It was a bright Thursday morning when I signed onto my computer for my first day of work at Four Kitchens, six weeks after I accepted the offer.
Hold up. Six weeks?
Yes. To explain, let’s rewind six weeks.
A week following my final interview, I received an email from the HR department informing me that the Creative Director would like to have a conversation with me that afternoon. Once I joined that call, it was communicated—to my delight—that I was being offered the position at Four Kitchens! However, in the midst of my (mostly internal) celebration, a thought occurred to me that I knew I should bring up sooner than later.
Prior to Four Kitchens, I worked at a company that produces medical devices. I knew that off-boarding properly from those projects would take much longer than the standard “two weeks’ notice” and, not wanting to burn bridges at that company, I decided to request a longer timeline for the transition to Four Kitchens.
Making this request during the conversation in which I had just received the offer, I was worried that I risked losing the job, as they might need a UX Designer who could start as soon as possible. Thankfully, the very opposite was true.
The Creative Director informed me that Four Kitchens values off-boarding well, both at Four Kitchens, but also at the company you’re leaving in order to come aboard, and that request wouldn’t be a problem. I later learned that Four Kitchens also maintains that value internally—asking all employees to provide a minimum of a four weeks’ notice before leaving the company. Needless to say, they responded generously to my request.
Over the next several weeks, I corresponded back and forth with Four Kitchens to iron out details, make tech selections, and set up my accounts. Multiple packages arrived at my door, including swag and office supplies, and one by one I began checking items off of the onboarding checklist they had provided me.
By the time my first day at Four Kitchens arrived, I was brimming with anticipation to start my new job.
A slow start?
My first day of work started with a meeting with the Director of Administration and another first-day Web Chef. She walked us through an onboarding presentation and set expectations. That meeting was followed by a regular company-wide meeting (affectionately labeled “Team Hugs”) focused on growing the company culture. After that, there was a final meeting, an introduction to the team members I’ll closely be working with, and then…
The first day—even the whole first week—at Four Kitchens was surprisingly slow. Overzealous, I had already completed my onboarding checklist prior to my start date, only to find out that they had planned ample time for me to do so during my first week. I also came in expecting a large fire or two to be waiting for me to put out. Again, I was viewing my experience in comparison to the previous companies I had worked for, at which I definitely “hit the ground running” my first week. When I brought up this contrasting experience in conversations during my first week, numerous Web Chefs reassured me: “It’s okay to feel like you don’t have anything to do for the first few days.” Is this due to a lack of planning or utilization on the company’s part? No, but rather this is due to intentionally allowing space to get settled so that you are prepared to make an impact when the time comes.
Four Kitchens approaches the process of hiring proactively, not reactively. In other words, instead of hiring people to put out fires, we hire people to prevent them. We look at the work in our pipeline and evaluate how manageable the workload is with the resources that we currently have. We are very good at evaluating this in a timely and efficient manner. If it’s determined that the work coming in will be more than we can realistically handle, we generate a job opening! And we make sure to bring that team member on prior to that work getting underway.
Undoubtedly, there are and will be unforeseen situations that arise and create holes, such as a team member finding another amazing opportunity mid-project and leaving Four Kitchens. However, with four weeks’ notice, this scenario doesn’t cripple our workflow, but allows ample time for handovers to keep the work moving along.
All of this still left me with the minor problem of not being sure what to do with myself that first week, but this problem was partially remedied by everyone’s favorite work experience: meetings.
All the meetings (but they’re not what you think!)
Being a new hire, I was curious as to how fast my schedule would fill up with meetings. Having survived work-from-home during a global pandemic for one-and-a-half years, the word “meeting” already elicited an instinctual “flight” response in me. However, during the onboarding process, I quickly learned that meetings at Four Kitchens are not something to be feared.
A few days after starting, I had my first meeting with my buddy! A buddy is a fellow Web Chef, likely a part of the same team you’ve joined, designated to be your go-to resource for the intro period. In my case, it was a fellow UX Designer. She set up weekly meetings with me to answer questions and to simply get to know me better and help me settle in.
My Creative Director equates these meetings to “hallway conversations” that happen at in-person offices. They’re informal and often more about company culture than anything else, but they also provide space for questions and advice.
Along with having regular meetings with my buddy, weekly check-in meetings were set up with my manager, the Creative Director. For these check-ins, either of us can add agenda items and topics to discuss. It’s a space to be open and honest; to share about projects, work, or life; or to get advice, guidance, and direction. The weekly cadence creates a rhythm and habit of transparency.
On top of it all, introductory meetings were set up between me and the Chief Delivery Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Director of Engineering, and Chief Executive Officer. I had the chance to sit down for half-an-hour, one-on-one with all of the higher-ups to get to know each other.
Every two weeks during the onboarding process, I met with a group of Web Chefs to evaluate my time so far at Four Kitchens. The group included a member of HR, my buddy, my manager, and my closest working project manager.
In the meetings, the group collectively runs through the exercise of “Start, Stop, and Continue.” What are things that I should start doing, stop doing, or continue doing?
Feedback ranged from practical tips to mental approach. During the first meeting, I was transparent and called out that I had been experiencing imposter syndrome to a certain degree. The group acknowledged how common of an experience it was, and encouraged me to continue talking about it with them in an effort to combat it and truly know that I belong. I soon realized that these meetings were a chance for me not only to hear from others, but to be heard by others as well.
Finally, each internal team has a weekly “Level 10” meeting. The meeting structure is taken from the Entrepreneurial Operating System outlined in the book What the Heck is EOS?
I’ll be honest, I never knew meetings could be so productive, engaging, and enjoyable. I actually find that I look forward to this particular meeting every week. And maybe the best part is that, at the end of each meeting, all attendees rate the meeting on a scale from 1 to 10 and give feedback on what could be improved.
It’s all about the people
Looking back at my time onboarding, it was the people who set it apart from any of my prior work experiences. It was quickly apparent that Four Kitchens had been as intentional about all of their hires as they were with me. And those people—the ones who I’m privileged to be able to work with—love to learn and grow and help you do the same. They are genuine, humble, and caring, and truly embody the values of the company they chose to represent.
It was the people who graciously allowed me to extend my transition period between companies.
It was the people who worked with me through onboarding documents and shipping delays.
It was the people who showed me the ropes and enthusiastically welcomed me to the team.
It was the people who intentionally planned ample time for me to get situated at the company and in my work.
It was the people who made the meetings fun, efficient, and enjoyable.
It was the people who listened and related as I shared my insecurities about imposter syndrome, and it was those same people who have helped me learn to overcome it.
After the two-month onboarding period, I was officially a Web Chef. Before I even started at Four Kitchens, I already had begun to appreciate the people who had worked with me through the hiring process. Now, I have found that everyone here is of that same quality and caliber. The people define this company.
To wrap this up, I’d like to leave you with one final story.
As an incoming employee, I was very excited about the stipend provided for professional development and technology and office furnishings. In particular, I couldn’t wait to get a new office chair. I had been working from home for months on a plastic Paris Eames chair replica my wife found on Facebook Marketplace, and while it may have looked nice, it definitely did not feel nice to sit on, and around the time of the interviews I was starting to feel its effects on my body. My heart fell when I heard that the stipend wouldn’t be active until after the two-month onboarding period. I wasn’t sure if my body could take the wait! So, a couple days after accepting the offer, I tentatively reached out to the Director of Administration and asked if I could use part of the stipend before it was active to pay for an ergonomic but not-too-expensive chair I had recently discovered. She happily informed me that it wouldn’t be a problem.
That just reinforced it: Here at Four Kitchens, we’re all about the people.
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