Chances are you’ve heard of Groupon. But what you may not know is that Groupon is also the employer of many young Chicago professionals’ dreams.
Luckily, we have an “in” to get the scoop on why working at Groupon is so sought-after: former MMD Recruiter Dustin Carper. Dustin is currently an internal recruiter and rising star at Groupon. Take a look at our conversation with him, and who knows, maybe you’ll soon be getting paid to get your Groupon every single day.
Maria: Let’s get straight to it. Why do you love working at Groupon?
Dustin: It’s a very unique environment; because while it’s a casual place, without a formal dress code and much stuffy corporate protocol, we work harder then I have ever seen in the past. I came from running a full desk for a few staffing agencies, and I am no stranger to fast-paced work. But Groupon takes it to the next level. My colleagues and I embrace this hard work because the environment promotes out-of-the-box thinking, sets no limits to creativity and we know our input matters.
Maria: So who doesn’t survive at Groupon? The company’s still evolving so I don’t imagine someone leaving because they capped out their growth potential. Or does that happen?
Dustin: To date, we have had a low rate of attrition. People don’t leave because of lack of growth potential. I think those who have decided that Groupon isn’t a fit are the people who can not pick up the pace or embrace our environment. It is different. It is a very open environment with no walls, and I mean that literally. We have no cubes or offices. Most senior leaders even share open space with the rest of us, making it very easy to collaborate at any level. But in this setting you obviously feel more exposed. Groupon instills ultimate trust in you … there isn’t much hand holding, and everyone is expected to find a way to add value. It is liberating but adds a level of responsibility some may not be able to handle. People have come to us looking for more of a road map and structure, which we are definitely building out, and the start-up environment just isn’t like that. Also, fish and other animals that only live underwater don’t survive here.
In regards to culture, we like to say “take your job seriously, but not yourself.” We have multiple refrigerators that look like they came from MTV Cribs, regular all-hands meetings, and employee events are becoming more and more commonplace. In fact, some of our salespeople won a trip to Medieval Times last week and there may or may not have been a miniature horse in the office. The trick is not getting caught up in all of the commotion, TV cameras, and farm animals, and focus on making this a great company. Sometimes, admittedly, that’s tricky to do but it’s totally worth it.
Maria: People often view start-ups as an express route to promotion. Does Groupon’s current structure allow for that?
Dustin: Absolutely! We are still building our organization so most our teams are still pretty flat, and people can see opportunities for themselves. You do this by growing in your role and taking on more responsibilities, some even creating new positions for themselves. This culture forces people across the board to do their best in streamlining their efforts with company objectives by always looking for innovative solutions and value-added practices. In this environment you are not necessarily waiting for someone to notice your hard work; you take full responsibility for your own promotion.
Maria: So if you’re truly in charge of your future at Groupon, what’s your next move?
Dustin: It has been nine amazing months, and I am already starting to uncover an area where more value can be added. Groupon doesn’t normally use staffing agencies (sorry MMD!), and our internal team has expanded to handle the increasing bandwidth. We are new, hot and have a great pool of Chicago candidates who would love to work here, and are fortunate for that. However, I am starting to look into the future as things begin to calm down. We are new, hot and have a great pool of Chicago candidates who would love to work here, and are fortunate for that. I am noticing a lot of value in
advertising our careers through social media and making Groupon better known nationwide as a great workplace. I have made a few steps in that direction and achieved very promising results, which make me excited about expanding more in that direction.
Maria: I know you guys are a Ruby/Linux shop but for our tech geeks, could you share what technologies you utilize internally?
Dustin: Sure … we all use Mac and Google Products, like G-chat for internal IM communications and Google Docs, too. We use Pivotal Tracker, Base Camp and other products from 37 signals as well.
Maria: I’ve gotta be honest … I’ve heard rumors about Groupon’s party culture. Fact or fiction?
Dustin: I don’t like calling it a “party culture,” because I am afraid that this term suggests some lackadaisical atmosphere of chaos, whereas our people have discipline and a very strong work ethic. Sure, we are given a lot of trust, but we keep it within reason and we are genuinely passionate about our jobs. It’s not uncommon to see people working through lunch or into the evening. Of course we have fun outings as well and our open office space provides for additional bonding and collaboration.
Maria: Groupon seems to be a fairly open book as a company. So what’s one thing that no one knows about it?
Dustin: I am going to steal an answer from our VP of HR just because when I heard him say this, I thought it was absolutely accurate. We want to avoid applicants who claim to be the perfect fit for any given open position. The more time they spend “demonstrating” how they can walk into a role without any learning curve, the more it turns us off. We want people who never stop learning and therefore people with an open mind. Don’t get me wrong, we do look for confidence and experience but we want people who can identify their need for improvement and who aren’t afraid to admit it. These are the people who will push themselves beyond today’s achievements, who will continue to evolve, and with them so will Groupon.