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Equity & Belonging Life at Clever

Scaling Clever’s culture

May 31, 2016 Nic Woodyard

When a company scales from 40 to 130 employees over the course of a few years, it’s fair to wonder what happens to culture, camaraderie, and group dynamics. Our goal has always been to keep our community culture growing with the company by melding values into our interview process, providing ample opportunities for the team to connect, and exploring new ways of living our values as a group. Every company has different values that guide them, so the strategies that keep culture strong vary. Here’s what Clever does to keep relationships close and decisions mission-driven so that the culture we love will grow alongside our headcount.

Clever has six culture tenets that we hold dear in every aspect of our work. They tie in to our roots in education and encourage every person on the Clever team to learn more, be better, and create change.

Always a student

We hold monthly Clever Talks over lunch, when members of the Clever team can share their expertise in almost anything – past talks have focused on stand-up comedy, kitesurfing, lock-picking, and even cheese.  Additionally, many of our interviews include a teaching component – we like to know that everyone we hire can not only learn new things, but that they’re also happy to pass on their knowledge in clear, digestible ways, even if they don’t have a teaching background.

Do the extra credit

Doing the extra credit means going above and beyond– taking a job that is technically “complete” and putting in a little extra time to take it to the next level. As a group, Clever has done the extra credit by volunteering in our neighborhood on a regular basis, picking up trash around our block, taking shifts at the nearby soup kitchen, and planting trees at a local elementary school.

Don’t trust the textbook

Grace Hopper has been quoted numerous times stating the damaging effects of the phrase “We’ve always done it this way.” We’ve taken her advice to heart by encouraging a culture that invites us to question why things are the way they are. When Clever hires, we look for people who don’t accept “We’ve always done it this way.” We want people not only to feel empowered to push back on decisions, but also to know that their feedback will be taken seriously, even if those decisions were made by company leadership.

Leave the classroom better than you found it

At the end of each day, the goal at Clever is to put next-generation software in the hands of students, helping teachers reclaim valuable learning time in classrooms. Feedback from schools and teachers acts as Clever’s lighthouse; our product roadmap is guided by what’s best for the people in the classroom. While Clever does its work on the ground, this tenet extends past our product into company volunteer days at local schools and one-on-one mentorships through the SPARK program.

Bring good vibes

This could seem like an outlier at first glance. What do “good vibes” have to do with education? Actually, quite a lot! Some of the first lessons of preschool and kindergarten are how to share, play well with others, and be a good group member. As a grown-up, these skills are even more important! At Clever we encourage people to forge bonds with their teammates by bringing their “whole self” to work. People find connections they didn’t know they had and relationships become stronger in our community.

Clever is a group project

Clever didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t built by one person; it takes everyone working together.  A shining example is the launch of Clever Badges: our product team guided development, our engineering team created elegant code, the marketing department seamlessly organized media coverage, Clever’s district teams guided schools through adoption, the people operations team juggled calendars, planned school visits to test features, and ran events to keep morale high. Every member of the team pitched in to make Clever Badges a success, but that fact is no outlier. In every initiative we take on at Clever, everyone helps– everyone is celebrated.

Want to join us?

We structured our values and our interview process in such a way that “culture fit” is something specific and based on commitment to education, learning, and compassion, as opposed to being a function of a few individual people’s opinions on whether someone is “cool.” Whatever your background, interests, or worldview, Clever is a place for people who have a passion for improving education to make their vision for the future of education a reality.

Sound like somewhere you’d be at home? Then we want to hear from you! Check out our jobs page and find where you fit in our mission.

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