Weird in the Best Way - My First Month at Roma

May 10, 2022

I can talk about company culture til I'm blue in the face. But, what really matters, is how my team feels.

As many of you know, I’m obsessed with workplace culture and creating a happy work environment. To that end, we’re constantly fine-tuning, evaluating, and tweaking our culture, which often involves asking for feedback from team members through formalized processes like our pulse surveys.

And every once in a while, we get awesome unsolicited feedback from a team member who feels compelled to share their story.

We've decided to share one such story here, unedited, and anonymously.

This is a guest post from one of our newest Roma team members. Shared unedited (and anonymously) to offer a real, firsthand POV of how both a negative positive work environments can feel.

“From the very beginning, nothing about my experience with Roma has been what you would call typical.

To be honest, from the first call with Tony (What? I’m in a video call with the CEO as my first interview?) everything has been, well, weird in the best ways possible.

It was nothing like the seemingly endless parade of fake, forced, corporate interview processes I’d been going through.

And to be honest, I was skeptical of the whole “Core Values” thing and the “We’re a Family” schtick.

I’d worked for corporations before. They all say “Oh, we’re a big family.” My first day, they made me sign a bunch of policy papers and a welcome packet, you know the drill. The first document was their “culture values” document but it only takes about a day and a half to figure out that’s just meaningless stuff written on a piece of paper and plastered on their hiring page.

Which was part of the reason I was looking for a new job. I wasn’t happy at my job. I wasn’t happy with my company.

To be honest, I didn’t even realize how toxic that environment was until I started working at Roma. I didn’t know work could be like this. I didn’t know companies could be like this.

You don’t realize how numb you’ve gotten to so many things until something new slaps you in the face and you start to recognize how toxic it’s been all along.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My last job was a corporate gig. I ended up wearing way too many hats and it was all so rigidly siloed that I was expected to do my job without the training or tools to be effective at it.

I felt completely burnt out and disconnected after a year and a half.

So, I started searching the long, painful, frustrating process of looking for a new job.

I haaaaate interviewing. I hate the feeling that I need to hide who I really am behind a plastic smile and perfect, polite language. It always feels like a lie. Not to mention showing up for interviews where the job description ended up being entirely different than the job I’d actually applied for.

It was a brutal year and a half of interviews and the whole associated rigamarole before I found Roma.

When I applied for the job at Roma, I looked up the company online (naturally). It all looked so great, from the website that put the core values and company culture right out there, center stage to the Glassdoor reviews that seemed to confirm it was legit, but it still seemed too good to be true.

My first interview was with Tony on a video call. That, in and of itself was weird. I’d never met a CEO who does an initial interview.  So, when he sat down and introduced himself as CEO, I was shocked.

His direct manner and unvarnished honesty put me immediately at ease.

It was the first time I’d ever been in an interview where I felt like, not only could I be myself, but also, that’s exactly what they wanted me to do!

It felt like this was all meant to be.

He started with the Predictive Assessment tool we use in screening all applicants. I’d done it. It was fun and so short that I couldn’t possibly imagine how it would tell them anything about me.

But, omg, did it nail me!

I’m a “Promoter” according to the PI. Reading the description, I saw myself described unbelievably precisely in the way I approach my jobs.

It was so informal and comfortable. We ended up chatting for almost an hour. He knew the town where I grew up (unheard of!) and was very open and intentional about explaining exactly what he was looking for.

And I was just, ME.

To be honest, I was sure I’d messed it up. I’d worked so hard to be this plastic “Interview Person” that I was wondering if I could even still be myself!

But here I am!

One of the biggest things Roma does right is the details.

Melissa, our marketing lead, dropped off a box to my home with a card signed by the whole office and a frame. It was such an amazing gesture that made me feel welcome before I even started, and it meant so much to me.

From my very first day, everyone was so friendly. Every person I’ve met has had a great attitude. I kept waiting to find that one grumpy person every company has… but I’ve been here almost a month and they just don’t seem to exist.

One of the things I appreciated most is that they gave me an onboarding schedule on day one. So, I knew where I’d be, who I’d be meeting with, and what I’d be doing each day of my first week. It was such an enormous help in so many ways.

By the end of my first week at Roma, I knew more about our products than I ever did in three years at my previous company.

My first few weeks at Roma have been overwhelming in the most awesome ways.

The physical environment is like no office I’ve ever been in. No closed offices. No silos. It feels more like a playground than an office.

And somehow, the human environment is even better. I got to sit down with each department to get a basic understanding of who they are, what they do, and how their roles intersect with my role. Everyone is just so genuine and friendly.

I jumped into it immediately and wholeheartedly. I knew this was the place I was supposed to be.

Remember how I said that at my old job (and most companies, honestly) it becomes obvious within a day and a half that all the “culture values” and “we’re a big family” stuff is just lip service?

At Roma, it was clear within 5 hours that it’s 100% genuine.

At other companies, culture is just a printed piece of paper in a frame on the wall that no one notices, much less pays any heed to.

At Roma, we’ve got thousands of frames, but the culture is LIVED.

By either happy coincidence or fate, my second week was “Core Values Week” at Roma. (Tony wrote a blog about it you can read here.)

I’ve always been a person who loves writing little notes to people. I literally write notes every day. To my boyfriend, to myself, to my friends. That’s one of the reasons the package Melissa dropped off with the signed card and the frame meant so much to me.

Here, they have these “Core Values Cards” that have one of the 10 Core Values on one side and the other side is… For writing a note!!!

People give out Core Values cards to each other year-round whenever they get the urge to. There’s no requirement or reward for doing so. It’s just this natural thing.

But during Core Values week, it’s sort of heightened and people give out extra cards.

You choose the card with the core value you feel your coworker is embodying and write them a short note on the other side to say, “thank you” or “great job” or “I appreciate you!”

People put them up on their desks. They’re literally everywhere.

It was such a cool feeling. I already love writing notes, and I quickly realized I was picking different cards for different people and the cards represented each of them personally.

And getting the cards is equally wonderful. It gives me a sense of how I come off as person and I feel so genuinely valued.

It’s been truly amazing to find my place in such a wonderful environment and I’m truly inspired and excited for what comes next!"

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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