We’re all mad here… Magdalena’s adventures in Tooplooxland

  • Scope:
  • Culture and People

Down the rabbit hole…

Do you ever get this feeling that despite having a good job, it’s not exactly what you want to do?
I know this feeling perfectly. I used to work for a BIG corporation. The salary was good, the job was interesting, however I felt a bit lost in a monstrous company body. Therefore, when the opportunity came, I took on the Culture and People Specialist role at Tooploox. I had only 2 days to make a decision whether I wanted to change my job and move from a predictable, safe environment to the unknown world of software houses. I signed the contract within a week, and there I was – falling down the rabbit hole right into Tooplooxland.

During the last weeks at my old job I was trying to prepare myself for what was about to change. I asked some friends who had left for small companies what the main differences were. “It’s an entirely different world, full of chaos”, they replied…
Some may think that big companies work like well-oiled machines. And that’s not entirely untrue… Obviously, many things are automated and there are many, MANY processes that help speed things up and keep them more or less in order. However, some things are in total chaos. You could spend months drowning in email loops, trying to find a person responsible for creating a very specific marketing content, or you could sit on a conference call for hours to finally agree that you need to organize another conference call… And so on..

What I was about to learn was that chaos in a small company is not just a smaller version of big chaos. It’s a whole different species…

After I had landed safely in Tooplooxland I really felt like Alice from Lewis Carol’s novel. Everything was new and surprising. I didn’t understand many things and some of them seemed like real magic to me. It was a different world indeed. So what made it so different for me?

“Have I gone mad?” – Mad Hatter. “I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”- Alice

One of my new responsibilities has been recruiting people. To be honest, I knew very little about how diverse the recruitment may be. What struck me the most was the “Team fit” requirement. That was new! In my previous job the main focus was to find and hire people with certain skills. The result was that not everyone could get along and many teams consisted of people that liked each other but had almost nothing in common, beside the job, of course.
I realized the difference after I had had my first conversation with my female colleagues on the very first day at Tooploox. We talked about different endings of the Witcher 3 Wild Hunt… (Mine was the worst possible :( ). It undoubtedly makes a huge difference to work with people that are more alike.

“Where should I go?” – Alice. “That depends on where you want to end up.” – The Cheshire Cat.

The biggest change has probably been the lack of organisational structure. In big companies there are millions of org charts, managers, reporting lines, regular lines, dotted lines… It may be difficult to truly understand your place in this gigantic machinery. Coming from a company with a huge vertical structure, the first thought upon hearing that there are no managers is ‘WOW! Awesome!’ yet after the initial euphoria, you start to ask yourself: “OK, there is nobody breathing down my neck, but who is in charge then? Who is going to set up my tasks and goals? Who is going to evaluate my work? What about approval flow? It seems to be pretty difficult at first, and during my first 3 months I had some issues with finding the right direction. In a corporation you are usually introduced to your new role. There are trainings, processes, documentation. All of these help you during first weeks and definitely reduce stress. But it comes with a price ;)
After some time, when I realised how awesome it is to be free to decide on pretty much all aspects of your work, I was able to fully embrace the no-boss idea. And it’s exactly what’s expected here :)

“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”- Alice

If you think that huge IT companies are able to make quick changes, you know nothing ;) Because of the structure it takes time to go through the entire approval flow before any idea comes to life. Some ideas get killed really early because there are rules, guidelines, missions, visions etc. Although we have a clear vision at Tooploox, we are also very flexible when it comes to great ideas (and crazy ideas as well). So yes, you can organize a conference, change the recruitment process, and rent a foam machine for a party. There is a dark side to this speed, though. While it’s nice to be able to do pretty much anything, it’s not that easy to constantly adjust your long term ideas to the fact that everything might change within seconds. One day we’re talking on recruitment hard stop. The next day it turns out that we have to find 10 new people. Crazy, isn’t it?

“Curiouser and curiouser!”- Alice

Having grown into Tooploox, now I’m in a spot where I really enjoy the independence. And now things are becoming really interesting! The company is developing very fast and in very unpredictable directions. It may sound like a corporate jabber, but at Tooploox literally anything is possible and the most unusual ideas can come to life.

P.S. After I asked team to do a proofreading, this happened:

Quotes from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Caroll_
Graphics by Anna Langiewicz_

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