Company Blog

We Eat Culture for Breakfast Series: Vol. 1 Interview With Our VP of Culture Stacy Mendes

For startups, company culture is a vital component to the success and motivation of its employees. In order to maintain a great culture, however, ample time and resources must be dedicated to ensure its growth and fit for the entire company.  This week, we caught up with our own VP of Culture Stacy Mendes to get her take on the environment she helps to create at UE, and her tips for nurturing a company culture of your own.

Since employees are the root of a company’s culture, what attributes do you typically look for in a candidate to ensure they are a “culture fit?”

While there isn’t a specific type of person we look to hire, we do look for certain attributes like flexibility, motivation, and entrepreneurial spirit. Particularly, we like to hire individuals who have a certain energy sense; they don’t necessarily need have a high energy, but at least have a good positive energy about them. When employees have similar energies, they work together in collaboration and friendship.

The “entrepreneurial spirit” is an ideal attribute to have as an employee. Is this something most employees have within them, or does a company cultivate it?

Most of the employees at Underground Elephant already have that spirit within them. The amount of work and opportunities we provide for our employees, however, can bring out that spirit before they even knew they had it. The amount of autonomy here is beyond anything you would find at another company. So it’s a little bit of both; employees have the passion, but we tap into it.

As VP of Culture, how would you say UE’s  company culture helps to instill the entrepreneurial spirit in employees?

Underground Elephant’s new open office space definitely lends itself to the entrepreneurial spirit. I believe the office helps to create and reinforce the culture here; it not only provides a sense of transparency to business initiatives, but it forces employees to be more collaborative, and to work across teams by giving insight to different projects.

Additionally, culture initiatives like our annual Scavenger Hunt help to instill the entrepreneurial spirit in our employees as well. Each year, employees are partnered across departments, and work together to creatively strategize on team goals that benefit both the company and the community. The skills learned and used during the event directly apply to the workplace, and it also makes it easier for employees to communicate with other teams at work since they are familiar with one another.

Can you think of an example when you’ve seen UE’s culture most successful?

I think the Forum Program has been one of our greatest culture successes. Before we kicked it off last year, we thought it would be a fun idea, but it wasn’t until it was established that we realized it also helped provide for the community in a really positive way. The program helps the company work together and form cross-departmental bonds, which makes it easier for them to then go and ask specific questions within other departments that they might not have been able to before. Several of the challenges also helped amplify our footprint in the community; for instance, we donated 2100 lbs of food to feeding america, and collected 700 pounds of clothing for the Monarch School. The Forum Program has helped us motivate employees to help out in the community while continuing to deepen our culture vibe.

What advice would you give to CEOs on how to create a VP of Culture position at their company?

Culture is a living, growing being. When I first joined UE, the culture was much different than it is now because we have grown as a company. People define the culture. You have to constantly nurture it, and never want it to be disingenuous. It goes back to hiring the right types of people.
In my role, you have to be the utmost team player, and be willing to do anything to help anyone. This role is important since without someone to coach and stimulate the company culture, it will eventually become unimportant and disregarded. If your company hires a lot and grows quickly, culture can easily slip from the main priority. Culture is very important to our company, so that’s why we have a specific team dedicated to it.

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