The Importance of Company Culture - by Nina Sawnhey '10


Alumni_Build.jpgWhat is Company Culture and Why Should You Care?

Earlier in March, several of my friends exchanged links to articles citing the self-reflections of employees who have left two high profile companies.  I am unsure about my readers' knowledge of the issues, but the articles received a lot of attention, considering the buzz on my social media newsfeeds.  Although I am well aware that an individual's account of a business does not fully represent the experiences of all employees within a firm, it did catch my attention and clearly the attention of some of my peers.  But why does this matter? 

For those people who do not frequently read the PGP Blog, I had mentioned in a previous post that I had spent some time working at the National University of Singapore, consulting in the development of the Engineering Faculty's Design-Centric Curriculum (DCC).   The DCC was in its fetal stages and the stress to produce positive results was eminent.  While in the midst of all the development, procurement, and discussions over learning outcomes, studio spaces, curriculum procedures, and materials, I realized that the most important element about the program was not going to be the game changing innovations and projects we were expecting to produce, but more importantly the culture and people that the program would foster and send off into the workforce.  To me, that was what would determine the success of the program. 

Now, how does this relate back to our two big firms mentioned at the beginning?  A company's employees are a reflection of its culture, which is probably why so many of my peers were interested in the articles.  People are the foundation, which holds a company together.  They matter more than the products, services, profits, or any other output coming from a single enterprise.  Thus, an employee's role is powerful and to be a successful contributor requires that an employee understand themselves and their values. 

As fellow upcoming Olin graduates make their decisions to move forward into the workforce and current students try to acquire and choose their next internship, my biggest advice from someone who did not jump into the commercial industry right away is to understand yourself.  What do you value?   How does this align with the companies you are interested in working for?  The more you can identify with yourself and how you will relate to a firm, the better you can contribute to the higher goals of the corporation and create intrinsic value within your work. (This is also important for those starting their own company, by the way).   

With about one-third of your workdays consisting of career working hours, invest some time in self-reflection. You might be surprised with what you come up with, and glad you did. 


Posted in: Alumni Speak