Team scaling, 1 trillion emails, and the synthesis of people and strategy with Pattie Money, CPO at SendGrid
You’ve almost certainly received a SendGrid email, and you probably didn’t even know it.
If you’ve ever gotten an Uber receipt, an Airbnb welcome note, or an eBay password reset, you can thank SendGrid. In the past few years, SendGrid has gone from a small tech startup to one of the most prominent companies in its space, with over 35 billion emails sent per month. In fact, on March 27th, they celebrated their trillionth email send.
Naturally, we were excited to speak with Pattie Money, SendGrid’s Chief People Officer to discuss what goes on behind the scenes at the cloud-based email service.
Read on to find out what makes their team tick.
The four ‘H’s
“Our culture is very simple,” Pattie told us. “It’s centered around what we call ‘the four H’s’ – happy, hungry, humble and honest. These are longstanding values that were designed shortly after the company’s founding.”
When growing the company, “these core values are a major anchoring factor in scaling the business” Pattie told us.
In fact, these four H’s actually are an integral part of a another ‘H’ – hiring. The SendGrid team uses Greenhouse for hiring, and evaluates each candidate across the 4 H’s on a scale of 1-5. Each interview has a unique group of questions that evaluate candidates both on the ‘4 Hs’ and their skills. The people team then look for consistently high scores across all criteria.
Talent, engagement, and growth
Pattie started her career in the temporary industry and found herself falling in love with talent management when one of her clients hired her into an HR leadership position. “This is where my head and my heart is,” Pattie told us (citing a couple more ‘H’s). “I love every aspect, because it really allows me to enable people for success. I love the field and haven’t looked back since.”
“I eat, breathe and sleep thinking about talent,” Pattie answered when asked about her daily workflow. “Everything from sourcing, to recruiting, to making sure our people are improving.”
“I spend a lot of time in meetings,” she went on, “but I spend a lot of thought on people – on creating fulfilling careers, and making sure people want to stay.”
SendGrid pays a lot of attention to engagement, and utilizes biannual team surveys to score employee engagement. The company’s most important benchmark in these surveys is themself. That way, they ensure they are always growing.
Their focus on growth pays off: they average 40-50% talent growth annually. They currently employ 370 people, and are planning on hiring 150 this year.
The biggest challenge in HR?
“Making sure your skills stay sharp,” she said without hesitation. “Making sure you grow and evolve.”
She took this ABL (Always Be Learning) attitude to the next level – when she got a master’s degree at age 50.
How Pattie became a CHRO
At Drafted, we were excited to learn that Pattie found her role at SendGrid through a community referral.
One of Pattie’s previous staff was married to a SendGrid employee who had shared that SendGrid was looking for an HR leader. Pattie’s former staff reached out to her to see if she knew someone who might be looking and had similar background and experience to hers. They talked and the opportunity sounded interesting to Pattie. The husband connected Pattie & SendGrid’s CEO, Sameer, and through the magic of community referrals, a match was made.
Quantified emphasis on referrals
SendGrid officially launched a referral program in 2016. Using a loosely gamified tier structure, you get points based on how far your referrals make it through the process.
A referral that leads to an application earns 5 points, a first interview gets 10, an on-site interview earns 50 and a successful hire gets 100 points. Whoever gets the 1st, 2nd and 3rd most points in a quarter each get a reward. The rewards usually trip, spa day or other experience.
There’s also a secondary referral program for ‘Hot Jobs’ – in-demand jobs that need to be filled quickly. A successful Hot Jobs referral results in a flat $1000 reward per hire.
It’s a creative approach that has seen a remarkable uptick in referral rates. Since the inception of this program, the number of hires that came from referrals nearly doubled, from 16% to an average of 33%.
“To keep your referral program thriving, you need to have multiple touch points, and keep it in employees’ minds,” Pattie told us. There’s a regular newsletter sent out about new hires, and an office-wide cultural emphasis on referrals – after all, SendGrid considers a drive to make referrals part of their ‘hungry’ value, one of their four core H’s.
“People ops is a business driver, because people drive your business”
Pattie’s vision for the future of people ops could be distilled into 3 takeaways:
People ops as a business driver
Focus on employee engagement
Building inclusive cultures
Pattie believes that people ops has moved from an administrative role to a strategic one, and that recognizing and rewarding employee engagement is not just valuable, but critical.
“People ops is a business driver, because people drive your business,” Pattie emphasized.
Diversity and inclusion are high on her list, and she thinks that more and more companies will begin to see the crucial importance of making sure the company “welcomes you and wants you to be successful.” She stressed the importance of tools that remove bias from the hiring process and evaluate talent in a “robust, unique system.”
In this, there’s a win-win relationship. As the company becomes more focused on people, people become more focused on the company. “HR is becoming more about the whole company, not just who works there and when. Managing people is about knowing the business, the business model, the company mindset, and focusing on the big picture as a team.”
Finally, Pattie left us with this food for thought about the next generation of HR.
“It’s not just about having people, and having strategy. It’s about synthesis of the two.”