At Slingshot, we’ve taken steps to not only maintain our team culture and values through the pandemic, but also to continually evolve and thrive.
During a period of unprecedented upheaval and disruption, every workplace has had to adapt. For many, working from home has become the new normal. That transition has been easy for some but less so for others. From agile tech startups to corporations, the detachment has brought many new challenges.
In part that’s because a shared working environment reinforces the sense of a shared mission. It’s what enables bonds to grow between people and a collective drive to emerge. It’s what leads colleagues to become friends and those friends to cooperate with and motivate each other.
There are also practical downsides. Not everyone is equally suited or set up for remote work. And certain tasks are complicated when teams used to working side by side are suddenly separated.
At Slingshot, we’ve taken several steps to not only maintain the most prized aspects of our established culture and values through the pandemic, but also to continue to shape and evolve the culture to keep pace with changing realities and our collective vision for the future of the company.
My co-founder, Melanie, and I – along with a good number of Slingshooters on the team today – are fortunate to have been molded by many years immersed in the culture of the U.S. Air Force, which has a long history of embracing change. At its roots is a story of cultural change within the Army, which led to the birth of a new service that embraced the air culture led by visionaries who challenged the status quo.
During our time in uniform, we continued the pursuit of those founding visionaries in challenging the strong air culture to transform into an air and space force. As those in uniform continue that quest with the recent formation of the U.S. Space Force, Slingshooters are forging ahead in embracing remote work as part of a healthy company culture.
Looking back a year ago to the Spring of 2020, Slingshot was uniquely placed for what was to come.
Having two offices - one in LA and one in Austin - meant our team was used to working together online and dealing with all of the little things that come with that dynamic. There are also a handful of Slingshooters who work remotely from other locations, whose working days didn’t have to shift too far from what they were used to.
And having permanently separated teams means Zoom meetings have long been a daily part of life at Slingshot. There’s at least one “All Hands” each week and little touches in which everyone dials in on their own computer, so that even if people are together in a room, nobody feels detached from what’s going on. We believe this fosters a more open environment.
One of our core values is the importance of teams, and along with that, honoring time for family and balance. That has always translated into flexible rules around working hours and office time, along with unlimited PTO and sick days. Even before the pandemic, working from home one or two days out of the week was not uncommon. During the pandemic, ensuring every member of the team found the right balance between work and home life became an even greater priority. After all, it’s a slippery slope from ‘working from home’ to ‘living at work’.
When the pandemic hit, the health and wellbeing of team members was our first concern. As the situation grew more serious, we began to ask people to avoid the office. Instead, we set everyone up with the tools they needed to work remotely. This included a monthly stipend to set up and maintain a suitable home office.
Once the team’s safety and our continued ability to operate was secured, we started thinking about ways to keep the company culture alive despite the upheaval.
We’ve rolled out free memberships to Sworkit for virtual workouts, virtual happy hours and water-cooler chats, and even hosted a virtual holiday party. These little things have added up to foster a more connected atmosphere while providing a break from lockdown restrictions that can easily feel oppressive if you let them.
In terms of the bigger picture, we’ve encouraged everyone to take time off for the sake of their mental health, and even handed out awards on a quarterly basis to those who have embodied our values throughout this challenging time. Unexpectedly for many Slingshooters, the increased proximity to family members, roommates, and pets has reinvigorated relationship bonds, and the absence of a commute on the crowded highways of LA and Austin have reclaimed countless hours.
The way we work has changed during the course of the pandemic, but the Slingshot mission and our core values have held firm.
We’re still building technologies to enhance decision-making and help teams perceive the past with more clarity, comprehend the present faster, and predict the future with greater precision to create a safer, more sustainable world. In fact, we were recently named to Fast Company's list of the Top 10 Most Innovative Space Companies of 2021, evidence of our team's resilience and ability to thrive even under these unique circumstances.
We’ve had plenty of time to contemplate our values and see how important they are in practice. These values include integrity, transparency, curiosity, team, stewardship, and trust:
Integrity - We believe in doing what’s right even when no one else is looking. That means supporting our team members through the challenges of today and adapting with the times to become a more open and flexible place to work.
Transparency - We share openly and honestly to ensure that everyone has the information they need to make the best decisions. And that’s a two-way process. We encourage all team members to share views and ideas for how we can be better.
Curiosity - We believe in continual learning and courageous experimentation. Usually that’s targeted towards complicated aerospace problems. But recent times have shown the importance of applying those same traits towards learning how to work smarter in the face of adversity.
Team - We show up for each other, act with empathy, and bring our authentic selves to work every day. We believe that each person belongs here. We care about the professional and personal lives of the people on our team and respect their need for balance.
Stewardship - We hold a deep appreciation for our home planet, for our country, for our business, and for the people on our team who make the impossible possible. We take seriously our mandate to ensure a responsible use of our resources: physical, capital, and human.
Trust - We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers and to help our company win. And even if those boundaries are more literal than usual, we find solutions and persevere.
Integrity is the number one core value of the U.S. Air Force, and perhaps the most important of these values for Slingshot as we work remotely and rely on one another every day. If you’re aligned with our culture and values, and are interested in joining our team or learning more about us, please visit our Careers page.