing with merchants and partners, who should never be left in the dark for long. The sundown rule is important to remaining a fast and high-functioning organization.

There are roles that require you to always be on top of your emails and other methods of communication, such as Customer Service, Risk Analysts, PR, etc. For these, you should be trained by your manager and peers on how to manage your daily workflow, including emails.

The sundown rule is more relevant to roles that do not revolve around frequent email communication, such as developers, videographers, designers, etc. These roles typically require high-focus on a single task at hand – emails, calls and chat are distractions that break concentration.

Our minimum expectation is that you check your email three times per day: first thing in the morning, at noon and at the end of the day.

Doing so will allow you to stay in the loop with any internal and external communication, while allowing you to disconnect for the majority of the day.

When the communicated items or requests need more time to resolve, the expectation is still to reply within the same business day, and communicate a clear timeline on when an answer will be provided. We implement this within reasonable limits – it is ok to respond the next day if the communication is non-urgent and came in late in the day.

Default to point-form emails

In most circumstances, we believe that point form is the best format when writing emails. Point-form emails are easy to write, but most importantly, easy to read and absorb by the receiving party – this should be your goal if you want a good outcome from the communication.

You should shy away from writing long ‘essays’ with large paragraphs, as these require a lot more energy to read and understand, and therefore decrease the chance of your message to be understood. Point-form emails force you to extract the important data that you want to communicate, and force you to make sentences short and clear.

Point-form emails should still have proper sentence structure. We recommend for them to be written in the following structure:

INTRODUCTION TO WHAT THIS EMAIL IS ABOUT

• CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND INFORMATION (add more points as needed)

• QUESTION OR CALL TO ACTION (add more questions as needed)

CONCLUSION AND THANK YOU

Tone and politeness

It is also important to remain professional and polite with all of our communication, both internally and externally. We should clearly communicate when things are urgent or when errors have been made, but we should never personally attack or be rude.

A good rule-of-thumb is to assume that all emails are public and could be read by anyone. When dealing with an especially frustrating situation, ask yourself “How comfortable would I be if this email was on the front-page of a newspaper?” Always communicate in a way that you can be proud of and stand behind, especially once emotions have calmed.

Why visual design matters

You might think that design does not impact you because it is unrelated to your work specialty (unless you’re a designer) – but design is more than just making things pretty.

Visual design is about effectively communicating ideas, tone, and how others perceive the quality of your work.

Regardless if you’re composing an email, creating a report, outlining a sales proposal, or preparing a company-wide presentation, how your document is visually presented will impact its ability to convey its message. It’s easy to say “I suck at design”, or “that’s the design team’s problem”, but as Helcim team members and professionals, we set a high-bar for ourselves in everything that we do. For those that feel they lack visual design abilities, learning the basics will have a bigger impact than you might expect. Just like grammar and sentence structure, everyone is expected to be an effective communicator, and visual design is part of that.

The expectation isn’t for everyone else to become great designers. The Helcim design team is ultimately responsible for our style guide, brand identity and making sure that every major design we publish elevates our merchant’s experience. The expectation is for everyone to show effort in understanding the basic principles and therefore become better communicators.

Growing your career

Chapter 6

Bottom up hiring

When it comes to our hiring and the ongoing growth of our organizational structure, we follow a framework we like to call “bottom up hiring”. Said simply, we hire junior talent, develop it, and continuously raise their rank and responsibilities within our organization. Think of an organization as a triangle. As this triangle grows, a need arises to fill leadership ranks to manage an ever-increasing number of people. There are two ways to accomplish this: (a) promoting existing team members, or (b) hiring individuals from the outside.

Most companies default to “top down hiring”, filling new senior positions with outside individuals. But at Helcim, our default is to promote from within. We disproportionally focus on growing our team from the bottom, and we do so for two main reasons:

First, we put more value on smarts and passion than on experience. We believe that each company and its challenges is unique, and that the best way to overcome new challenges is to try potential solutions and learn as quickly from the outcome as possible. Too much industry experience can bring bias and rigidity in the willingness to try new things to solve problems.

Second, it builds trust and loyalty with our team. We continue to enjoy an amazing staff retention rate at Helcim, and this is one of the driving factors. We give juniors a chance to start, we invest in their growth, and we provide ample opportunities to take on more challenges and grow their career very quickly. The benefits of long-term staff retention far outweigh the ongoing investments in training.

A company-wide commitment

Bottom-up hiring demands a strong commitment to the approach. It requires the courage to entrust less-experienced individuals with a lot of responsibility, and acknowledgement that failure will be common as newly promoted staff learn how to succeed in their new role. The company and its team members need to be comfortable with ‘battle-field promotions’ – being given ownership on a large scale very quickly. Management isn’t for everyone, so we also create clear pathways back down for when promotions don’t work. It also requires an organization-wide focus on continuous mentorship. We hire a never-ending stream of junior talent and the teaching and training at all levels of our company is expected. We are all teachers at Helcim.

Hiring people as driven as we are

For bottom-up hiring to work, it also requires us to hire very driven people with an appetite for continuous growth and impact. We need team members continuously raising their hands and expressing a desire for more work, responsibility, and opportunity. So we prioritize hiring driven individuals and set expectations across the organization for people to keep growing with the ever increasing complexity of our organization.

In the end, bottom-up hiring is a choice that we’ve made and committed to – it is part of the way of the Helcim. We choose to embrace our team and believe in our internal ability to build from within.

Career growth is about choice

Everyone has a different idea of what they want out of their job and work. Some people aim to be the top expert in their field, others simply aim to be great at their work. Some aim to run the entire company, and others want to put greater focus on work/life balance.

Ultimately, you need to make the decision of what you want out of your career. And remember that the people around you are making different choices about theirs and we, as leaders of Helcim, must evaluate how we build and evolve our team based on all of those choices (yours and your peers).

You need to be in the driver’s seat

Helcim is a teaching organization – we’re all committed to sharing our knowledge and teaching what we know to those around us.

When it comes to professional development, the initiative needs to start with you. You will learn a huge amount on the job from company training and your peers, and Helcim is committed to supporting our team members seeking professional growth (both financially where we can, and by creating space and opportunities for you to do so). However, the responsibility of continuous professional growth is ultimately on you to seek and explore. Over the course of human history, we have never had more knowledge available at our fingertips than we do today. Books, online courses, technical training, etc. is more accessible and affordable than ever before. It is your responsibility as a professional to stay atop of trends and to keep your skills sharp.

Taking ownership of your career means putting in extra on your own time to build your skills – just like holders of professional designations are required to do continuous professional development to retain their membership. It also means making better use of your regular time with Helcim by leveraging the resources around you to better yourself and to take on new challenges.

Less structure means more opportunities

Helcim does not have an official career ladder system, and it will probably be a long time before we do. There are both pros and cons to this, but that is the reality that comes with joining a startup. On the pro side, everyone at the company gets to have a large impact on the outcome and has an ability to learn and grow at a much faster rate than they would at a large company.

There are less “rules” about how one’s career should evolve over time – you don’t need to wait 4 years to become a Manager and 10 years to become a VP. Helcim makes its own rules and there are so many opportunities for our team members based on how they seize them. No matter what your role, your responsibilities are many and you get access to an amazing team full of talent and knowledge that is eager to share.

Getting comfortable with constant change

Startups are not for everyone. Less structure isn’t always ideal for some – there are cons.

Fast growing organizations need to constantly adapt and change which means less structure and less clarity on the path ahead. When a company doubles in size every 18 months or less, it means that there must be a lot of structural change constantly on the go in order to make it work. For those looking for a clear path and clear structures on how to grow your career and progression, this may not be an ideal place. The reality is that we don’t know what our needs will be even in the next six months. You have to learn to adapt and take opportunities when they present themselves.

Those that have had tremendous success at Helcim have taken their development into their own hands, and as a result have been able to experience hyper-growth – more than what might be possible at other companies.

Hard work vs. smart work

There is an age-old debate about whether the best way to achieve your goals is smart work vs. hard work. Some will argue that keeping your head down and persevering is the best way forward, others will disagree and ask; why work harder when you can work smarter?

We believe that these opposing views are too simplistic. We don’t need people that work themselves to the bone with mindless repetition and no drive to find efficiencies. And we don’t need individuals with great ideas but that are unwilling to put in the hard work required to make them come to life. Ultimately what we need as a company in order to keep growing is output.

Output = Smarter x Harder

Part of the job of Helcim’s leaders is to identify the individuals that have strong output through both hard work and creativity. When we identify these individuals, our job is to find ways to give them even more opportunity so that their output can have greater leverage over the entire organization. We try not to focus solely on the individuals putting in the longest hours, nor the ones coming out with the greatest ideas, but instead try to identify the individuals that have the most impact. Imagine you have to choose 1 of 3 potential candidates to join your team:

Candidate A – “I work harder.”
Candidate B – “I work smarter, so that I don’t have to work harder.”
Candidate C – “I work smarter, and I work harder.”

Which one would you choose to help you deal with all the work at hand? It isn’t a coincidence that the high achievers at Helcim reflect candidate C. To candidate B, this may feel less fair as they have found a way to be more productive than candidate A, but as mentioned earlier, it is important to remember that the people around you are making their own choices about what they want out of their careers.

Opportunities most often come to those with a focus on output.

Leverage your 1:1 meetings

1:1 meetings are a crucial part of your career development, and one of the best ways to explore ways to grow your career. These meetings are a safe place for you to vocalize ideas that you have for your future. If you are not using your 1:1s with your manager (and their manager in skip-level 1:1s) to build your skills and explore ideas outside of your regular work, you are squandering a big opportunity.

Try using your meetings with your manager to:

  • Discuss bold ideas.
  • Ask for feedback and work to improve with it.
  • Discuss new work assignments that could help you build your skills.
  • Have future-looking discussions about what’s next for your team/department/company.
  • What is it that we are not doing as a company?
  • Tell your manager how you feel they can help you in your development.

Status updates should not be the primary usage of your 1:1 time. Remember, having 1:1s is a large part of your manager’s job. If you’ve taken it upon yourself to lead your meetings and your manager is not willing to engage in these topics constructively, then escalate the concern.

We expect you to make mistakes

We want you to take on challenges that seem daunting and encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. Most importantly, we will support you through the failures and the mistakes. And they will happen. You will poorly handle a customer call. A marketing campaign will fail. You will deploy buggy code. You will crash a server. You will hire the wrong person. You will mishandle a conflict. There is no forward progress, no learning, without trial and error. If you don’t make any mistakes, you’re likely not getting outside of your comfort zone.

Helcim is an organization that takes risks, like the way that we hire and develop talent through our bottom-up hiring process. It would be unrealistic for us to be focused on hiring junior talent, give them big responsibilities, and yet be unsupportive when they inevitably fail every now and then.

There are certain parts of our business where we are more risk averse than others. For things like our infrastructure, our security, and our core payment processing functions, we have little appetite for risk and so we put ample processes and protections in place to reduce those risks. But there are many more parts of our organization where we’re very risk forward, and welcome the rewards that those risks bring.

So take leaps of faith, try things that seem daunting. And when screw ups occur, be upfront and communicate those mistakes early to your fellow team members so that problems can be fixed quickly, and we can prevent those mistakes from becoming calamities. Trust that we will support you through the process, and that messing up is an expected part of this company.

How you respond to a mistake you’ve made will say so much more about you than the mistake itself.

Leadership

Chapter 7

What is a leader?

Leadership and management are often used interchangeably, but they are two different concepts. A manager must be a leader, but a leader is not always a manager.

At Helcim, we believe that first and foremost a leader is someone that builds up the people around them and positively impacts more than their role and their immediate responsibilities. This is not something that requires direct reports nor a management title, but instead is something that should be reflected in everyone’s work. A leader:

  • Helps interview and find new talented individuals to join the team
  • Builds up team members through mentoring and coaching
  • Identifies areas of improvement and progression
  • Creates an environment of accountability
  • Channels our values through their actions
  • Seeks understanding in goals and clarity in decisions
  • Gives feedback to help improve future outcomes
  • Makes the workplace a great one to be in everyday

Leaders are the north star of the people around them. They provide guidance and their actions serve as a constant reference point for our values. Every single team member at Helcim benefits from the great leaders all around them, and not just their managers. Being a bottom-up organization, we must all be contributing to helping and amplifying one another so that we can all keep progressing forward.

Every single person at Helcim needs to strive to become a leader. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be a manager with direct reports, but we expect everyone to cultivate their leadership traits and the impact that they have on the people around them.

Individual contributors

It is common in companies to interpret the term “individual contributor” (IC) as a career path for those that don’t aspire to be managers. At Helcim we understand that management is not for everyone and that there needs to be viable career options for those that want something else. However, this is sometimes misunderstood as an individual contributor being a lone wolf, which is incorrect. Instead, everyone at Helcim needs to strive to be a leader to the people around them regardless of having direct reports. To better understand the IC path, there are a couple concepts to grasp:

Radius of impact – This refers to the sphere of people that are impacted by your work. Are you a lone individual working on a small feature, or are you building frameworks to enable others to work, build and create faster? Are you impacting the growth of a small team or an entire department?

Leverage – Leverage is the ability to achieve exponential benefit from your initiatives. High leverage activities are typically those that focus on coaching, training, building processes, building tools, and crafting a culture.

Regardless of how you want to build your career, you need to progress in one or both of the above to advance beyond a certain level. Both management and individual contributor streams require making the people around you more effective, but in slightly different ways. An individual contributor:

  • Is an expert of their domain and stays up to date on tools and industry trends
  • Is a mentor and coaches the rest of the team
  • Builds processes and tools that increase the effectiveness of teams
  • Takes on harder challenges and actively improves the teams skills to be able to do it themselves in the future
  • Is able to provide deep insight into problems
  • Contributes to high level decisions through their domain knowledge

Our organization needs both individual contributors and managers in order to thrive. It is important to note that there can be natural ceilings to being an individual contributor. This ceiling is typically due to a ceiling in leverage – sooner or later no matter the depth of domain expertise, the most leverage that you can have will typically come from building and growing a team to share that expertise with. We want to encourage both paths, while removing the fears and barriers typically associated with management.

Managers are enablers

Great managers are problem solvers and help bring clarity and direction in times of ambiguity. Building on top of a leadership foundation, a manager takes on the direct responsibility of a team and the ownership of their execution. They are enablers and empowerers, aiming to do everything they can to allow the team to bring their best work and execute on the objectives at hand. A manager:

  • Hires and maintains a great team
  • Aligns those that work with them around the initiatives that will make the most impact
  • Aggressively removes roadblocks for their team
  • Helps their team navigate their careers and helps them build their skills
  • Leverages processes to make the team more effective
  • Provides personal support to their team
  • Coordinates the performance management and feedback for each of their team members
  • Promotes autonomy and ownership
  • Contributes to high level decisions

Finding reward in leading others

When starting a career, it is common for people to shy away from management roles. They can seem daunting, with many fearing that they lack the interpersonal skills to navigate the job. But if you’ve ever experienced a poor manager, the reason is likely because they were a poor leader. Being a leader is one of the hardest parts about being a manager, but with that nailed down, management simply refers to a set of additional responsibilities. Everyone is expected to become a great leader at Helcim, and that leadership takes various forms. Forget the “charismatic” stereotype of a leader, and instead know that great leaders arise from all personality types.

While some companies provide specialization / technical leadership without people management, this is not an option at Helcim as we believe this approach is fundamentally flawed. In reality, no product, system or service lives in isolation of the great people that build and maintain it. For those that aim for greater ownership and responsibility, ultimately this will lead to managing the great people that make that system a reality. None of the above works without people, so taking ownership of something means taking responsibility for the team that will work on it alongside you. Said simply, you can’t be responsible for the machine without also being responsible for the squishy humans that run it – they come hand in hand.

This can be a daunting task, but management like all other skills can be learned. We’re here to help you develop those skills and empower you to take on what may seem like daunting challenges.

Next Steps

Chapter 8

Embrace the fear and start!

Just like everything in life, your journey at Helcim is what you make of it. Every small step will contribute towards a bigger achievement, both in your individual work and the steps you take to develop your career.

Through this book you will have seen opportunities for further learning and reading. We encourage you to dive in – you’ll find copies of these books in the Helcim library alongside many other great books.

Ways to participate

Quarterly meetings & town halls – We have an all-hands-on-deck meeting we have every three months on a Saturday. This gives us a chance to regroup all together, go over our financial statements, and discuss the most pressing items impacting our company and our future. We also have a Q&A section where all questions, no matter the topic, are answered – so ask questions that are most pressing to you. We also conduct company-wide town hall meetings every 3rd thursday of the month.

Captain’s log – Helcim’s internal newsletter, appears in your inbox every second Thursday. Everyone can contribute to its content, from company news to social events.

Coffees, chat rooms and lunch rooms – We’re privileged to work in a great office next to beautiful Prince’s Island park. Take teammates out for coffee or lunch, or invite new people for walks and get to know them. We also have a ton of chat rooms, some company-wide, others specific to teams and products. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and lend your opinions, or simply say hello.

Passing the torch

While you may feel like the newbie now, sooner than you think you will be surrounded by fresh faces looking for guidance. We ask you to remember how welcome your team made you feel when you started, and for you to continue the tradition. Soon enough you will be seen as a leader and senior and will become part of the culture that is this company.

Lend a hand, and help the people around you discover the way of the Helcim.

Joining the Helcim Team

Think Helcim is the organization you’ve been looking for? We’re always looking for amazing people to help us build. Visit our career section and apply to join our team.

© Helcim Inc.
www.helcim.com

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