Remember how much you looked forward to going to the zoo as a kid? That's how much DataXu (pronounced "Data Zoo") employees look forward to going to work every day.
Innovative technology, intelligent and collaborative co-workers, a flat management structure and a host of cool perks at the Boston advertising-optimization firm keep its employees challenged and content.
"People here don't get upset if you challenge their ideas -- they get inspired," said Bill Simmons, chief technology officer.
Sandro Catanzaro, VP-analytics and innovation, added, "We are a company that 's trying to innovate, so it's a natural attraction and fit for people who want to do things not necessarily in the same old way. That brings together a very special group of people."
To help inspire and keep this group of fast-paced collaborators challenged, one of DataXu's most popular programs across all job titles is something it calls "Innovation Days." Several times a year, everyone in the company cancels their regular work for the day and joins a team to come up with a pet project that relates to their everyday work life. Past ideas included more-healthful food and changes in software technology. At the end of the day, teams present their ideas at a companywide party.
"It's just one day, but the thing about a group of people like this is they want to see that their work makes a difference," said CEO-President Mike Baker. "We maintain a culture where a good idea can become a product in two months."
And in fact, DataXu has a greater than 90% implementation rate of new ideas from employees.
"I've spent 20 years in the Boston area working with bigger companies, and I really enjoy the innovation and the thought leadership here," said Joelle Moroney, director-sales for New England and Canada. "The collaboration, [and] the fast pace in addressing clients needs in a strategic way, are things I really enjoy."
DataXu has gone from startup in 2007 to more than 100 employees today, and some of the ways it keeps the group close include monthly town-hall meetings where the private company discusses details such as profits, cash flow and competition; lunch-and-learn programs; CEO lunches; new-hire breakfasts; and employees of the month. And the company works at evolving the culture; for example, the tradition of paying for everyone's lunch sandwich on Fridays when there were just 10 people at DataXu has morphed into free catered Friday lunch for the whole company.
"The little things make a huge impact," said Michelle Stern, director-client services. "We did a recent community-service day where we painted a local school. It was voluntary, but we had 35 people show up. It shows that DataXu has values, and that 's important."