Tidelift values, inside and out

Luis Villa
by Luis Villa
on February 7, 2019

Early last year we worked together to brainstorm and define our Tidelift values. There was some risk that it was too early, but we wanted to intentionally design a company we could be comfortable in and proud of, and building the values in from the beginning seemed like an important part of that process.

A year into that experiment, we're very pleased with the results and wanted to share them more broadly. We think they're useful not just for employees (current and future) but also for anyone trying to understand how Tidelift thinks about open source more broadly.

Tidelift’s values

After our initial brainstorming, we ended up focusing on four values that felt particularly central to who we want to be and how we want to work.

tidelift-values

  • Optimistic: We see an amazing future ahead, and want to inspire others to share in it. This is both internal—building each other up and looking for the best in people—and external—we know open source is awesome, and we want to make it even better.

  • Practical: We know words and ideas alone won’t change lives. We help people most by creating a pragmatic, viable, and sustainable business that works for everyone. So we care about usability, design, and honest assessment of costs and benefits.

  • Inclusive: We believe technology will be stronger when it better reflects the voices and ideas of society as a whole. So we want people from different backgrounds and experiences to not just be represented, but to be heard, valued, and flourish. We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment.

  • Additive: We want an environment that encourages and inspires growth, both for individuals and for the open source community as a whole. That means embracing a growth mindset, and valuing culture add over culture fit.

Since then, we’ve been working to implement these—and so far we’re pretty happy with the results.

Citizens outside

Every company talks about their internal values, of course, but we wrote ours to work as well externally as internally. To succeed, we must be citizens of the broader open source community—and we want our values to frame all of those interactions.

  • Practical: I literally have a degree in political philosophy, but no one can build a product based on philosophy alone. Our ethical impact is only as big as the tangible positive outcomes we create for professional users and maintainers of open source.

  • Optimistic: We believe open source is amazing, and that there is plenty of value left to create and share with everyone. The best way to help open source developers is to grow the pie, not to fight amongst ourselves over the existing pie. Let’s make this thing bigger, so everyone can benefit!

  • Additive: Are we bringing new ideas into open source, rather than tearing down existing ones? We hope so, and we always strive to bring new perspectives and ideas that can help everyone move forward together.

  • Inclusive: For us to succeed, our work needs to include all of open source, and to incorporate its varied ideas and traditions. And for us to really succeed, we need to grow open source so that it reflects all of us, not just the privileged fraction that have traditionally been represented in FOSS.

Citizens inside, too

We're going to be most effective living our values as citizens in open source if we also live those values internally. That means a lot of things, but here are a few examples of how we put our values into practice today.

  • Structured interviewing: During our interview process, we both follow best practices for inclusive interviewing, and explicitly weave the values into our interview rubrics. We don’t want to just make a guess as to who will comfortably live our values—we want to find people who can reflect them well.

  • Onboarding: We're still young, so our onboarding isn't much more than a checklist, a slide deck, and a 🔥 backpack full of swag. But that slide deck introduces every new employee to the values, so that we can all start from the same page.

  • Product direction: When doing design, the values inform our copy, interactions, and product prioritization. We’re even working on product principles that explicitly incorporate the values, so that they give examples of how optimism and practicality can shape the user experience. Our new design hire, when they come on board, will also be working on building in accessibility standards into our design system to address inclusivity.

  • Communication & collaboration: The whole Tidelift team regularly looks to test new ways to work the values into the way we communicate and work with each other. For example, in our meetings, if any one person is not in the same office, everyone joins the meeting via video chat, to ensure each participant has the same experience.

  • Career development: We know that retention is a key way we can live our value of inclusion. So we’ve talked internally about career development (like training and conference speaking) for every employee from day one, and are looking to make sure we continue that as we grow.

  • It starts with the founders: As founders, we talk about our values regularly, and help each other work to internalize them. For example, it is hard for me—a professional pessimist—to live the optimistic spirit, but it's been a good challenge, and I’m getting better every day!

If this way of thinking about values resonates with you, and you are interested in learning more about Tidelift, we encourage you to check out our careers page. We’d love to see if there is a fit for you!

2018 open source survey results