The Life of Twill’s Head of People

At Twill we want to give our customers and the general public a glimpse into how our company runs on a day to day basis – as well as the people who make it tick. Our ‘Day in the Life’ blog series continues this week as we spoke to Ramona Sandu, Head of People at Twill, on what her job entails, what it means for our customers and what an average day looks like for her:

What is involved in your role as Head of People at Twill?
“As Head of People, my role involves building the internal structure of Twill – defining who and what makes a Twiller. That covers a lot of things, from recruitment to strategy.

“My role within Twill is aligned with my purpose – I aim to lead from the heart to help build the team and company I want to work for. For this reason, employee culture is important to me – building a culture that functions on open and honest relationships is one of my priorities for ensuring the success of Twill’s people.

“At Twill we believe in ‘disrupting logistics’, and my role takes this in a different direction by also disrupting ourselves; asking how we can get better and improve as a company. When we do a great thing – whether it’s for a customer or introducing a new product – that’s brilliant and we should celebrate it. So we’re walking the fine line of “this is how we do things around here (i.e. our culture) and “how could we do that even better next time?”

So what does an average work day look like for you?
“Well, there’s rarely an average day at Twill! But typically a big chunk of my day is dedicated to getting the right Twillers into the company. This can be on a strategic level or literally interviewing people for roles within the business. The role employees play in Twill is vital, so it is essential that I choose the right fit to fulfil Twill’s visions and values.

“I am also responsible for advising Twill’s leadership team on the people strategy and as a member of the Leadership team, I am actively involved in the overall company strategy. Some of my peers call me a “special HR”, namely a very business minded one. I take that as a compliment as that’s the only way to effect strategy as a Head of People.

“Beyond my work in this advisory role and recruiting staff, I also support Twill’s roll-out to new countries. I’ll be involved with this from an early stage, mainly liaising with the human resources in either a specific area or country so that Twill is able to recruit the right people for the job and challenges that might face that specific region.”

How would you describe your role from a customer perspective?
“I certainly feel as though my role as Head of People delivers value to our customers. Our focus on delivering simplicity and results for our customers is a result of the careful selection of people me and my team recruit, and the culture within Twill that we help to foster. It is always a pleasure to hear about Twill delivering the right customer experience, as it evidences the fact that we have the right people working in Twill and are building the right culture.”

What’s your favourite thing about working at Twill?
“I am lucky to get to live my purpose: build the company I want to work for and lead colleagues around me from the heart. I am grateful and humbled to have this opportunity at work because I know it can be rare!”

Getting to the heart of Twill

Twill makes shipping simple. Ask any Twiller, what makes Twill, ‘Twill’, and this will be their response. But what exactly is it that links us all, near and far, through the invisible thread of twilling a culture together? What is the heart of Twill?

Defining our culture

Let’s rewind to a cold January 2017 in Berlin. Together with some brilliant minds I took on the challenge to define just that, the invisible thread. A most exciting journey for me, a professional first in my career, and a scary one.

We used “simplicity” as our anchor and through a series of iterations we identified our leadership principles. We then followed a similar model and we developed corresponding behaviors and actions. This I would call the mechanics of culture design and believe it or not, it is the easier part of the process.

Looking back through the culture lens

A company culture – or any culture in fact – is a living thing and it evolves with the actions we take every day. If I sit and review 2017 and how we have changed as a company, I think we can say:

  1. We learn every day at Twill – both through on the job learning and pursuing the various growth and learning opportunities available to us. We all share back what we learned, and “Hot Tops” every Friday captures six 10-minute stories and is enjoyed by local and global Twillers alike
  2. We focus on developing expertise at Twill – we do peer programming and we rely on each other’s strengths. We know the things each of us do really well, and that’s why we have introduced some informal rules such as “always listen to Ernst-Jan” – since he has proved himself a good source of information in the tech industry
  3. We hold (public) huddles each morning –we focus on giving updates across functions and most importantly pointing out the possible or needed synergies available. We also invest in a thorough onboarding, helping new Twillers quickly and safely on their path. This is “working smarter” at Twill
  4. We embrace change and innovation internally – both through our agile way of working, actively spreading outside the tech space, such as Agile HR. We question today’s processes and hold huge maps on the office walls so that we can see them every day. As a result, improvements and suggestions can be received and discussed on an ongoing basis
  5. Our culture of feedback and trust building mechanisms help drive an open culture – and this means we can build open and honest relationships. We also run a bi-weekly Twill Barometer that allows to stay in touch with our needs and enables us to make effective changes
  6. And we do have a lot of fun – our Chief Entertainment Officer (Roxi) always makes sure our serotonin levels are high when during a busy work day comes to ask for her favorite toy, a Twill balloon. We have created a nice space and atmosphere that most people say they feel when they visit us.

Remaining focused

I am afraid, however, that this is not the whole picture. We are a company that grew a lot in 2017, and very few of the Twillers today were with us in Berlin. We also know from our Barometer that aspects of our culture are not always clear.

As Twill’s leadership team, we need to continue to stay focused on our culture. Having an office with a living room, bean bags, a ping pong table and a couch (from which I’m writing this blog post) is super nice, but we should not be mistaken that this is what culture is. If culture were an onion, this would be the outer layer. The second layer is our behaviors, and deeper than that are our assumptions and rationale for these behaviors.

Continuous improvement
I would be completely honest if I said that developing or focusing on those deeper layers is something we couldn’t give enough attention to in 2018.

While we now have a model on how to build a culture, I don’t yet have a perfect answer on how to deal with competing priorities in a fast growing start-up. On the flip side, my interaction with a wide range of our peers this year has shown me how fortunate we are, that despite our speedy journey, we took the time to clearly define who we are and who are the “natural” Twillers out there.

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection, I learned.

So the answer to my quest is that yes, company cultures can be built in an iterative manner. This is, in fact, the only way to build a culture and stay relevant, in the market for your customers and for your workforce. So looking to 2018 I know we’ll keep on twilling together this invisible fabric that makes the heart of Twill…Twill.

-Ramona Sandu – Head of People

Customer Care in a Startup

By Barbara Peric, Head of Operations, Twill.

After 10 years of working in a corporate environment, I decided to take the plunge and join a start-up. To be honest, joining Twill Logistics is not as brave as joining other start-ups, as we have a strong partnership with our corporate sponsor: Damco. But, the appeal of growing a company from scratch was enough to get me pumped and walk my stilettos over to the Twill Logistics office and give it a go!

After 3 months of working with our killer Twill-ers, I thought I’d reflect on how customer care life is in this start-up. I’m not going to tell you there are pros and cons…boring…
But what I will say is that creating something with our customers is better than just creating something for our customers.

What our customers want
Simplicity and to feel important. Frankly, it’s like any other relationship: Make me feel like you care about me and don’t complicate my life! It’s not different in a start-up, but how we can achieve this is pretty cool! Here’s just one example of what I mean:

During an update meeting with the customer care team (CC team), we discussed that there was congestion at one of the Chinese ports. We wanted to notify our customers about this (only if it impacts them) but didn’t want to bombard them with emails…they have enough of those! So, I reach out to our integration genius to see if there is a smarter way to keep our customers informed. A mere 2 hours later, he has a solution that can reach customers and can be implemented that same day!

It’s only a test, and maybe it doesn’t work, but from idea to implementation we’re able to move lightning fast!

Quote from customer:

“I’ve just done our first container booking on Twill :-). It was really easy and Twill team support is really fast, Alex has been very helpful. Overall fab experience :-). Thanks for showing it to us.”

-Sapphire

What our customer care teams want
Simplicity and to feel important. No, it’s not a typo. It’s the same. To be able to deliver simplicity to customers, it has to be simple for the customer care team…and we need to make sure their voices are heard. Yes, louder than my voice, and louder than even our CEO’s voice. We create our tools and processes with the actual CC team who are using them. And when the CC team suggests something new that would make their life even easier…we build that. I’m not saying we’re there yet, but in our start-up, we’re removing the red tape, the lengthy processes, and simply spending our time and energy on just making it simple. Have I said “simple” too many times? Again, not a typo.

Quote from customer care team member:

“The difference is that we give the customer more of a voice in the development of Twill. By doing so, and asking for feedback on a regular basis, we are incorporating our customer’s ideas with our own to create a platform that works for everyone, rather than just relying on our own ideas.”

-Alex Archer, Customer Care in UK

From the people who talk to our customers every day to the people who create the tech solutions, we have a direct link that ensures no bureaucracy stands in the way of a good (or bad) idea. For me, this is the fun I can have here. Trying out solutions, testing out new ideas. Some are brilliant and we celebrate. Some are downright failures and we laugh at our mistakes and work late to fix them. But all ideas get heard, and most importantly, all our customers get heard.