Culture in a Work Remote World with Shippabo's Nina Luu


Deb Goldstein


December 7, 2021

Culture with Nina Luu from Shippabo

A couple of weeks ago, we had a nice dinner with local Bonfire founders in LA. Connections were made, drinks were enjoyed and the community shared what they’re currently working through. One hot topic of the night was company culture and how to maintain it in a remote first world. I had a nice conversation with Nina Luu from Shippabo, whose team doubled in size during the pandemic. One of the things we spoke about, which I really liked, was how they put a lot of effort into over-communicating what their culture is since they no longer go into an office. She even went as far to say her team feels more connected than they were before they started to work from home. Below, Nina shares a ton of useful tips and creative ways she keeps her growing, remote team, engaged and happy!

How big is your team?

We are a team of 40, with more than 50% outside California and 10 in China.

Did your team work together in an office before?

Yes, we had about 20 people coming into our office in LA full-time before the pandemic. Our team doubled during the pandemic.

How has the WFH transition been for your team?

It was a little scary at first. In the beginning, we all thought this was going to be a short, temporary change. Once we understood that we’d be in a WFH environment longer than expected, I worked with my HR manager, Aurore, to think through what we needed to do in order to really support the team.

What did that look like?

First, we sent a survey to figure out how we can best support our team. We wanted to know what equipment they needed and make sure they knew who to go to for support. The second thing we did was speak to our different department leaders about how they like to work with their teams. For example, the engineering team set up a lot of retrospective meetings, where they discuss what makes them glad and sad.

How did working from home impact your company culture?

This is something we have focused quite a bit on over the last 18 months. One of the things we learned from no longer going into an office was that we needed to do a better job of communicating our culture. We spent a lot of time developing how we document and really over communicate some of our beliefs and ideas. We started having more all-hands meetings, more virtual team lunches, and started doing different activities together after work.

What are some other things you do to combat loss of connection?

We think it’s really important to keep the team connected outside of work, especially in a remote first world. I have a kick ass HR manager who takes on team building and culture. We now have Thursday night hang outs, that depending on the activity (and if there’s alcohol involved), usually have a pretty good turn out. We’ve had pet night, game night, and for Thanksgiving, everyone got a bottle of wine and cheese, and we hired an expert to talk about the history of cheese. That was really fun and allowed everyone to engage. We’ve also done an online Escape room that our team enjoyed.

Game nights (with alcohol) are always a good time! Is there anything you do during the workday to keep the team connected?

We do a lot of huddles through Slack. There’s no pressure - you can join when you like and leave when you need to. This allows the team to quickly connect throughout the day like they would if someone stopped by your desk.

You mentioned you doubled in size over the pandemic. As a growing company, what does your onboarding process look like in a WFH environment?

We actually built out our entire onboarding process using Notion, and every team member (new and old) went through our onboarding process again. This was helpful to remind everyone why we are all here.

For new hires, our fantastic HR manager Aurore oversees their onboarding. The first week focuses on the company, where Aurore will walk through a presentation covering what we value, what we believe in, and what success looks like. She then trains them on the different tools we use including Notion, Slack, our HR system and more. Next, the new hire will onboard with their team, which is typically a training session with their manager and a period of shadowing other teammates. We believe in building empathy across the team in order to understand why they do what they do, so we do cross-function shadowing. At the end, we share a survey with the new hire about their onboarding experience to help us improve our process in the future.

I love that. A great onboarding experience can have a big impact, so it’s awesome you put a lot of focus into that. Is there anything else you do to help new hires get to know the team better?

Because we are growing so fast, another thing we did to help our team connect was we implemented Notion. Notion is an easy way to document the things you care about and share them with each other. We documented our company philosophy, our process, and how we like to work with one another. Every individual also has their own page so teammates can get to know each other. We obviously still miss being together, but in a way, the transition helped us become even more connected.

Are you 100% remote now and what has the feedback been from your team when you made that decision?

Yes, we gave up our office last year so we are fully working remotely now. Surprisingly, one of our surveys came back saying 60% of our team wanted to go into an office - which is the majority of engineers. To offset this, we gave each team member credits to use at WeWork so they have an option to go on their own, or meet up and work together in smaller groups whenever they want. This has been really popular with our team.

Do you also have plans to get together as a company?

Yes, at first we wanted to have quarterly, in-person meetings, but the logistics of getting 40 people together from across the globe is challenging. Instead, we planned to do an annual get together with the entire team across a few days. Our big meeting this past year was canceled when cases started to spike, so we decided to do smaller get-togethers. Each department has gotten together to have their own strategy sessions whenever they need. They seem to be happening quarterly.  

Is there anything else you’d like to add that you’ve found useful in a remote first world?

Yes, we are going to start using a company called Tiny Pulse, which is a feedback tool that allows you to send out a question a week to employees. The questions can be fun or serious, and gives your employees an easy and safe way to share how they are feeling.

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