So Now You Know: Learnings on People, Product and Culture from Hypergrowth at Snyk


Everyone wants ‘hyper growth’, to be the organisation that is backed market investment and interest - but what is the reality of getting there? What challenges does it provide in terms of people, leadership, system and scale? This talk will explore Snyk’s journey so far from its founding in 2015 and exponential growth in the last 18 months culminating in its Series F funding this past September. Exploring some of the key principles of culture, leadership and recruitment on this hyper growth journey, we will share some of our lessons learned from our experiences so far.


Hi there, my name is Patrick Malarkey. I'm the learning development lead at Sneak and I will be presenting to you, so now you know, learnings on people, products and hyper growth at Sneak. So what I'm going to talk to you about today. I'm going to give you a little bit of context, a bit of timeline of Sneak's life and times. Then we're going to talk a little bit about the challenges I think a lot of organisations face in terms of hyper growth and a quick note on change in general and change in organisations. And then I'll share with you some of the solutions that we've found have been useful to focus in on and they might be useful to you to consider with your teams and organisations as well. And then finally we'll end on what's next, what could be next for Sneak. But first of all, in terms of context at Sneak, I could give you a full blown life and times of our six years experience at Sneak, but I'm not sure how useful or helpful that would really be. So let me give you a slimmed down version. We were focused on the last 18 months or so. So quick history lesson. We were founded in September 2015. So we've just celebrated our six year anniversary. Some key events. So if you look at May 2019 we obtained unicorn status. To give you a sense of size and scale, we had approximately 500 people, employees in the business in February of this year. And then in September we obtained our Series F funding as well. Subsequently, fast forward to October. So when I speak to you today, we're over 800 staff strong and it gives you a sense of scale and speed we're growing at, especially in the context of a global pandemic in terms of not just the funding, but the headcount and how and where we're growing. But what are some of the challenges that's provided and some of the things that perhaps I think would resonate with this audience as well? Broadly speaking, there's two or three challenges that I think we kind of all share to varying degrees. First is around kind of culture. What does it mean as you grow that quickly? What's happening to your culture? Then there's some challenges around hiring and finally around scaling as you go into new territories, products, as you need to build out new systems and tools. What does that mean for your leaders and your managers within that? Before we dive into some of the stuff that's worked at Snyk, a quick note on change and change management. So some of the stuff that attracted people at the start of your journey in your business, some of the things that brought them in, the work they were looking to do might not be as present as you grow. It's just a challenge or reality of hyper growth that sometimes things get refined, things change direction. So what does that mean for the individuals involved? Then you've got to kind of consider from their perspective. One of the things we found really useful at Snyk as a principle, we're very big on transparency, but especially from the exec leadership down is around communication. And I'm just going to share it. It's obvious a lot of you might have come across it before, but a quick note on how we communicate change here at Snyk. If we're really clear around the how and what of what's changing and when that's going to occur alongside why, what's the motivation, the purpose of change. It helps people to be really clear about their role in the change journey, where the business is going and as well like how and where they can feature in the future. So it gives them a sense of not just, I suppose, autonomy in the context of change, but at least assurance about what's changing and why it's changing. But what are some of the things, I suppose, the solutions, the stuff that we're finding is working and we're building this as we go through it as well. There's no playbook for this type of hyper growth. So focusing on your culture, thinking very deliberately around your culture and what that means, what it means to be in an organisation that's going through these changes. We think very deliberately about our different communities of practice that are growing organically in the business, how they help support business strategy. From like a learning perspective, we don't accept or expect that, for example, a workshop or training is going to necessarily be like a silver bullet for some of this stuff. Relationships and ongoing communities will though. And what we're looking to do beyond this is to build on those communities in a format and style in terms of some of our management development programmes we're looking at. How and where can we help amplify or codify some of the behaviours that made people successful? Building on that and taking a step back, there's also something about a sense of belonging, a wider piece, especially in COVID. Those communities are critical. It's a soft factor, but they are critical in the sense to give people a sense of identity when they come on board SNEAK and understanding around kind of how we operate and what they feel towards it. Which leads us into as well, hiring. It's one thing to have this funding and to try and grow your teams and so on. But if you're not thinking deliberately about how you're hiring, not just in terms of traction, but in terms of assessment and retention, you're just going to lose people on the journey. We're really specific here at SNEAK around our four key values and how they play out in the recruitment process as well. We make it explicit as part of a candidate's journey as well that we will be assessing you against those values. So we can quantify them in a way that's really clear for them and for us. That then feeds into as well, how and when when someone arrives, how and when will they be self-sufficient? We want to give people space to thrive and do great work. But what does that mean in say the first seven, 30, 60, 90 days in role? What structure can leaders and managers provide for that as well? And building on that, letting our leaders lead, like how and where do we want to allow autonomy? What are the things that we want to be really high on process, systems and detail on? And what are the other items that actually we're comfortable being more loose or laissez-faire on in terms of how people operate and ensuring that. And again, that feeds into some of that planning of the seven, 30, 60, 90 days when people are coming on board. And then there's, well, being that transparent on it helps kind of make it clear to everyone around their role, but also it kind of helps us accept that this is a part of the change journey as well. Sometimes that gets refined. We talk about it a lot internally and I've just shared the kind of details on screen, but we talk a lot about giving away your Legos. There's a great piece on first round if you want to read more on it, but it's something that feeds into how we scale well. We accept we have to give away our Legos. Read the piece and it'll make more sense. So that's kind of some of the solutions around culture, hiring and scaling, the stuff we found useful. But to be frank, we're nowhere near done and we need more people. We need you and you know this. So if I've sparked your interest, if I sparked your curiosity, you want to go find out more, check out our careers page. I've got a screenshot here to illustrate we are global and we are scaling globally a variety of roles and locations and places and aspects. So we need, we just need good people. So if I've sparked your interest or you just want to find out more, feel free to reach out to me or check out our careers page. But finally, I just want to say thank you for taking the time out for your day to take part in this presentation. So lessons in learnings and products and hyper growth and people. So now you know, I hope you find this useful and I hope to speak to you soon. Take care.
8 min
25 Oct, 2021

Check out more articles and videos

We constantly think of articles and videos that might spark Git people interest / skill us up or help building a stellar career

Workshops on related topic