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The Toughest Company Meeting I’ve Ever Been To

I’m Carl, an eternal optimist that wears a lot of hats. It’s not because I’m balding and trying to keep the sun off my dome; I’m smitten with the corporate culture we’ve got here at Dyn. I’m the Santa at our company holiday events, the chairman of our Beer Committee and a Concierge technician transitioning into a newly created DevOps Evangelist role among 25 other supposed roles that the VP of Client Services says I’ve got now.

Last week, one of the hats I enjoy wearing the most was a real challenge to put on and wear with a smile… hosting the company meeting.

The reason? A simple tweet that started the dominos falling.

Dyn Company Meeting
A typical setup for a company meeting. (That’s me on stage with the headband.)

“I wear @DynInc t-shirts to work to remember that all corporations aren’t terrible.” – a tweet from my girlfriend.

Forty-five minutes before the meeting, I got a text from my girlfriend. She was at her wits’ end with her employer (a large retail chain) after numerous attempts to correct several issues she had been trying to rectify with management to make her job at least somewhat palatable until she is able to strike out in her own entrepreneurial endeavor.

Stress had compounded for months, coupled with harassment and apathy from her superiors. She wanted to be a change agent for the better, but despite her best efforts, she was crushed by the overbearing weight of corporate bureaucracy. She had all she could take, texting me from the bathroom at her store in tears because she had enough. I was livid…shaking and sickened from the notion that any employer would let someone get so defeated. They sent her home sick because she couldn’t function, and here I was, about to get on stage in front of nearly 200 people at the greatest company in the world.

Well, I hosted that meeting. It took every fiber of my being to be positive and enthusiastic. Again, it wasn’t anything at work that was causing strife as I still maintain that my worst day at Dyn is still better than my best day at any other job. On any given day, I am surrounded by the positive energy of 198 (as of this writing) other enthusiastic Infrastructure as a Service folks either here at our Manchester, NH, headquarters or virtually via our San Francisco, Brighton or Wrexham offices. As a company, and as a culture, we are blessed.

So as I sat on stage while our executive team spoke about some of the exciting new stuff going on, I pondered what is it about Dyn that makes you realize that the rest of the world has got to get on the right page about a positive, collaborative work environment?

Here’s a few points I’ve assembled, and hope that you will take to heart:

  • There are no walls: Everyone from the Executive team to the individual contributors sit in the same open, collaborative space.
  • We are encouraged to speak up: If something’s not cool, we are asked to tell someone about it. This is part and parcel of our “Keep Dyn Awesome” training that encourages everyone in the organization to work together to promote and maintain an environment befitting of a thought leader in the industry. This is how we acquire and keep great talent and part ways with those who are not stewards of that mindset.
  • We all work together. As part of this organization, we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. By leveraging the talents, thoughts and experiences of others, we are able to achieve excellence in all areas. Nobody takes a bigger piece of the pie; pride in our work is something we all share, and not the possession of one person over another.
  • We know when to take a break. Some outside our walls scoffed at the idea of an Unlimited PTO policy, saying “oh yeah, take a year off, whatever”. But things like that have allowed us as part of this company to take the time we need to unwind and recharge where necessary. I feel that the ability to do this, with the appropriate coverage from teammates, allows us all to do better work and be rockstars for this company when we are on the clock.

At the end of the meeting, the VP of Client Services presented me with the “Business Person of the Month” award for all these hats that I wear. What an interesting juxtaposition: one of the greatest honors of my career on one of the most emotionally wracked days of my career.

I returned to my desk and wrote the following on Facebook:

“Well, I am Business Person of the Month at Dyn Inc. But hosting today’s company meeting must have been one of the hardest ones of my career. While we had a great meeting and lots of stuff to celebrate, my mind was clouded and saddened by the way that her work has caused my girlfriend to spiral into a depressed and health-issue ridden place. We really are an amazing company here at Dyn, and I thank every one of my colleagues for being awesome and making this place an awesome place to come to work every day. I feel a great sadness for those who do not get to feel this happiness on a daily basis. Instead of congratulating me for this, please wish Jessica well as she deals with her situation. She makes me strive to be awesome on a daily basis and deserves all the credit.”

Fact is, we all do what we do for different reasons. But that we all come here every day and do what we do to grow this great company together, that warms the cockles of my heart and makes me proud to be a part of it.

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