After four years in the service of Sketchfab's team and operations, I often still have a hard time explaining my former job to my friends and family. I hope this 9-minute long post will help – I may need to translate it to French though...
WHY DO I DO MY JOB?
As we build our company, association or institution by iterations, ramping it up step-by-step, navigating darkness and uncertainty, focusing on the product-market fit, we may forget to take care of our organization along the way. All facing-in topics may easily fall into the important-but-non-urgent category, which they often actually are – but it doesn't mean we should never dive into them.
I'm one of those who think that not taking action here can turn into a nightmare when the company grows, and sometimes even kill it.
I'm also of the ones who think that the first things we need to build a great organization are simply (1) to start, and (2) to adjust the course along the way. If we have the urge to do good and build a system, a set of practices, and a culture in the service of the team and the organization's purpose, and if we are willing to take incremental steps, change will happen quicker than we think.
I do this job because I want our organizations to be great.
THE TEAM I'M IN THE SERVICE OF
For more than 6 years, I was committed full time to Sketchfab.
Sketchfab is empowering a new era of creativity by making it easy for anyone to publish, share, embed, manage and distribute 3D/VR/AR content.
Artists who create beautiful works of art, cultural heritage institutions digitizing their collections to make them accessible from anywhere in the world, educational projects willing to provide a new learning experience, companies who want to showcase their products or iterate faster internally... Sketchfab is for everyone. Please find more here about how people are using Sketchfab's 3D visualization technology:
It is the largest platform for immersive and interactive 3D, with a community of over 5,000,000 creators ; 4,000,000 scenes published ; 5,000,000 monthly unique visitors ; and a three-sided revenue model that has grown by 10x in 4 years. Sketchfab is working hard to serve its community and be profitable, and is growing fast.
The company is based in Paris and New York City, with remote teammates across Europe. When I left, it was a growing team of 50 people who value creativity, passion, caring and openness. They are explorers. They are geeks, they are ambitious and perseverant, collaborative and attentive. They care about how things are done and try to remain humble. But above all else, they are comfortable being their true selves, they geniunely care about each other, and they have fun!
Sketchfab was acquired by Epic Games in July 2021. It was amazing to work on the due diligence, acquisition, and integration into a 100-times larger group.
MY SCOPE: ALL FACING-IN TOPICS
1 — ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT & PEOPLE
When it comes to our Team efforts, I was mostly acting as a facilitator to the team, supporting my teammates to co-create what felt best for us ; and as a friendly-nudging-brainstorming-partner to the company founders, by holding a space of reflection on organization listening and emergence.
Day-to-day, it translated into goals and actions on different levels.
Feel safe — Promoting psychological safety and preserving trust within the organization. Get onboard — Creating a welcoming and hollistic onboarding experience, to make sure people understand their roles, and find alignment between their journey and the journey of the organization. Be nice — Protecting a geniunely kind atmosphere, not mistaking good culture with nice perks. Work smarter — Removing as much bureaucracy as possible and communicating expectations from any side explicitely so people can focus on what truly matters. Co-live & Collaborate — Adopting an appropriate and evolutionary set of tools, methods, and practices to encourage an open culture, to welcome collective thinking, and to collaborate ably. Learn & Grow — Promoting learning and development opportunities. Recruit — Implementing a seamless and transparent hiring process. Build a community — Keeping alumni in the loop.
One more thing. When I joined the team, the founders made this beautiful gift to the organization: they asked me to hold a safe and fully confidential space with every team member. Every quarter, I had a 30 to 90-minute 1-1 with all my colleagues to personally connect on how they were feeling about their missions and journey with Sketchfab. It was always a mindblowing experience that brought me a ton of insights and joy. They knew that what they shared would fuel my recommendations and actions towards building a great organization and a personalized experience for everybody. I’m profoundly grateful to the founders for this courageous and trustful move. They never asked me to link a feedback to a specific person, and unfailingly respected the initial deal.
2 — FINANCE
Together with my colleague and friends Sarah and Eleonor, I processed business and financial information to help the founding team connect what we think will happen (financial plans), what we would like to see happening (targets), and how we deploy resources.
At Sketchfab, except everyone's pay rate, all information was transparent, communicated to the team weekly, and to the board of directors monthly. We worked hard to create financial dashboards that are real tools to pilot the business. We dove into all things data and break down our revenues and costs to the simplest and most reasonable assumptions, in order to identify opportunities and anticipate challenges. And we strived to help defining a meaningful set of company goals to which the team can relate.
3 — ACCOUNTING, LEGAL & ADMIN
I was also the main point of contact, both for our U.S. and French entities, for our accountants, banks, lawyers, landlords and providers.
I was responsible for making quoting, invoicing, payments collection, staff expenses reimbursment, payroll, and the annual closing exercise as seamless as possible. I also ensured that the company contractual relationships with its team members and third-parties were mindfully framed, and that everyone was safe.
WHAT I AM LEARNING
Given the wide diversity of facing-in projects I had the chance to work on, I built skills on two levels: (1) processing and communicating things that are complicated – meaning what can be hard to solve but is still addressable with some logic and rigor ; and (2) navigating complexity – meaning everything involving too many unknowns and interrelated factors, especially Team-related topics.
High initiative — And as in any small team, I had to demonstrate self starting capabilities, seizing opportunities for impact in messy and uncertain contexts without direction or oversight.
1 — PROCESS & COMMUNICATE WHAT'S COMPLICATED
Structured problem solving — I practiced the ability to break complicated problems down into component parts. I enjoyed here both the strategic and the tactical work.
Analytical capability — I built confidence creating, scrutinizing and improving financial models. I repeatedly did the work to make sure our reports are accurate, and did my best to cut out the noise and identify the most salient data points to inform decision making.
Executional excellence — Everyday, my organizational skills and attention to detail were put to a test. I worked hard to prove a high sense of responsibility, and to leverage my generalist skill set to take on a wide range of tasks in support of the founding team. I always aimed at delivering quality work.
Executive level communication — I did a conscious effort at communicating precisely and wisely. I strived to convey concepts briefly, simply and persuasively.
2 — NAVIGATE WHAT'S COMPLEX
Emotional intelligence — I aimed at establishing strong and trusting relationships with my colleagues. Engaging regularly with all of them on a personal level, I strengthened the ability to actively listen, to monitor my feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide my thinking and actions.
Organizational change — I learnt to accompany the founding team in change in priorities, projects, targets or team structure.
Facilitation — Especially during our yearly offsite, I practiced facilitation of meetings or sessions with multiple participants.
VALUES & VISION
Values are critical elements of our personality: we all appreciate some things more than others. Being aware of what is important to us, and how we envision our topics of focus, helps us consciously and healthily arbitrate personal and work choices.
1 — WHAT I VALUE
I value the intention to treat all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice, and to give everyone a fair chance. I prize self-regulation of what one feels and does, I prize discipline and control of one's appetites and emotions. I notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to science to everyday experiences. I value honesty, this effort to speak the truth but more broadly present oneself in a genuine way and act in a sincere way, this courage to be without pretense, and to take responsibility for one's feelings and actions. I treasure creativity, this calling to think of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things. And I appreciate leadership, this drive to encourage a group to get things done, and at the same time maintain good relations within the group.
2 — HOW I ENVISION ORGANIZATION TOPICS
I see organizations as independent and infinitely complex living systems who can lift groups of people up to achieve outcomes they could not have achieved on their own. I am inspired by Frederic Laloux, whose research really helped me acknowledge the evolution of human consciousness and how it translates into organization models. If you are interested in learning more, I previously shared a summary of Laloux's analysis.
In an healthily growing organization, the culture enables its members to be safe, brave, and vulnerable. To me, the rest is cardboard – or more precisely, the rest comes after this. So, first, the culture promotes a psychologically safe environment for people to express their true self. They should start in the morning, show up themselves, and know it's going to be good. I am inspired by the Maslow pyramid of needs, where the bottom is psychological safety. Without that safety, nothing happens. Second, the organization trains the team to demonstrate courage, through brave behaviors, healthy conflicts resolution and getting real in conversations. And third, the culture helps them see the world from a place of trust instead of a place of fear, to invite them to show vulnerability.
Simultaneously, the organization makes sure people understand their roles, and find alignment between their own inner journey and the journey of the organization. We may think it goes without saying. It does not. All organizations need to spend time working on that.
The group seamlessly operates. People are given the tools, resources, information, and agency to do their job well without excess bureaucracy.
Finally, the organization recognizes its members are complete. We are all human beings, with family, feelings. Sometimes life gifts us with joy, but we consistently experience pain and moments of darkness. An healthily growing organization is mindful of this, and fuels its operations with empathy and care.
In a great organization, we treat people as we would like to be treated, so we end up authentically liking what we do, and the people with whom we are doing it with.
All this may sound like a lot, but don't get me wrong, it's hard. To some extent, I failed this mission everyday: I didn't go as far as I'd need to on any of those facing-in topics, I let some people being onboarded in a rush, I didn't push for our recruiting to be diverse and effortless enough, I didn't listen to my emotions as much as I wanted to, I often doubted, I was regularly afraid, I sometimes surrendered...
I want to thank you for your time and patience going through this. Whether you want to chat, note that you can always reach me.
I wish you to build a great organization, and to enjoy this journey!