Kaldea is a collaborative data analytics platform for teams who use some of their most sensitive...
Our culture is our people, their contributions and values, and, yet, it is greater than the sum of our people, a living and breathing organism evolving with new members and ever clarifying focus on our mission to make data analysis simpler, faster, more productive and fun for every data professional.
To that end, Kaldea is creating and shaping a culture—created collaboratively by our founding members—built on several values: collaboration, transparency, contribution aligned with our mission, inclusivity, high-performance, and customer-centricity.
This is our culture guide. We’re publishing it in four parts. It’s long!
- Part One: Introduction and Collaboration
- Part Two: Transparency and Contribution
- Part Three: Inclusivity and High-performance
- Part Four: Customer-centricity and Conclusion (Forthcoming)
For one, we take seriously our culture and mission, and we’re ambitious to live it for the benefit of our customers and the simplicity, speed, productivity, and fun of data analysis. Second, we created it collaboratively from the ground up, interviewing our founding members on how they’d like to contribute to and shape our culture.
So we’re presenting in this first part the introduction to our culture guide and a central value, collaboration.
We’re looking for people who want to transform data analysis into its fully actualized and best self, which includes fun and levity! And we’re looking for people who want to impact and shape our culture to that end. In part, we want to ensure the data analysts and scientists, who we are staking our work on, are never relegated to simply supporting other decision-makers, but are central and empowered decision makers themselves alongside the product and business teams.
Kaldea Culture Guide Preamble
It’s industry cliché to say, “Every byte of data has a story to tell.” But we disagree with the cliché. Data doesn’t tell stories. People do. And not just people; but teams, companies. People tell us why the data was generated, collected, stored, how it can be used, and how it is used. People animate data toward its ultimate purpose, so it adds value to our critical decisions, whether those are the internal direction a business takes or the pricing we offer our customers.
Each day, the world generates and stores countless amounts of data. But how much of it serves its ultimate purpose—how often does a person tell its story? And how much is unused, silent?
We believe the best data is animated toward a greater purpose. That's why we're reimagining how we—how companies—use data, so all data achieves its fullest potential. Still, our mission is practical: to make data analysis simpler, faster, more productive and fun.
Kaldea is just the beginning.
Today, Kaldea simplifies and clarifies the modern day data workflow, by enabling discovery, modeling, reporting, scheduling, and the creation of company archive. It fully connected data workspace down to where it is stored. With Kaldea, we hope our users will become faster, more insightful, and enjoy the workflow having to analyze a particular subject through data or collaborate on any data projects.
As a company, we believe the timing for Kaldea, the world’s best data collaboration workspace, is now. Today, companies are investing hundreds of billions into data tech stacks, and are flexing their hiring muscles to access world’s best data talent. In the past few years, we have seen such explosive movements in engineering and design, where countless collaboration, workflow, and experience products such as Github and Figma were born to help engineers and designers be at their best. For field of data science and analytics, we believe that is now.
In many cases, even with lots of funding and talent, the market, customer, and timing variable, uncontrollable by most teams and individuals, get in the way of one’s success. We feel extremely lucky that market, customer, and timing is in Kaldea’s favor today.
As a team, that brings us the question of how to capture this opportunity. We believe that is by delivering the best possible experience to our customers’ data teams, all the way from data engineering, data scientist, and analysts to product and business. Thankfully, the how has been clearly written out by our predecessors, multiple times, by building the best product in the market. Solving for the how on building the best product, in our view, is the team, which brings us to what is required for great teams to exist, sustain, and grow. That is culture.
Our culture is the most important foundation to shape ourselves, and it is also one of the few things we can control if we do it right.
So how do we do this? What do we value, strive for, and what do we not value and distance ourselves from? Our culture guide, built and continuously maintained by us is how we write it out, explicitly. Being Kaldean, means you are part of making our culture and also the guardian of our culture. As co-founders we believe one of our most important job is to make sure every Kaldean understands our culture enough to join the cultural guardian force, and to suggest the next round of our cultural evolution. By the time you are through this guide, we hope you are also excited to know that you are a Kaldean, surrounded by fellow Kaldeans re-imagining how to make data analysis simpler, faster, more productive and fun.
Collaborate to produce results
Kaldea is a data collaboration platform, so collaboration is at the center of our product. We believe that we collaborate to produce. So how do we, at Kaldea, ensure we produce through collaboration?
What collaboration feels like at Kaldea
To create out culture guide, we asked questions to our early employees about culture and Kaldea in order to receive their input about the kind of culture they would like to create. This culture guide both articulates our culture and is an artifact of our culture, i.e. it is a statement of culture born of a collaborative process. Many Kaldeans described the traits of collaboration:
Collaboration at Kaldea is fast. We love when we produce results quickly, especially when we collaborate to produce results. Can you imagine a slow but successful startup? Jeff Bezos used a model of decision-making (summary, original doc) that predicts two kinds of decisions: Type 1 (the irreversible and highly consequential) and Type 2 (a combination of reversible and/or inconsequential). Most decisions are Type 2 and we must, therefore, decide quickly. These fast decisions comes at the cost of revision when the results of our decision are less than successful or, worse, a mistake. At Kaldea, we are prepared to pay the cost that comes with making fast decisions. If you want to move fast, you need to be willing to make decisions and revise. If we’re alone, then we take responsibility for the choices we make and for the revisions going forward. When collaborating at Kaldea, support the decisions of your colleagues, own the mistakes, and help them revise quickly. Only when we can take individual responsibility and support our colleagues in this way, will we be working at a fast-paced organization. We expect all Kaldeans to make mistakes, yes, and, further, to support each other to revise and iterate. Don’t wait to make sure everyone is ok with your decision. Do it, and get it right quickly. Only don’t confuse making repetitive mistakes with fast decision making or speedy execution.
The speed at which we collaborate requires trust. Without trust, we would have to rely on protocol and to control tightly our workflows, both of which would slow us down. Trust, however, is earned and not simply given. At Kaldea, earn the trust of your colleagues, constantly and consistently. Work to establish trust with your collaborators before you assume it. As a part of the team, you’ve earned a foundation of trust through the interview and vetting process. Build on that foundation. The best way to do it is to deliver your share of results on time.
If trust is earned, then respect for your colleague and collaborator is given without asking. Every team member at Kaldea is not only qualified but they have proven records of producing and delivering amazing results in their respective areas of expertise. Respect your colleague’s opinion when you challenge it. And make it felt and known that they have your respect.
At Kaldea, we support mutual respect by retaining only the best in the industry. We are not a team for under-performing. Kaldea will support respect among colleagues by making decisions that cultivate and maintain a company of high-performing individuals and teams, all of whom deserve respect. So give it to them.
Since Kaldeans live and work across the globe, we have a responsibility to tackle the complexity of asynchronous work across several time zones. Life prior to 2020 did not train us for this complexity. We must especially be aware of each other’s time. There’s no silver bullet yet. But make the extra effort to understand and respect your colleague’s time. Check yourself to see if you are respecting their time: be aware of your co-worker’s time zone, be aware of their working hours, keep your promised deadlines, provide well-written communication to work asynchronously, and make the time to synch with each other. Think of it not as extra work, but as a new skill set that you need to build in order to adapt to the complexity of global work.
Locate and calibrate alignment with your colleagues during each collaboration. The closest physics term would be a vector, which has an intensity and direction. Even with the same level of urgency—even with the same direction—you may be misaligned and effectively reach two different points or intersect at a point of conflicting direction. Make the effort to constantly find your alignment with your colleagues in collaboration.
We can’t assume alignment. Although Kaldea, as a whole, has a vision and mission, we all see a different perspective of it. During collaboration, continuously engage to clarify your goals and re-calibrate to align your vector with your colleagues. No one is entitled to perfect alignment. To merge two vectors, you have to exert a force which is the effort to align with your colleagues during each collaboration.
Tightly knit and loosely coupled systems all have their pros and cons. If we commit ourselves to only one system, then we lose the benefits of the other. Instead, we apply the best system to each case and workflow. Sometimes we need the single point of failure proffered by a tightly knit system and sometimes we need the multiple fall back plans offered by a loosely coupled system. In general, we built our culture on a loosely coupled architecture, where everyone is encouraged to go beyond written or assumed boundaries of ownership. However, loosely coupled systems can create ambiguity and ambiguity without a radical mechanism to disagree or commit will only slow us down. Observe and be aware of each situation to assess if a protocol can be helpful and do not be afraid to set up protocols that facilitate driving toward a result. But remember that no solution is universally applicable. Just as you assessed the need to build a protocol, assess the need to tear it down or transform it.
We all want to experience synergy in our collaboration—the felt sense that the whole is greater than the sum of our individual contributions. While there are many ways to support synergy, we want to emphasize one crucial aspect: choosing the right team members. We believe that forming the right team ensures a high probability of synergy in collaboration, both company-wide and for each collaboration. Later, even as we grow larger and have more colleagues to collaborate with, it will become increasingly harder to pick and choose because to team R&Rs and working protocols will be more rigidly set. When we are small and with fewer boundaries, we can be flexible because we have the common understanding that resources (but not talent!) are scarce at Kaldea today. In such an environment, when you can contribute to a project, you are in. In order to make the most of this opportunity, stay aware and up-to-date of your colleagues whereabouts. You can do it; we have a small team. Know the best person to work with to get the task done, and ensure you are collaborating with the right person to create the highest synergy possible for Kaldea. At our size, this is something Morgan and YK can directly help you coordinate. Just remember not to not take a good team for granted. Optimize for maximum output and outcome. We expect that you will never state that an initiative failed because an individual did not add value. We expect that you’ll create a contingency plan. When collaborating with others, ensure synergy. Choosing to work with the right people is part of your work when you collaborate with fellow Kaldeans.
How do we achieve such collaborative traits in practice
Discuss without ego
First, you need to engage in discussion. Sometimes, when communication is difficult or personalities clash, we avoid engaging in a discussion. We do not accept this avoidance at Kaldea. On the other hand, don’t confuse engagement with forcing someone to discuss when the they’re not ready or unwilling.
When you engage in discussion, leave your ego behind. Ego is multifaceted and we can’t describe it all here, but there are few common examples. One common example occurs when a person asserts their authority. When a person pushes for a decision out of authority (illustrative examples here), their ego takes over to protect their vulnerability. We believe vulnerability is essential to developing leadership and creating opportunities for individual growth. Ego is an obstacle in critical moments that require vulnerability, e.g. moments when you may need to admit that you’ve made a mis
Another example occurs when a person offers a suggestion without logic or rationale: “I used to do it XYZ,” “I know this works,” or “It has to be ABC” are statements that should alert you that your ego is hindering your discussion.
We don’t intend for you to remain uncritically vulnerable at all times. If a project or collaboration isn’t going well, it may signal that you need to re-evaluate the right people to achieve the desired result in any given collaboration.
Engage to disagree or commit
At Kaldea, if you are a part of something, whether that be a meeting or project or a document, you are committed. That means at each moment you commit to it or disagree with it. You are there to contribute. Avoid tagging along without engaging. Avoid the classic mistake where you leaving a meeting without understanding the impact of what was suggested and/or decided. Engage to the point that you either disagree or commit. If you need more time, ask for it. If you really have no opinions about it, rethink your need for involvement. You may not need to be at the table.
We don’t mean that you should avoid informational meetings or documentation. We mean that when there is a decision to be made and it impacts your area of responsibility, make sure you commit to it or disagree with it and suggest an alternative solution.
Receive and respond with SLA
Collaboration is mutual. Sometimes you ask for help; sometimes others ask you for help. Be ready to receive a request for help and, when you do, respond on time. When the timeline isn’t clear, clarify. A critical mistake you could commit at Kaldea is to stall and avoid responding. Whether it is an e-mail, a meeting, a message, a request for comments (RFC), a document, commit to responding to it on time.
Another common mistake is to not read what is offered to you. Today, our team is already greater than 20 people, working in 3 time zones (and potentially more with customers), in 2 countries, in 2 languages, and many times over remotely. Not reading is a serious offense. Although you need to prioritize, remember that you joined a pre-product stage startup. At this stage, we require not only prioritization but also volume. You cannot wear many hats and contribute if you do not commit to the volume of input and output necessary at our stage. We don’t accept the excuse, “I had a really important update to make yesterday,” for not reading the necessary documents provided by our colleagues. Make the extra effort to receive what has been given to you, and respond to it on time. If you need more time, ask for it.
Suggest with rationale
Academically, we are trained to make suggestions with rationale. I suggest doing XYZ because of ABC might be our classic training. However, in the heat of debate and a high urgency environment, it is easy to become defensive and forget our training. We outline it here so that we remind ourselves to suggest with rationale. Behind our suggestions, we like to see numbers, alternatives, the pros and cons, and customer-first thinking. Don’t confuse rationale with the desire to “win” a discussion. Rationale is invaluable when it is in the service of ensuring our decisions lead to the best result. Rationale is not valuable when it is instrumentalized to win a discussion.
Clarify the gap^2
The first gap: When you are collaborating, it is a good practice to assume there are gaps between what you have in mind and what others have in mind. We all need to make the effort to clarify this gap. You and your team may not realize that there is a gap until you spell it out. Take the step to clarify the gap instead of working around the it. Note that avoiding the gap is not what we want from each other. Avoidance may work a few times but it isn’t sustainable. Soon you will lose motivation to collaborate with the same people because you have constantly to hide the real problem under the rug. Ultimately, this leads to people losing respect for each other. Be vigilant: you may think you are doing the other person a favor by working around things, when they might be doing the same.
The second GAP: Goal, Agenda, Preparation (GAP): It is very easy to call, skip and cancel a meeting when we collaborate. Why is that? Usually, when you call a meeting without a GAP, it is easy to set one up, skip it and cancel it. As we scale our practice, this will become increasingly common. Whether it’s a 1:1, a recurring meeting, a team gathering, or all-hands, each meeting needs to have a goal, agenda, and the appropriate preparation. The person that suggests the meeting and the person that accepts and attends the meeting must assume this responsibility. It may be self-evident how the person who creates the meeting can create a GAP. But it’s less obvious how participants can contribute to the GAP. Why are you attending this meeting? What should you achieve from this meeting? And what preparations should you do as a participant? Participation isn’t just presenting. Carefully listening and absorbing what is communicated in a meeting is actually much harder, and it requires a proper GAP to fully achieve its potential. Do you have your laptop open in a meeting? Are you checked out until the most relevant part to you comes up? Just as the host is wasting your time, you are wasting your own time. Do your part, GAP, and put pressure on the meeting to be maximally productive.
Do not wait
Waiting is anathema to a fast paced working environment and it deserves clarification. We also acknowledge that doing things fast is often framed as being uncritically positive. Still, we want to ensure that you are not constantly waiting and we want you to understand that it is your responsibility to adjust if you are waiting all the time. Time is precious. We don’t have the luxury of time and we can never earn it back like we can with funding, hiring, product, or customers. At our stage, we cannot afford to lose time. Waiting is a serious offense that wen cannot afford to commit. Don’t wait for others to clarify. Don’t wait for others to bring things to you. Don’t wait for someone to get hired. Don’t wait for others to provide. Don’t wait until the last minute. Don’t wait unless you have a clear tactic for getting things done right and on time. There is a Korean phrase that says ‘bad feelings usually turn out to be true.’ When you feel like something isn’t right—it’s unclear or it’s not going to end well—make the move now. Don’t wait to see it turn out badly, engage now and fix it.
The rest of our culture guide will published soon, so look out for three more posts on transparency, contribution aligned with our mission, inclusivity, high-performance, and customer-centricity.