Just a year ago I couldn't picture myself working in the booming tech sector of Estonia. However, now as the Chief Culture Officer (CCO) at Thorgate, I can share my experience on how Thorgate broke my prejudices and offered me the environment for growth and development. Thorgate’s culture is a matter of teamwork and my main role is to guide and support it.
When I started looking for a job in the spring of 2021, I didn't see myself working in the IT sector. But a year later, here I am - the chief culture officer of a software development tech company. If I’d said the word “culture” at that time, I would have probably meant theater, music or art. When I say the word “culture” now, I mean open communication, trust and a thirst for learning.
I applied to be a culture manager in the tech sector quite in the spirit of “let’s see how it goes”. I certainly didn’t expect to start my first day in Thorgate just a week after sending the first email. In that one week I also wrote a cover letter, had a meeting with the marketing manager, a meeting with the team and, finally, a long conversation with the company's CEO. Openness and honesty were integral parts of all those conversations, which was probably one of the main reasons why I dared to accept the job offer.
Expectations vs. Reality
I didn't fully know what to expect, except for what I already knew - how to communicate with people and how to organize events. Based on my circle of acquaintances, I thought that the IT sector was only full of very young people interested in computers and getting them to speak their minds would take more coaxing than some.
The reality was a bit different as I saw age diversity within the IT sector as well as Thorgate’s team with a diverse set of personalities. Also, this is a bunch of people that are rather straightforward about their expectations and what they offer. While Thorgate’s culture is such that we try to be as democratic as possible when it comes to collective decisions (e.g. team events or onboarding process), everyone usually understands why the decision went one way or another and why that idea is most beneficial to the company.
Holding events in the hybrid workplace
By the time I joined, coronavirus had been raging in Estonia for about a year and remote work was thriving. So much so that we had remote people hired and working efficiently from abroad. This required separate solutions regarding keeping up a good culture, not to mention fully virtual events - this made the whole event organizing process quite different for me from what I expected.
For example, my first event was the monthly Grill & Chill, which took place online. This is a format where the CEO answers all questions for the first hour and then people just hang out together for team bonding over drinks. Virtually, grabbing a beer and chatting up a coworker doesn’t work especially well so I found a drawing game that could be played virtually which worked rather well!
Over time, there have been other events, both hybrid and completely virtual, such as the company's Christmas party where we all attended virtually, wearing nice clothes and we cooked together with the help of KOKK.me chefs. We also enjoyed a live performance by Robin Juhkental (some even danced a little!). We had fun together with Fopaa! comedians and even did home tours for each other’s houses.
Supporting and guiding the culture as a CCO
However, organizing events or managing a cozy office space is not the only thing one culture officer does in Thorgate. My remaining time is spent on HR management, assisting the CEO, organizing the projects for our NGO Python Estonia, etc. Most of these activities are something I had never experienced before, but fortunately I was not thrown in the water. To this day, I get a lot of help from all team members, be it getting involved in interviews, making changes to the website or gathering equipment. Just as "the state, it is I" is no longer valid in our society, so is "the culture, it is I". What kind of culture we have in the company is teamwork - I just try to guide it a little bit, coordinate it and gather material.
The expectations vs. reality are quite different in Thorgate - at least the little bit I allowed myself to assume anything. What makes it easy to adapt is the availability of help in the company, i.e. everyone I turn to with a question gives me an answer and thinks along when I come up with a new idea. What I was really looking for before I applied, was a place for learning and this is exactly what I got.
Get to know more about Thorgate’s company culture by downloading our culture book here: https://signup.thorgate.eu/thorgate-culture-book
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