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How the People Ops Team at DocSend Created a Vibrant Remote Team Culture

Here's our Q&A with Sophie Geaney, Director of People Operations at DocSend, on how she was able to adjust the team's culture from in-office to remote.

We know the election results are still coming in and some things may change. One thing we know that won’t be changing for a while is working remotely, so our Q&A is focused on how leadership at DocSend is creating a vibrant remote team culture.

This week we’re featuring a Q&A with our very own Sophie Geaney, Director of People Operations at DocSend. She’s been with the team since 2015 and has been a leader in instituting a safe, happy, and productive team culture before and now during the pandemic. In her interview, she shares how she’s managed to help the team thrive while going fully remote and maintaining a vibrant work culture.

sophie geaney docsend people operationsQ&A with Sophie Geaney
Sophie Geaney has been leading DocSend’s People Operations since 2015 and has helped create the team’s culture from 13 employees to 52 now.

Before the pandemic, the DocSend team was mostly working in the office, can you provide some context about when and how your team began to plan for a fully remote team?

Of course! Throughout this challenging year, I’ve really leaned on my network as things have evolved. I’m part of a Slack community of People Ops folk (started by Lattice – our performance management platform), and from February on many folks started sharing their action plans for COVID-19 and thoughts on going temporarily remote. Things started to speed up in early March with case numbers rising – and we decided that we’d have everyone at DocSend WFH for the next couple of weeks. Less than a week later shelter in place started in San Francisco and we haven’t been back to the office since. We already had some remote folks on the team and we really looked to them to help us as we made our transition.

What challenges did you and the team face when working from home became mandatory? And how did you and the leadership team at DocSend think through any new benefits, processes, and systems to support remote work?

A lot of things had to change once most of us weren’t in the same open-plan office together. We had to make sure our company-wide communication was clear and always in Slack and email, that all-hands meetings were moved to Zoom, and that we were keeping our employees updated every step of the way. These were (and continue to be) tumultuous times. We weren’t sending everyone home indefinitely for good reasons, we were all going home due to a global pandemic. Due to this, anxieties were high for some. Our main priority has always been to make sure our employees are supported and have what they need to stay healthy, safe, and productive. Since the first week of mandatory WFH I’ve sent out weekly People Ops updates to keep all DocSend employees in the loop on all of our efforts to prioritize health and safety, as well as, our eventual plans to return to the office. We also rolled out two separate workstation reimbursements for folks to improve their at-home desk setup.

The DocSend team culture was already established with an in-office focus, how have you been able to keep and evolve the team culture to now be remote?

It’s definitely a challenge – and it’s constantly evolving! So much of DocSend’s team culture was built from being together and getting to know each other in the office, so we’ve had to adjust our events and also our expectations. What worked when we were all together in the office may not work as well over Zoom, and we’ve had to retool. We still have weekly happy hours and monthly game nights – but we’ve also added more structured events, as well as, asynchronous ways to engage (slack channels, questions of the day, etc) based on feedback we’ve received. Lots of folks have started having “watercooler Zooms” with coworkers so that they can work together, hang out, and emulate the open office environment.

With most of the DocSend team having been hired before remote work was mandatory, can you share more about the new employee onboarding process and how they’re made to feel welcome into a team they’ve never met IRL?

We announce new employees in Slack before they join, when they join, and also create slides with more information about them to showcase in our monthly all-hands meetings. New employees get a box with all of our swag including socks, a t-shirt, hoodie, coffee mug, stickers, and more. We want DocSend to be a welcoming environment for everyone so we’re always encouraging folks to join office hours with people on the team and offer other structured events/ ways to get to know everyone. Also, we’re always asking for feedback! After an employee’s first 30 days they complete an onboarding survey that gives us crucial information into how we can improve our onboarding.

Remote work can mean more Zoom meetings and Slack communication, in what ways have you been able to keep the fun in DocSend’s team culture vibrant with everything being remote?

Zoom fatigue is real and, after pulsing our team in our quarterly pulse surveys, we received feedback that large Zooms were overwhelming, especially when there wasn’t an agenda or structure. We had a virtual picnic over the summer that folks enjoyed that included smaller group activities (painting class, blending tea, making candles) and then we all came together for trivia. This provided a variety of fun ways to engage with the team and was met with positive feedback! We’re planning on adding smaller department-level group activities this quarter to foster team building (i.e. escape rooms, cooking classes, etc), as well as, lunch & learns by individual members (we’ve already had employees lead us in makeup tutorials and we have an Irish coffee happy hour upcoming)!

Adjusting to this new normal is definitely not a one size fits all – we want to make sure we have diversity of the events we offer and that there is something for everyone here. We’re not perfect but we’re certainly not afraid to continue trying new things!

Is there anything else you’d like to add or any thoughts on creating a remote team culture that other startup teams should know?

I think that creating a remote team culture during a global pandemic is a bit different than doing it when everything is a bit more…normal. We’ve been lucky that our business has been able to adjust, but it hasn’t been without its challenges! Don’t beat yourself up if an initiative doesn’t go off as planned – these are unprecedented times. Ask for feedback from your team on what’s working and what could be better. We’re all trying our best and continuing to support our teams in the ways that make sense for us, and that looks different for every team and every employee.

Also, DocSend is hiring for new positions – go to our Careers page for details!

Pitch Deck Interest Metrics Update

Last week’s investor interest broke the downward trend and increased by 1.99%. The average number of pitch deck interactions by investors for each founder on DocSend last week was 32.36% higher than the same week in 2019. (tweet this)

Read our full analysis of last week’s changes in the fundraising marketplace.

Participate in DocSend Fundraising Research

If you’ve enjoyed all of our research this year, you can be part of the next round by participating in this year’s fundraising survey. Founders and investors from anywhere can submit their responses. All data is aggregated and anonymized.

Take the Startup Fundraising Survey


Recommended Reads

Use This Startup’s Playbook for Running Impactful Virtual Offsites
In this interview, Kelsey Mellard, CEO of Sitka, and Mike Wang of Intent Design come together to share the tactics, purpose-driven agenda and behind-the-scenes process that enabled them to pull off a successful virtual offsite.

Read the full post on the First Round Review.

Remote Company Culture – A Guide by Holloway
The team at Holloway wrote a book on Remote Work and made their section on remote company culture open for teams to read. It covers foundations of company culture, creating and instilling company values, the use of tools, and much more.

Read the full post on Holloway.

2020 Kleiner Perkins People Report
The team at Kleiner Perkins published their inaugural 2020 Kleiner Perkins People Report. This report consists of shared learnings and content, as well as a series of surveys conducted throughout the year.

Read the full report by Kleiner Perkins.

uucsf health hub docsend

Using DocSend to Raise Your Next Round Faster

Join Russ Heddleston, CEO, DocSend, and Mark Goldstein, Chairman, UCSF Health Hub, and Partner, Builders VC, as they share their insights on what it takes to create a winning pitch deck for digital health startups, and how to use the latest features by DocSend to raise billions in the midst of a pandemic.

When: Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM PT

Register for the webinar