Buffer CultureLab

Welcome to Buffer CultureLab, where we're slightly obsessed with creating happier, more human work. :)
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May 2, 2016

The first episode of a new podcast series about how and why we work, and how to give work more meaning. We'd love your feedback! Email us at or Tweet us @buffer!



Courtney: Hi, I'm Courtney Seiter.

Carolyn: And I'm Carolyn Kopprasch.

Courtney: And this is the Buffer CultureLab podcast.

Carolyn: Where we're slightly obsessed with creating happier, more human work.

Courtney: Today, we're going to attempt to explain why we wanted to start a podcast and why this particular topic of radical workplace culture is one that spoke to us really strongly.

Carolyn: I'm super excited to be interviewing you for this one, because I feel like you have so much history here.

Courtney:  I'm nervous.

Carolyn: [chuckles] You are?

Courtney: Yeah!

Carolyn:  Well, why don't you tell me why you specifically and why we, Buffer, are doing this and embarking on this?

Courtney Sure. So as you know and maybe we can tell our listeners, Buffer is a social media tool that helps you share really efficiently and strategically to a variety of social networks. And a lot people know us for that, which is wonderful. Just as many people I would say, know us for our culture, which is a very specific and deliberate culture that you've had a lot do with creating and maintaining and everyone at Buffer has a big hand in. We have a very specific values that guide us. And working at Buffer was the first time I ever understood the importance that living with values, that working with values, could have in your life. The things that I have tried since starting Buffer are different than anything I've ever done before. Like during my time at Buffer I've started a side business and written things that I would have been so afraid to write and share earlier. 

Courtney: Working with values has been sort of a superpower for me, that I feel so, so lucky to have been adopted into. And it feels really important to talk about this and to share it. In the tech startup space that we're in, it feels like a lot of companies are getting excited about the idea of creating a deliberate culture, working with values, and it's an exciting time to be talking about this kind of stuff. So, we wanted to kind of do our part as Buffer and share some of the learnings we're having along the way. Our culture, we say a lot, is not the only culture, it's not the way to live, the way to work. It's the way that works for us. So I think it will really be neat to hear from other people, too. To hear from other company's cultures, people inside and outside of the tech sphere. All the different ways there are to work happier, to work more human, to work smarter. So yeah, that's the impetus for why we wanted to talk about this topic. Why this is an important area for Buffer. And I'm excited to see how it shapes up.

Carolyn: Yeah, that was really well said. One thing that I think its super interesting about why this is so important for us is that, our vision is actually just half about the thing that most people know us for, which is the social media side. We have a whole half of our vision devoted specifically to creating this culture that continues to test new things and push boundaries a little bit. And figure out what is the ideal set up for us and how it continues to evolve.

Courtney:  Exactly. And it's cool to have a value of transparency that guides us. So we're able to share so openly all the things that we do and try. Whether they succeed or fail, it's great to be able to talk about them. And I don't-- I feel like a podcast like this could be a little bit tricky to do without a culture of transparency. I'm not sure if we would feel comfortable talking about all the things we're going to talk about. If we would know, “Can we say this? Can we not say this? Is this public?” It's really great to have that liberated feeling that comes from transparency to be able to share everything, to be able to get that feedback. To be able to just put it all out there. So I think that is a lot of the impetus for why a podcast felt really good. It's cool to share all the things that we talk about as a team. The conversations that you and I have had, through the segments we've recorded for this podcast so far, are not all that different from the conversations we have on a day-to- day basis, just talking about shaping our culture and evolving our culture. That's how I feel. Would you say that's the case?

Carolyn  Yes, totally. I loved your point about the fact that you've written things that previously you never would have dreamed about making public. I’ve had very much that experience On some of the episodes we've recorded up to this point, I don't feel like I have to get permission to tell any story or talk about anything that has gone either well or not so well [chuckles].

Courtney: Yeah, which is a really, really cool feeling and it's exciting to be able to invite people into that. And invite people to share their own stories as well.

Carolyn  Yeah. Totally. Courtney, you recently changed roles - I love this story - tell us a little bit more about that process, what you're doing now, what you did in the past, and also, if you are willing, we'd love if you could share a little bit more about your story. I personally am really excited about the things you're doing, both inside and outside of Buffer, so feel free to share a little bit more about that too?

Courtney Yeah, thank you. Yeah, they kind of go together, my big side project and what I'm doing at Buffer, which is always very exciting. So, at Buffer I have a new role that is focused on inclusivity. We are growing pretty quickly. I think we're at about 85 or so people at this point. And we -- and I feel so lucky that the whole team is so on board with this, and so supportive of this idea – we really want to be deliberate about how we grow. And how we can create a culture that welcomes people of all types and encourages them to stay and to contribute and to evolve Buffer’s culture and to become leaders in order to make the best products at Buffer, in order to make the best culture at Buffer, and in order to, I hope, be a leader in terms of inclusivity. In terms of how great teams can work together can bring in a variety of cultures and viewpoints and backgrounds and build something really beautiful together.

Courtney: We're a global team, we have the opportunity to hire from all over the world and it feels really important to take advantage of that and to grow a team that really represents our customers' experiences, represents our potential customers' experiences, and build the kind of team that can grow great products from a variety of experiences and backgrounds so it's a brand new role for me and I'm really excited about it. And I think the podcast is part of this. So that's the work that I'm excited to be doing right now at Buffer. I’m really guided and inspired by a lot of amazing people doing wonderful work in this area. A lot of the tech companies, in particular, are making this a huge priority because it's a huge challenge. So yeah, that means it's-- it feels really urgent, but it also feels very hopeful at Buffer because our values already shine through so strongly and guide us toward doing the right thing.  And so it's exciting to do that work.

Carolyn: That's awesome. Did you say your title? I can't remember.

Courtney: I didn't. It's a cool one. It's a very buffery title. Our titles are always a little bit interesting. My role title is Inclusivity Catalyst

Carolyn:  Love it. And where are you in the world?

Courtney:  Oh, good question! I am in Nashville, TN. Where are you in the world?

Carolyn: Fun fact: I am also in Nashville, TN. [laughter].

Courtney: Crazy. Small world--

Carolyn: Which is so unusual for Buffer people to both be in the same city.

Courtney: Yes 

Carolyn: It's been a fun coincidence. Cool. And what's some of the work that you're doing in Nashville?

Courtney Yeah! That is a-- that is a great question. And so you were kind enough to mention some of the work that I'm doing on the side and my main project is called 'Girls to the Moon'. It is a social enterprise business that works with girls age 8-14. We put on events and provide content that is really focused around equipping them with confidence and knowledge and truth in all kinds of areas from science, to engineering, to health, to relationships. And people want to know more, they can go to girlstothemoon dotcom. So just inclusivity all over the place. It's fun times.

Carolyn [laughter] It's such a cool organization. I'm going to fangirl a little bit and just say it's just so inspiring to see. So thanks for the work that you're doing.

Courtney Thank you. I feel like Buffer had a whole lot to do with it. I never dreamed that I would be a business owner. That I would be able to put Founder on my Twitter bio and stuff like that. That just seemed so for other people, but Buffer has this great way of pushing you outside your comfort zone in a way that feels really wonderful and safe somehow, so I feel like I've been able to push myself so much more as a result of having the support of you and all my teammates.

Carolyn: Love that.

Courtney:  I would love to hear a little about you. You've got a longer Buffer history. I won't make you say when you came on because that requires math, but it's been a while.

Carolyn: Yeah, it's been three and a half-ish years since I came on board. I've been lucky enough to be a part of Buffer since-- for kind of a long time now. You mentioned the titles tend to be Buffery. And I most certainly fall into that category. My title is Chief Happiness Officer.

Courtney:  Yes, I love it.

Carolyn:  I know, I love it too. It's a great conversation starter, too [laughter]. And I have to say what that means is, I think sometimes people hear happiness and they assume it's an HR-type role, but at Buffer happiness is the customer service team. So the happiness team takes care of our customers through the ways that they contact us, like emails, and tweets, and customer service type platforms. And then creating resources, and understanding what customers are doing with the tool and with the brand to some extent. I'm trying to learn from those things, so I'm going to have to work with the folks on the happiness team, on the community team, and play a little bit of a small role with the product as well. So that's my story.

Courtney:  Awesome. I love it. I feel like I've learned a whole lot from you in terms of communicating culture. I think you've always got a really great way of being super thoughtful about language, about the “why” of how we do things and the context behind them. And that's why I wanted to do the podcast with you. I always learn so much from our conversations and the sort of reflections we have together, so I'm really happy that you said yes!

Carolyn:  Aw, thanks so much. I am really happy you asked me. I can't take much credit for that. I've learned from the best. I've had the privilege of working a lot with Joel and Leo, our co-founders, and Sunil, the CTO who I also work with closely. And to your point about the language and things like that, I love that  in the beginning we say we're slightly obsessed with culture. It's true.

Courtney: True story.

Carolyn:  So yeah, it's so true when we write-- when Joel writes something to the whole team, we'll spend 45 minutes talking about this word over that word, what impact this has and what we're really trying to say and things like that. So I've been lucky to really have an opportunity to practice that. And then it's likewise. I've been very inspired by the writing that you've done on behalf of Buffer and sharing on our Open blog, which is where we share a lot about what's going on at Buffer, so. Yeah. Really excited to be diving in to some of these topics I'm looking forward to. It's been so fun, the topics that we've already been able to talk about and just looking at our list of upcoming ones, I'm so excited.

Courtney: Yeah, and this is probably a good time to say that this will be like most things we do at Buffer, very much a community effort that we would love for our potential audience to be involved in. So, if you have questions, or thoughts, or things that you would want to hear from us on, or things that you want to say, I would love to hear from lots of different people to make this podcast something that feels like everyone can own a little bit. One of the reasons that I wanted to do a podcast is to sort of hear from people that we don't always hear their stories. Maybe hear from people of color in tech, hear from more women in tech, hear from underrepresented voices. And to hear from anyone who has a unique story. This feels like a good time to say, talk to us.

Carolyn: We are on Twitter at @Buffer. That's always a good way to reach out. That's mostly-- it's a customer service channel for us, but it's also very much a community and culture channel for us. We love to hear from folks who have come across us and have questions or are willing to share their experience. It’s a super valuable channel for us to chat through some of those things. Never hesitate to reach out to us there.

Carolyn: We also have an email address if that's more your style,

Courtney: Yes, we'd love to hear from you!

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