Ping pong tables, free food and colourful offices now seem to become standard in technology companies. Having beer in the fridge or a pool table is almost like the ultimate point of difference between many of the 5 star offices. But beneath all these cool ‘iceberg’ offices lies something much stronger and more beautiful – ‘office culture’.


Image Source: Marcin Wichary on Flickr

Having spent  time at LinkedIn, Google and Skyscanner – I have had the opportunity to experience culture at its core (read: beyond the colorful offices, free food and ping pong tables). Just like the iceberg analogy, the visible objects in the office are simply just cues for the invisible norms that are driving the engine that ultimately attract people to these organisations.



Image Source: Haldane Martin on Flickr

Here is a 5iver about my experiences with ‘culture’ in technology companies:

  1. Transparency –  This really is embedded in the DNA of inspiring organizations. Honestly, when I say DNA I do mean in the entity of the string of the Deoxyribonucleic acid. All hands, company meetings, talk backs and town halls – people ask hard questions, and these are answered truthfully.Transparency is really about getting everyone involved and on board the ‘sailboat’ of a company’s strategy. It’s about everyone pulling the ropes together, not a few senior executives making decisions in a private conference room at the Ritz Carlton.
  1. Flexibility – I am not talking about bending a metal spoon kind of flexibility, I am talking about cool-aerial-yoga sort-of flexibility. Whether you prefer working from your home country, being a night owl, working out of your bed or seeing the sunrise from your desk with hot chocolate in your hand, it is really up to you. A lot of technology companies really do give you the opportunity to work the way, and when it is best for you. None of us have come out of a factory production line and inspiring that new age companies have begun to recognize and celebrate those differences.
  1. Autonomy – Autonomy comes under the category of one of those ‘over-used, under-delivered’ words. Something that people claim you have and get to keep, but you actually don’t. In reality, your priorities reflect your manager’s priorities, whose priorities are drowned in his manager’s priorities and so on (and on and on). Great company culture really calls for a true sense of ownership and ability to execute on your projects the way you deem best. It doesn’t mean that you are aimlessly doing stuff, it simply means that you are in charge and you decide how best to manage your own projects! As long as they turn out fine, you deserve to feel proud.


Image Source: on Flickr

  1. Pitch, win and do  – “But I was waiting for them to tell me what to do next”. There is no super-power who will embrace you with their wisdom and show you the path to enlightenment. If you think something is wrong, fix it. If you want to change something, change it. Do it first, apologize later. Santa Claus isn’t coming to town, so hold onto those reins and take control. If you have a great idea, or even a simple idea that can have 0.01% positive impact – pitch it, win it and do it. Iterate and learn. Fail and learn. Learn and learn more.
  1. People and Relationships Matter –
    Here is a truth in life: People care about people. People do things for people. And most importantly, people work for people. Very often between our internal chats and presentation decks, we forget the core of what is driving our lives – the power of human connection. Great companies make sure that you get an opportunity to not just build ‘networks’ but build genuine 1:1 relationships with people.  So yes, let yourself break down the walls, remove your headsets and walk up to the pantry and have a little chat about everything and nothing at all. Collaboration is only a fancy word for the opportunity to work with amazing people on cool projects.

25392377053_452ff5260a_k Image source: WOCinTech Chat on Flickr

Technology companies are only one of the industries that have a great company culture, but the hype is real. Inspiring organizations create a great environment where you get to become Luke Skywalker and let the force awaken.

 Astha Kalbag, is currently a growth hacker at Skyscanner and will be speaking at TERN on August 27th on the “Life In The New Lane: Learning from the Newbies” Panel.

Connect with her on LinkedIn at

Image source: Jan Kraus on Flickr


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