We’re excited to announce that Samsara is #3 on LinkedIn’s Top Startups List for 2019!
This is the second year in a row Samsara has been recognized as a Top Startup by LinkedIn, which looks at companies experiencing high levels of growth, employee engagement, and interest from top talent.
We figured, who better to ask about our fast growth and employee engagement than Melissa Yeh, Head of People and Places? Melissa has been with Samsara for over two years and has seen it go from a company of 100 to a company of 1,300. We asked her to talk to us about what that journey has been like, what it is that makes Samsara unique, and what’s up with that truck in the training room anyway?
Lindsay McKinley (Director, Communications): What did you first think when you heard we were named one of LinkedIn’s Top Startups two years in a row?
Melissa Yeh (Head of People and Places): My first thought was: I can’t believe a year has passed because so much has happened! Immediately after that shock, though, I felt immense gratitude that I get to work with such amazing colleagues every day. There’s so much happening within the company - new products, new employees starting - and it’s wonderful to get this external recognition for something we feel so strongly about internally.
LM: You’ve been with Samsara for over two years now. How has the company changed in that time?
MY: How hasn’t it changed is the question! We went from around 100 employees to over 1,000; we opened three new offices; we’ve introduced entire new product categories.
I’d say, in the two years I’ve been here, it’s felt like at least three or four different companies. And we’re always thinking: what’s next? That’s what makes working here so exciting. There are opportunities everywhere and a strong culture of promoting from within. Even though we’ve accomplished a lot it still feels like we’re just at the beginning.
LM: Your own role has changed a lot along with the company. What has that been like?
MY: My team is the People and Places team and it covers four different groups - HR, recruiting operations, facilities, and the executive admin team. When I first started that was a team of three, so it was very easy to be in sync. Now we’re a team of 60, so for me it’s really about coming up with repeatable processes as we scale out.
We often talk about re-hiring ourselves. Every quarter I do an exercise where I ask myself: what would I do if I accepted the job today? One of Samsara’s superpowers is building for the long term, and so right now my team is focused on our culture of promoting from within and ensuring employees receive consistent feedback. We’re establishing processes to train our current leaders to grow along with our company, and building out our HR and Recruiting infrastructure to do that.
LM: We have strong leaders across the board, but what is it about Sanjit and John that has made Samsara what it is?
MY: The first thing is that they’re amazing at spotting technology trends, and using technology trends to solve a customer problem. I think sometimes you get one or the other instead of both, and they really have the ability to do both. They’ll say: here’s how technology is going to change 10 or 30 years down the road, and here’s how we can leverage that for industries that may have not seen that yet. It’s a special ability to merge technology trends with customer problems that really sets them apart.
LM: We’ve more than doubled in size in the past year. How are you thinking about scaling our culture as our team scales in size?
MY: Culture at this size is interesting. We’re starting to see a lot of it happen bottom-up, which is why it’s important to listen to what employees are telling us versus setting cultural values in stone and not adjusting with the company.
Last month we did an employee survey and one of the questions we asked was, what are the top three adjectives you would use to describe Samsara? The top three were fun, fast, and hard-working. Those aren’t necessarily embedded in our cultural principles now, but we’re thinking about incorporating them in and reflecting back to the company what we’re hearing.
LM: Those three resonate with what my experience has been here - especially the fun part! How does your team inject a little fun into your every day?
MY: Some of it has to be that you find the work that you do really fun. We work really hard, and we’re solving interesting problems, and we think that’s really fun. That’s on the work side. On the personal side, it’s also just getting to know people, and doing events together. Our facilities team will go to a baseball game together, the HR team is more a board games kind of crew, and the recruiting team is all about tea and happy hour. It’s all about finding small ways to make those connections.
LM: What advice would you give to people who want to work here?
MY: There are a couple things. First, talk to someone who works here so you can get a sense of our culture and people. And then come to one of the recruiting happy hours! We hold them in our office and the idea is to get a sense of our people and culture first hand. We do them on a monthly basis in pretty much every office.
LM: I’ve been here for about two and a half months now, and when people ask me what stands out the most, the first thing I say is collaboration. That everyone here is looking for ways to work together because we’re focused on the company succeeding. We’re all rowing in the same direction. What are some ways you think about creating this collaborative culture as a People team?
MY: We have this thing called clubs, and the idea is: if you find 10 people who share your interest or hobby, Samsara will fund it. The design decision behind it was the collaboration piece you mentioned. Being part of a club gives employees a way to create community here outside of the specific people you work with every day. The idea was really to create communities and color outside the lines of who you normally interact with. We have about 53 clubs right now.
LM: When I first started, one of the things that impressed me most was the week-long orientation that included product deep-dives and Sanjit talking about the history of the company. But almost as impressive was how you got a real truck in the training room! Someone later told me it involved Craigslist and an architectural engineer, among other things. What’s your favorite Samsara story?
MY: Oh the truck! I’m part of our Facilities team and getting that truck in the training room was indeed a story. We had to remove the doors and deconstruct it to get it inside!
We have so many good stories. One of my favorites was when we launched our London office. And we did that very fast - start to finish it was about three months. What I love about Samsara is we stick the landing, but sometimes the path there can be eventful. The first person who went to London, he got his visa three hours before the flight. After this I’m going to have to introduce you to him because I’m sure his story is one for the books. But the point is: he made it and we stuck the landing!
LM: Last question: we accomplished a lot in the past year, but next year we’re planning even more. What is it about 2020 that makes you most excited?
MY: Honestly, it’s about everything we’re doing now: adding new employees, adding new products. Sometimes, when companies get bigger, they slow down on innovation. And I think what makes us so special, and the thing that makes me so excited, is that we don’t slow down. There’s a lot of newness and a lot of frontier that we have yet to uncover. So I think the best is yet to come.
Swing by https://www.samsara.com/careers to check out our positions - we'd love to talk!