Committed to Personal Growth
We give team members more responsibility than they “should” take on, and we let them make (reversible or non-fatal) mistakes in order to learn.
Everyone needs the time and space to learn by doing, and because we place a high value on learning and personal growth, we are deliberate about providing both. In a more structured way, everyone has regular 1:1s with their managers to discuss how they want to develop. To direct our personal development, we also give and receive 360 feedback twice a year. Everyone at the company is encouraged to attend conferences and share resources that will help their peers also develop new skills.
On a company level, we host bi-weekly Lunch & Learn sessions, have book and blog clubs, run blameless 5 Whys whenever something goes wrong, have an all-company offsite twice a year to go deeper on improving how we work together, and conclude most projects with a retrospective to draw out any lessons on how to improve.
One of our values is Candour, which we consider to be like a muscle.
The more you use it the stronger it gets. We train this muscle through our regular 360 feedback sessions, and finishing every meeting 5 minutes early to end with a feedback session on how the meeting went. Our founders and the senior team set the precedent early on, by constantly giving feedback. We genuinely want to help each other at Thread, so the expectation (and norm!) is that all feedback is delivered compassionately and with care. With frequent use, our Candour muscle is strong.
Working cross-team is one of the most unique aspects of working at Thread.
We’re bringing together stylists, engineers, and data scientists to reshape how retail works. These teams work together everyday to develop new tools and approaches. For instance, one of our products pods is lead up by our Head of Styling, and their focus is on fine-tuning our clothing recommendations. We’re also interested in and actively applying machine learning to other aspects of the business. For instance, we are building tools to help predict what users are going to want to buy rather than relying on archaic merchandising practices.
As a cross-functional company, we also always celebrate our successes together as a whole company. (We buy silly treats to enjoy together if we hit our goals each fortnight.) We truly are the sum of our parts, which is why we we take time to thank each other at the end of every week for the help we’ve received from one another. Finally, we also spend time together outside of the office. We budget time to do fun things together, with some recent highlights including axe throwing, an augmented reality treasure hunt, and Thanksgiving dinner.
Impressive Team Members
This is a selling point more than a prerequisite.
We never hire someone based purely on their CV or accolades; our assessment process is designed to find people who are highly skilled, but also aligned with our values.
Most fashion companies don’t have true technical DNA. We, on the other hand, made this a priority from the very beginning, and it is our technical team that gives Thread a real edge over our competitors:
- Ben Phillips, our CTO, was also co-founder of Playfire, the largest social network for gamers. He grew it to 1.5 million customers before it was acquired. Before that he was the lead engineer at an advertising technology startup which was acquired by Google.
- Ed Snelson, our Head of Applied Research, worked on some of the hardest machine learning challenges at Bing
- Billy Sweeney, our Head of Design, was the design lead for some of Squarespace’s most impactful branding projects
- Tom Okas, one of our Software Engineers, was part of the early team who helped scale Playfire to millions of users. He then helped setup Thread, taking part in Y Combinator and being part of all aspects of development.
- We’ve raised financing from some of the world's top investors, including Y Combinator, Balderton, Demis Hassabis (DeepMind co-founder), Michael Birch (Bebo founder), William Reeve (LoveFilm co-founder), Robin Klein (one of the top seed investors in the UK), Andrew Jennings (former President, Saks 5th Avenue) and many others.
There are no “back corner offices” for more senior team members.
We have an open office space, and everyone sits near each other. As a part of our commitment to having a transparent working environment, all email that isn’t personal goes to mailing lists accessible by anyone on the team. We are all working together and value efficiency, so there are no “rules” around who you can/can’t communicate with. If you have feedback or ideas for the CEO, you are encouraged to share them with him directly. Or, you can wait until our weekly all-hands meeting where our founders and team leads take questions on any subject. We try to cultivate a culture where asking questions is encouraged and where responses will be clear and meaningful. Psychological safety is important to us!
One of the founding principles of Thread is we aim to move uncomfortably fast.
We prefer to ship MVPs and collect data, rather than have endless debates. We practice continuous deployment, and prefer lots of rapid, small releases. This allows us to instantly see feedback from users and how metrics are affected, which lead to a shorter feedback loop. It’s a lot easier to debug integration errors, and modular development is encouraged.
During Y Combinator we set weekly stretch goals, and we continue this practice today with every team setting their own stretch goals on a Monday and us celebrating (or commiserating) outcomes in our weekly all-hands each Friday. This doesn’t mean working more hours or typing faster. It means critically thinking through the issues to find the uncomfortably fast way of getting the core things achieved.
High Quality Code Base
Code quality is one of our highest priorities.
Not only is great code a joy to work with, it’s the only way to move quickly over the long-run. We take pride in our work, do thorough code reviews, and leave time every week to work on technical debt. Within the engineering team we review everything that goes into production, both to improve the quality of our code and to share knowledge between team members. We automate the checking of style so that code reviews can focus more on architecture and maintainability.
Our coding exercise during the interview process is primarily about assessing an engineer’s craft, or level of care that they put into their code. We prefer simple, clean, well-structured code over flash or speed. That said, we still value moving quickly, so we put time parameters on the exercise to give us a relative sense of what can be produced in a given amount of time. We hope to learn as much about you and your code quality during your interview as you do about us and our code quality.
Eats Lunch Together
On Thursday, we split into randomised groups and go out to eat at local restaurants.
Thursday’s lunched are sponsored by Thread, and each group has a designated leader that gets to pick the place! We also have catered lunch brought in to the office 3 days/week (and yes, we accommodate all dietary needs and restrictions!). We encourage everyone to take time away from their work to eat lunch together. It’s good for “Enjoying the Journey Together” (one of our values!) and also encourages serendipitous discussions. Every other week, we have a Lunch & Learn where someone gets to teach the team about a hobby, interest, or passion project.