Clockwise Engineering’s amazing PERKs

According to Dr. Simon-Thomas and Dr. Keltner, instructors of The Science of Happiness at Work through UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, there are four keys to being happy at your job: 

  1. Purpose
  2. Engagement
  3. Resilience
  4. Kindness

Aka, PERK. 

I wanted to know what Engineers at Clockwise liked about their jobs. When I talked to them, it became clear how our culture offers and facilitates purpose, engagement, resilience, and kindness. Here’s how. 

Purpose

People who feel like they’re making valuable contributions to a cause they find personally meaningful tend to be more satisfied at work. Clockwise Back-end Engineering Manager Linda Pei finds meaning in the human-centric challenges she encounters at Clockwise.

Linda came to Clockwise after four years at Airbnb working on launching Airbnb Experiences, re-architecture from monolith to microservices, and the Airbnb Transportation business.

“At Clockwise we're trying to solve the problem of managing the most important resource people have: Time,” Linda said. 

Solving the “scheduling problem” requires finding the ideal times to meet, time block your calendar, eat lunch, etc. Meeting moves and suggestions must consider constraints and preferences including ideal working hours, ideal meeting hours, travel time, and Focus Time.

“It’s a technically challenging problem we’re trying to solve in a way that's very human-centric,” Linda said. “As an engineer, it's hard to get motivated when you're doing the same work over and over. The scheduling problem is really interesting because it's not just a technical problem,” Linda said. “The technical side has to be done in a way that meshes human psychology and intuition and logic such that we can explain everything that the technical side is doing so it makes sense.” 

The algorithm has to offer a better experience than manually scheduling and rescheduling. But it can’t choose the best option by brute force weighing every preference equally. It’s too computationally expensive. Unlike pure scale or performance, it’s a question without one right answer. 

It’s that human aspect that draws Linda to the work. “System performance is very easily measurable,” Linda said. “It's one second or 500 milliseconds faster. The scheduling problem isn’t as measurable, but in many ways it’s more meaningful.” 

“My job as an Engineer is to understand user expectations,” Linda said. “Clockwise’s small size means there’s often pretty direct feedback from users. That's one thing I love.”

Front-end Engineer Shane Smith also pointed to customer engagement. “Getting to build for customers that are super enthusiastic creates this really nice culture of internal happiness,” Shane said. 

Engagement

Efficacy and autonomy are essential to engagement at work. Shane has them in spades here. Our hybrid work model enables us to work from the office or anywhere we choose, including a sprinter van. 


Shane in his van

“A lot of companies say words like ‘iterate fast,’ but honestly, I'll be shipping code multiple times a week,” Shane Smith told me about what he likes about Front-End Engineering at Clockwise. “Clockwise gives you the chance to really explore and really flex your engineering strengths and your education. A really big hallmark of Clockwise is engineering creativity, freedom, open-mindedness, and courage. It's encouraged, rewarded and supported here in a really nice way. Just this very week. It wasn't on my sprint goals to make some improvements to the scheduler. But I just found myself realizing I can make this UI better. It's celebrated.”

“I always liked the feeling of building new and exciting things,” Shane said. “Most engineering work is not building new. But if I don't build something new at least every couple of weeks, I find myself getting a little cooped up. That's what draws me to startups. Building new stuff, doing a lot of everything. That’s my dream.”

Front-end Engineer Nikita Parikh also appreciates being able to get things done quickly at Clockwise. “I had an old manager who said if you're running a good onboarding process, you have a very short time to commit. Clockwise does have in my experience a very short time to commit. The first few weeks I was working through some small tasks and bugs and smaller projects to get acclimated to the code base.” 

That quarter’s Hack Day fell at the end of Nikita’s first week, which sped everything up. “Hack Days are pretty intense at Clockwise because everyone is pretty gung-ho and excited,” Nikita said. “Danyaal and friends roped me into working with them.”

Two days later, the team demoed a brand-new admin panel. “At the end of Hack Day I got a message from Charles, our Head of Design, asking if I could send over some screenshots because this was going to get picked up into a new feature for that quarter and I would get to work on it,” Nikita said.

Harry Potter themed swag for our Hack Day
A Golden Snitch, cake pops, journals with broom pens, and other treats our Office Manager Czar Garcia mailed us to go along with our Harry Potter Hack Day theme.

“Getting to know your teammates and becoming comfortable working with them naturally takes time,” Nikita said. “Hack Day got rid of any boundaries. I felt very much a member of this team right off the bat. I came to realize we do demos every week. Week after week and I leave each week feeling refreshed and energized for the one to come because of that.”

Resilience

According to Dr. Simon-Thomas and Dr. Keltner resilience is critical to overall happiness at work. They define it as “The ability to handle, adapt to, and productively learn from setbacks, failures, and disappointments.”

Social scientists also point to fear as a major factor in work happiness. "Fear has this debilitating effect on safety, on trust, on team work, on collaboration, on creativity, innovation, and invention," Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations, and author of Joy, Inc. told Inc. Other research finds psychological safety is essential for a functional Engineering culture. 

“Here we don't consider failing a bad thing,” Shane said. “If we see something janky in the UI as a result of a kind of risky decision, we have a pretty high, pretty flexible standard of risk. There's just no such thing as negative talk about engineering decisions. There's plenty of talk of what we can do better, reflecting, and learning. But it's never, ‘Oh, you put that thing on there and it doesn't work well.’ I've never seen that in my almost year here. It's just, ‘We can't use those. That doesn't work. Moving forward.’ That allows us to do what we're doing. We have to take those risks to build experiences that frankly, no other company is really delivering. Like injecting a scheduler directly into Google calendar. There's a reason you haven't seen that. Because you have to balance that risk appropriately.”

In a separate conversation, Nikita also brought this up. “There's a very strong sense that if something goes wrong, it was no one's fault,” Nikita said. “We just take the time to go investigate what happened and put in place checks to mitigate it from happening again in the future.”


Team retro jamboard

“We're an ever-growing crew of as close as you can get to improv troupe,” Nikita said. “There's this flood of ideas, lots of, yes and-ing. We recently realized our product-market fit meant we had to switch gears. People just went with it. Take the situation you're in and run with it. We do that really well.”

Kindness

Kindness enables us to form trust and bonds that make a huge difference in how happy we are at work. According to Gallup, workers with a best friend at their jobs are more productive and engaged.

Linda, Shane, and Nikita all talked about how much they appreciate working cross-functionally at Clockwise. “It definitely feels like a super collaborative process where we're all brainstorming together,” Linda said. “One particular collaboration that I've really enjoyed is with Raph, our designer, who's also a game designer. It's super cool to work with a designer that really understands systems and AI. In games there's a lot of planning, an overarching controller that sets goals, individual controllers that move specific units. It's really interesting to think about what might be the next step for some of our scheduling features and how we can take inspiration from games.” 

Nikita also appreciates the cross-functional collaboration. During onboarding, she met with people across every function. “Clockwise has a very strong onboarding culture,” Nikita said. “That's so exciting about joining a startup, right? You're not siloed within your department or team. I found onboarding incredibly well-run from right from the intro call with Matt to conversations with Glenwood about what product marketing actually is. That gave me a great lay of the land.”

Back-end Engineer John set up daily chats to check in. “I learned so much about how work is done at Clockwise,” Nikita said. 

Nikita also brought up the team when talking about why she likes working at Clockwise. “I joined Clockwise because I thought they had a great product, vision, and a good team,” Nikita said. “Knowing what I know, I think they do have great product vision, but they have an even better team than I could have imagined. I haven't seen a team be so empathetic towards their users and even towards each other. And I think that really matters. I love it. That's amazing.”

Nikita credits Charles and our PM Meg for the Hack Day success. “Distilling the core features of this net new surface area is always a challenge,” Nikita said.“It shows that we work great across functions,” Nikita said. “That’s what blows my mind. At other companies sales sort of competes with Engineering or other functions compete with engineering to decide what we're going to build. At Clockwise, I'm amazed and grateful for how cohesively we work across teams. That's been the big thing I appreciate about being in Clockwise. Other than that, the Engineers are just incredible. Very smart, but very humble, willing to take time to walk through things that they know about.”

In sum

We know Engineering talent is in high demand and talented Engineers have their pick of workplaces. That’s why we put effort into attracting and retaining ambitious, intelligent, curious Engineers who are looking to join a team that exemplifies purpose, engagement, resilience, and kindness. If this appeals to you and you align with our values of empathy, authenticity, drive, focus, curiosity, and enthusiasm please check out our careers page for open positions. 

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