How to Be a Great Teammate and Build Your Team's Culture

Sometime in 2023, thanks to Google alerts, we learned that there was a course launched on Udemy about improving a teamโ€™s culture that mentioned HeyTaco in the description of the course. To our surprise and amazement, we learned that a former HeyTaco user, Steven Boutcher, used mountains of taco data to figure out what are the things that helped him advance in his career. After pouring over tacos and the related messages, he was able to understand what people valued about his work (i.e., why they gave him tacos) and codify those insights into 5 Goldmines, or principles for how an individual can elevate a teamโ€™s culture.

It was so fun to sit down with Steven and learn more about what prompted him to find these Goldmines, what he learned about how they apply from company to company, and his advice for anyone who wants to improve their teamโ€™s culture, no matter their role. 

Q: You created a course on Udemy (How To Elevate Your Team's Culture & Accelerate Your Career) - what made you want to create this course?

A: It started off as a curiosity because, before I worked at Fetch where all this happened, I worked mostly odd jobs where I always felt average, as in I'm not really using any of my strengths. But then I come to Fetch and everything changes. I just started getting all these opportunities. I came in as an email support agent, and then six months later I'm doing QA, and then a year later I'm doing automation in QA. That is a crazy fast timeline. I look around me and there are people one step behind me in that journey who are asking me how they can get to where I am. They are wondering what I did to get from customer support to QA.

And I had no idea. I just felt like I was doing my job. It bothered me because I felt like there had to have been something else going on that I didn't really know about. 

Q: How did you come up with the 5 goldmines? 

A: Thankfully, Hey Taco has this feature that I saw where you can download a spreadsheet of all of your taco history. I exported the data of all the tacos received over the years into a Google Sheet and looked at every single time someone gave me a taco to find out why they did it. There were 2,000 lines of data that I was manually going through. It only took me two to three weeks to do all of this. And by the end of it, I had all of these categories of different types of things I did to earn tacos. Then I had taken those and consolidated them into five groups, called the goldmines.  

The 5 Goldmines are:

  • The 20%: the Pareto Principle, 20% of the things you do will produce 80% of the impact.
  • Education: teaching, mentoring, helping close knowledge gaps.
  • Collaboration: work with others towards a common goal.
  • Pruning: pruning like a gardener - streamlining processes, cutting out old things that don't work, and replacing it with new ones.
  • Fun: having fun with your team.

And that's what became the basis for this course that I made. It gave me the language to speak to people about what I did. If they asked me, โ€œHey, what should I do to go from this department to this department?โ€, I'd say โ€œWell, I did these five things and these are examples of things you could do that I did.โ€ I slept better at night knowing that maybe there is actually a strategy here that could work for other people. And it's not just me getting lucky because that's all I chalked it up to.


Q: How did the 5 goldmines affect your career after you have discovered them?

A: After I discovered them and codified them in a course, some people started signing up and I realized that I have a system now that I can apply to every job for the rest of my life. The same year I found these Goldmines and launched the course, I switched jobs and I thought I could do what I did at my last company and things would be great. I learned a lot by trying to do that. This sort of stuff does work, but it's very context-dependent. 

I realized I have to take in the culture at a new company. I have to take in what my team is used to. What have they seen before? What are they currently seeing? What are the bottlenecks here? What are the unique challenges that they face? And what's their communication style? That was important too. Not everybody likes the same kind of way to celebrate a birthday. There's a bunch of different ways to do that. You might have more of an uptight team. They're not as personable. They just want to go off and do their own thing. And so you have to adapt these principles to the way people like to work. 

Q: What do you do to improve your teamโ€™s culture when you start a new job? 

A: It is important to hit the reset button in your brain when you go to a new company, knowing you can't assume anything about the new place. I have to meet all these new people. I have to learn how everything works here. And I feel like once you do that, it kind of gives you all the tools you need to apply the principles.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to improve their team culture now, no matter their role in the company? Where do they start? 

A: I recommend getting a lay of the land, and then thinking of all the things you can do that you know are helpful. I ask myself: โ€œWhat can I add here?โ€. I see all this documentation, wonder what's missing, and then add things. I might ask, pretty please, but then I just go do it. Or I'll do it and then just ask: โ€œI already did this, can I add this to the way we do things here?โ€ Usually the answer is yes because nobody is going to say no to something helpful. The first half is getting a lay of the land and understanding where you are.

If you want to improve your team's culture, you have to understand it better than anybody else on the team, or at least as well as the most knowledgeable people about it on your team. 

And then the second half is you have to be a bit of a go-getter. I think somebody has to go first and that's why I try to reiterate to people that it doesn't have to be there already. You can be the first one to do this, and it will probably catch on as long as it's not work-inappropriate. 

You have to really believe that the things you are doing are going to make things better for everybody, not just you. And that's the key. Everything you do has to be a win-win. And that is what all of these five principles have in common. They're all things that can benefit everybody on the team, so it's hard for people not to love them. 

Thank you, Steven, for an awesome conversation and for sharing the 5 Goldmines with the world! ๐ŸŒฎ

Steven Boutcher is a QA Automation Engineer at Immunefi. When not at work, you can find him practicing parkour, spending time outdoors, and being one of the top QA mentors on ADP List

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