The Top 50 Questions We Get On People and Culture at HubSpot

Katie Burke
25 min readApr 17, 2019


HubSpot’s Culture Code

We are really fortunate at HubSpot to have a great culture that has won awards around the world. We also have a culture of sharing what we know, mistakes and all, with our customers, partners, and colleagues. But as we scale, the number of requests and questions we get outpace our capacity as a team, so I’ve started sending folks email responses and Google Docs to frequently asked questions. In the spirit of transparency (one of our values, after all), I’ve now shared all of the top questions we get with responses and links below — that way we are sharing what we know, but I spend less time (alongside the folks on my team) on “pick your brain” calls with other companies and people passionate about culture and people topics. Happy reading and sharing, we’ll continue to update the piece with new information and questions over time so this stays relevant as we scale.

Codifying Your Culture and Values

  1. How did you create your Culture Code? Dharmesh Shah, our CTO and co-founder is the architect of our Culture Code. He drafted the original deck and presented it to anyone at HubSpot who wanted to weigh in on both our company wiki (for online commentary) and in a presentation (for folks who wanted to share thoughts or ask questions in person). After that and a few iterations with our leadership team for additional discussion, he shipped the deck. We get a ton of questions around our process and approach here and how many people were involved in formulating the deck and providing feedback. My biggest advice is don’t overthink or iterate on it or you’ll end up with a deck and approach that tries to appeals to everyone and plays it safe. One of the things I love most about our Culture Code is that it has a point of view. Any culture deck should be as useful for people it draws in as folks for whom it helps them opt out in the process — in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton “if you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?” Your culture deck should stand for something versus trying to appeal to everyone, and you eventually have to take the risk and ship it — it won’t be perfect, you’ll have to edit it over time — that’s the whole point.
  2. Why did you make The Culture Code public? We have a core value of transparency, so it fits with our broader culture, but we also knew it was imperative to be consistent about what our culture stood for not just internally with employees, but also externally with candidates, customers, partners, and alumni. We had a feeling our candidates and employees would love the Culture Code, but we really underestimated the number of our competitors, customers, and partners we would hear from (in a really kind and wonderful way) after launching it. In a crowded talent market, I highly recommend releasing your approach publicly-it gives people a sense of what you value long before they apply to join your team and gives your team internally a shared language around the values you expect.
  3. We are having internal debate and disagreement about launching our culture deck, are we alone? Nope-because the Culture Code has been such a success, people think we had it easy. The reality is when we originally launched the deck, people internally were worried it would a) share our secret sauce with the world and make it easy for our competitors to copy or b) that it would be the first sign we were becoming one of those enterprise companies that only cares about posters on the wall versus doing interesting work. Luckily, neither of those things were realized fears and everyone survived-the key was having a clear owners and having it be someone senior enough to make decision power. I recommend a founder or senior executive not just in the core HR function, but that’s a personal and company choice only you can make.
  4. Who should own culture in an organization? It’s a cop-out answer, but everyone should feel responsible for the culture in a high-functioning organization. In the early days of a company, the culture is heavily predicated on the personalities and behaviors of the founders, but as a company scales, I believe culture inputs can and should come from many people in the organization. The key early is for someone at the senior leadership level to feel ownership on writing down the type of company you’re trying to create and what you value as an organization so folks have a shared language and understanding — even in the early days at HubSpot, long before the culture team was formed, employees if asked about our culture would say “I love the people and the problems we solve, and I love our commitment to transparency and autonomy.” While many other elements of who we are and what we say about culture have changed, the core of the company we are trying to build has remained the same over time.
  5. How do you get people on the same page about culture? Fun fact-HubSpot made an attempt prior to the launch of our Culture Code at codifying our values, but there were too many of them for people to remember. People get greedy when it comes to culture positioning — they want everyone to be able to recite pages and pages of values or stories about an organization, and what you really need to focus on is a high level message. So rather than trying to get your employees to remember pages of information, think five or less-that’s roughly the number of values or traits an employee can remember, max, so your brand positioning for culture should reflect that upper limit and be simple, easy to remember, and universal regardless of which team you’re on. Also, when you’re launching your culture document to the company, having anyone in HR is critical and imperative, but I personally think culture launches are most powerful internally if they are backed by a senior leader or founder outside of the core HR function-it increases ownership and the likelihood they will seep into your company operating system.
  6. Have you changed any of your values over time? Only once — we changed the “E” in HEART from “effective” to “empathetic” for a few core reasons. First, as we scaled, empathy became a key ingredient in global scale — we had to assume the best of our colleagues globally as we tried more asynchronous communications and we had more and more projects that required work between teams and across time zones. Second, as we pursue our goals to be a more diverse and inclusive company globally, we want to attract and grow leaders who are empathetic, inclusive, thoughtful, and compassionate to both each other and to the broader world around us.
  7. How do you make sure you’re really living your values? Two years ago, we got some tough feedback from a senior leader (on People Ops nonetheless) that we talked a lot about HEART in the recruiting process and didn’t do enough to make it real, and she was right, so our employees came up with the idea of doing peer bonuses focused on our values, celebrating HEART Week annually in which we celebrate our values internally and with a community event to give back to others, and ensuring that our values are much more visible in our new hire experience, employee materials, and promotion criteria and growth paths. And of course, we get feedback from employees each and every quarter to ensure that we are improving and growing with real-time input on what’s working and what isn’t.

Culture As a Function:

8. When did you start the culture team at HubSpot? The Culture Team at HubSpot was formed two weeks after our IPO in 2014. We looked at the data on companies that went public and hit their revenue, customer, growth, and culture goals many years later and the common denominator was simple-they scaled their culture in line with their customer and business needs. So launching the culture team was an experiment and the brainchild of our co-founders and our President, JD Sherman. They asked me to lead the team and I said no (twice in fact) because I felt it would make me unemployable since exactly no one except Zappo’s had a culture team at the time. Luckily, I was wrong, took the leap, and formed the team, and it’s been an amazing ride since.

9. What did the team look like when it started? Our team the first year was three people total — I hired one person (a former intern with design experience) to focus on communications and branding, and another person with hospitality experience to focus on how we made the employee experience mirror an amazing hotel or restaurant experience. Both of those wonderful humans are still at HubSpot today and had a profound impact on the team and its growth, and their profiles still influence our hiring today — we hire folks with a passion for creativity, events, and experiences that stand out from the pack, so we care less about traditional culture and HR experience and more that you are someone who cares deeply about making people feel included and valued at work.

10. What does a culture team do, exactly? For the first year, our job was to close the gap between rhetoric and reality — what did we say we did in the Culture Code that we didn’t yet deliver on? We think of ourselves still do this day as the product managers of our culture, and if you think about it that way it becomes clear that our job is listening to employee feedback, prioritizing based on needs, and really creating a vision and day to day experience that matches what our employees globally need and want.

11. So do you say yes to everything employees want? Definitely not — the most important part of our job is actually what we say no to. Like every team at HubSpot, we share internally what our priorities are and how we will invest in them over time. For example, the last two years we have spent a ton of time making HubSpot an amazing place to work for parents, and that includes extending our parental leave and launching a fertility benefit globally. We’ve also done a considerable amount of work to make HubSpot more diverse and inclusive, and we are clear that those are our business priorities. We say no to things daily that don’t fit our core strategy so we can say yes to things that really meaningfully advance our culture, organization, and values as a company.

12. How do you market your culture when it’s not good? Unfortunately, this is the same or worse as trying to market a truly faulty product, so I recommend that you focus on fixing the product first. However, many people wait until their culture is “perfect” when they are fixing it to market it, and in my experience candidates expect honesty, not perfection, so if you’re going through a big culture or leadership change, be transparent about it and share as much information as you possibly can about what’s happened and what you have planned to fix it — doing so and publishing and documenting it makes it much more likely you can earn trust as you fix it. But truly, don’t bait and switch — choosing where to work is one of the most personal decisions in someone’s life, so don’t mislead them or sell them something that isn’t true — it’s not fair to them or to you long-term.

Culture in a Startup:

13.I’m building a startup — should I hire a culture person? I get this question all the time, and my response to founders is that you have to be thoughtful about both. Chances are very early in your infancy as a company you will only have a recruiter and/or office manager or perhaps someone who doubles as both, then eventually you are likely to add a recruiter. My advice is always to find product-market fit before you start codifying your culture for candidates in a public way, but that early on you can do small things to show your company and your leaders what you value. One of my favorite examples of this comes from Joanne Chang, the founder of Flour Bakery here in Boston. She has employee appreciation programs and sends a letter to her entire team at the start of each year to help set the tone of what matters for their guests — you don’t have to create a big deck to start showing people you care.

14. Okay fine, when is the right time to hire a culture person? Typically you start seeing breaking points around key intervals as a business (100 employees, 400 employees, the addition of a new location or time zone, a funding event, etc. for example), so it’s imperative that you pay attention to key indicators and feedback to sort out when and if you need to pay more attention to culture as you scale. The best way I can describe what it feels like in an organization when you need one is that founders or the founding team can no longer interview or manage most of the employees so interpreting values and behaviors becomes like a game of telephone — that’s the moment where you want to stop and get a bit more intentional in your approach, regardless of whether or not you add dedicated headcount.

15. I need traditional HR in my startup? Regardless of what you decide on this question, every organization should have a trusted employment attorney and a seasoned HR professional on retainer so you can consult with them for hard decisions and to ensure that early on you have an anti-harassment and pro-inclusion plan in place very early to make employees feel safe, welcome, and protected in your organization. As you scale, many organizations undervalue traditional HR as overhead, and the reality is that done right, it can not only prevent a lot of mistakes, it can empower a lot of proactive and positive decisions to propel the business forward. Our HR business partner team is critical to our business growth and helps our business leaders think and message things differently, so I can’t say enough good things about investing in building out that team for your organization when the time is right.

16. How do you screen for culture fit in a small company? Start early by making it clear that you want folks who add to your culture not just fit it — doing so will ensure you’re not just looking for people just like your starting team, but rather really thinking about people who help you grow better as a company. Doing so will ensure you don’t fall into a sameness trap and that you prioritize diversity early and often in your organization’s growth.

17. How do you get leaders early on in a company’s history to think about or consider culture? The good news is there are countless blog posts and books written by amazing entrepreneurs on this topic, but sometimes the biggest challenge is time. What I often find is that it helps to share with busy leaders the cost of not prioritizing culture (in terms of attrition, missed talent opportunity, revenue impact, etc), and I also recommend that folks make it hard for leaders to ignore culture — our entire executive team reads our employee survey comments, and our entire team is subscribed to our Glassdoor reviews-doing so ensures that people see the feedback we receive from employees regularly and can’t hide from or ignore it so they play an active role in helping us address that feedback.

Scaling Culture:

18. How do you keep your culture the same across offices and teams? We actually try to think of our offices as “siblings not twins.” In other words, they need to have the same core DNA but we actively want to encourage differences and celebrate local leadership and traditions — I like that the traditions in Dublin and the personality of the office there is different than Portsmouth and different than Bogota or Tokyo — that’s intentional. The same is true of teams-our sales team is different than our engineering team in terms of its operating system, but both teams share a commitment to our core values as an organization. So we spend a lot of time ensuring that we hold each other and our teams accountable to our values (HEART) and that our company-wide traditions, awards, recognition, and celebrations center upon those values. Doing so means we can spend more time ensuring we as a company walk the walk on our values and culture and less time worrying about whether teams are doing things the same way — part of our commitment to autonomy extends to teams, leaders, and locations to innovate in their own ways, too.

19. How do you find leaders who represent your culture and improve it over time? We grow amazing leaders internally through our learning and development programming, but we also hire great external leaders to help us improve in key areas as we grow. Our recruiting team internally is incredibly strong and highly aligned with each of our business units to ensure that our recruiters understand our core business needs and help our teams build a bench of leaders to help us grow better as an organization.

20. How do you get feedback on your culture? We get this question so much that we wrote a separate blog about it but the overall TL;DR is that we survey our employees anonymously each quarter using a basic survey tool and published the results (good, bad, ugly and everything in between) to our company wiki so folks don’t just see the glowing feedback, they see us openly listening to, acknowledging, and acting on feedback on areas where we missed. We also have a form anyone can submit to share ideas and insights on our culture from their experience and rely on managers and front line individuals for feedback and insights as well. We also pay close attention to Glassdoor, Comparably, and other sites that share feedback with us from candidates and employees and take that real seriously as well.

21. How do you budget for culture? We have had a dedicated budget for culture and employee experience since 2014, but I have to say the most important things we have done in culture cost little to nothing. I gave some examples of how we think about culture items that are free or close to it here but a few of my favorite HubSpot culture elements are our Free Books program (delivering a free business book of an employee’s choosing to her Kindle to make learning and growth easy and simple for anyone, anywhere), our HubSpot Mixer program (uses an algorithm to match two employees in the same location to meet informally to exchange ideas) and our HubTalks (in which employees learn from leaders in various fields through informal talks and interviews onsite) cost the company almost nothing but make our organization better day in and day out.

22. How do you market your culture internally? The key to marketing internally is that it has to be authentic. Humans have a natural bias to reject marketing internally that feels too forced or awkward or corporate in nature, so rather than following a cookie cutter approach, ask your employees for suggestions and try things and see what works. I’ve seen leaders launch their mission and values at all hands and follow up with swag; I’ve seen companies do signage and a celebration, and I’ve seen companies do things really big and really small — the key has very little to do with spend and swag and a lot more to do with intention and authenticity.

23. How do you get rid of bad Glassdoor reviews? You don’t — it’s part of the reality of being part of a more transparent working environment. So instead you respond to them, you embrace the feedback, and you show your candidates you listen even when/especially when you are hearing tough feedback about your company or team.

24. How do you navigate culture when things don’t go well? Culture is perhaps most important when things don’t go well. At HubSpot, we’ve had a wide variety of growing pains with varying degrees of severity and company-wide impact. But when things have gone sideways (big or small), we have always leaned into transparency and being up front with people about what we have learned from the experience and what we are going to do with the learnings from that experience moving forward. We also try to actively celebrate failure and learning through our Failure Forum, during which HubSpot employees get up and share what they have learned from things that haven’t gone quite as planned. Doing so helps ensure we don’t just celebrate the things that go perfectly and that our leaders set the tone on failure as part of our journey.

Our People Team at HubSpot

25. How is your team structured? At HubSpot, People Operations is a global organization consisting of recruiting (under which recruitment operations and people analytics are housed), learning and development (which includes all new hire training), management and leadership, core HR (which includes compensation and benefits as well as our employee relations and HR business partnership teams), diversity, inclusion, and belonging (our newest team), and culture and employee experience (which includes our employment brand team). One of the things I always say to people is that our structure works for us and for our culture, but I don’t think you can or should take organizational structure advice directly from us — what I always recommend to people is to structure a people operations team that solves for your structure, scale, and needs-there is no “right” structure for a people operations team, only structures that scale and solve for the company at a given moment, which we consistently iterate on over time.

26. How does your team interact with facilities at HubSpot? At some companies, facilities and real estate report into People Operations, but at HubSpot, they report into finance, and that works wonderfully for us — we are lucky enough to work with them on the buildout of new spaces and on how we align together to ensure that our spaces reflect our culture, but TL;DR this org structure works well for us (and the success of our real estate mix), and we are lucky to work really closely almost daily with legal, security, facilities, and operations.

27. What is your tech stack as a team? Workday is our HRIS, Greenhouse is our ATS, Docebo is our Learning Management System, and we use Slack and Atlassian’s Confluence product for internal collaboration. We are engaged employers with Glassdoor and Comparably and have a few other tools we use that plug into the aforementioned tools, but that’s about it — we use our own HubSpot CRM to engage candidates and alumni and employees regularly (more on that from us soon) and partner deeply with our business enablement/People Applications team to evaluate any new vendors. We are not adding to our tech stack in 2019 deliberately outside of our existing scope, so please don’t use this as a sales pitch…..

28. Where does your employer brand team sit? Our employer brand team sits within our culture team, and they do amazing work building out employee generated content, managing big strategic projects like our Jobs site and event sponsorship for things like Inspirefest, and really think about our global talent brand at scale, including new market entry, building a truly inclusive brand, awards, and employer social media accounts. They work closely in conjunction with our marketing team on big initiatives, but having a dedicated team gives us the focus and autonomy we need to help build a core focus on employment brand and candidate experience. To answer your next question, we’ve seen a lot of teams where this sits in marketing and others where it sits in HR — there is no “right” way to do that as long as your team thinks about employer brand at scale as an imperative, particularly in this incredibly crowded talent market.

29. What about people analytics? What do you measure and when? I’ll be honest, we traditionally under-invested here and are now catching up, but it’s been incredible to see even in the first six months how this team has surfaced meaningful insights that help us grow. I think we’ll see a lot more from this team as we scale, so my only advice to early teams is to collect as much data as possible so you can analyze it when you have a moment to stop, think, and reflect on your growth. But to answer the second question, we measure employee happiness via ENPS every quarter by location, team, level, tenure, etc., employee retention, average tenure, quality of hire, and things like promotion velocity and percentage of internal and external hires in a given team, among many other data points as a baseline for what we measure.

30. What’s HubSpot’s stance on remote work? We are proud to have more than 150 employees working remotely at HubSpot, and we anticipate that number will continue to grow. Right now, the degree to which roles are remote-friendly varies by team and leader, but soon we’ll have more context on our jobs page on exactly which roles are the most remote-friendly so it’s super easy for candidates to navigate.

31. What’s next for the HubSpot People Operations team? This year, our focus is on data, diversity, and scaling and investing in our own team. In 2020, we’ll design a new MSPOT (our strategy document) as a company and likely add some new thing to our list, but for now, those are our core focus areas.

32. How do you prioritize growth in your own team? We have something called People Ops University that allows our team to learn from people leaders outside of HubSpot, but also from our internal teams. The latest course in People Ops University is on Excel — we are trying to walk the walk on teaching data fluency to anyone on our team who wants it! I also try to lead by example here, I’m part of a CHRO/CPO group that exchanges ideas and inputs, and I regularly post to our team on things I’ve learned from other leaders or teams that I think we can/should do better.

Benefits and Perks:

33. What’s your benefits strategy at HubSpot? Our compensation and benefits team puts a lot of time and effort into making sure that our benefits and overall total compensation are competitive within the market, global in approach but local in benchmarks, and thoughtful, fair, and equitable company-wide. As a general rule, our benefits strategy is reflective of our broader commitment to employee experience and well-being, so it’s no surprise we invest heavily in things like parental leave, in our one month sabbatical program, and in an unlimited vacation program that is part of a broader commitment to autonomy.

34. What’s the deal with unlimited vacation? Is it just a conspiracy to make sure people don’t take vacation? The deal is outlined in detail here and no definitely not. We actively encourage people to take vacation, so much so that vacation is on our monthly priorities list as a company that all of our executives fill out and update, and we’ve regularly worked with teams and managers to ensure that people can and do take vacation to relax and recharge. Unlimited vacation is part of our broader value of autonomy, and part of a broader commitment to treating our employees like adults — we hire remarkable people and try to avoid micro-managing them.

35. How do you decide on your perks at HubSpot? First things first, we believe the best perk is amazing work and the second best is great people to do that work alongside daily. Any other “perk” is a distant third. We invest heavily in our benefits strategy (more on the above), but most of our perks fit with a broader commitment we have as a company — for example our onsite meditation and relaxation rooms reflect our broader commitment to healthy living, our coffee garden in Cambridge is designed to help welcome candidates and employees alike and honors our love of female scientist Ada Lovelace with its name and decor, and our Free Books program is part of our ongoing commitment to employee growth.

36. How does HubSpot think about flexibility as a benefit? We think about flexibility as part of our broader commitment to autonomy, and we offer flexibility in various forms to everyone who works at HubSpot. We have a three word policy for pretty much everything, which is use good judgment. When it comes to flexibility, we encourage people to use good judgment, to build their work around their lives (versus the other way around), and to communicate proactively with their manager and with their team.

37. What are a few things you wish you prioritized sooner or did differently? I would have invested even earlier in more manager training and enablement, along with more data and analytics to drive our team. I also think many of any organization’s biggest culture regrets is waiting too long to make a tough decision around a team or a leader — typically organizations wait too long, so my advice to any company is to make courageous decisions early and often and to treat people with kindness when you do.

38. Is your team hiring? Yep, always! Please send amazing people our way:

Learning and Development:

39. How and where do you train new hires? Our L&D team does an amazing job of onboarding new hires through a combination of in person and self-paced modules that focus not just on learning our methodology and approach but also our software, tools, and customers. We used to bring everyone to Cambridge, but that approach wasn’t global-first as we scale, so we just launched regional onboarding, so that folks in EMEA are onboarded as new hires in Dublin, Ireland, folks in APAC attend onboarding in Singapore, and folks who are new in North America or in our Bogota location come to Cambridge. Ongoing training for employees is available anytime, anywhere using our Learn@HubSpot tool.

40. How do you train managers at HubSpot? Our management and leadership team has worked really really hard at HubSpot to ensure that we help people managers support and grow their teams. Our programming includes Manager Foundations (baseline information and context managers need to help their teams grow in a cohort learning experience so you build a community of managers to learn from in parallel), ThinkSpaces that allow managers to learn from one another, a Great Manager program to reward our best managers globally, and countless additional opportunities to learn, ranging from new training this year to support directors at HubSpot to Energy Project workshops to workshops on Psychological Safety, Coaching, and Feedback. We believe managers can and should learn on the job and from each other in addition to traditional classroom and self-paced trainings.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging:

41. How did you start your diversity initiative at HubSpot? Like most companies, we started slowly in this space — our first employee resource group was a Lean In Circle formed after Sheryl Sandberg’s book came out, but after a few meetings, we struggled with a clear purpose and direction, so eventually we refocused to a core Women@HubSpot group and just started small at first, celebrating International Women’s Day, bringing in external female leaders who were remarkable, and providing internal workshops to women around issues like pay equity and negotiation. In the past four years, we’ve grown not just our Women@HubSpot group, but also formed and scaled several other employee resource groups, including People of Color at HubSpot (POCAH), our LGBTQ Alliance, ParentSpot (for expectant and current parents, grandparents, and caretakers), and EcoSpot (focused on helping people grow better and greener). We are really proud of some of the progress that’s been made on this front globally, but my advice to everyone who asks where to start is just do something — even doing something small is better than being one of the many companies that does nothing.

42. How do you measure success on your diversity initiatives? We share all of our data annually with the world, full report here and share more detail on how we approach diversity, inclusion, and belonging on our external facing webpage here. As with everything we do, we are always growing and iterating on our approach, and we now have a dedicated team focused just on helping HubSpot increase our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging, so more to come from them soon.

43. How do your recruiters prioritize diversity and inclusion? We adopt the Rooney Rule to help us build a diverse slate of candidates for roles at the manager level and up, and we also have developed an Inclusive Interviewer toolkit for anyone who interviews at HubSpot to complete so they are thoughtful about what it truly means to build an inclusive and diverse team. Our recruiters also prioritize diversity and inclusion in our job descriptions, in our campus recruitment strategy, and in the development of programs like our Returners Programme which focuses on engaging professionals who have taken a break from the workforce to care for children or a loved one and helps them and working in partnership with our DI&B team on core events like First Gens in Tech focused on building out a more diverse entry level funnel for roles in the tech industry.

Learning More About Culture:

44. What companies do you think do culture really well? I think Ben & Jerry’s does culture and values really well. Even as part of the Unilever brand, they really have kept their founding values, quirky sense of humor, and commitment to a broader social mission. Everyone I’ve met who works there can talk ice cream like no one’s business but can also talk about social impact and a Fairtrade approach to sourcing, which is pretty cool. I think in tech Pinterest has a super interesting culture too. They have made diversity a core part of not just their hiring strategy, but also their business approach, and they celebrate the very crafts and hobbies that help drive their business, which I really admire. But I also think every culture has its pros and cons, so rather than thinking about one company having it all figured out, I tried to learn something from every organization I interact with or love as a consumer. For example, I think SoulCycle brings boundless energy to their consumer experience that you can see and feel in their employees, and clearly has a knack for choosing super talented people in every market they enter. Both the Wing and Rent the Runway (amazing female owned businesses) have made headlines for extending core benefits to hourly staff, which to me says a lot about their values, so we learn from companies in every space, sector, and geography.

45. What blogs or books do you recommend on culture? I love First Round Review for long-form content on leadership, culture, and hiring, and I still love Corner Office. For books, Work Rules by Lazslo Bock is a classic for a reason, as is Powerful by Patty McCord, who heavily influenced our culture at HubSpot. I also love Radical Candor by Kim Scott, still have a soft spot for Jack Welch’s Winning because he was my professor in business school, and Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. But I also love reading about culture missteps (Bad Blood, in addition to being a fascinating tale, is a good reminder of culture done wrong at Theranos), reading historical books on leadership, and attending our quarterly book clubs to discuss diversity and inclusion topics-recent books there have included The Hate U Give, We Should All Be Feminists, Becoming, and The Reason I Jump, all of which have driven great conversations around personal experience, privilege, and leadership, so those are some additional recent favorites to discuss within your organization — they aren’t explicitly about culture, but discussing them with employees has helped us be more thoughtful in the culture we are building every day through our actions.

46. What conferences do you recommend on culture? Of course, we are biased, but INBOUND has some great talks on culture and recruiting and inclusion topics. But in addition, CultureAmp’s conference is great, as is Greenhouse’s conference, and the Culture Summit.

47. Any advice for someone who wants to work on a culture team? Yes, participate in culture before it’s part of your formal title. Anyone can impact the culture of their team or organization from where they sit, whether it’s organizing team gatherings, formalizing team values, helping mentor new team members, or cultivating new traditions, so my best advice is do the work and actively express your interest in culture work, then make sure you’re attending conferences and people operations meet-ups and creating content around your approach so leaders internally and externally know of your interest.

48. How do you ensure your culture is customer-centric? At HubSpot, we launched our Customer Code at INBOUND and now we have to ensure that we live and breathe it just as we do with our Culture Code. As a result, we start every company meeting with a customer grading us on our Customer Code so we are grounded in their experience, and we build customer empathy into the new hire experience — we have even more planned here, but if you’re just starting out, ensure that your culture reflects your commitment to your business, your customers, and partners-if it’s too inward facing, you’ll miss the impact your culture can have on your global growth.

49. Any mistakes or things you wish you had done differently? Too many to count, honestly. But most of the things I regret most are failures to communicate the “why” behind a decision or failure to think about the implications of a given decision on a team, location or leader. If I’m ever in doubt, I over-communicate-it solves a variety of other ills.

50. Have you heard the phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast?” Yep, we love that quote by Peter Drucker around here. But at most companies now, culture is barely a snack, so we wish collectively more people would do more and talk less about culture, which is why we try to match our intent with a bias for action on culture.



Katie Burke

Chief People Officer at HubSpot. Proud graduate of Bates College, MIT Sloan, and Space Camp. On the interwebs @katieburkie