‘Successful From the Start’ — What Makes Babylist’s Remote Culture Stand Out

Three team members describe how the company’s culture cultivates a focus on productivity, connection, respect and work-life balance.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Dec. 12, 2023
‘Successful From the Start’ — What Makes Babylist’s Remote Culture Stand Out
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When Joe McCormick was looking for a new position, he discovered that many roles would require his morning commute to work to begin 15 minutes before his son woke up, only to come home 30 minutes before his bedtime. 

This would have left McCormick with barely any father-son bonding time during the week; an arrangement he described as “untenable.” He knew he wanted a role at a company that would allow him to work remotely and prioritize his personal life — and that’s when he found Babylist.

As a staff software engineer at the baby products e-commerce marketplace, McCormick gets to spend more time with his family. For him, these extra hours of family time are simply one element of Babylist’s uniquely supportive and close-knit remote culture. 

McCormick explained that, although the company’s employees are spread across different time zones, connection is core to the workplace experience. In fact, he spent his first day at the organization attending a departmental offsite, where he had the chance to immediately begin building strong connections with his peers.

“I’m naturally extroverted, so for me, it was the best possible way to get exposure to the company,” McCormick said. 

While not everyone gets to begin their Babylist career at an offsite, the company makes it easy for all new team members to dive headfirst into the culture, even on a daily basis. Senior Engineering Manager Tori Russell discovered this when she joined the company and learned that her team held a 30-minute standup every morning. 

When Russell asked her teammates if they truly preferred to chat every morning, she received a unanimous “yes.” Whether they’re simply discussing weekend plans or checking in on each other, these daily meetings make every team member feel seen and heard by their peers. 

“It feels like we’re investing in relationships besides just getting the work done,” Russell said. 

It feels like we’re investing in relationships besides just getting the work done.”

 

Carving out time to bond with colleagues is critical to Babylist’s remote culture, yet it’s not the only force driving the success of employee engagement and collaboration. There are core practices and cultural elements put in place to ensure team members have the resources and support they need to thrive in their roles, including a robust onboarding program.

According to Senior Product Manager Kelly Hoover, the company’s onboarding process isn’t the typical series of mundane lectures. In addition to frequent check-ins with managers, new hires are given a list of individuals they should set up time to chat with, eliminating the intimidation that some people feel when networking with their new colleagues. 

For Hoover, the company’s untraditional onboarding program made it easy to get ramped up and begin to settle into her new role. 

“It helped me become very well-rounded and understand what’s going on across all our different departments,” she said. 

Having an integrative employee experience is important at Babylist, considering the company’s team members are spread across the United States and Canada. With the right systems in place and a focus on respect and flexibility, Babylist team members can pursue their ultimate goal of empowering growing families without sacrificing work-life balance and productivity. 

 

ABOUT BABYLIST

Babylist is a digital destination for growing families. For over a decade, the company has expanded from a baby registry into a full-service platform that helps parents make decisions with confidence, stay connected and build happy and healthy families. Every year, Babylist helps more than nine million people make purchases through its registry, app, e-commerce shop and comprehensive product guides. The Babylist ecosystem now includes Babylist Health, which provides access to products and services, including: insurance-covered breast pumps; Expectul, a new voice in health and wellness for pre-pregnancy through postpartum care; and The Push, a branded content studio that works with the biggest companies in the baby space. 

 

Remote Onboarding

There’s nothing worse than joining a new company and feeling as though you’re not living up to your employer’s expectations. Many new hires will often ask themselves questions such as, “Am I focused on the right things?” or “Should I be doing anything differently?” 

Russell said Babylist’s remote onboarding program is designed to provide employees with answers to these types of questions while offering them the resources they need to build connections and understand every area of the business. 

To help new hires understand how they’re adjusting to their new roles, each one meets with their manager for a monthly review of their first 30, 60 and 90 days on the job. In doing so, new team members know whether or not they need to embrace new skills or modes of working. 

“It’s nice to know if you’re focused on the right things and have the chance to course correct before you’re six months into your role,” Russell said. 

Having constant support from both managers and peers is important, considering new hires are being asked to absorb a significant amount of information — much of which lies outside of their own department. To make this easier, the company has each new team member take part in “Babylist University,” a set of internal meetings that detail every aspect of the company’s operations.

“Babylist University allowed me to meet different leaders and key people across different departments,” Hoover said. “It’s good to have that knowledge from the get-go.” 

Babylist University allowed me to meet different leaders and key people across different departments. It’s good to have that knowledge from the get-go.” 

 

Hoover added that managers make sure new hires have plenty of time to focus on these meetings, especially during the first two weeks. 

“It’s nice knowing you can be fully involved in the meetings and feel like you’re being successful from the start,” she said.

Aside from providing resources and support from managers, Babylist aims to ensure new hires feel a sense of community throughout the onboarding process. McCormick said that’s why new team members are split into specific onboarding cohorts, giving them the chance to get to know those in their group over the first few weeks. 

“You all start to become friends, which is a nice benefit of the onboarding cohorts,” he added. 

 

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The Keys to Productivity

Ever had one of those days when the schedule is so packed with meetings and deadlines, there’s no time to eat lunch or spend time doing heads-down work?

McCormick has had days like these, which he said is common for many who work in engineering. Since having enough heads-down time is critical, he and his peers rely on a platform called Clockwise, which uses AI to optimize teams’ calendars. McCormick explained that, in addition to identifying the best times to take breaks, the technology finds meeting times that align with different time zones without cutting into individuals’ scheduled focus hours.  

“Instead of trying to think about everyone’s calendar, the tool figures it out for you,” he said. “I’ve found it really helpful, given our multi-time-zone world.”

Leveraging Clockwise is simply one tool Babylist team members use to stay productive while minimizing burnout. Another tool they leverage is the Shape Up methodology, which allows Russell’s team to optimize their workload by operating in six-week cycles, enabling them to produce more meaningful work.

Russell added that following the Shape Up method allows her team to gauge the amount of time they wish to invest in the user value that they’re trying to deliver before embarking on this aspect of a project. Overall, it enables them to cut out weeks of production time, when necessary, and focus on what really matters. 

“We’re always working on the highest priority thing and aren’t overworking ourselves to execute on the lower priority stuff,” Russell said. 

We’re always working on the highest-priority thing and aren’t overworking ourselves to execute on the lower priority stuff.”

 

According to McCormick, this willingness to cut scope is rarely seen in the agile world. In fact, when he was told about this during the interview process, he hardly believed it — yet since joining the company, he has seen this commitment put into action. 

“It means we don’t have to keep these projects going for way longer,” McCormick said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much that’s actually done here.”

From a product standpoint, the Shape Up methodology strengthens the relationship between product, engineering and design. Hoover said she and her peers are given ample time to ensure stakeholder buy-in and fully strategize what they wish to build without getting bogged down with creating tickets. 
“It gives you more time to be thoughtful about what you’re building and cuts out lack of communication, because you’re partnering with other teams from the start,” she added. 

 

FINDING COMMUNITY FROM AFAR

When Babylist team members aren’t busy collaborating on a project, they’re engaging with each other on a personal level. Hoover said a series of fun, supportive Slack channels offer employees space to have honest conversations about a variety of topics. “People are really involved in these channels, and it feels like a community,” she added. 

While some channels are dedicated to wellness, reality TV shows and NBA basketball, others serve as a space to discuss personal matters, such as the highs and lows of raising kids. McCormick especially appreciates having the opportunity to speak with other parents at the company, which is something he didn’t have the chance to do at previous employers. “We can all benefit from this shared wealth of knowledge,” he said. 

 

Drive Respect, Embrace Balance

When McCormick joined Babylist, one of his biggest fears was that his teammates would schedule meetings past 5 p.m., considering he’s based on the East Coast.  

But he quickly realized his fear was unfounded. That’s because teams across the company are committed to respecting each other’s local time zones, even if it means pushing an important meeting to the following day. 

Yet this doesn’t mean asynchronicity defines the daily grind. McCormick, who has worked at previous global companies where there was little time zone overlap, noted that Babylist employees often work synchronously, making collaboration and overall communication stronger. 

“It really fosters strong team bones and connection to have that five-hour overlap in the day,” he said. 

At Babylist, every day is a new opportunity to build relationships and drive progress while prioritizing personal well-being. 

Before joining Babylist as a remote worker, Russell commuted from Berkeley to San Francisco, which often meant sacrificing not just her workout routine, but time with her family. All of that changed when she stepped into her current role, as she now has extra time to focus on the most important aspects of her life, such as quality time with her toddler. 

She explained, “For me, the greatest part of being a remote worker at Babylist is having the flexibility of balancing my life with my job.”

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and Babylist.

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