Octo Telematics is a company that provides insurance telematics services. The company was founded more than 4 million connected cars and 14 years ago in Rome, and since then its devices have been installed in more than 3.7 million vehicles globally. We recently interviewed Nino Tarantino, CEO of Octo Telematics North America, about what he calls the company’s fun, energetic, intelligent, and culturally diverse culture. Indeed, the 20 employees at its U.S. headquarters alone represent eight different countries. It also has six additional employees in California, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Collectively, the group speaks nearly a dozen languages.
What are some of the ways your employees celebrate their ethnic differences?
This December we had a holiday party where everyone signed up to bring in a different ethnic dish and recipe. The result was not only delicious, but also personal and educational. It helps us to get to know more about one another and that parlays into a stronger – and happier – team overall.
What else does your company do to build employee morale?
We do a lot of team building events and trips. Last year, for example, we took the entire company to Las Vegas for an end of year/holiday celebration. We saw shows together, ate great meals and had some important downtime. The year prior we gathered in San Diego. In 2015, when we surpassed one million users in North America, we celebrated with a dinner cruise on The Spirit of Boston, where I handed out awards to every employee, recognizing them for their individual contributions to our success. We’ve also been F1 racing, on scavenger hunts, and many more events that allow us to let our hair down, gather together and have fun getting to know each other outside of the office. I think another key component to morale is accessibility. As CEO, I am always accessible to the team. I am on the ground working with them – from selling product to visiting partners, to collaborating on our marketing – I work alongside them. It’s key for leaders to demonstrate a team mentality, to say not only ‘I’ve been where you are’ but ‘I am beside you as well as leading the way.’
What are some of the benefits of running a global organization with such broad geographic representation?
As a global organization that has employees in nearly a dozen different countries and four different states in the U.S., we are certainly no strangers to the distributed workforce. Although it can be challenging, it’s also incredibly exciting. We have unprecedented opportunities to build world-class teams with the best employees you can find anywhere they may be. It’s crucial to create processes that are clear and concise, and to invest in training to ensure employees feel your investment in their success from the get go.
What are some of the challenges of running a global organization with such broad geographic representation?
Challenges can come in the form of cross-cultural understandings and interpretations. This is why team building events and management training are so important – even for a business that has a distributed workforce. Take, for example, managing an introverted employee who is in California, when you are in Massachusetts. Management training can help you to do many things – not the least of which is to learn how to inspire and manage from afar. However, great management training also takes into account different personality types, and teaches you how an introverted employee, for example, may need a different style of communication in order to get the best from that employee. This is important when you’re face to face, yet crucial when you are distributed. Understanding these nuances and investing in training to ensure your managers do, too, is vital to building a strong culture. When every employee feels understood, valued and involved – regardless of where they’re located – you will build a very strong culture with dedicated employees. Other challenges can be getting everyone ‘together,’ on a regular basis but with today’s voice and video technologies, online meetings can feel just as personal as a physical meeting. Invest in the right technologies and IT support to ensure that your distributed employees are successful and connected.
How would you describe the hiring environment in tech at the moment?
There are more qualified candidates than ever, and that’s a great thing. Finding them can be challenging because there’s also so much noise, and people often apply for positions without reading the full requirements. Weeding through those can be a challenge. Of course, hiring them depends not only on their meeting the qualifications, but also on chemistry. Do they embrace our work hard/play hard mentality? Will they thrive in an office with so many personalities and work styles? Are they entrepreneurial enough to be a part of a smaller team, where every idea is considered? Do they seem truly enthusiastic about being part of our team?
To what extent has Octo Telematics been hiring lately?
In two years, we’ve tripled our North American staff, doubled our office space and are actively hiring, with 16 new positions planned in 2016. Our culture just keeps getting better and so does our work for customers. There’s no greater feeling than building a smart team that executes on the job and is fun to work with as well.