Since 2013, Patreon has helped creators earn a sustainable income, and make a living from their work without having to be a mass-marketed, commercially-known artist. Artists and creators, however, aren’t just Patreon’s clients, they make up the Patreon team itself. Almost everyone working there has an artistic hobby. Daily jam sessions are quite common.
Patreon’s culture is one of passion and inclusivity: “People who want to work at Patreon want to work here because of the mission,” Amy Cherette, Lead Technical Recruiter, told us in a interview.
The mission - funding the creative class - arises from a problem artists face in the digital economy, which is that it’s hard for artists to earn a salary. In fact, most artists who aren't mass-consumed, commercial artists don't get paid at all. "You'd think the internet would make it easier to get paid for your work, but it actually makes it harder because everything is for free," Amy explained. "Patreon is key, because we want people to create what they want."
Patreon turns the internet into an opportunity for artists. Patreon’s mission is linked to its culture, which prioritizes art, creativity and integrity. Company values and core behaviors are learned from day one, and are even written and illustrated on the walls.
Everyone who works at Patreon is passionate and enthusiastic. Every member is there because they have a reason for supporting art.
Amy joined Patreon in late 2015, just as the team was at an inflection point. They were supporting a unique and diverse artistic community, but the team itself did not reflect the diverse and inclusive community that was growing on Patreon's platform.
In 2016, Patreon was on-track to double its team size within the year including hiring key positions in areas such as engineering, data science, product and design. Amy and her co-worker Maura Church saw this as an opportunity to look at diversity and inclusion in their company, and launched an initiative to expand their team not just in size, but in variety. The two of them spearheaded an operation to take a hard look at their demographics, using surveys to get an idea of their ‘starting point’.
After they’d gained a quantitative idea of their diversity, they held a presentation on the state of their diversity, and their goals to achieve a truly inclusive culture during this hiring period. After the meeting, several people came up and exchanged ideas. It quickly became apparent that one of the biggest problems wasn’t lack of desire for diversity, but rather that people were unsure of how to organize around the idea of inclusivity, or hire for it.
Amy recalled that, with referrals, for example, people usually referred the first person that came to their mind, which was often someone similar to themselves, rather than go deep into their network to build a diverse pool of candidates.
After the team presentation, Patreon doubled-down on its hiring efforts to build a diverse and inclusive team - an initiative they call ‘D&I’ for short. With full support and encouragement from the executive team, several employees stepped forward to help spearhead the D&I initiatives, including Amy and Maura, along with Adam Bossy, Tyler Palmer and Aaron Ringgenberg. Although driven by this group of employees, the executive team was responsive and on board with all the ideas the group brought forth.
The company adopted the Rooney Rule and began to quantitatively look at data. They began to critically evaluate their demographics and find ways to increase the number of underrepresented candidates in their recruiting pipelines. But it was never just a race to make a quota; in Amy’s words, “we care more about diversity than speed.” The metrics Patreon uses to report progress are guidelines and indicators of the status of their diversity, not hard rules. “Ultimately, people are people and we very much want to treat them that way, not as a quota.”
In addition to increasing diversity, the team focused on inclusion. Inclusion is particularly important to Patreon, because while the diversity initiative just emphasizes hiring a wider variety of people, the inclusion initiative means making sure everyone is shown equal respect and is equally connected to the culture. Patreon employees participate in inclusion training on topics such as unconscious bias, microaggressions, allyship, and LGBTQ awareness.
Patreon’s dedication to inclusivity is something other teams should take note of. Treating minority employees like a number will fill your quota, but that’s it. Taking commitment to diversity beyond the hiring process and into day-to-day interactions and ensuring that everyone is treated equally is what sustains a richly diverse, productive and fulfilled team.
Patreon is much more than a company that serves artists; it's a part of the artistic community itself. The team is dedicated to fostering creativity in and outside the walls of the office. Part of what makes this team so strong, and so effective is this sense of total inclusion. Regardless of who you are, or where you're from, when you're hired at Patreon if you have the passion and the drive then you will be given the opportunities to grow and excel in your career.