When a company is named to the top ten of the prestigious Glassdoor list of best places to work, it’s customary for the CEO to write a post saying what makes us great, how our customers love us, and how our culture is our true differentiator.
That’s all true for ThoughtSpot, but that’s not the full picture. No company is perfect and there’s always room for improvement. Just like the Preamble to the Constitution speaks about our country, the struggle to create a more perfect union in a company is also a constant, ongoing one.
So, I wanted to use this opportunity to publicly state a few key areas where we have to improve. By proclaiming them for the world to see, I am hoping to cement not only the need, but the urgency for us to get better on those areas.
Here’s a list of four areas we need to improve to be a better place to work than we are today:
1. Maintaining Our Culture as We Grow
When it comes to building a great company for employees, culture is of critical import. At ThoughtSpot, we summarize our culture in two words: selfless excellence. Which means we aim to be excellent in everything we do, but do things in a selfless way that puts the customer, company, and team ahead of ourselves.
Maintaining this culture as we grow isn’t an easy task. Too many times, companies lose their original spirit as they grow. With a team of more than 500, we’re entering our next phase of growth, and we won’t be immune from the threats of cultural erosion.
This is why it’s so critical for us to invest in areas that can help codify, operationalize, and scale culture - areas startups tend to ignore, like people operations. But we can’t become so operationally focused that we lose the organic quality that makes our culture so special and authentic. This will be a tightrope balancing act for the company.
2. We’re Not Immune to the Innovator’s Dilemma
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, the cycle of creation-destruction has gotten shorter. Even as a fast-growing startup disrupting the analytics market, ThoughtSpot itself isn’t immune from disruption. We face the same innovator’s dilemma as other organizations: do we focus our resources on our existing inventions or use them to develop the next arc for the company?
For example, when we started the company seven years ago, cloud computing wasn’t available in the way it is today with respect to high-speed CPUs and high memory nodes. Our team had to make the tough choice to take a platform approach, and build ThoughtSpot for a world where data would be everywhere, from on-prem to edge to multiple clouds to mobile.
We will have to continue making these kinds of hard decisions. Over the last few months, we’ve brought new capabilities like SpotIQ, Monitor, and InsightsFeed to cloud data warehouses, while also aggressively going after more nascent data sources like Druid and Kafka. But we need to do more, and continue to build products with the mindset of delivering business outcomes, not a new technology stack.
Our customers know that every stack will become obsolete at some point in time. They don’t need yet another vendor, what they need is a reliable and agile partner by their side, rapidly and responsibly innovating on their behalf as they embrace technologies like the cloud and AI. They know that it makes no sense to drag their legacy analytics tools to the cloud.
Think of it like a new house. If you spent all that time and energy into building the right framing, picking the perfect lighting, and selecting finishings, you wouldn’t bring your old, dusty, mildewy carpets with you, would you?
Hundreds of large enterprise customers, including nearly one third of the Global 50 customers, have selected ThoughtSpot as their modern analytics vendor of choice. The bar is high, and we need to deliver on our promises to them on both quality, and agility.
3. A Unique Design Challenge
For ThoughtSpot, design presents a unique challenge. The world of analytics and BI has traditionally served data professionals, who favored efficiency, and technical capabilities over design delight.
But the world is changing. Business users need data insights like never before, yet don’t have the time to learn complex data systems. This is why ThoughtSpot is building products that will appeal to both data analysts as well as non-technical business users. This, however, presents a unique user experience problem. We may have an analyst who prefer coding for speed and portability, while the business user may just gotten to her first job and may really prefer the user experience offered by Instagram or Pinterest. Making them both happy with a single product provides an exciting UX design challenge.
We’ve made good strides in this area. We’ve brought in design leadership from the consumer world, like Bob Baxley, our new SVP of design and experience. We’re also partnering with leading design schools to bring the right talent that will push ThoughtSpot to become the bar in enterprise technology design.
We are passionate about not just building an amazing user experience for today, but we want to be the brand that sets the trend for 2025 and beyond by blending inclusive and appealing UX for a broad range of users.
4. The Industry Wide Issue of Diversity is Real for Us
There’s no question that more diverse teams create better working environments, deliver more innovation, and achieve greater business outcomes. Even with that knowledge, however, ThoughtSpot is struggling to build truly diverse teams.
It’s important to note that diversity extends beyond just gender. We need teams that are as diverse when it comes to socioeconomic status, age, work experience, education, racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation as the world around us.
This isn’t an easy issue to address, and will require a variety of approaches to improve. First, we need to grow our overall pipeline of candidates to ensure we have qualified, great candidates from all walks of life. This includes:
Writing job descriptions deliberately to be inclusive
Delivering consistent and fair interview experiences to all candidates
Training interviewing managers to focus on how a candidate will solve a problem instead of how they communicate about it so as to include candidates on the spectrum.
We also have a no headquarters (#NoHQ) policy within ThoughtSpot, so that we can give anyone, wherever in the world they may be, the opportunity to be part of our team.
But to build a truly diverse team, we need to think beyond recruiting and to how our team experiences life at ThoughtSpot. From giving our team flexibility with their schedules to accommodate lives outside of work to pushing the limits with employee benefits, we’ve made a good start. That said, we still have more work to do to remove unconscious bias and groupthink from our team when it comes to recognizing and rewarding people’s contributions.
None of these will be a silver bullet. There is none. But we’re dedicated to building a ThoughtSpot team as diverse as the world around us, and these steps will help us make strides in that direction.
It’s an exciting day for us here at ThoughtSpot. As we like to say within the company, we’re only 2% done. We have our work cut out for us if we want to be the best place any of us have ever worked.