Apr 25, 2020 5 min read

My First Month at Highland

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Core Values

  • Culture
Jon Berbaum

Jon Berbaum

I am a recent addition to the Highland team, starting a little over a month ago. I moved from Boston to Chicago to join Highland as an OutSystems low-code developer. As a person with a background in theatre, their emphasis on human-centered design resonated with me. The five core values of Highland really drew me to this company. It has not taken long to see each and every value in action.

People First

On my first day at Highland, after some introductions and a tour around the office, I participated in my first weekly all staff meeting. The meeting started with everyone going around in a circle, giving a personal and professional best for the week. I was able to share my own personal best (a trip to Prague I had just returned from) and professional best (having just started a new job at pretty cool-seeming company). This process was simple, and took about half of a 30 minute meeting, but was very powerful to me. I immediately could tell this was a company where people cared about each other. A place where they really do put people first.

Be Transparent

Our all-staff meeting demonstrated yet another expression of our core values: being transparent. After the check in, we moved to our near-in sales board. Our President discussed the new project he was closing in on with a client, stating explicitly how much the contract was for and how that would be allocated against company resources. I could not help but be amazed. At previous companies, information like this would be under lock and key. At a former company, I once spent days coding a module to separate the customer rate from employee rate simply to make sure no employee ever found out what the customer was being charged! I quickly got used to Highland’s flat structure and our transparency across almost all aspects of the business.

Be Open

To be successfully transparent in a work environment, each member of the team must also be open. Having full accountability at all times requires being open to critique and guidance. When I got involved in my first project, we began by setting team agreements. On our kick off meeting, the Highland team and the client sat down and defined the ground rules for the project we were beginning together. A week later we sat down for a retrospective, using the opportunity to reflect on what was going well, what was not, and what was confusing for us. Because our team is so open, we are constantly resolving issues, improving the way we collaborate and the outcomes for the client.

Be Curious

During my first month at Highland, I was encouraged to review my knowledge and work on completing my certification for OutSystems. On top of receiving my certification, I also prepared and presented a demo on how to build an app through OutSystems to my fellow team members at one of our company Project Labs (similar to a lunch and learn). It’s obvious to me that curiosity and self-improvement are important at Highland, and that my fellow team members are enjoying learning and discovering new skills as much as I do.

Give a Damn

Several weeks ago, I found myself trekking across downtown Chicago at 5:00pm in the rain to Staples in pursuit of black Sharpies and Post-it notes. We were hosting a workshop that evening for the UX Strategy Meetup group and I volunteered to grab a few last-minute additions to our supply list. These weren’t just any Post-it notes either. I was looking for large 6” x 8” notes in the “A World of Color: Rio de Janeiro” collection.

Our Customer Experience Practice takes their Post-it game very seriously.

After carefully searching the entire display and checking with a confused employee to confirm that, “Yes, these were all the Post-its they had,” I realized I wasn’t going to secure the exact Post-its needed for the workshop. As I headed back to Highland with only the black Sharpies in hand, I wondered why I was trekking through downtown Chicago at night in pursuit of highly specific office supplies. It dawned on me that I wanted to spend my evening this way — supporting our team and pitching in when needed — because I gave a damn.

It is a lot easier to truly devote yourself and go out of your way at a company where the values are ever present and are something you can get behind. I can bring my whole self to work and I know it will be valued. I can be vulnerable when I know that openness and transparency are paid back in kind. I know my efforts to expand myself will be supported and raised up, not just as something supplementary, but as something essential to my work. And I know that when I give a damn, I will be surrounded by others that are doing the same. It may only be my second month at Highland, but it already feels like home.