Culture at Cetaris: Toronto’s Best Tech Workplace 2020
Given our recent win at the Timmy’s you might be wondering what set Cetaris’ culture apart from the many other amazing tech companies across Toronto. We’ve decided to tell it in our own words, by sharing our application which was crafted by our very own team members. If you missed the awards ceremony, you can rewatch the winning moment here.
A) What makes this company’s work culture great, both in the office and at home?
In writing this, I surveyed our whole team to gain feedback on what they think sets our culture apart. As I was pouring over survey results, the words that kept coming up were “care” and family”.
Before the lockdown, culture at Cetaris was filled with face-to-face interaction. We mostly came together over food and activity — from poutine buffets to basketball tournaments, to sharing huge boxes of samosas to volunteering for Clean Toronto Together. Our team came together over bi-weekly town halls, monthly summer barbecues, backyard games, costume parties, walking challenges, charitable bake sales, and a yearly holiday dinner party.
It goes without saying that the initial lockdown was not an easy transition for anyone – the instability of the moment impacted the entire economy. But Cetaris was quick to respond; they put together a task force that surveyed each team member and built individualized wellness plans to make sure the team could work safely and comfortably from home. Our CEO hand-delivered sanitized equipment to team members — chairs, sit/stand desks, laptop stands, ergonomic devices, and more. A focus on wellness has been paramount during the pandemic. While flex hours had always been available to our team, they have become especially crucial for many working families at Cetaris during COVID-19. We are also given the time and space to unplug once a day and engage in exercise. Virtual yoga classes twice a week with a certified instructor have become a grounding component to each of our work weeks. At the start of it all, Cetaris re-evaluated and improved our health insurance plan with more mental health supports added to ensure our mental health remained a priority too.
As a team, we have learned to place even greater value on connecting and fostering togetherness at daily team town halls and monthly “virtual barbecues” where each employee is given a budget to order in a takeout lunch. We are continually learning to set aside time for fun, my favourite of these may be our “Friday Live” events, where a team member gets on camera to teach us a new recipe, put on an art showcase, give us a garden tour, or teach us a new craft or skill.
Today, 100% of respondents on Glassdoor say that they would recommend working at Cetaris to a friend. We are proud of the tight-knit community of care that our team has built together.
#TeamCetaris is a multicultural and multigenerational team that supports each other and isn’t afraid of asking questions. We bond over dad jokes, good food, and making sideways references to our leadership team’s preternatural love of all things Star Wars.
B) How does this company promote technical creativity and innovation?
Cetaris is built upon a culture of innovation. Our story began in the late 80s in a single-use world that taught us that if it’s broken, you should throw it away. Recycling was not yet the norm, and being “green” didn’t exist in the cultural consciousness. It was a world that synonomized the word “broken” with “garbage”. Our small team set out to build software to help businesses to do the exact opposite. An early pioneer in the asset maintenance space, we began building tools to help our customers maintain their physical assets to reduce waste, cut down on emissions, and save money while doing it.
There has always been a ground-up momentum to our innovation, and today the same approach moves our team forward. Whether it’s through building software to support robots and autonomous vehicles, or building AI and machine learning into our predictive maintenance tools, we’re a team that is passionate about taking risks and thinking outside of the box. Seven years before the iPhone’s introduction to the market, Cetaris team members built our first mobile product. One year before the first smartphone was connected to the internet, our pocket PC solution was helping technicians access and document info at the asset.
Our team works closely beside customers to closely understand their pain points and convert their dreams into usable products and solutions. Every person at Cetaris is directly involved in shaping the vision for future releases.
We believe that creativity strikes when the right frameworks are in place. Embedded into the work we do is the idea that our work is never done. We continually strive to create new and better ways to improve upon our process, skills, and products. As soon as we find a good way to accomplish something, we’ve learned to say, “Cool, now let’s find an even better way!”.
An innovative, creative team needs top-notch tooling and speed. Technology stacks, libraries, and platforms are upgraded immediately, so we are always running on the latest. And, team members are given dedicated time to focus on learning and development. For example, this week, team members were allotted time to complete the Science of Happiness Course from Yale University.
Developers, Designers, and QA Analysts have weekly or bi-weekly huddles to explore any new processes, demo new tools, and generally share knowledge while hackathons and passion projects are assigned to teams to encourage new ways of thinking about old problems.
Lastly and most importantly, we believe that diversity sits at the heart of innovation. Our team reached gender parity in 2018, while 65% are New Canadians. We believe that the range of perspectives and lived experiences on our team help us to build better, more empathetic, and well-rounded software solutions.
C) How does this company promote learning and professional development?
The line between working and learning doesn’t exist here at Cetaris. One of the company’s core values is ‘Always Learn and Share’, and this is highlighted from the time new team members are onboarded. The process begins with peer-to-peer sessions on business process, tools, and frameworks. Multiple communication channels, daily huddles, weekly team meetings devote time and space to sharing informal learning, trends, tools, and solutions.
Individual learning supports come in many forms from online materials, subscriptions, and meet ups to formal training, and professional conferences, as well as job shadowing, cross training or time during work to prepare for an industry exam. Space is made for different learning styles, and there are never any prescribed, one-size-fits-all solutions.
Plus, team members who pursue programs of study and certification receive financial rewards for every exam completed as well as time and support to implement their learning into new projects.
Lastly, personalized professional development plans are built for each individual. Each team member meets with a lead to set goals for the year. These sessions are designed to support learning and growth to help us to develop into careers we are proud of.
D) How does this company reward and recognize contributions from the whole tech team?
A culture of appreciation is built into the fabric of day-to-day life at Cetaris. Peer-to-peer recognition is encouraged with monthly “Way to Go Awards” that recognize the effort of a team member at town hall meetings.
Three yearly team appreciation events are built into each calendar year: our spring event and awards ceremony, a holiday dinner with all our families, and a team appreciation ski day for the whole family. Our spring team event is centered around an awards ceremony where peer-elected individuals are recognized for embodying each of our 8 core values. Awards are followed by a day of activity and food to celebrate the whole team hosted at venues across Toronto such as Playdium, Toronto Island, McMichael Gallery, and even on the deck of a harbourfront cruise ship.
Our annual ski day brings together team members and their families for a fun Canadian winter experience away from the office — we meet together on the slope for a day of ski or snowboard lessons, rentals, and fireside drinks and lunch.
A mainstay event is our Holiday Dinner, a formal evening that includes a silent auction designed to fundraise for a charity that matters to our team as well as dinner, speeches, toasts, activities, and fun for each team member and their family or friends.
In 2020, the team is working to adapt the format of each event for individuals working from home, providing food by delivery apps and connecting us through company-wide Teams calls.
To recognize long term contributions, we receive years of service awards at each career milestone — 5, 10, 15 years, and beyond. Recipients select their own prize from a catalogue of household, tech, leisure, or fitness items. In terms of compensation (which, let’s face it, is the most important factor at play in recognition), a quarterly bonus is awarded across the team and takes into account individual contribution to product releases, innovation, process improvement, as well as going the extra mile for customers.
Our annual user conference, Cetaris Summit, is often cited as one our team’s favourite moments of recognition in the year. Once a year #TeamCetaris — designers, developers, and users — unite to explore our latest product innovations. Cetaris Summit gives our team the chance to connect to the problems we solve for real people every day. It reminds us why we do the work we do: to help our customer’s reduce waste and optimize their maintenance operations. Our work benefits our users, their businesses, and our planet a little every day. And that’s pretty cool.