It’s in Our DNA: The InterWorks Difference


It’s in Our DNA: The InterWorks Difference

by Tobiah McConnell

I regularly hear from my friends and family how awesome they think my job is. I wholeheartedly agree! I started at InterWorks in January 2015, and over the past five years, I have only become more convinced that InterWorks is the epitome of a great employer. I could go on to talk about everything from its culture to the compensation, but I want to go beyond making general statements. Instead, I want to highlight a few key points by giving specific instances that I think illustrate why anyone should consider themselves lucky to work here.

Entrusted with Autonomy

When applying to InterWorks, something that appealed to me was that InterWorks didn’t bog its employees down with tons of rules. At orientation, Behfar, the CEO, said that by only hiring the best people, the company didn’t worry a lot about policing their work behavior. That sounded nice, and I was thankful that InterWorks even gave lip service to such a principle, but I didn’t actually believe they meant it … until my first day in the office. I witnessed nerf gun fights, people playing pool and even some taking breaks to play video games. No one had to ask permission or explain themselves to their supervisors. They were free to work how they wanted, when they wanted and where they wanted so long as we were providing value to our clients and staying true to the Best Work mantra that InterWorks prides itself on. That last part is important. Yes, I saw people taking breaks during the day, but those same people were the first to respond to a client issue on a Saturday morning or even when they were on vacation. We all know what is expected of us, and we are left to achieve that standard in whatever way best suits. In the context of a work environment, many people would refer to these policies as “flexible.” I call it trust.

Above: Me with my analytics team at the start of our hike up South Sister in Oregon

Empowered for Decision-Making

Another example of InterWorks’ trust in its employee is how they are empowered to make decisions. Soon after I was hired, I was sent to help a client implement a specific analytics solution. Upon arriving, I realized it wasn’t the best solution for their needs. If I pointed this out, though, it would probably mean they didn’t need InterWorks anymore, and we’d lose this opportunity, which was projected to earn us a lot of money. However, my job was to give the client the best possible advice, so I advised them to go with the better solution.

I remember when I told my boss, James, about advising the client to scrap the solution we had been brought in to implement. I hurriedly explained my reasoning and hoped that he wouldn’t be angry or disappointed. He chuckled at my anxiety and said that he trusted my judgement. He and InterWorks as a company believe that if you recruit great people, give them the proper tools and support, they will do great work. He said that rather than picking apart all of my work, as I had experienced at other employers, he would much rather spend time investing in me through mentorship and support.

InterWorks trusts its employee to do great work instead of creating a system of rules and policies to make them do great work. They trust you to make the right call for the client even if it loses them money. Of course, there is accountability. But you’re held accountable to the quality of your work and the value you provide the client, not whether you extracted the most money from a client or followed a cookie-cutter process to achieve it. Have you ever worked somewhere where you were genuinely trusted? It’s amazing! You feel free. It’s easy to feel excited by what you’re doing. And the quality of your work goes off the charts when you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder to see if you’ve upset your supervisor.

Above: My wife and I spending Thanksgiving with Nayeem and his family in Washington, D.C.

Unconditional Kindness

After I had worked at InterWorks for about two years, I felt called to work for my local church, which meant I had to leave InterWorks. It was a painful decision because I knew I would miss working here and the amazing community I had found in my coworkers. I eventually came back to InterWorks, but the way they handled my initial departure speaks to a quality not typically talked about regarding employers: kindness. Lots of people reached out to me to wish me well. Behfar even called to give me his well wishes and thank me for my time at InterWorks. I really appreciated the encouragements, but there was something else they did that showed me that their care extended beyond words.

When I went to work for InterWorks, they offered to pay for my phone bill so long as I signed over my phone number to their account. It was clearly articulated that if I left their employment, I wouldn’t be able to get back the phone number. The reasons for this were numerous, logical and clear. When I left, though, I timidly requested to keep my phone number since it had also been my personal number my entire life. To my surprise, InterWorks said I could keep it. They had to fill out forms, make calls to the service provider, make additional calls to the service provider when things went wrong. At every exchange of communication, I expected InterWorks to say, “Sorry, but we can’t spend anymore time on this.” To my astonishment, they saw the entire process through. They spent time and energy doing something they weren’t obligated to do for a person who had decided to leave them.

Happier employees do better work, which creates happier clients who buy more services. But even if kindness didn’t raise the bottomline for InterWorks, I believe they would still practice it because they simply believe it’s the right thing to do.

I believe they did this for the same reason they treat their clients fairly, compensate their employees generously and make sacrifices to better their communities: InterWorks is kind. From the top to the bottom of the organizational chart, I see daily acts of kindness that are in no way motivated by corporate or personal gain. Working at a company that exudes kindness motivates me to be more kind. I believe this kindness does ultimately benefit the organization’s bottomline. Happier employees do better work, which creates happier clients who buy more services. But even if kindness didn’t raise the bottomline for InterWorks, I believe they would still practice it because they simply believe it’s the right thing to do.

Above: My wife and I took an anniversary trip to New York City, and James let us stay in his apartment while we were there. 

Honesty, Even When It Hurts

I want to be clear from the outset that when I talk about honesty, I’m not just talking about the absence of lying; I’m also referring to the absence of deception. Lots of companies are dishonest to their clients and employees without ever telling an actual lie. However, they use things found in the “small print” or twist terminology to exploit others, including their employees, for their gain. I have never encountered an instance of deception or outright lying at InterWorks, internally or to clients. I’ve already talked about honesty and given an example regarding how we support and interact with our clients, but I want to also speak to how trustworthy InterWorks is as an employer.

When I’ve had requests that were denied, InterWorks didn’t sugarcoat it or promise to make it up to me or even make me feel bad about the request in the first place. They have always been straightforward and transparent with me, even when they knew I might get frustrated. For example, when I was hired back on, I requested that my tenure from the first time I worked with them be credited to me for PTO purposes. The request was denied, but they were open, honest and compassionate about it. Throughout all my annual reviews and compensation discussions, I have never felt like they’ve tried to take advantage of me. When the company has made decisions to scale back a perceived benefit, they haven’t tried to hide it or disregard it—instead, they explain the reasoning behind the decision. For that, I trust them. I know I can focus on my work here without worrying about being taken advantage of or lied to. So many people have an adversarial relationship with their employer, but I have a partner in mine.

Consistent Support to Reach Your Goals

The people at InterWorks—and the company culture itself—are truly supportive. This manifests itself in typical ways such as being willing to help employees make changes or advances in their careers or helping you work through a mistake. However, you also feel the support in small, everyday instances. For example, there have been many times that I’ve worked out of an InterWorks office I’ve just been visiting. On those days, it is common to get offered ten or more times a day to use someone else’s desk. People will see you working from a coffee table or a couch and go hunt down a desk for you to use if you want. There have been times I’ve made mistakes and the client was angry. My supervisors didn’t get mad. First, they helped me work with the client to fix the mistake, and then they would use the incident as a training opportunity.

Recently, I wanted to transition from an Analytics Consultant to a Data Engineer. This change required me to learn a lot of new skills that took significant time. Throughout the whole process, the focus of my supervisor was on helping me become a great resource to clients, not how soon I could get back to billable work. I didn’t feel rushed and knew that InterWorks was behind me. As a non-techie working for a tech company, I had a lot of insecurity about my lack of IT knowledge. I remember during my orientation week, I was in a training about server architecture. Understanding the training required me to know what a server was, which I did not. I ended up asking what exactly a server is and was sure they’d realize they’d made a terrible mistake in hiring me and show me the door. However, the guy leading the training seemed to glow. He took me to the server room and answered all of my questions. He didn’t make me feel weird or stupid. He said his job was to make me a better consultant, and as long as I was willing to learn, that was all he needed.

Above: Some members of my team when I was an analytics consultant at the 2018 Holiday Party

Why InterWorks

I thought about also including community among the things that makes InterWorks a great employer. And indeed, the community among my coworkers is amazing. We gather for holidays, share snacks all the time and find true friends amongst each other. However, I think that community spirit is only possible because of the trust, respect and support we have for each other and InterWorks as a whole.

Is InterWorks fun? Hell yes! Is it hard work? Of course. You will be challenged. But the character of the company and the people go so much deeper in creating a healthy and sustainable place to work. If this sounds like the kind of place you want to be, we’re hiring! Explore our job openings. Or maybe this sounds like the kind of partner you’d like to guide you in navigating your tech and data challenges. Reach out to our team, and let’s start collaborating.

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More About the Author

Tobiah McConnell

Data Engineer
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