Cat Hernandez, Head of Talent at Chartbeat tells us how they hire, engage, and retain the best employees, and how they’re able to maintain an incredible company culture.
Jacob Shriar: Hello everyone. I’m Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at Officevibe, and today I’m with Cat Hernandez, who is the Head of Talent for Chartbeat. Cat, thanks so much for being here with me.
Cat Hernandez: Happy to be here.
Jacob Shriar: Awesome. So really before we get started, before we jump into the questions, maybe if you could give everyone a quick background of what Chartbeat is. What do you guys do just in case some of us don’t know?
Cat Hernandez: Sure, so quick high-level introduction into the company is Chartbeat basically measures and monetizes attention on the Web. We are traditionally known for our publishing dashboard and that’s probably what most people use and associate with Chartbeat, but recently we’ve also gone into the world of advertising and expanding our product suite, so it includes the overlays that we’ve built, the campaign reports, and kind of give people just a better overall picture, I think, of how they’re capture and getting attention on the Web, and how they can monetize that going forward.
Chartbeat Publishing has a product that I would say is our most dominate product on the market. If you’re looking for anything to really check out.
Jacob Shriar: Cool. Thanks for that. Just curious for my own knowledge is it kind of similar to Google Analytics or like a KISSmetrics kind of product?
Cat Hernandez: Yeah. That’s a great question. It’s similar but not measuring kind of the same thing. So traditionally when you look at analytics, it goes through metrics like pages views, and click-through rates, and kind of your simple metrics that looks at more the quantity of the clicks that you’re getting per page and not necessarily measures anything around quality, right.
And so the difference there is that our main metric on the Chartbeat Publishing side of things is really centered around engaged time and how people are consuming that content, how far they are reading through your articles, and how they are really kind of, I think, consuming.
And for a publisher, for anyone that produces content, undoubtedly one of the more valuable things is if you could understand how people are consuming content and whether or not it’s quality, you can, I think, better monetize and figure out ways that you can keep engaging and get loyal leadership long term.
So the difference there is that you’ll look at a tool like Google Analytics which is much more historically driven, and many of our clients probably use us in tandem. Chartbeat I consider to be more of a decision-making tool. Does that make sense?
Jacob Shriar: Yeah, for sure, that makes a ton of sense. And actually there is a very cool article that was fairly recently written in Time Magazine by, I think, the CEO of Chartbeat, where it really went into detail and broke down a few myths, just like a common few misconceptions that people have about how advertising works on the web unreal. When we post this video up on our website, we’re obviously going to link to that Time article as well. I definitely want everyone to check that out. But anyway, that’s enough about analytics, let’s dive into culture and HR stuff.
Cat Hernandez: Sure.
Jacob Shriar: So really, just very quickly, kind of high level, talk to us about the cultural there. What’s it like to work there?
Cat Hernandez: So it’s interesting. Anytime you’re working for a company that’s scaling, the culture shifts and changes a little bit, but I think that the key thing about Chartbeat that hasn’t changed overtime is that we are centering our culture around learning. We definitely have the cool games. We do the happy hours.
This is a very young, great place to work in that respect, but I think what makes us different from the other startups in New York is that we focus a lot on people that are just intellectually curious and want to kind of keep furthering their skill set. And that influences a lot about how we hire and who we hire. So if I had to choose one word to really describe what our cultural is about I would say that it’s a culture of learning. It’s a cultural of people that want to keep deepening their skill set.
Jacob Shriar: Okay nice, that’s really interesting. So let’s dive a little deeper into that. How do you let them continue learning? What are some tools that you use? What are some sort of programs and initiative that you offer? How do you really let everyone continuously learn?
Cat Hernandez: Yeah, so everything is simple as given people a book stipend every month. We give all of our new hires Kindles when they start. Obviously, this is a company that serves the publish industry largely, and we encourage reading. Reading things that are relating to your function is highly encourages or even just looking, and reading, and learning new things.
We sponsor coding classes for our business folks that are interested in learning about that side of the business. We also have Hack Weeks. At the end of every six-week development cycle, so that our engineers can continue to pick up new technologies or learn to apply and work on a project they haven’t had a chance to work on. It doesn’t necessarily have to be company related. The only requirement for something like Hack Week is that you have something to show for it after that week is up so that we know that you’re actually learning something, right?
And we set aside budgets for people in case they want to take classes, in case they want to teach. We center a lot of our social goods around how we can teach other people and share our expertise. So that’s a lot of the reason why I do things like this. It’s a lot of the reason why our engineers participates in MeetUps. So I think that when you have that right mentality, people take advantage of the things that we as a company are providing them.
Jacob Shriar: Cool, awesome. That makes sense. Let’s talk a little more about hiring and how you guys hire there since you are the head of talent. I’d love to learn more about the hiring process and maybe some questions that you might ask, how you access for culture fit. You mentioned that you look for people who are curious to learn. I would love to understand how you actually find those people, and what are some tips and best practices for actually finding the best of the best?
Cat Hernandez: Yeah, how we find people is an interesting thing. You know, there is a portion of your hires that always come from that inbound traffic and can be relatively random in how good that quality is. Hiring here at Chartbeat is a team effort. The only way that I can support talent for a company that’s growing as much as ours is if everybody is aware of what we’re hiring for, and everybody kind of understands where our needs are.
And so, I would say that a large percentage of our hires actually come from referrals. Just making sure that people know to take advantage of a very simple program like that, that encourages them to find people that they want to work with that they can vouch for, either a cultural fit or a competency fit, is something that goes a long way.
I think that when you build that type of mentality here. It makes it that much easier to actually make good hires happen. With all of that being said, I think that what’s key for me is that when we do hire, everybody is on board. My engineers are ready to code reviews. Everybody is willing to participate in whatever capacity they need to to make sure that we are accessing candidates properly.
When you have the right type of mentality, for me, it makes my job a million times easier, because it’s supportive, and it’s not me feeling like it’s entirely on myself to make it happen.
How we assess candidates differs largely depending on the role, but when I talk to candidates initially, I look at what motivates that person. So not asking those standard like, let me go through your resume type of questions. But more so trying to understand what makes this person get up in the morning and what makes them motivated to go to work.
Not saying that you have to like everything about your job, but you have to, I think, really prove to me that you are someone who wants to build the products that we’re building, someone who wants to sell the products that we’re selling, because you’ve taken the time to understand what that is.
And that means a lot to us. We are a small company and we’re growing, and I think that it’s still valuable for you to be passionate about the business in whatever function that you’re joining.
The one thing that we do that’s maybe different than other companies is that we do social meet ups for all candidates. So socials are basically a chance for the rest of the company to meet anybody that we are potentially interest in hiring. So you are talking about an opportunity to get to know the real person versus the interviewee person.
People are different in conference rooms. People are different when they expect certain questions to come their way. And we want to get to know someone a bit more authentically, so we typically try to do something out of the office at a local pub or a restaurant, and it’s an optional thing for our employees across all of our teams to attend and meet somebody before we even give an offer out.
Cultural fit is important. It’s not something that here is just some kind of term that lives and dies. For us, it really is important that somebody is kind of pleasant to be around, somebody who is passionate about what we’re doing. Those are things that I don’t think that you learn as easily when you’re talking to someone face-to-face in a conference room.
Jacob Shriar: That was amazing. Yeah. Thanks so much for going into such detail. That really is great. Now my next question is for you I guess about the next steps. So let’s say that you’ve decided on a candidate and you’ve hired them. Talk to me about the on boarding at Chartbeat. How do you actually integrate them into the team? What are some unique things that you guys do to kind of welcome them on and on board them properly?
Cat Hernandez: We’ve designed general onboarding at Chartbeat to be a series of seven or eight sessions that give candidates or new hires kind of a chance to truly understand the high level of the company. It’s a CEO welcome. It’s a product overview from our head of products so that they understand why we build the way that we build and how we go through deciding what we make and what we don’t. It’s about understanding what our brand is.
We’re obviously very specific in how we represent ourselves in the market. And we want people, especially those who are client facing, to have a good grasp of that. And if you’re not client facing, you should still, I think, equally be able to represent the company the way that we expect you to.
So that general onboarding or kind of go sessions, those happen in the first couple of weeks that someone starts. On top of that, each team has specific onboarding. It goes as specific as actually really diving into the product. And they spend a lot of time with that current team, and we also do encourage people to get to know what other people do within the company, because it’s important to understand all of the different roles that impact the success of this company long term.
Our engineers, they have a buddy system, so not one person feels completely overwhelmed when they are adjusting. A lot of when you’re new, it’s just about making sure that you have someone to reach out to when you have questions.
Our teams are starting to get bigger and bigger, so it’s important to make sure that there are multiple people that new hires can really kind of attach themselves to if they have concerns. We have a generally open and transparent environment here so I don’t see that as really being much of an issue. Our executives are all readily available. But I think that the bigger we get, the harder it will be to make sure that everyone has that same level of access.
Jacob Shriar: Actually you just hit on something that’s very interesting and I’d love to ask you if you don’t mind?
Cat Hernandez: Sure.
Jacob Shriar: You talked about how quickly you’re growing and how you are now growing into a decently big sized organization. I wonder are you, as head of talent, worried at all about the culture and maintaining the culture, how and if you’ll be able to maintain that culture as you guys scale? Is that something that you think about? Is it something that you plan for? What are your thoughts there?
Cat Hernandez: Yeah. I’m always thinking about things like that. When I joined Chartbeat, I think we were under 30 employees. We are approaching the 70 employee mark currently. So when I look at how much the company has changed, attrition included, we have shifted. We are a place that requires a bit more process that we maybe didn’t have when this company was ten people.
The important thing for me when you look at culture is not use that as this kind of overlapping term. For me, culture is making sure that people here enjoy working here and still stand behind the mission and vision of this company. And so if that means that we provide snacks, then we provide snacks. If that means that we create a more meaningful way for people to get feedback, we create that. Those are all things that we have in motion at the moment.
It’s also just about thinking about how you want to structure the organization. This company looks vastly different now than it previously. And so for me, it’s making sure that those definitions are clear. And when you explain to people why certain things happen and why things change and evolve, I think that people who want to be there for the growth period of this company will be here. And a lot of that is just making sure that you’re being honest with your employees.
Jacob Shriar: Cool. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And actually I’m thinking as you’re saying this, it kind of went off in my head, because Chartbeat is I guess it’s an analytics company. You can kind of put it in that category if you think about it. So I’m wondering how much analytics do you use in HR, and I’m wondering how do you track the success of some of these programs? Do you even track the success of all of these things that you do? What are some tools that you use? If you can really go into some of the data, in your role specifically, I think that would be really, really cool.
Cat Hernandez: Yeah. It’s interesting, when you are this young, it’s really hard to devote a lot of your time to what seems to be more of a manual process right now. How I track the success of the initiatives that we do right now is largely just around usage. How I track the success of our hiring culture is through the percentage of the referrals that I receive and the percentage that I even just hire. It’s a lot of very simple things. I don’t actually consider people, operations, or HR. I don’t think that it needs to be a very complicated thing.
We as a company as well small enough that we don’t need to have, I think, very structured processes around engagement surveys and metrics like that. From a recruiting standpoint, I use a lot of very forward-thinking tools.
When I look at how we want to position ourselves going forward, I definitely think about what we could be using new and not just the average set of tools that I’ve come to learn to be used, and I’m opened to trying new technologies.
At some point this year, I implement an ATS, like this is how young we are. I don’t even have an applicant tracking system. And I will likely lean towards newer technologies like Greenhouse or Leaver, very young companies. But they are also building a very largely different platform than your traditional, I think, more well-known ATS systems.
When I also look at things like performance management and people development, we’re building something from scratch with a new accelerator program versus going to what’s traditionally available out there. I’m not afraid to try a different tool, because if it fails, then you know, you try again. The beauty of the role in the position I have is the flexibility to try new things and an organization that’s allowing you the chance to build something a little bit different.
Jacob Shriar: Cool. Thanks for that. Yeah, I appreciate that, and actually we did one of these cultural videos with the CEO at that Greenhouse. Incredible company, very cool tool. Daniel Chait is the guy’s name, very cool guy.
Cat Hernandez: I know him well.
Jacob Shriar: Okay. Nice, awesome. My next question to you is that I would love to learn about some of the initiatives that you guys have going on, maybe you would like to promote employee wellness, or some kind of social interactions, or volunteering, or anything along those lines. Do you have initiatives kind of set up?
Cat Hernandez: What were kind of the areas that you wanted? Wellness?
Jacob Shriar: Anything really. Yeah, it could be employee wellness, being social with your employees, community involvement, volunteering, anything really.
Cat Hernandez: Sure. Around community involvement, we don’t have like a company-set initiative. But we do have employees who are passionate about individual kind of causes. So this is certainly a place where you can share that, and you can encourage other people to help and participate whether that’s through time or money is truly up to you.
When I look at where we want to build it out, our social good platform going forward, I want people to share their expertise. That is, for me, still so closely aligned to the culture of this company and what I think we stand for and what makes us different.
So for myself it’s helping with the Young Women Leadership Network and getting a lot of women in the office to talk to underprivileged kids who maybe have never thought about a career in computer science, or who never thought about even just working for a startup and consider other options besides becoming a doctor, or a lawyer, or a police officer, kind of your standard set of career paths when you’re in school, right?
And I think that those are the things that make a big difference. So we definitely encourage people to do that. And we will likely, at some point, in a bit more of a meaningful way, but it’s honestly not something that I had a chance to do but something that I definitely want to prioritize for the rest of this year.
From a wellness standpoint, with our PEO relationship with Ambrose, we have gym discounts, and a lot of our employees are actually huge fitness enthusiasts. So they do try to make that more of a social thing. We have a group of people that like to go spinning together a couple of times a week that will do mini-run clubs, all unofficial things. So it’s driven by the employee that is passionate about it, and it’s not forced. That is what I think makes a big difference or more authentic at least.
And then from a social aspect, as a company we do CEO happy hours, we have our social meet ups. We have a softball team. We’re not very good, but we have one. And we all like just generally being around each other, so there is a lot of informal hanging out that happens.
It’s the end of a development cycle tomorrow. And so we’re actually going to do an end of cycle party here in the office. And so we’ll rearrange some furniture. We have a kegerator here in the office, and we’ll play beer pong, and just be, I think, relieved that we’ve gotten through another cycle together, so a lot of those things.
What’s nice about that kind of stuff is I’m not the planning all of it. I am not the person that’s solely responsible for making sure that there is fun to be had in the office. We do whisky nights. We do wine nights where everybody just brings a bottle of their favorite whiskey or wine and we share it together and we talk about why we like it. It’s a very small thing, but I think it’s the things that make memories for these people. And so that’s something that’s very important to me. But it’s also our employees that are driving it which is nice.
Jacob Shriar: Yeah, I love the fact that it’s informal so it’s not, like you said, forced, I’ll say, by you, at the company level, but what’s cool is that it’s encouraged to be thinking about these things, and that you encourage and you allow for the employees to set up their own activities, and their own nights, and their own events. I really, really like that.
My last question for you before we go is, just curious, what are your thoughts on remote working? Do you guys allow remote working? If you do, I’d love to hear some of the tools that you use to kind of allow for that.
Cat Fernandez: Yeah, so that’s one thing that we don’t do. We don’t have remote workers. We also don’t typically have a lot of contractors. Right now Chartbeat, a purely made startup in New York, has all 60-something employees here in the office every day. It’s not to say that we don’t have flexible work environments when you need to work from home or be away, but what we’ve found to be the most valuable right now is we’re building a lot of products that require extensive collaboration.
There is a lot that gets done in side conversations that are happening and don’t necessarily come from the formalized meetings that people have. And so we have decided that for now at least, where our company is that we won’t have remote workers at the moment. It’s not to say that I’m opposed to it or we’re opposed to it.
We’ve found that our teams just work so much better when they are here in front of each other every single day. Does that make sense?
Jacob Shriar: Yeah, it does. It makes a ton of sense. I don’t know if I agree or don’t agree. What you’re saying makes a lot of sense for sure, and it’s right, but anyway, it does make sense. But I’m always very torn. I’ve read a ton of research that shows some people are more engaged when they are remote, some are more engaged when they aren’t. Some people like it. Some people don’t. I don’t know what to think. But it’s always interesting to hear if you don’t allow it, why don’t you allow it.
Cat Fernandez: Sure.
Jacob Shriar: And that point that you brought up about the side conversations, actually made a lot of sense, because one of our works remotely, and it’s true. I mean we keep in touch all of the time. We use different tools kind of similar to this webcam. But we don’t, there is probably a lot of opportunities there, there is probably a lot of those one-off side conversations that we obviously don’t have.
But we only check in with each other multiple times a day, and we have fun on these sort of social platforms that are meant for remote working, but you’re right, there is probably something there that we’re missing out on, so great insight there for sure.
Cat Fernandez: Yeah. One last thing around that is our teams are structured in a way where they are centered around product. And so if you’re looking at a team like Chartbeat Publishing, for instance, there’s product marketers, there’s designers, there’s data scientists, there’s engineers, there’s salespeople all attached to the same product. So unless you can create the capability of each of those people working remotely, and not just have it be engineer-focused necessarily, I think for us it makes it tough, because we have cross-functional teams that work very closely together. And it makes it a little bit harder to, I think, implement a remote structure.
Jacob Shriar: Cool, well said. I know. It makes a ton of sense. I think we’ll end it here, but honestly, Cat, I just want to thank you so much for taking some time to chat with me. This was a lot of fun. Chartbeat sounds like an incredible company honestly. You’re obviously doing a great job there and hopefully, we can do this again sometime soon, all right?
Cat Fernandez: Yeah. I hope this was all helpful.
Jacob Shriar: It really was honestly. Take care.
Cat Fernandez: Good. You, too.
Simplify direct reports and communication, and boost team morale.How it Works
Empower your managers and align all teams for a better company culture.How it Works