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July 26th, 2022

Collective ownership of culture at Roam Digital

Venkatesh (Venki) Arunachalam
Venkatesh (Venki) ArunachalamSenior Client Partner

After spending over twenty years in various consultancies across the globe, I joined Roam Digital as a Senior Client Partner. As a person with product management as a primary craft, I always look at every organisation as a product. I focus on helping organisations become lean, customer-centric and scale by continuous learning and improvement. While many organisations preach it outside, it is rare to see consultancies practice it. 

Peter Drucker famously said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast".

Culture and strategy are the most used and abused words in the business world. I haven't seen an interview process in the last decade where candidates aren't put through some form of culture fitment assessment. It is almost an open secret that the process is a farce. Every employee, however senior, walks into a new setup with trepidations. Two decades in consulting made me too sceptical of the notion of organisations being people first, especially when arrogance has become a sought-after attribute in consultants. If you concur with me, you must walk into Roam Digital Studios to see the difference.

My interview process with Roam Digital was extremely smooth. The discussions with leaders across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore were very cordial. So, I walked in, expecting to meet a few friendly people. The first week in any organisation is crucial as one is still relatively fresh and exposed to the way of working. Both the employer and the employee see the reality of the relationship for the first time. It brings a flavour of neutrality to the assessment. I want to highlight a few areas which stood out.

There is a massive difference between saying “Welcome!” and making one feel welcome.

I immediately felt welcome as I walked through the door on my first day. Every person in the office had a smile as they greeted. Within a few minutes, I saw my desk, which was set up and ready. In the past, I had experienced readiness but in the context of people wanting me to get to work immediately. On the other hand, this readiness showed so much care that they kept everything ready. As I started interacting with my new colleagues, I realised my experience wasn't an aberration. I opened the laptop to see direct messages, including one from the CEO himself. There was no wry "Welcome to Roam Digital". Everyone feels welcome as there is a conscious effort to do it. 

The senior leaders at Roam Digital continuously reinforce their emphasis on the well-being of their people. I didn't have a single discussion without them highlighting the importance of the people and their needs. That respect spills over to the Product, Technology and Design practices. Mutual respect and admiration have created a fabric of harmony across the organisation.

The history of Roam Digital is a testimony to continuous learning and adapting to the situation. The business strategy, the practices to provide excellent services to the client, the internal operations and even the tools used have continuously evolved. Nothing is sacrosanct, so one can question everything as long as done with dignity and respect. 

Culture is not a description of what is written on a website, but rather a collection of behaviours exhibited by the company.  Everyone owns the company's culture, both individually and collectively.

After my first month in any organisation, I create a mental map of friendlies, bullies and indeterminants. I honestly haven't found any in the last two categories. Organisational Culture isn't what we put on paper; it is what every individual collectively wants to project.

One week after joining Roam Digital, I already feel the ownership to ensure the atmosphere continues to be friendly for everyone and that the next person joining us gets the same experience. 

Venkatesh (Venki) Arunachalam
Venkatesh (Venki) ArunachalamVenkatesh Arunachalam is a Senior Client Partner in Australia. He has close to 20 years of experience in the product management and consulting industry, leading complex digital transformations across the globe.