Like any other organisation, Darwin Innovation Group has its own culture, its own atmosphere and its own relationship with its employees. Written in collaboration with Darwin’s operations manager, Sophia Ward, here’s a look at Darwin’s employment philosophy and what it’s like to work here.
Darwin is a relatively hands-off, flexible employer. To an extent, we allow employees to create their own role. There are certain things they need to do, but we don’t require people to check off very specific boxes, such as ‘you must code this many lines in a day’.
What we do is present our employees with goals and let them decide how they’d like to reach them. If you’re a developer, for example, we might ask you to write code that lets us do a certain thing, but you’re free to decide on how to approach that challenge.
When employees have freedom to manoeuvre within the goals they’re set, their achievements can become a creative expression of their skills, rather than simply a matter of hitting every point on a checklist. Creativity is essential for any research and development company, so it’s important for our employees not to feel restricted. We want everyone who works for us to be able to find fulfilment in what they do, in a way that lets us continue innovating.
We also offer flexibility in working hours and structure. Even in those distant days before the COVID-19 pandemic, we didn’t demand that employees be in the office for particular hours; we’ve never been a traditional 9-to-5 employer. If you do your best work remotely at odd hours, we want to accommodate that where we can.
The pandemic has led many people to change the way they work, and to question the traditional work week. Many people have realised that they work better in a more flexible structure, and are looking for employers who will continue to let them choose their own work patterns in the future. We can offer that flexibility to our employees.
Although Darwin values freedom and flexibility in work, we also want to make sure employees have support and guidance when they need it.
One way we do this is by having a mentoring programme for new employees and graduates. If someone’s never worked before, or has never done the particular job they’ve been recruited for, they’re assigned a mentor when they come aboard. At any time, an employee can go to their mentor to talk about their work, discuss any problems they’re facing and ask for advice.
In addition to making sure they know who they can contact if they need help, this system means that new employees can get to know an existing member of the organisation well. It’s possible to feel slightly disconnected from an organisation when you’re working remotely, which, as mentioned, Darwin allowed even before the COVID-19 pandemic. With a mentoring system, new employees have an anchor in the form of their mentor, who can then help introduce them to other members of the team.
Although individual employees do have line managers, Darwin has a very flat management structure. Our employees are free to collaborate with each other based on who has the right skills for a task, regardless of their respective roles. These opportunities for close collaboration encourage employees to get to know and respect each other.
Our team is diverse, and we think working with different perspectives helps each individual team member communicate better while also inspiring them to innovate. At the very least, we want our team to reflect the diverse society in which we operate.
Though all employers have a duty not to discriminate, there can be a wide disparity between what an organisation may say or intend and what it may actually do to ensure inclusivity. At Darwin, we try to design our policies to be actively supportive of a diverse workforce and the needs each team member may have. We are proud to support our colleagues with caring responsibilities: something that has often been overlooked by employers, despite one in seven working people also being carers.
So are we ‘done’ with diversity? Not at all. A lack of gender diversity is something that’s already been noted as a wider issue in the tech industry. Though Darwin does have senior female leaders, the reality is that our board and our teams are not as gender diverse as we’d like, so one of our goals is to attract more female and nonbinary talent.
Diversity isn’t a fixed target or a checkbox we can mark complete. We always strive to do better, so diversity remains at the heart of our recruitment strategy. Our employee benefits and perks are also regularly reviewed to ensure they fit our team’s needs and can help attract new talent to broaden our team.
For more about the importance of diversity in a professional setting, take a look at our article on the value of diversity in the workplace.
Even after we leave education, we continue to learn and grow over the course of our lives. As an employer, you could look for a new hire who already has every skill you might possibly need, but that may be a difficult search. Instead, it can pay off to find a person who’s dedicated and open to learning, and to help them develop new skills.
We want to help our employees develop themselves, and we’re prepared to fund training that would help them in their roles. If someone thinks they could benefit from training in a particular area, we’ll listen to and consider their request. For example, we’ve sponsored project management, HR management, cybersecurity and language courses for individual employees, with positive results both for the employees and for Darwin as a company.
We’re a small startup, but we want to grow rapidly and we’re always looking at what we can offer our staff, from courses and conferences to expensed refreshments at the office. Our employees are humans, and we want them to find fulfilment both at work and outside it.
If any of this appeals to you, we’re hiring! Take a look at our careers page to see which vacancies are currently open. We also welcome speculative applications.
Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.