9 Years. 500 New Employees. Same Culture. How Did Conga Do It?

Written by Alton Zenon III
Published on Oct. 25, 2019
9 Years. 500 New Employees. Same Culture. How Did Conga Do It?
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Conga team in group photo
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Growing a company from under 10 people to over 500 in less than a decade is no small feat, and it’s even more impressive when the business is able to maintain the most essential elements of its company culture while scaling. Yet this is exactly what Conga managed to do, said Vice President of Customer Success Paola DiPalma. 

DiPalma, who has been with the automation solutions company since its startup days, said major changes are underway. From the recent opening of a brand new headquarters to the creation of a client-facing team, Conga has been transformed from the inside out. But crucial cultural components like an emphasis on employee happiness and growth have remained, evidenced by a longstanding tradition of providing daily food for staff and professional development stipends.

We caught up with DiPalma to understand how the company’s culture has influenced everything from customer success operations to her desire to lead with transparency.  

 

What makes Conga's culture unique and how has it changed, or remained the same, since you joined nine years ago?

Since Mark Whiteside and Michael Markham founded the company in 2006, our culture has been employee and customer-centric. Conga didn’t have a single salesperson until 2015 but the company grew because of the supportive culture that the founders created for employees and for our customers. They did this early on by serving food every day, saying “hi” to everyone and listening to what we needed to support our teams. Our culture is important to us, so we continue those traditions and the fan favorite is our tradition of serving food for breakfast and lunch every day.

The culture has definitely evolved in the last nine years but the core components of the customer and employee-centric mentality remain. As we’ve grown from a team of seven to 515 people, we have created a more global culture and each team is empowered to create their own microculture. My goal as a leader is to continue to foster a culture of inclusion and teamwork.

 

What impact has the company's growth made on your team, and what opportunities has it created?

The company’s growth has impacted my team in many ways. The most significant of which was the creation of our customer success team, which I helped create. We saw that our customers needed more support and immediately went to work to build the team in February 2019. We now have 22 people on that team and they are making a huge impact on our customers.

Our growth has also given team members more of an opportunity to grow into other roles. Some of the key players at Conga started on my technical-customer success team and have moved into roles like professional services, engineering, quality assurance, product, solution engineering and Salesforce evangelist.

Conga didn’t have a single salesperson until 2015 but the company grew because of the supportive culture.”

 

Conga believes that transparency, empowerment and adaptability create happy and successful teams. How do you create an environment that promotes these values?

I’m a firm believer in all of these values and I try to lead by them every day. I do that by keeping an open-door policy. I encourage 360-feedback with the people on my team where they feel comfortable being authentic with their teammates and management.

We also see failures as an opportunity for growth and have created a safe place for people to take risks. We encourage people to make decisions that support our customers as well as the business.

And it’s crucial for my teams to be adaptable to be successful. I’m able to help in creating that environment by staying in tune with the business problems they’re solving, asking them questions to guide them to find answers on their own, and by giving them a safe place to explore.

 

What professional development resources and support does the company provide to help team members grow their skill sets and advance their careers? 

We give every employee $1,200 annually that they can use to grow their professional skills. Our team members use this in various ways including attending conferences, obtaining certifications, increasing their emotional intelligence and soft skills, and subscribing to business publications — to name a few. We also pay for employees to take Salesforce certification exams and provide a $500 bonus when they become certified. On our TCS team, we give every team member a LinkedIn Learning account and give them unlimited access to the modules on the platform.

Our leadership teams encourage employees to think about how they can grow and they present stretch projects for our teams to work on. Additionally, as the company experiences growth, our team members are given more opportunities to step into other roles, which allows them to continue to be challenged.

 

When hiring, what do you look for in candidates, and how do you know you've found someone who will embrace and live its values?

The two biggest qualities I look for when hiring are teamwork and a pattern of high achievement. In addition to those two qualities, I look for people that represent our for core values: passion with purpose, adapt to win, desire for knowledge and five-star value.

When looking for these qualities and values, I pay attention to their tone and body language. I tend to focus less on the technical aspects of the job because those can be learned, whereas things like responsibility, drive and commitment are inherent.

 

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