Basecamp is hiring three new System Administrators for our Operations team to help us deliver fast and reliable applications, like Basecamp and our new email service HEY. Our infrastructure exists both in colocated data centers and in the cloud, and you’ll be working alongside our existing team of Blake, Eron, John, Matt, Matthew, Nathan, and Troy.
As you might gather from the names, our operations team today is not nearly as diverse as we’d like it to be, or as the rest of the company. We therefore strongly encourage candidates of all different backgrounds to apply. Basecamp is committed to building an inclusive, supportive place for you to do the best and most rewarding work of your career. We are an equal-opportunity employer and are committed to building a company that embraces and celebrates diversity and inclusion.
Basecamp didn’t have an employee handbook for over ten years. When new people were hired, they were largely left to figure out how the company worked on their own. Our new hires were tasked with maintaining, improving, and supporting Basecamp’s products without any context about how those products came about. Our interns admitted they didn’t know who at Basecamp did what job, so they had trouble all summer knowing who to ping with questions. And I’ll admit that I thought ‘judo’ meant something literally about fighting for an embarrassing length of time.
When we were a company of 20 people, the sink-or-swim format worked okay. But as we grew to more than 50 employees, we needed something more structured. So, last year we started putting together a handbook.
Basecampers are great at writing but not so great at documenting, so we constructed everything in the handbook from scratch on Github. We went back and forth clarifying some of our more nebulous values and policies, and I tried to effectively communicate just how much food we eat at meet-ups.
Until today we kept the handbook private, accessible to only current Basecamp employees. But why keep it to ourselves?! The handbook is most useful to our newly hired folks and interns before they start at Basecamp. In fact, our newest programmer Rosa said:
I had access to the employee handbook weeks before starting, and I loved that. I read it several times, not only because it was informative, but also because it made me feel super happy and excited about joining.
We want all of our new employees to have that experience! On top of that, we want to publicly share our values and policies in external publications and oh, hmm, this blog. Maybe other companies can crib some of our cooler policies. Maybe the way we clarify our company values can help someone else clarify their company or individual values. So we took publicity to the extreme and made the handbook viewable to everyone on Github. Making our handbook public reinforces Basecamp’s dedication to transparency, and it means that the entire internet can now point out my typos!
So please read, rip apart, steal from (with credit), compliment, and criticize our new handbook. It’s our eternal work in progress!
In this month’s Basecamp newsletter, I explained how I use Basecamp to plan the company meet-ups. Twice a year, the entire company gathers for a week in Chicago to have some face-to-face time. We all work remotely so seeing our coworkers in person is fun, novel, and a good excuse to wear shoes and catch up on a personal level that we don’t necessarily get from working from behind our keyboards. Basecamp has 50 employees from all across the globe, so organizing such a meeting could be a logistical nightmare for me. Using Basecamp to assemble Basecampers (say that five times fast) makes my life easier. Basecamp is known as a project management app — a lot of us use it a little differently. I help operate Basecamp the company with Basecamp the app, especially during meet-up season.
At a meet-up, we eat. A lot. We have breakfast and lunch together at Basecamp HQ. Then we break out for dinner after work. People from the UK bring Wotsits. People from Australia bring Tim Tams. People from the south side of Chicago bring Rainbow Cone ice cream. It’s like being on a cruise but with moderately less norovirus. But between the eating, we do work and have one-on-one meetings. To keep track of the schedule, we use, shockingly, the Basecamp Schedule.
Before the meet-up, people can add a talk or meeting they have planned or where dinner will be on Monday night. You can discuss items on the Schedule too, so anyone can jump in and say what sessions they’ll be attending and the discussion stays threaded for easy reference.
We also use the Message Board frequently. Ahead of time, Dylan asked where he should sightsee in Chicago (read: literally anywhere but the Mag Mile), and I naïvely posted a message asking if people wanted specific snacks or drinks. During the meet-up, Ryan posted about actual work stuff, and Josh underestimated our collective interest in exercise. After the meet-up, Jamie posted a thank you message. It’s a good spot to keep meet-up conversations contained; they’re helpful at the time for static notifications and discussion, and they are always there so we can refer them back to them later.
Getting 50 people to Chicago is a pain in the ass. Some people are traveling from Australia or Europe and prefer to spend a week. Some people are traveling from California and understandably want to escape Chicago as soon as possible. I use the Google Docs integration to present a spreadsheet to everyone, so they can add their arrival and departure dates at their leisure. I’m not chasing people down or pinging back and forth. The document exists in Basecamp, people edit it, and I can access and share the spreadsheet with the hotel when it’s ready.
Meet-up planning is just one small way I use Basecamp. Even after too many shots of Malört, it’s a pretty easy way for us to make a meet-up.
We made Basecamp to be one of those life saving problem solvers. Check it out now at basecamp.com. If you’d like to subscribe to the Basecamp newsletter and read more from me every month, you can do that here.