In nearly all of our blog posts, we have highlighted various aspects of the Visual Labs product. While a business can’t exist without some goods or services to sell, we wanted to highlight what is arguably the most important part of Visual Labs – the team and its core values.
Visual Labs was founded in 2014, based on a Stanford University class project. Naturally, the company became headquartered in Menlo Park, California, just a few miles down the road from campus. For the first few years “in the trenches”, remote work was generally unthinkable given the importance of team collaboration and camaraderie. However, relatively quickly, the team became very comfortable working together, and some employees regularly worked offsite, whether due to heavy work travel schedules or due to family commitments. As a result, during the COVID-19 “stay at home” orders, the adjustments were not particularly substantial. Furthermore, after a return to the status quo with various in-person work assignments, Visual Labs then became a remote-friendly company, followed by a fully remote company, as it is today.
Trust, Teamwork and Independence
Remote work is predicated on three major tenets at Visual Labs – trust, teamwork, and independence. We trust each other to get the job done in a professional manner and are able to get things done at our own pace with relatively minimal oversight. Of course, collaboration and asking for help is strongly encouraged, but independent work is the crux of most projects and initiatives before putting the blocks together. Along those lines, teamwork is especially important. As a new feature is released or a new client is onboarded, team members are willing to put their individual ego aside in order to make sure the proverbial ball makes it into the back of the net. It is perhaps not surprising that a relatively large number of Visual Labs teammates have had backgrounds in competitive sports, including at the professional and international level. Supervisors often take the role of a player-coach, able to lead the team but also willing to work hand-in-hand with the team on the grunt work, with no task being beneath them.
Critical Thinking and Communication
With teamwork being so important, one unique facet of Visual Labs’ culture is the encouragement to ask questions, challenge each other respectfully, and promote new ideas. Even though some conversations can be difficult, the underlying trust and mutual respect has led to positive outcomes. One phrase you will hear a lot is “communication is the key.” It is impossible to read minds, and in the case of remote work, body language. However, we emphasize over-communication both internally and externally in order to best work well together and serve our clients. In one recent event, a member of the training team made an honest, but relatively significant, typographical mistake while configuring a new client’s account. While the natural instinct for some may have been to cover it up or try to fix it themselves, this person quickly alerted an engineer, who ran it up the chain of command. Within just a few minutes, the issue was fixed with no known impact on any systems. It is widely known among Visual Labs employees that the only way to get in “trouble” is for dishonesty or gross negligence. Everything else can be handled relatively easily. In this particular incident, the employee was complimented for their honesty and quick communication. The employee later remarked, “I don’t know that I’ve ever been told good job for a mistake, but thank you.” In an ironic way, this epitomizes our team culture: we clearly do more good things than bad, and when things go awry, we quickly communicate and work together to resolve issues in order to take care of each other and provide the best possible service to our customers.