7 SF Companies Discuss Growing Rapidly While Ensuring Employees Stay Engaged

Big growth can't happen without keeping employees happy.

Written by Alton Zenon
Published on Jun. 24, 2021
7 SF Companies Discuss Growing Rapidly While Ensuring Employees Stay Engaged
Brand Studio Logo

As the world starts to normalize following the challenges of 2020, many businesses are kicking their scaling efforts into high gear.

We spoke to seven such companies in the Bay Area that have big growth initiatives for this year, like Unity Technologies, which is hiring 400 new team members and restructuring their teams to allow for more agile product delivery. However, growth projects for companies like Unity aren’t limited to expanding the reach and impact of their business operations — they’re also working to evolve and enhance the employee experience so the individuals powering the growth don’t feel like afterthoughts.

For instance, many companies permanently switched to a hybrid remote model to give team members more flexibility in their work styles. Others introduced new onboarding programs to build greater trust between the employers and new hires. 

And virtually every company mentioned taking steps to champion and iterate on employee feedback. Learn more about how these companies are balancing scaling through 2021 while keeping their team members fully engaged. 


Amber Hayes
VP of Global Recruiting • Unity

What they do: Unity Technologies’ platform is used by game developers, filmmakers, architects, automotive designers and more to build real-time 3D content.


2021 hiring plans: “We currently have over 400 open roles in engineering, sales and many others in our core U.S. locations like San Francisco, Bellevue, Washington and Austin,” Hayes said. “We are also expanding our global footprint with continued growth in the Asian-Pacific and Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

“We look for employees who align with the Unity values. These values capture what we represent and form the foundation of our company culture. They have a material impact on how we do our jobs and how we treat each other every day.”


Keeping rapid growth smooth for employees: “A significant portion of the last year was spent looking at our tools and processes to ensure we can scale while keeping our values and culture top of mind. We’re investing in analytics to ensure we have the data needed to make informed decisions for our company. We also added a number of tools focused on automating manual tasks, which allows our team to focus on execution and bringing talent to Unity. We also realigned our team structures to better support our customer’s needs and avoid silos whenever they arise. 

“To ensure these changes have a positive impact on employees, we’re distributing surveys to understand our team’s experience and build plans to address concerns because increased communication and transparency are at the core of scaling as a company.”

We’re investing in analytics to ensure we have the data needed to make informed decisions.”


A challenge the team is excited about: “Given our rapid growth over the last year, we’re looking at how we can take some of the remote interviewing and onboarding processes that were adapted in 2020 and build them into our long-term hiring strategies. We are looking at how we can use our own real-time 3D platform to enhance our online candidate’s experience. We’re also considering unique approaches that have never been implemented in the hiring process and I’m excited to see where this takes us.”


Hayleigh Kurtz
People Ops Generalist • Aurora Solar

What they do: Aurora Solar’s cloud-based, computer-vision-enabled software helps professionals in the solar panel industry plan and manage their projects.


2021 hiring plans: “We started 2021 with plans to hire over 100 individuals and we have already added over 75 new Auroran’s across all our teams in the last six months,” Kurtz said.

“When interviewing new team members, we are looking for traits like self-awareness. For instance, do they have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses? We’re also looking for empathy and whether they can put themselves in other people’s shoes. Lastly, we’re seeking intellectual humility and whether they see value in other peoples’ perspectives and realize they don’t have all the answers.”


Keeping rapid growth smooth for employees: “Our people ops and workplace experience teams at Aurora try to be thoughtful about implementing any changes, adding new technologies and making sure employee programs are scalable. We are not afraid of slowing things down so we can do more research, beta test in small groups or survey employees before taking any formal action. 

“Our work is not done once something is rolled out. The team sets benchmarks to review feedback on how a project is going one, three and even six months after launch. This process helps us make sure that the project had the positive impact on our employee experience that we wanted.”


The pitfalls of scaling

Kurtz says there are three “easy traps” companies and their employees can fall into during rapid growth: “pushing projects out too quickly, focusing on initiatives that sound cool instead of what employees actually care about, and failing to review feedback and iterate.”


A challenge the team is excited about: “We made the decision to continue as a hybrid/remote-first team. This change meant reassessing a lot of the processes we had in place when we were based out of our San Francisco headquarters and ensuring everything we do going forward scales virtually.

“I spend a lot of time researching creative solutions companies came up with before and during the pandemic. And for our team, it all comes down to being thoughtful. We need to think both critically and creatively about everything we do since what works for Aurorans in one timezone may not work for those in another.”


Leslie Stephens
Head of Talent Acquisition • Hippo Insurance

What they do: Hippo Insurance is a home insurance provider that also offers its members smart home technology to help thwart events like fire, water damage and theft.


2021 hiring plans: “This is an impactful year for Hippo as we look toward going public,” Stephens said. “As the company is maturing and continues to grow, we’ll focus on maintaining and building Hippo’s culture. We are thinking about things like special and complementary values we can introduce that we don’t already have. And we are looking for people to help us define and accomplish our goals across the board with the diversity of thought, great technical skills or just a fantastic ability to roll up their sleeves.”


Keeping rapid growth smooth for employees: “As the head of talent acquisition and a member of Hippo’s people team, I wake up every day thinking about how to set people up for success. We’re doing everything from hiring more trainers to improving our onboarding experience and implementing more sophisticated systems to streamline processes for our new employees. Most importantly, we’re soliciting feedback. We have an open-door and Zoom policy to encourage employees to share their candid opinions with us so we can continue to make adjustments to optimize our employees’ experience.” 

We’re doing everything from hiring more trainers to improving our onboarding experience.”


A challenge the team is excited about: “Hippo recently launched our employee resource group (ERG) programs and I have the honor of leading the ‘Little Hippo Village’ for parents. I am also a member of the ‘Women @ Hippo,’ ‘People of Color + Allie’ and ‘Pride @ Hippo’ groups. These have already proven to be instrumental in contributing to Hippo’s community. 

“Hiring intelligent, creative people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences will impact our business directly. We know diversity benefits all companies and I’m pleased with our progress. We challenge our recruiters — and employees — to help us bring in qualified, diverse candidates. Even though there is still work to be done, we are headed in the right direction.”


Al-Husein Madhany
Head of People Operations • Moveworks

What they do: Moveworks offers enterprises a cloud-based, conversational AI tool that can automate how help desk tickets are resolved.


2021 hiring plans: “We’re planning to double in size over the next year, which means filling over 200 open positions across every department,” Madhany said. “Being a fast-growing company is a wonderful problem to have but a challenge.

“The key for us will be to balance two competing goals. We need to add new team members as quickly as possible to support our international expansion. However, we can’t compromise the high bar we set for hiring since our people fuel our rapid growth and we’re looking for people who are committed to elevating our standard for excellence.”


Keeping rapid growth smooth for employees: “We prioritize the employee experience from day one, starting with onboarding new hires. Building trust is the hardest thing to do in the first few days of onboarding, so we engineered our new hire orientation to accelerate the trust-building process. Our people feel comfortable asking anyone for help because we ensure psychological safety and this sense of community is the foundation for hypergrowth.

“From a technology perspective, when we decide to implement a new tool, it’s always to reduce complexity for employees. This approach often results in additional costs or extra effort during implementation. But in the long run, it pays off by boosting productivity.”

We engineered our new hire orientation to accelerate the trust-building process.”

A challenge the team is excited about: “One of the pillars of our culture is transparency. And I’m excited to institute a new tool that will provide 100 percent visibility into total compensation to demystify topics like vesting equity and variable pay. We’ll make this tool accessible to both current employees and candidates.”


May O’Neal
Chief People Officer • Varo Bank

What they do: Varo Bank is an online banking services provider that offers solutions like checking and savings accounts as well as cash advances. 


2021 hiring plans: “Varo has aggressive plans to scale our teams alongside our hyper-growth,” O’Neal said. “Our planned growth is across all our teams, which include technology, product, marketing, design and many others. 

“We seek candidates who are passionate about our mission of financial inclusion and opportunity for all. We’re also looking for folks who are entrepreneurial, have a growth mindset and employ a natural curiosity that drives innovation. Since we’re a high-growth company, we also look for teammates who can thrive in a fast-paced, collaborative environment while staying nimble and adaptable.”


Keeping rapid growth smooth for employees: “Like any high-growth company, we are continuously evolving processes, technology and structures as we scale. We continue to take the pulse of the company through a series of employee surveys, which are reviewed carefully and drive direct action. As a result of recent employee survey data, we implemented a no-meeting or light-meeting Wednesday to allow for more focus time.”

We are continuously evolving processes, technology and structures as we scale.”

A challenge the team is excited about: “The pandemic necessitated a thorough review of what the future of work will look like for our teams. And we are moving toward hybrid working arrangements that offer more flexibility for certain roles. We recently moved to a new San Francisco office that we designed to accommodate more flexible, hotel-style workstations, more conference rooms for collaboration, and more open spaces to meet with teammates both indoors and outdoors on our roof terrace. 

“We’re also planning to maintain a strong focus on workplace safety and cleanliness by installing hand sanitizing stations, improving our air filtration and ventilation systems, and ensuring employees can maintain a safe distance in the office.”


Andrés Sommariva
Engineering Manager • Duetto

What they do: Duetto is a revenue management system built for hotels and casinos that allows those businesses to manage their pricing, forecasting and reporting.


2021 hiring plans: “We are looking to expand our engineering team,” Sommariva said. “My goal is to build two new scrum teams that will implement our latest user interface architecture across the Duetto suite of products. They’ll also add new characteristics to BlockBuster, our solution for optimal pricing group business.

“We are looking for passionate and talented software developers with great communication skills that can work well in a collaborative environment. Strong technical skills are also a must as well as experience with code reviews unit testing and practicing agile methodologies.”


Keeping rapid growth smooth for employees: “For remote work to be effective, feeling connected and part of a team is key. So besides working meetings, we host events and have lunch together on a weekly basis. We foster connections by pairing people that work in different departments for one-on-one meetings and participate in healthy challenges.

“Another important piece to keep engagement strong is feeling challenged and like we are doing meaningful work. Software development team members are involved in defining the product, which allows us to work with the product team to have a diverse view of problems and think about the solutions we’ll build for our customers.”

Software development team members are involved in defining the product.”

A challenge the team is excited about: “This year, we will be working on a major upgrade of our user interface architecture across the Duetto product suite. We will move pieces of software to their own independent components, which will enable us to scale further and improve the speed of delivery. 

“Also, as the world overcomes the pandemic, we see a positive trend in group business at hotels. So we will continue adding features to BlockBuster for smarter room pricing and improved collaboration.”


Leslie Neitzel
VP of People • Carrot Fertility

What they do: Carrot Fertility helps employers provide fertility-based benefits to their staff through its clinical care team, financial administration tools and other services.


2021 hiring plans: “We’re strategically focused on attracting and engaging the very best talent to support our continued growth,” Neitzel said. “We know top talent exists across the country, so we moved to a fully distributed workforce as a launching pad to find and engage great talent in every area of the country.

“As we grow, we look for team members that have a mix of drive, empathy and passion for Carrot’s mission: to make fertility care and family forming accessible to everyone who wants or needs it. We are also looking for people who are flexible, collaborative and embrace new opportunities as they arise.”


Keeping rapid growth smooth for employees: “We doubled down on existing solutions and invested in new programs that support individual employees and the company as a whole. For instance, all employees participate in Carrot University, a three-day onboarding program that educates new hires on our business and a mini masterclass on fertility care and family-forming topics led by our medical team.

“We’re being thoughtful about how we approach our distributed workforce including evolving our DEI programs and building out our biweekly all hands meeting to celebrate our people and accomplishments. We’re paying close attention to team structures as we grow in order to meet the needs of our business because we want our employees to grow alongside the company.”

We want our employees to grow alongside the company.”

A challenge the team is excited about: “The most interesting challenge Carrot faces is the move to a fully distributed workforce during a period of accelerated growth. However, we view this challenge as an opportunity. Over the last six months we’ve added amazing talent to our team from every corner of the country. They bring different expertise, lived experiences and fresh perspectives that make our company, product and team better.”

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies. Header image via Shutterstock.

Hiring Now
Cloud • Information Technology • Machine Learning • Software • Automation