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  1. Blog
  2. Partners in Diversity
  3. March 1, 2023

Empowered to Be Human: 5 Ways to Spot a Person-First Company

Discover a company where women feel seen and celebrated

Person-first company gathering for a team event
Photo courtesy of Parabol

This article is part of InHerSight's Partners in Diversity series. Discover companies partnering with InHerSight to better support women in the workplace.

What does it mean to be a person-first company? Many things, really. But first and foremost, it means a company’s leaders know that their work, products, projects, and success aren’t possible without the people on their teams, and that those people need to be happy, healthy, and thriving in order to put their best feet forward.

A tech company that helps data teams to ship trusted data, dbt Labs is a perfect case study for exploring and understanding person-first culture. The company prides itself on the core value, “We are human”—a person-first slogan if we’ve ever seen one—and has near-perfect scores for all of InHerSight’s Culture metrics, such as The People You Work With and Sense of Belonging. We spoke to five women employees at dbt Labs about how their culture makes them feel, and this word kept popping up in the replies: human.

Let’s explore five ways person-first culture reveals itself, according to women who feel empowered to be human every day.

dbt Labs

dbt Labs helps data teams work like software engineers—to ship trusted data, faster. They have near perfect scores for Ability to Telecommute, Paid Time Off, and Sponsorship or Mentorship Program, as well as some of the most sought after perks around: unlimited paid time off, fully remote work, an annual company retreat, and an office setup stipend. Click to explore dbt Labs' benefits, ratings, and open positions now!

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5 ways to spot a person-first company

1. People feel seen and celebrated for who they are 

According to InHerSight data, only half of employees feel they can bring their whole selves to work—yet the feeling of belonging remains a key driver of employee satisfaction. Companies that do culture right have happier employees and higher employee retention rates.

This is what belonging sounds like: Gwen Windflower, senior developer experience advocate at dbt Labs, says the culture at her company has helped her become who she really is on a profound level. “Being celebrated for the unique qualities and perspectives I bring let me bloom into my fullest self, finally giving me the courage to come out as a trans woman,” she says. “I never doubted for a second that I would receive unconditional support coming out at work, and that was absolutely what happened. Beyond that, the care I've received in navigating the hardest parts of this difficult transition has been remarkable.” 

Senior Software Engineer Yamini Nambiar agrees that dbt Labs’ culture reinforces the feeling of belonging. “More than just an employee, I feel like a valued member of the dbt Labs community,” she says. “I love that there are safe spaces to talk about things like mental health, diversity, and ongoing political issues.”

2. The company wants people to succeed… even and especially if that means adapting to their needs

Flexible work hours and flexible work arrangements allow employees to more successfully navigate work and life, easing stress and making it possible for them to show up as their authentic selves without judgment. Carly Kaufman, director of solutions architecture, says dbt Labs’ policies have been essential in juggling working motherhood. “Our remote work environment has made it so much easier to be a working parent,” she says. “I can pop over to my daughter's school for volunteer events and more easily juggle the occasional snow day or sick day that she might have.”

“I think the driving value [at dbt Labs] is ‘we are human’ and the fact that everyone in the company lives this value, including leadership,” Kaufman says. “If I'm having an off day or my kiddo is sick, I can take time off. My boss and team are understanding, and I'm able to have the space that I need without feeling guilty about missing work.”

Senior Analytics Engineer Elize Papineau says dbt Labs’ flexibility has been remarkably different from that of her previous employers. “Working at dbt Labs gives me the freedom to live my life in accordance with my own needs,” she says. “I struggle to maintain focus and think through complex tasks early in the day. In the two positions I’ve had at dbt Labs, I’ve had the freedom to work a small portion of the day in the late morning or early afternoon, then finish my work day late at night when I work best. While I’ve faced backlash for this at previous companies, I am able to thrive in my position here because I can complete my tasks efficiently during my best focus hours. As a result, I’ve been able to establish a healthy and fulfilling daily schedule.”

3. The company encourages your professional growth 

A person-first employer wants your career to succeed. Full stop. Mirna Wong, a technical writer, says, “dbt Labs has shown us many times that they not only value us as humans, but they empower us to be our best self. Personally for me, dbt Labs has empowered me by helping move up the stack, create strong relationships with managers/independent collaborators, and learn more technical skills.”

Encouraging you to be your “best self” should also impact the way your employer encourages you to interact with the work you do—aka whether the company prioritizes measures to help you stave off burnout and stress. Wong says dbt labs has provided employees with benefits that enable them to clear their heads and come back to do their best work, and Nambiar says it’s the company’s values that empower people to step away.

“We have some great values, but the two that I have found to be the most true over the past couple years since I joined are ‘Work done well is its own end’ and ‘We work hard and go home,’” she says. “My managers have always encouraged me to prioritize my mental health and wellbeing, even at times when work urgently needed to be done. Through our mentorship program, I have found some great engineers to learn from, and to me, this just highlights the kindness and knowledge of people at dbt Labs.” 

4. …and your personal growth and wellness

Beyond encouraging employees to step away when work feels overwhelming, person-first employers know that the start and end of everything they do revolves around the people behind each and every project, meeting, and email. “I think dbt Labs' sense of goals and expectations is deeply human,” Windflower says. “There's an understanding throughout the company that we have to maintain our physical and mental health, and that means our strength will at times ebb and flow. Instead of a focus on aggressively putting on a brave face at all times, we're given genuine support, culturally and through our benefits, to get through low periods, and celebrated during high ones—from what I've seen this actually leads to far better performance over time for everybody and the company.”

Nambiar adds, “I really appreciate the focus on mental health within engineering management at dbt Labs. I also appreciate that we have perks such as an unlimited vacation policy, professional stipends for career growth, and a monthly wellness stipend that I use to get outside and explore new hobbies. It shows that the company is committed to investing in my growth as a person.”

What’s more, Wong says wellness at dbt Labs is just one of the benefits that significantly improves the lives of employees. “I really feel the stock options, wellness, and educational stipend are very valuable and motivating for the team,” she says. “We're all extremely passionate about dbt Labs, and adding these valuable perks really helps us improve ourselves and bring that to the company and our personal lives.”

5. The company ensures humans stay human

Work takes up one third of our lives. Why not make that third enjoyable for everyone? Person-first companies value interpersonal relationships among team members, planning time for employees to step away from their desks and bond as the humans they are. “The perk I find most exciting is our quarterly team-bonding stipend,” Papineau says. “A fully remote organization needs to actively cultivate interpersonal relationships outside of work. I am grateful the dbt Labs team recognizes this and actively funds these efforts. My team specifically has a ‘diner hang’ where we eat a meal together once a month. I really enjoy the people on my team, and it helps us stay in touch even though we’re distributed across the globe.” 

Kaufman and Wong say team-bonding activities are some of their favorite benefits, too. “I like the transparency and acknowledgment that in-person retreats are necessary to connect and align with each other as an org,” Wong says. 

“I love our in-person meetups that typically happen quarterly,” Kaufman says. “This is a time to connect in person with colleagues that I've only gotten to know over Zoom and Slack. It solidifies those human connections and ‘fills up my dbt cup.’”

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