We’re on a mission to remove all of the friction from employee leave.
When our co-founders first started learning about different types of leave and what a huge problem it was, they were baffled – how could something that seems so incredibly common be so painful? After hearing countless stories, however, such as one friend being wheeled into a C-section while simultaneously trying to fill out disability paperwork on her laptop, they knew something had to be done. Whether it’s taking parental leave, caring for a sick family member, or dealing with a personal medical issue, Cocoon was founded to make what has traditionally been a cumbersome, bureaucratic process easy and stress-free for both employers and employees.
We’re not building software for software’s sake. Rather, we’re leveraging technology to have a direct, positive impact on people’s lives. The empathy we share for our users, and our passion for what we’re building, inherently puts the product at the center of everything we do. Engineers play a large role in defining our product roadmap and obsess over the details – whether that’s writing code, supporting marketing of new features, or working with customer support to better understand users’ pain points. It’s safe to say we’re a team of doers who are excited to roll up our sleeves, dive into the nuts-and-bolts of how things work, and thrive on having a high level of craftsmanship.
Team members are given the trust and autonomy to drive solutions end-to-end.
We identify key areas of the product that we’d like to invest in and then empower engineers to own projects all the way from ideation to shipping, monitoring, and extending a feature. While we look for people who are proactive, resourceful, and love taking initiative, it’s equally important that folks we hire aren’t afraid to ask for help when needed. One of our engineering team values is “craft meticulously” and this applies to the entire process of scoping, gathering feedback from stakeholders, and partnering with cross-functional teammates as needed – not just writing excellent code.
One great example is caregiver leave, which one of our engineers, Belinda, owned. She worked with our legal team to figure out what documents to collect, and collaborated with product and design to create a simple flow that determines an employee’s eligibility and shows how much time and pay is available based on state and federal laws, insurance, and company policy. In addition to shipping the feature itself, she also collaborated with marketing and sales on the messaging around the launch, resulting in blog posts like this one sharing real stories from caregivers who handled family crises.
Heavily Team Oriented
“Put ‘We’ First” is one of our core engineering values.
Our goal is to make it easier for everyone on the team to do their job, which is why we always put the team first. If we see something that needs to be addressed, we jump on it regardless of who touched it last. Similarly, there’s a shared mentality when it comes to owning our codebase, tooling, and processes. If something doesn’t go as planned, we never place the blame on a teammate. During retros, mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities, and we always focus on how we can improve our systems and processes.
Engineers work in small teams across three main product areas (leave, claims, and payroll), or as part of our platform, internal operations, or integrations teams. That said, it doesn’t matter your area of expertise or the specific team you work on – everyone is encouraged to work on everything they deem important. All code is reviewed by at least one peer and we regularly seek input from each other whether it’s to brainstorm or share specific domain knowledge. From open Slack channels to pairing or hopping on huddles to chat through a problem, you’ll always find folks willing to help.
It’s impossible to work in a silo here.
Given the nature of our work and how complex the user experience is, having as much context as possible is paramount. We strongly believe that no one person works on product, which is why everything from scoping a project to pairing with the right folks to execute requires a high degree of collaboration. As Alicia, one of our engineers puts it, “I’ve found at other companies that it can be easy to be siloed or only rely on a PM to think through customer user problems. At Cocoon, it’s the opposite. We’re encouraged to get many different perspectives, whether that’s working closely with customer success, support, operations, legal, and even marketing.”
As a new engineer who joins the team, you could find yourself hopping on user testing calls, collaborating with an internal team to understand and help improve their bottlenecks, or digging into specific state leave policies with the help of our legal team (we often joke that we know the California EDD website better than most people who work there). An advantage of being a small but mighty team is that you’ll have a great amount of exposure to all parts of the business. Want to shadow a sales call? Go for it! The opportunities for learning and tackling interesting, thorny problems with real-world impact are endless.
“We write things down” is one of our operating principles.
Having a strong documentation culture is key to our success. It forces rigorous thinking, reflection, and enables better context and knowledge sharing. This helps us be radically transparent: we have open email lists and documentation, and share strategic context like board meeting notes and fundraising plans internally so everyone is empowered with the same information.
Without a shared writing culture, information becomes siloed (even with the best of intentions!), goals become unclear or misaligned, and it’s hard to execute efficiently. Many companies default to adding more and more review or “sign-off” processes in order to make sure the right decisions get made, which is the opposite of the autonomous culture we want to build. Our HQ office is in San Francisco, but we’re remote-friendly, and writing things down is important to keep everyone in the loop. To make sure we’re remote-inclusive, we also have certain virtual norms, such as having your individual camera on during Zoom meetings, even during company-wide all-hands.
On the engineering team, we have several Slack channels for folks to ask questions about different projects and share information. Outside of our weekly engineering all-hands, meeting cadence varies depending on the team, but we try to be as intentional as possible about synchronous time. Whether you like to pair program or prefer to work more independently, we have team members who enjoy different working styles. In fact, one of the first things new hires do is write a “Working With Me” doc describing their working style and preferences. We then share these during team meetings so we can get to know each other a little better, and if you’re curious about how someone on a different team prefers to work, you can always access those docs, too!
Impressive Team Members
Everyone on the team has strong EQ.
We debate (and reflect) without ego. It’s important to us that the people we work with are kind, open-minded, and generous, but also aren’t afraid to raise a concern or passionately debate an issue they believe in. We care deeply about what we're working on, and we also have high trust and mutual respect for one another. As Bashar, one of our software engineers, says, “our engineering culture is very mature. We sweat the details and hold ourselves accountable, moving as fast as possible without sacrificing quality.” While we may disagree and debate, we do it to push each other, our product, and company to the limits we know we’re capable of. Alicia, another member of the engineering team, adds, “We’re all working for a common goal. We make it a point to take everyone on the journey, understand how folks are feeling, any hesitations they might have, and take everyone’s input into account.”
Everyone on the team is “an excellent communicator, able to unblock themselves quickly, and takes ownership without waiting to be told what to do,” says James, one of our founding engineers. We’re also fortunate to have several senior engineers who bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, and mentorship to the team. Bashar has worked at big companies like Microsoft and Google doing a lot of scaling work; Zak is exceptional at figuring out how to prototype things; and Belinda is great at cutting through the noise on requirements and figuring out the actual problem we’re trying to solve and the fastest, best approach to take.
Last but not least, there’s a healthy degree of mentorship internally. As Bashar shares, “we have very thoughtful leaders, both technically and on the interpersonal side who set great examples. A lot of engineers help mentor and push each other, so we can improve what we do on a continuous basis.” Similarly, our cross-functional partners – like Michelle and Frank on the legal team – are also experts at what they do, furthering a high-trust environment. We strongly encourage you to get to know your fellow team members and offer a monthly stipend, so you can grab a virtual or in-person coffee or lunch with a coworker!
Creative + Innovative
Reimagining what’s possible is true of both our culture and our product.
When it comes to making employee leave an easier, more transparent process, we practice what we preach. Leading by example, we’ve introduced compassionate leave – a comprehensive paid leave policy that accounts for less typical reasons employees may need time off beyond those covered by existing laws and policies. Regardless of tenure, all part- and full-time team members are given the flexibility and trust to take the time they need without disclosing the reason to HR (something that often prevents people from taking leave in sensitive situations like pregnancy loss or mental health). Since we believe millions of workers should have access to compassionate paid leave, we also open-sourced our policy language (vetted by our compliance lawyers) so that other companies can adopt similar policies.
We’ll never be satisfied with the status quo and are constantly innovating to improve the employee leave experience. For instance, pay is often a huge stressor for people taking leave since it’s common to see income from several different sources (e.g. employer, disability insurance, and a state program) on an irregular schedule. To solve for this, we created a pay tracker dashboard, so folks can easily see how much they’re getting paid, when, and from which sources.
Our inaugural hack week (now an annual tradition!) only underscored this passion to push boundaries and truly transform employee leave. Whether it was something small like turning a plain-text email into a beautifully-designed template (which is now live in production) or bigger, like thinking about how companies can preview policies before even signing up for Cocoon, we came up with countless creative ways to improve the product. We also have a “What if?” Slack channel where anyone in the company can share an idea – and sometimes engineers can even ship it that same day!
We balance speed and perfection.
Employee leave is a highly regulated space that’s constantly evolving. In addition to a growing push for federal paid family leave, several states (e.g. Massachusetts and Colorado) have released their own paid leave programs, while others have constructed mandates around specific leave types (e.g. organ donation in California). What’s more, with COVID-19 creating a more distributed workforce, companies are increasingly dealing with the complexities of managing employee leave in accordance with multiple state and local laws. We aren’t afraid to change strategies quickly as needed to keep up with market shifts and provide the best user experience. For instance, while we discussed expanding to cover international leaves, we realized that launching caregiver leave should take priority in order to better serve our existing users in their times of need.
As a fast-moving startup in this space, we place a strong emphasis on correctness, since the code we ship immediately impacts users’ daily lives. In just one year, we’ve gone from deploying 3-5 times a week to 40-50 by automating our deploy pipeline. We’ll cut scope and iterate as needed to get features to customers quickly without sacrificing quality.
If joining a rapidly growing, mission-driven startup resonates with you, we’re hiring!