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How Reddit's Culture Team Gets Weird with Data

"Culture is something that happens to any community with or without their permission. The more you can groom and articulate the components of that culture, the more likely you are to create the environment and results you envision."
How Reddit's Culture Team Gets Weird with Data

by Melissa Ramos

Katelin Holloway works at Reddit, an online social platform for news, content and discussion. Reddit is currently the 8th most visited website in the world.

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Can you tell me a little about your role as VP of People and Culture at Reddit? What are your day-to-day and high level responsibilities?

As the VP of People and Culture at Reddit, I oversee the Recruiting, Talent Development, People Operations, Employee Experience, Administration, and Workplace teams. We are the first people you interact with at Reddit and the people that help you out on your last day with us. It is our responsibility to shepherd you through your experience as a Snoo.

We bring you on to the team, help you to develop your career, assist you through life changes, aid you in managing your relationships at Reddit, program your meals and workplace design, and create incredible events for you to enjoy your colleagues and celebrate wins. TL;DR - It’s my job to ensure that Reddit is the best career experience that anyone has ever and will ever have.

What does culture mean at Reddit?

High-level, culture is the “who” and the “how” of Reddit. It’s not so easily simplified, but if you can leverage everything that goes into finding, retaining, and developing the right people in the right roles alongside a deeply rooted set of shared values (the “how”), you have a competitive advantage.

Culture is something that happens to any community with or without their permission. The more you can groom and articulate the components of that culture, the more likely you are to create the environment and results you envision. Culture components range from high-level company ethos (mission, vision, values, goals, etc) to unspoken ways of being and operating (traditions, norms, beliefs, shared assumptions, lore and storytelling, etc). 

At Reddit, we are a culture-first company, driven by our belief that human connection has the ability to change the world. Our product has supported this mantra for 12 years and it’s no different inside our offices. 

How did you first find yourself in a culture role?

The beautiful thing about organizational culture is that it doesn’t live in one function or role, but is spread throughout a community. I’ve only been in an “official” culture role since 2011 when I joined Klout, but I believe I’ve been an unofficial cultural ambassador at companies since I joined the professional ranks out of school. Like most good things in life, culture found me — I didn’t go looking for it. 

Are there any unique challenges that you’ve faced?

For the majority of my career I struggled with feeling like I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I found myself enjoying most roles I had at most companies I worked for along the way. I was a jack of all trades, but master of none. Frustrated, I paused to define what it was that I wanted. What I was seeking wasn’t a job title, or even a company — it was passion.

I wanted to wake up every day more excited than the last. I wanted to build and put something of beauty and value into the world. I wanted to work alongside people that I cared for and helped me learn and grow. Turns out, these things are not so easy to come by. It took me the better part of 20 years to find my calling and now, in hindsight, I can say that every single experience I had leading up that moment prepared me for all that is yet to come. I feel privileged to do the work that I do.  

How do you track your success? What tools do you use to understand the impact that your work is having? 

I subscribe to the old adage “You can’t change what you don’t measure”. I consider myself a person that leads with their heart first and data second. Instinctually, I know when something is and is not working — be it a team dynamic, a program or initiative, or product adoption. But instinct is difficult to share and even more difficult to use to influence others and their perceptions. So I use data. And I use a lot of it. 

1. Employee Surveys. I’ve partnered with the CultureAmp team for over 6 years now. With their tools, I’m able to assess engagement, track attrition trends, improve onboarding, and gauge diversity and inclusion needs. I am building a culture for a team of people and without their input, I’ll fail to deliver what the company needs. 

2. Sprint Cycles and Goal Setting. I run my People teams just like a Product or Engineering team. We have clearly defined goals and expected results. We run on deadlines with deliverables. We make tradeoffs and pivot just as well as any other function within the organization. 

3. Performance Management. We don’t just measure results, we measure the behaviors you employed to get those results. We don’t suffer bad actors at Reddit. There’s no time for assholes when you have as much to deliver as we do. 

4. Get Weird with Data. We measure everything these days, so don’t be scared to cut in ways that aren’t obvious. Don’t just hold your recruiters accountable to the number of hires they made; investigate how their hires are succeeding in your organization. I’d much rather have a recruiter produce less hires if they’re consistently hiring top performers. 

5. Talk to People. Go old school and solicit feedback directly. Remember to engage with the people on your team. You are, after all, doing all of this for them. Remember the human!

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1 comment

  • Long time Redditor here! I had no idea they had a culture team so this was a really interesting find.

    Just wanted to throw in my own .02c Feedback is SO important. We use a few tools to get a feel for how our small team is doing and its great to see that at somewhere as big as Reddit too. Best way to find out what someone is thinking is to just ask!!

    Bianca E. on

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