What it feels like to work at Subvisual

By Laura EstevesOn November 19, 2020

At Subvisual, we've been working to become a Calm Company. This concept was coined by Jason Fried and David Hansson. I'm using it here because it kind of represents the type of company we want to be.

We're not perfect (we'll never be, we'll always have something to improve, right?) but I believe what we have here is not that common. That's why I've decided to write about how it feels to work at Subvisual. Maybe it will inspire you to be an agent of change in your organization.

I've been working at Subvisual for almost 6 years and my decision to join the team wasn't an easy one to make at the time. I didn't have much experience but I had some options. Subvisual was a small company with a young team and I had to deal with my parents' concern regarding if this was a safe place to keep building my career. I had to share with them that I believed this company was people-first, the team had a growth mindset, that I would be treated with respect, I would learn a lot, I would explore a new area and the fact that I would be the first person with a management background could be a great challenge. They weren't convinced but as always they supported my decision; and now they know, it was the best decision to make.

It didn't take long to understand that learning and sharing are at the core of everything we do at Subvisual. During my first weeks, I remember being totally amazed by: the Friday talks (a weekly moment we've been doing since ever, where anyone can take the stage and share with the team what they've been learning); the Slack activity with a lot of interesting articles, blog posts, and talks; the number of books the team was recommending me to read; almost everyone in the team was writing blog posts; the meetups the team organized in our small office; and, the second edition of RubyConf Portugal the team was starting to plan. All of that made me realize that we are a team of incremental learners and we don't want to keep the knowledge to ourselves. Sharing with a community makes us genuinely happy.

My job description at the time was to be responsible for the third edition of Creators School and, since Roberto was doing all the management work alone I also started helping him with some small tasks. At the end of Creators School, we've decided to stop the program since it wasn't financially viable. I remember having my 1-1 meeting with Roberto scheduled for the next days after this decision and I thought at the time (since the main project I was responsible for died) I wouldn't have a place at the company. I went to the meeting totally prepared to be fired. Instead, I had one of my best 1-1s with Roberto where we started the discussion regarding what my role could be (this discussion is and forever will be in progress). I've been growing not only in the areas the company needs me to grow in, but also in the areas I'm most interested in. My path wasn't designed by my CEO alone, it was designed with me from the very beginning.

It wasn't that clear what my role could be so we defined some responsibilities to start with. I also shared with Roberto that my mantra would be to make life easier at Subvisual (I think this is still the simplest way to explain my role). At the time, I think the team understood that this was my motivation so they always kept an open mind and embraced the changes I suggested. Some of them worked out, others didn't, and I learned a lot about the team and the company with these early experiences. I was able to learn and grow fast because my team allowed me to do it; I believe this is the natural flow when you put people with a growth mindset working together.

So there I was, changing, adapting, and learning at a fast pace with the support of a great team. Great not only for being willing to experiment with new processes and ways of collaborating but also for listening to my ideas, for encouraging me to speak and share my thoughts even when I felt like I had nothing important to share. Some people used to ask me how it is to be the only woman in the office or to be the only one with a management background. I think what they wanted to know is if I felt like an outsider. Well, the answer is never, I always felt like part of the team and these differences were always used as strengths and never looked at as weaknesses. And although I felt a lot of times totally outside of my comfort zone, I always felt (and still feel) I work in a safe environment where people not only respect me but also believe in me.

From Creators School's project manager to Subvisual's COO, I've been working on many different areas like team building, communication and alignment, financial management, product and project management, hiring, communication and marketing, and helping with the creation of new ventures. My path has been full of challenges, happy memories and a lot of learning!

To wrap up this post and answering to what it feels like to work at Subvisual: it feels like being constantly faced with interesting new challenges and problems to solve; you're constantly being reminded to keep thinking about your personal growth; your role is always being discussed towards meeting your best capabilities and expectations; you keep receiving nudges to learn more and share more all the knowledge; and you're constantly being cared by your co-workers, who will always do their best to understand and meet your needs and hopes.

(and yes, this is actually a love letter to my team, to Subvisual 💙)

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