When people mention start-ups and work culture, oftentimes (thanks to popular media) a certain image is conjured up – ping pong tables, beers on tap, ninja’s, staying late, and weird boundary crossing bonding activities. Once hailed as being great work perks, employees now see them as potential red flags. But with these perks still around in all forms, how do you understand what’s good, and what’s bad, when it comes to workplace culture?
That’s something that at times, we’ve wrestled with at Tiny. To avoid issues, Tiny’s been purposeful about building our team culture of WYSIWYG, where ‘What You See is What You Get’ – which perfectly encapsulates our pun-based sense of humor, and strong belief in being transparent, honest, and open with each other.
But creating our culture wasn’t an overnight job. It came from thoughtful curation and many years of effort, as well as listening and reflecting on who we are… in our very DNA.
What is Tiny’s heritage?
Tiny’s inspirational heritage started well before Tiny was actually founded… it was even well before computers were invented. It sprang from one of the most prolific and vital technological changes in history – writing. Well before the printing press, and before literacy and transcribing became commonplace, the power to document information, statistics, and stories began to define human history. The foundations of Tiny’s heritage call back to that same power – that of writing and text communication.
Today, text remains one of the most effective methods of communication. Therefore, by extension, our work enhances and adds to that, through a range of products. Our team values bringing content creation tools to the globe through our open source ethos. For us, it’s about democratizing content creation so that as many people as possible can have a voice.
That’s not a belief that’s been dreamed up in a few minutes – it’s something that deeply resonates with us and our work, because content creation (and everything that supports it) lives at the center of everything Tiny does.
The Tiny Story
Where it all started
Tiny, like many companies, started from an idea of our Founder and CEO, Andrew Roberts: that it should be easy for people to create content online. From there, Tiny spun out into the company and brand that’s known, loved and trusted globally by millions of developers who use our software.
But a great company isn’t just about profit, there’s also a deeper mission behind why they do what they do, which helps fuel them and guides their underlying decisions and motives.
What is the Tiny mission?
Tiny's mission is simple.
We aim to accelerate innovation in content creation, so organizations can focus on their core business features.
We're pursuing our mission by offering products that fuel creative efficiency, not just for content creators, but also developers. Importantly we also believe that to bring our mission to life, both diversity and sustainability need to be embraced and implemented. That’s what will truly deliver democratized content creation.
If monotony is the enemy of creativity and innovation, then we believe diversity and inclusion are the biggest, most potent forces that accelerate our ethos and move our mission forward. Through our Women in Tech article series, we're trying to help make the world of technology that much more inspiring. For everyone.
Results from one snapshot into diversity and inclusion across the industry reveals that Tiny has a comparable diversity pattern to other large-scale IT businesses. But, it doesn’t just start at the top, diversity and inclusion needs to be embedded into the organization – that’s why every month we try to share team members’ stories, as part of the series:
Reflections on inclusion within the technical industry
Women in Tech in a non-technical role – careers in technology that are not directly in the field of engineering software represent incredible opportunities for women in the workplace. Even if you don’t have coding skills, you can still contribute.
Working together in teams for support
A fantastic mantra shared by our team is to promote, participate, and persist. It means taking a stand in promoting STEM careers for under represented groups. Speaking together has power, and Tiny encourages open conversation.
Positive changes noted for women in technical industries
To promote positive change, Tiny supports it’s employees so they can balance their work with major milestones that happen outside of work. Initiatives that encourage change are heralded and shared, and Tiny promotes points of progress both internally and amongst our community.
Our open source-first culture
In June, 2015, TinyMCE and a company named Ephox merged and began actively expanding their innovative plans for content creation. As is the Tiny way, reflection on this major milestone helped the now expanded team to grow and firmly re-establish what was important.
Our CEO, Andrew Roberts, noted in his reflections that we’d successfully launched a plan that was inclusive of both the open source community of TinyMCE and a commercial product – which helps us sustain our open source core. It was from this achievement that Tiny established itself as open source first, and that from then until now (and beyond) we’ve proudly restated that Tiny has always been an open source product.
Our culture of open source is critical to how we run our business on a day-to-day basis:
- We moved the TinyMCE source code to Typescript to make contributions easier.
- We always release open source changes first, so that our community on GitHub can see the changes and experiment for themselves with the rich text editor.
- Adaptations and changes created from our open source efforts provide new, premium features, which then allows us to provide more resources for the open source community around TinyMCE.
It’s a beneficial cycle that keeps the lights on, and the community thriving.
Open source powers not so Tiny contributions globally
We could spend many words here on Blueprint talking about all the great things people are building with TinyMCE, but it’s the stories that help revolutionize the world that really matter. Even if that revolution impacts just a handful of people, we know TinyMCE is one small part of making their world bigger.
Leonardo Russo and the Blind Communicator App
Leonardo Russo innovated with TinyMCE to create an open source communication app for people living with blindness. The application helps those people to navigate a desktop computer using different audio prompts. The infrastructure that supports the application uses TinyMCE for rich text editing.
TinyMCE was chosen by Russo, to support their virtual desktop environment – providing him with a fast document editor that didn’t require any library or large data transfer from a third party. That meant Russo was able to easily produce the documentation he needed for the application, and helped him create a life changing app.
Tiny and NASA
In January, 2020, TinyMCE welcomed NASA into our community. Since then, NASA’s included the TinyMCE rich text editor within its far-reaching work to advance science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration.
The possibilities of combining TinyMCE’s communication innovation with NASA’s scientific innovation represents something exciting to the Tiny team, because:
“Nothing in science has any value if it is not communicated.” ~ Anne Rowe
Working at Tiny: what’s it like?
Creating an amazing piece of software is just one component of working at Tiny. The work environment and “office” culture is also important when creating a world changing piece of software.
First and foremost, Tiny is a remote first workplace. Instead of it being a quick COVID-driven decision, it was instead a slow adaptation. Like all workplaces, we were affected by the pandemic in 2020, but even before the pandemic, Tiny had started to plan for a more flexible working environment. The value that decision has delivered to our team is that they can be working from anywhere in the world – with around 30 new locations across the globe where you can find Tiny team members.
It was by no means an easy journey to remote-first, there were many bumps in the road. However, the team was eventually able to find a balance that smoothly works, following the topsy turvy events of 2020. The remote-first way of life has now been embraced by the entire Tiny team – who loves not being chained to an office or desk.
To successfully navigate through to a remote-first environment, we focused on three attributes: Scale, Teamwork, and Belonging.
Looking for new staff who are a fit for your organization, represents a challenge. By becoming remote first, it allowed Tiny to more efficiently scale and to seek new team members in any timezone. Working close to a physical office was no longer a requirement for joining the team, which opened enormous opportunities for team members to join us from far-flung places (instead of just the usual high profile tech enclaves). We now attract talent from across the world, regardless of their location.
Connection across different time zones means that communication needs to be clear and fast. By using Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other platforms like Slack’s huddle, we’ve maintained our connection with each other as well as being able to share milestones (business, social and private) that make our team feel far closer knit than you’d expect for a remote-first set-up.
The bottom line is that remote work requires strong technology infrastructure to keep communication lines open. Providing it to the team became a priority, while having team members working almost around the clock meant we needed to set clear expectations. That means no one needs to pull crazy unsociable hours – to fix bugs or get on top of urgent things – with people cross-trained to respond within their normal working hours.
This is the most critical component of Tiny’s culture. Remote-first has created a level playing field for all of us – you don’t have to be from a certain background or have a certain education to fit in – your passion is what’s valued and inspiring. For instance, one success metric we use is the number of voices heard – because we have so many experts here, everyone's opinion matters and needs to have a voice (as we similarly believe with democratizing content creation).
Belonging at Tiny also means that you don’t take yourself too seriously. We often end up in random conversations with Australians trying to convince you about the danger of Drop Bears, or the American’s trying to explain Walmart or the Swedish convincing you it isn’t perpetual winter. The key thing we believe is to have a laugh.
What do we value and how do we bring those values to life?
There are five values that define the Tiny culture and we apply them throughout our work:
1. Build excellent things in excellent ways
We don’t just consider the end result, but also the way the final product is completed. Websites such as Hacker news have acknowledged the excellent work completed by our development teams.
2. Do the needful
It takes dedication and resilience to make something excellent. Doing the needful means adding those small moments of extra attention, to small details, that make a difference. We know that putting in a bit more attention creates benefits felt more widely across our teams.
3. Help each other improve
We believe in mentoring, teaching, and standing up for your colleagues. They’re all the ways you can help someone improve – wherever you are or in whatever discipline you find your skills can be shared.
4. Wear the other shoe
When you think about things from another's point of view, it elevates the user’s experience with your software. It creates more inclusive communication and increases the audience for a particularly helpful application.
5. Get people talking
Sharing information, keeping lines of communication open and helping to start open conversations helps people get their jobs done right. This is one important dimension of our TinyMCE documentation, and the How-to guides published on the TinyMCE blog, Blueprint.
How does Tiny handle mistakes?
Tiny fully embraces our WYSIWYG culture, which means we have to be transparent. When mistakes happen, we’re upfront, honest and clear about the causes and consequences – it’s an important part of our ongoing reflection process – and make adjustments and changes accordingly.
We should note that no business is perfect, even if it’s been showered with awards and accolades. A mechanism and process for handling feedback, and making teams feel encouraged to speak up, represents a sign of maturity, openness and humility. TinyMCE has different feedback mechanisms and processes for the team to share their insights and observations, which all helps to make this reflection and adjustment possible.
WYSIWYG: That’s Tiny in a nutshell
WYSIWYG sums up the culture of Tiny in a word (well, an acronym) – we’re transparent, and what you see is what you get.
We value giving diverse voices the space to be heard, we encourage and foster planning and thinking, as well as deeply caring about the tiny things that are important to our rich text editor. Our teams are listened to, because their feedback helps us grow and makes all of us better. Together.