Inside the Office of WP Engine

No matter what size company you work for there’s always a huge effort going on behind the scenes to make it a great place to work. It might be stocking the kitchen with snacks everyone loves, planning celebratory events, or rallying the troops for an important project. These things are even more challenging when you’re company is growing fast.

We recently caught up with Sarah Jones, Employee Experience Manager over at WP Engine. She had some interesting insight into ways they’ve scaled behind the scenes effort as they’ve grown from 35 to 200 employees.

WP Engine Team

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From Left to Right: Nick Daines, Sr. Director of Customer Support, Kelly Verdin, AR Specialist, Sarah Jones, EE Manager, DJ Valenzuela, Customer Support L2, at Q3 All Hands Event at the North Door.

Outsource what you can early

When WP Engine was just getting started back in 2010, their office was inside of an incubator space in downtown Austin called Capital Factory. Remember how technology companies used to start in someone’s dingy old basement? Hubs like Capital Factory are the new basement. They allow entrepreneurs to rent as little space as a seat at a table or as much space as an entire floor based on their needs. As part of the membership fees the incubator takes care of cleaning the office, buying furniture, and supplying food for employees. It also allows entrepreneurs to interact, exchange ideas, and leverage resources they might not have access to elsewhere.

Being part of Capital Factory allowed WP Engine to grow their employee base without a dedicated office manager. Most of the core office management functions were already taken care of. As a result, Sarah was able to focus on their Employee Experience and Recruiting functions.

When WP Engine outgrew Capital Factory their new Office Manager started the very next week.

Spread the wealth

Those of us in Employee Experience or Human Resources know that coming up with the perfect employee event isn’t easy. There are a lot of people to please and it can often seem like everyone wants something different. Coming up with the next event, combing through the details, promoting it, and making sure it goes off without a hitch can be exhausting.

At WP Engine they get employees involved in culture initiatives via a Culture Club. The club comprises approximately six employees that were voted in by their peers. Every six months the company votes again and a new group of fanatics take over the duties of the club. They have a budget and a high bar that was set by the former members that encourages them to come up with the next big initiative.

At the time we were talking to Sarah, the Culture Club was in the process of coordinating an Anchor Man movie night. Complete with concessions, comfy chairs, and ‘shag rags’ as props at the office.

Make difficult projects fun

Brian Matthews and Nick Daines head up the customer support team at WP Engine. They’re all about making work fun while offering awesome support to their clients. When the ticket queue was looking a little backed up and needed some extra TLC they hosted a Ticket Palooza. An all day event aimed at cleaning out the queue. Everyone on the team was involved. As they cleared out open support requests they earned tickets that were pulled for prizes, such as TV’s, gift cards, and play stations. The day consisted of a Wheel of Fun, employees in chicken suits, cranked up music, food and beverages.

“Clearing out all of those customer requests was a lot more exciting thanks to Ticket Palooza!”, said Sarah.

A key take away from our conversation with Sarah, is that a lot of work goes into developing and cultivating a company’s culture. Great companies like WP Engine, have figured out that in order to scale, culture and team building activities have to be distributed within the organization. The more creative we can be about how work gets done and who helps us get it done, the more effective it is at making a company a great place to work.

WP Engine is the largest managed hosting platform for websites and apps built with WordPress. Their product powers tens of thousands of sites while delivering a fast, reliable, and secure web experience. When Sarah joined the crew she was employee 35 and today they have more than 200 employees.

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Marisa Keegan
by Marisa Keegan
Marisa Keegan has held culture and engagement roles inside two nationally recognized great places to work, started the networking group Culture Fanatics, and wrote the book Culture: More than Jeans and Margarita Machines. She was recognized as one of the Top 100 Employee Engagement Experts in the US in 2013 and is currently a consultant to organizations interested in creating a great culture.
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