Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's it like working at Hyper Island?

I've been a shoe salesman, a programmer, a personal trainer. I've been an Internet guide, a team leader and a project manager. I've worked for small companies run by families and for large multinational companies run by guys who resemble G-man.

I've (almost) always been happy at my jobs, but I've never felt that I'm working at one of the best places in the world.

Until February 5th this year, that is. That's when I started working at Hyper Island.

Now you might be thinking that there's a difference between working as a clerk in a shoe store and working with digital media programs. You're right. But job description aside, there's a fundamental difference between Hyper Island and all the companies I've worked for before. This difference is the same thing that makes our students among the best in the world. We call it the Hyper Island way. It's no secret, but it can be hard to really understand if you're theoretically challenged (which I most certainly am - I need to experience stuff to really understand it). Now that I understand it, I can try to explain it.

Example one:
The other day, I was wondering whether I'm easy to read. My own opinion was that I wouldn't do very well in a poker game, but how did others perceive me? So I asked Roger (my boss). I don't think I've ever had a relationship with co-worker, let alone a leader, who I could ask for feedback on that level. (The answer was a little surprising: Roger perceived me as pretty good at keeping up appearances.)

Example two:
Speaking of keeping up appearances: I'm going through a pretty rough period right now. Breaking up with someone I really like made me a mess. On all my previous jobs, I'd wear a translucent mask in a situation like this. I would avoid talking to my colleagues, I wouldn't be laughing or telling jokes or eating lunch with them. Tons of stuff for their imagination to build windmills from, and fantasize about "what's his problem?". At Hyper Island, I could sit at the morning meeting and say "Guys, I went through a really rough patch yesterday, and I'm feeling really sad and broken. It's too hard to talk about it, and I'd prefer to be left alone today".

And so I got to be in my own little bubble, focusing hard on work. And once I was ready to talk about it, they listened and said smart stuff.

Example three:
Have you ever had an introduction with a new co-worker? "Hi, my name is so and so and I've been working there and there and I will be doing this and this". And then maybe a line about who s/he's married to, or living with and how many kids they have. Well, introductions here at Hyper Island are different. Instead of doing a live presentation of our resumés, we talk about who we are. I talked about how I grew up and about experiences and events that formed me as a human being. It's so much easier to understand each other when you see a person and not a walking CV.

Example four:
It's not only our students who practice learning by doing. We - I - do it all the time. We reflect about most things we do, what we can do different next time to do whatever it is even more effective. We ask for feedback from students, from each other, from lecturers and we consider all the feedback we get. There are two sides to each coin, and there's always something that can be tweaked or turned to make the machinery run even more smoothly the next time.

/Micke Kazarnowicz, Project Manager at Hyper Island


Anonymous said...

Wow, this sounds more like a cult than a job...

Micke said...

@Anon: I'm curious, which parts of the post made you think of a cult?

Maria said...

Vad du är bra! Jag håller med! :D

Megan said...

Enjoyed your post!! So much so that I will be sending my CV in. Let your boss know and the agency to keep their eyes open.