Andy Pruitt, Chief Technology Officer, "At OppLoans, what we do matters. And we think that is an awesome perk."
The Ultimate Perk
Building a great place to work goes beyond the perks. You can go to any career site and see the same checklist of employee prerequisites for startups: free snacks, a pingpong table, company events, charitable volunteer paid time off, and happy hours. As an employer, checking those boxes off the list isn’t enough.
At OppLoans, we have all the other perks, but we are really proud of our ultimate perk: working with smart, collaborative people who respect and learn from each other. Besides, the kind of people that I personally want to work with aren’t choosing their employer based on foosball density anyway.
Fostering this type of culture means taking a slightly different approach to hiring. Skills and experience still matter, of course, and we have a rigorous interview process — but the personality factor matters, too. For candidates who are coming in totally fresh, that process is pretty transparent about who we are as a team and as a culture.
What we have here is unique. We’ve made a number of hires through referrals because current employees reach out to people they’ve worked with well in the past and tell them, “Hey, I’ve found a special place. Let’s get the band back together.”
I love that, and we’ve worked hard to build a workplace that fosters those kinds of long-lasting relationships. Five or 10 years from now, I want to be able to go to an OppLoans alumni reunion party and see all my friends.
Letting the best ideas win
One of OppLoans’ founding principles is to always let the best ideas win — no matter where they come from. Instead of relying on expert authority, we simply ask, “Hey, what is truly the best solution for this particular problem?” And it doesn’t matter who comes up with that answer; if it’s the best, then we’ll do it.
This can take new people by surprise, especially recent grads. They don’t realize just how much impact they can have. They don’t need a deep well of expertise; if they have an observation or thought, we take it seriously. A good idea is a good idea.
This is why I view my leadership style as “reticent.” It’s one of my favorite words, and it’s also a word that’s constantly abused. Reticent does not mean reluctant. It means slow to speak. My great preference in meetings is to be a little bit reticent; I like to sit back and allow the team to find the way.
As a result, we have a very strong insistence here on team autonomy: The business chooses the projects, but our tech teams decide how to solve the problem, which means they also take responsibility for the solution. We’re constantly improving the way the company originates and services loans — and any change we make has real financial impact.
Going beyond the technology
We’re interested in tech talent that understands the broader business context of what we’re doing. If you can put yourself in the shoes of the product manager, loan advocate, risk analyst, or even our customer to really understand what they’re trying to achieve, that’s a powerful partnership. We look for people who can take the detailed engineering and technical aspects to translate into business results/impact.
OppLoans is a company that moves fast to keep up with evolving customer expectations. But we know we are supported, and we have a Fortune 100-level leadership team — led by our CEO Jared Kaplan — that understands the kinds of choices we need to make to improve our customer experience.
Making a real difference
The American financial system isn’t working for millions of consumers with many living paycheck to paycheck. OppLoans is uniquely positioned to reach those consumers on a scale that very few businesses or organizations can match.
We care about our customers. It sounds cliche, but we really do. The impact of our products shouldn’t be underestimated — especially in terms of how it affects our desire to come to work every morning. Nobody wants to come to the office five days a week if they don’t enjoy the work they do and the people they work with.
Don’t get me wrong, we love pingpong tables, foosball, and free snacks. In fact, we are finalizing our pingpong team as we speak! But it is moreso about the larger mission.
We know we are making a difference in our customers’ lives. We know the more people we can serve, the greater impact we can make. Bottom line: What we do matters.
We think that is an awesome perk.