Last year I advised that we all abandon “sure,” and I pledged to give 100% to my work at Andela. This year, after both struggle and triumph, I’m renewing that pledge. Why? Well, it’s not just because I believe in the mission, my team, and our chances to impact the future of tech work and global inclusion. It’s not just because of the progress we’ve made and the hunger I have to make far more. I think it’s largely because of Andela’s culture, or more to the point, what we can all bring to Andela’s culture.Like many startups, Andela has a small set of core values. Unlike many startups, we neither preach them nor put them on a wall to be passed by and forgotten. We challenge each other to bring those values to work every day. We often disagree, we debate, we grapple with each other and the outside world in an effort to create the best possible outcomes. What this means for every Andela employee is that you must bring your own meaning to our values, you must bring your own belonging to Andela, and that has made me proud to re-up my pledge to say 100% yes to working here.
Now before you criticize me for shamelessly and proudly writing on behalf of my startup (a desire I would wish upon all tech workers), hear me out. I write this not to recruit, but to explain. At Andela we have an acronym, YOYO, meaning You Own Your Own. Because we recognize that what you put out in the world is what you get back, we say YOYO! YOYO learning, YOYO culture. YOYO values. Here’s how I own my own values, and at the same time, find belonging with my team and our hungry, growing startup.At Andela, our values are Excellence, Passion, Integrity, and Collaboration.These aren’t just words to us.They are a daily practice.
Excellence is something we strive for, it’s a constant reminder to take care in what we build, what we say, and how we view our work. If something is not excellent, we are the first to notice and say so. We’ll never refer to something mediocre as “done.” We are constantly observing, reflecting, and improving. This is excellence. It’s a pursuit, a habit, and a calling to mastery.
Passion takes all forms. At Andela, it is a pre-requisite regardless of what it looks like. You will find it in a quiet moment deep in the belly of a codebase, you will find it in the exuberant celebrations that occur after every signed deal. It’s in our partners, our developers, our leaders, and our Twitter followers. You cannot hide your passions here. They will be discovered. Boredom is a bug, and passion is our eternal fix.
Integrity has nothing to do with “character.” It has everything to do with action. There will always be an option to choose the easy path, the one that benefits you and excludes others. We do not choose that path here. We find a better one. In the moments when we are tempted to skip the queue or break the rules, we pause and reflect. We identify the desire that’s bubbling up, and we find a way to turn it into the right action. In other words, we act with integrity, always.
Collaboration is hard. It is much simpler to go it alone. But collaboration is necessary, and in the end, the most rewarding thing we find in our work, is the people we do it with. We have created a culture of feedback and handoffs, trust building and knowledge sharing, and we’ve built that culture to transcend distance and timezones, countries and skin color. We are one team with one dream, all because of the “hard fun” we find in collaboration.
These are our values, and we practice them daily. Through them, I’ve learned about the world, how humans work, what I’m capable of, and how a company of people can change what’s possible. Excellence, passion, integrity, and collaboration. Alone they are just words, but together, they make us EPIC.For those of you looking for your place, your team, your tribe, for those of you who’ve found it, but face the daunting challenge of defining it, supporting it, or evolving it…Never let someone tell you what you can or can’t do.Learn what you believe in. And then become who you want to be.I believe in people. I believe that wherever you are in the world, you are powerful.Here at Andela, we believe in people.And that is how, together, we become limitless.
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