Living our values in a changing environment

A woven piece of fabric, a cactus plant, an ion trap, a globe, a camera, a rock…

This seemingly random list of objects includes items our team chose in early 2020 to symbolise what Riverlane meant to them. For James Cruise, his woven piece of fabric represented the intricate and interdependent skills and strands necessary for creating a functional product greater than the sum of its parts. In contrast, the ion trap Robin Sterling made as a PhD student represented, for him, the beginning of his journey into quantum technology and its thrillingly high-speed innovations.

With just 15 of us in the team back then, this exercise helped us identify and uncover the engines driving our collective motivation: problem-solving, the desire to build something complex and challenging, and global ambition. From there, we distilled our values into five keywords that represent what it means to be ‘us’: collaborative, supportive, tenacious, curious and entrepreneurial.

Fast-forward 18 months and our team has more than doubled. With a new starter joining us almost every other week of 2021, we’ll be a team of 60 by the end of the year! And as a relatively new starter myself – only joining Riverlane as VP People in March 2021 – I was keen to dig deeper into these values and whether they still represent Riverlane and what we stand for. Since many of our new starters haven’t yet met each other in person, it seemed prudent to see how well our values still translate and resonate across the company.

 

Why are company values important?

From an HR perspective, values represent our north star: the principles our company’s culture is founded on and the guiding light inspiring our attitudes and behaviour. Our values give us clarity and transparency, ensuring that the people we attract, hire, and retain share our aspirations and ideals as well as our world-class skills and expertise. In short, our values express what we stand for and why.

After consulting with every team member during my first month, it is clear that our values stood us in good stead during the previous 18 months. Not only does the whole team exude a huge sense of passion, curiosity and desire to learn, but the organic surfacing of our principles and ideals during our initial growth stages kept our values relevant, authentic and representative.

To dig deeper into what these values mean in practice, I asked the team to share their perspectives, summarised below.

 

How do we live and breathe our values?

It’s impossible to reach quantum advantage without collaborating – both internally across our diverse team and externally with our wide-ranging partners. For example, the past few months have seen us run a shared journal club with one of our hardware partners, Seeqc. As well as learning from each other, we’ve identified shared work and milestones that bring us one step closer to error-corrected algorithms and the commercialisation of the quantum computing stack.

Our supportive culture is also crucial for inspiring the very best in one another. Our team devised creative ways to optimise remote working during the pandemic and created a weekly online space to have fun and continue getting to know each other. Whether an online drawing game, a quiz or just a chat, these small acts of camaraderie and connection are just as important as big ones in building a positive sense of belonging.

Our work is also characterised by its tenacious spirit. Optimism and open-mindedness about the world-changing potential of quantum computing are key motivators in our team. Building something as technically complex as a quantum operating system requires considerable patience and resilience; while we’ve met challenges and failures on the way, we’ve always welcomed them as opportunities to learn and grow.

The abundance of curiosity at Riverlane was also self-evident after just a few days there. Combining physicists, chemists, mathematicians, engineers and software developers, our team members are full of curiosity about one another’s disciplines and how they might tesselate together to crack the most difficult challenges in quantum computing. Our ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question’ rule encourages everyone to ask questions freely and fearlessly, no matter how random, esoteric or obscure. By week three, even I felt brave enough to ask about entanglement and magic state distillation – no mean feat for someone who’s worked exclusively in HR!

The fact that we’re entrepreneurial is no surprise. Our razor-sharp focus on solving the technical problems that matter will help us reach quantum advantage sooner. At the same time, we value mastery of the entrepreneurial skills that will help us build an extraordinary software company, including product and business development. Our ad hoc book groups are a great example of this: each week, we invite everyone to read a few chapters of a relevant entrepreneurial book then come together to discuss what we’ve learned. So far, we’ve tackled ‘ ‘Spin Selling’ by Neil Rackham and ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship’ by Bill Aulet.

 

The future

Over time, we’ve built on the original values that first emerged in 2020, creating a firm foundation for building and navigating our mission. As our team grows and begins returning to the office, our values provide a clarifying compass for navigating the exciting challenges ahead.

 

We are hiring! If these values resonate with you and you’d like to be a part of our growing team, check out our current vacancies here.