Silicon Valley is well-known as the cradle of technological innovation – for good reason. Some of the biggest tech companies in the world like Adobe, Nvidia, and eBay were founded here, due in no small part to the abundance of venture capitalist (VC) funding, business-friendly regulations, and the pipeline of talented graduates from nearby Stanford and Berkeley. Yet, none of this is unique to Silicon Valley. There are plenty of other tech hubs around the world that offer the same or more. What is the X-factor that sets Silicon Valley apart from the rest?
While countless attempts have been made to identify and replicate this unique culture, there is a certain je ne sais quoi to it. Is it the fantastical amenities you’ve seen in movies like The Internship that makes the office look like a Disneyland for adults? Is it the burning desire to “disrupt the status quo” that every start-up claims? We believe that it is a combination of all these things and/or more.
Read on to find out what Silicon Valley company culture is, how it differs from existing company cultures, and how Brighttail is bringing it to life right here in Malaysia!
Silicon Valley Company Culture: Fact vs. Fiction
Ask 10 people about what Silicon Valley company culture is and you’ll probably get 10 different answers.
Advocates of Silicon Valley company culture will tout the way they face failure and learn from it, how they prioritize work-life balance, how they empower their employees by providing them with amazing amenities at the office, and how their mission/value-driven nature empowers autonomous innovation, collaboration, and initiatives.
Critics of Silicon Valley company culture will point to the fact that failure is encouraged and glorified, that it’s not so much work-life balance but work-life integration, that the amazing amenities are just a gimmick to make employees stay longer at the office, and that their mission/value-driven nature simultaneously justifies hustle culture or overwork in the name of fulfilling a higher purpose.
Given the polarizing views mentioned above, we believe that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, so let’s separate fact from fiction to understand what Silicon Valley culture really means to us.
Fiction: Silicon Valley Culture = Having Nice Things
A ping-pong table. Nap pods. An on-call masseuse. Office gyms. Free yoga classes. While quite a few Silicon Valley companies provide these perks, these are not the ONLY perks they provide, nor is it a cornerstone of Silicon Valley company culture. One of the biggest mistakes companies make when trying to drive Silicon Valley culture is to assume so. What they don’t realize is that these perks are more a manifestation of a company’s desire to empower their employees to do great work. Instead, they throw together a bunch of these fun amenities and neglect the empowerment part. That’s like equipping a golf player with the fanciest clubs and the spiffiest outfits without actually teaching him how to golf.
Fact: Silicon Valley Culture = Having Meaningful Things
Fun fact: Most employees don’t really care about the perks mentioned above. Here’s what matters to them: Proper work-life balance, good insurance coverage, purposeful work, and fair compensation for the work they do. It seems like employers are starting to catch on too – CEO of software platform Ceros, Simon Berg, is now determined for his company culture to revolve around employee autonomy and freedom, rather than on office space perks.
Fiction: Silicon Valley Culture = Hustle Culture
It’s hard not to associate Silicon Valley with hustle culture when you have Silicon Valley poster boy Elon Musk saying stuff like “No one ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” While his work ethic is certainly admirable, this claim has been repeatedly debunked by reputable sources – people simply do their best work when they are happy and well-rested. The problem is when companies start internalizing this mindset and it permeates their own office culture. That’s how you end up with 61% of all Silicon Valley employees feeling burned out.
Fact: Silicon Valley Culture = Empowerment
While we touched on this briefly earlier, we want to drive home the fact that Silicon Valley culture is really about empowerment and accountability. It’s providing employees the flexibility to live their best lives because you trust them to get their job done efficiently. It’s about creating a culture where your employees are unafraid to speak up, to share new ideas, and to pioneer new initiatives. It’s about assigning them meaningful work that they care about. It’s about removing any obstacles that prevent them from doing their best work. If you don’t provide them with meaningful work nor fair compensation, can you really expect them to commit 100% to the company knowing that there are other companies out there who will?
Fiction: Silicon Valley Culture = Disorganization
With the frenetic pace at which Silicon Valley companies operate, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s the Wild West of work out there. There’s always like five different projects going on at any time, daily meetings and weekly catch-ups, shared resource pools where employees jump from project to project, etc. That is not the case.
Fact: Silicon Valley Culture = Organization
Actually, there IS a method to this particular madness, namely the Agile manifesto. It is an iterative approach to project management AND software development that eschews the launch of one perfect end product in favor of small, incremental improvements to the initial prototype.
Now that we have a clearer understanding of Silicon Valley company culture, we can see how important it is to business growth. Silicon Valley company culture drives employee engagement by uniting employees around a common mission and imbuing them with a sense of value. Subsequently, this improved engagement is what drives employees to go the extra mile that grows your business from a good one to a great one.
For a greater sense of perspective, let’s see how it stacks up with other types of company cultures in the following section!
Comparing Different Types of Company Culture
To fully appreciate the uniqueness of Silicon Valley company culture and how it can drive company growth, here is a side-by-side comparison with a few different types of company cultures on several key aspects.
|Type of Culture/Characterstics||Traditional||Market||Family||Silicon Valley|
Chain of command is based on seniority.The focus of leaders is stability. They are there to ensure that their teams can function like clockwork.There is less of a focus on innovation and growth. Instead, the focus is on maintaining the existing level of production.
Chain of command is based on merit.
The focus of leaders is productivity. Their role is to maximize the performance of those under them by whatever means necessary.
Chain of command is based on a combination of seniority and merit.
Managers tend to see themselves as a patriarchal figure who always knows what is best.
Chain of command is merit-based.
Managers are seen as force amplifiers. Their job is to put their team in the best possible position to succeed by removing obstacles as they come up.
The work environment is usually more structured and process-oriented.Most activities and decisions are dictated by existing procedures, which discourages innovation and freethinking.Promotion is usually based on length of service. Upward mobility might be blocked due to the presence of long-term employees who cannot get promoted.
The work environment is very KPI-driven – every project/campaign/action must be associated with trackable metrics.Employees are highly motivated by achieving their own goals and/or financial compensation.Employer-employee relationships are highly transactional – promotion is based upon delivery of results.
The work environment is very familial – for better or for worse.Employees prioritize relationships, morale, participation, and consensus.Employer-employee relationships can be quite exploitative since employers have no qualms assigning extra (unpaid) work for the sake of “family”. Should employees refuse, they run the risk of being branded “disloyal”.
The work environment here is usually quite creative and fast-paced. There are always lots of new ideas and initiatives being generatedEmployees here value autonomy, empowerment, and creativity.Employer-employee relationships are quite strong since they tend to share the same values and are driven to achieve the same mission.
There is no incentive to reinvent or optimize existing processes.
Since everyone is aligned on getting results, work efficiency is high.
Sometimes coming to a consensus takes a long time, which might affect work efficiency.
Since employees are empowered by the company and driven by similar values, there tends to be less friction when it comes to work.
|Level of Collaboration||Low||Moderate||High||High|
How Brighttail Builds a Strong Company Culture
Since Brighttail was founded and headquartered in Silicon Valley, it’s only natural that we grew as an organization steeped in this culture that prizes empowerment, creativity, and innovation above all else.
As we moved our operations to Malaysia, we made it a point to drive this work culture here as well. Granted, we did anticipate several challenges. While Kuala Lumpur is no backwater city, there was still a cultural element we had to consider. Given the well-documented differences between Eastern and Western culture, were we introducing something overly radical or disruptive? Would it be accepted well by local employees?
As it turns out, good internal structure and processes, empowering and trusting your employees, and having a clear mission appeals to employees pretty much anywhere. Read on to find out EXACTLY how Brighttail successfully built a strong Silicon Valley-inspired culture right here in Malaysia!
We Put People First
Work-life balance is sanctified in Brighttail. We believe that as long as you are accountable for the work you have committed to, you should be able to spend whatever leisure time you have without being harassed by your manager or your colleagues. We also believe in leading by example. That is why our managers are also expected to turn off their devices and comms during the weekends/public holidays.
When we say we put people first, we don’t just mean our people. We also mean the causes and the communities that they care about. To put our money where our mouth is, each employee is given three days of paid leave to volunteer at an organization of their choosing. This is just a small way of giving back to the community that has given us so much.
We Provide Opportunities for Growth
Here at Brighttail, we believe in the limitless potential of all our employees. We understand that our employees might not be the same person with the same interests after they have been with us for some time. That is why it is rather common to see our employees explore different roles within our own company.
For example, our former content marketing manager decided that her meticulous eye for detail and love of good organization and structure (both inside and outside of content) would be better served in an Operations Manager role. Well, not only is she now holding that role, she is absolutely killing it out there!
Ever find it hard to bring up the topic of promotions or raises? Managers at Brighttail will raise it up with you during both formal and informal reviews. They will help you to plot your own course and stay on track with what you want to achieve. Whether you’re gunning your way to the top as fast as you can or you’re just enjoying the journey and the company at Brighttail, you’ll be fully empowered to be the best version of yourself.
We Are Agile
As mentioned earlier, we are huge proponents of the Agile manifesto that many Silicon Valley companies live by. Here at Brighttail, our work is driven by Scrum, a lightweight Agile framework that breaks down large, complex projects into smaller components and prioritizes the incremental completion of these components within a certain recurring timeframe.
Besides the fact that this iterative approach allows us to constantly optimize and adapt to our client’s requirements, the close collaboration among our scrum teams also creates a strong and genuine bond between all our employees, which in turn fosters a positive and healthy environment where we are not afraid to show tough love if needed, to acknowledge our shortcomings and learn from each other, and to celebrate everyone’s successes.
We Are Transparent
We don’t believe that anyone likes the feeling of being a small gear in a large machine. We believe that people want to know that their work matters in the larger scheme of things. That is why transparency is taken very seriously at Brighttail. Firstly, we have monthly town hall meetings where our founder/managing director shares with us company and individual accomplishments, business updates, and other news. Everyone can now see how their work is contributing directly to the company’s bottom line. Everyone is also aware of how their colleagues are contributing to the company, which fosters a culture of mutual respect and accountability. Secondly, the aforementioned scrum framework also allows everyone to understand how their work contributes to a certain campaign or project at a more granular level due to the daily stand-ups and bi-weekly retrospectives.
Ready to Experience a Whole New Way of Working?
Now that you’ve heard so much about Silicon Valley company culture, the next step is to obviously experience it for yourself. Brighttail is growing at an exponential rate and we’re looking for like-minded individuals to join us on our journey. Whether you’re a fresh graduate looking to start out or a grizzled veteran looking for a change of scenery, you’re welcome here.
Click on the link below to check out our list of openings!