Building a Great Place to Work

Pattern recently interviewed Cindy Lopez, Director of People and Culture, about building a great place to work—both during these challenging times and beyond.

Let’s start by giving everyone a little background info on your professional journey.

I started with a degree in accounting, believe it or not, and went from there. My first role in People and Culture was at Wheelhouse Digital Marketing Group in Seattle, where I started as a recruiter. The company strongly believed in building a great place to work, which aligned well with my personal mission, and that’s when I knew I found my professional calling.

You worked in Seattle for some time. What made you decide to come back to your home state of Texas?

I wasn’t planning to move back, but I saw the opportunity at Pattern and said to myself, “Actually, it might be nice to move closer to home again.” A big draw was having the chance to build another great place to work while contributing to a mission that will save lives. But the clincher was meeting the people on the team and feeling a sense of connection and belonging almost right away.

People in Austin are super friendly. I’m not originally from this city, but when I went to networking events before the pandemic, people would say, “Let me grab your number, and let’s grab coffee, let’s grab dinner, let’s go to a brewery.” The pandemic has changed things, of course, but people still look for ways to connect. In Seattle, it took some time to make connections and build friendships.

What makes Pattern a great place to work?

A lot of people might think that building a great place to work is all about having a cool office or a Foosball table—and those things are nice. But really, it’s a lot more about the people on your team, activating your core values as a company and helping people develop and show up as their whole, best selves, all while working on challenging problems and pioneering solutions. Free snacks, cold brew and a monthly happy hour together don’t hurt, either.

How are you and Pattern working to achieve a great culture?

What really sold me on Pattern was the executive team’s commitment to building a great culture—not because it’s the competitive thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do. We really value and believe in having a diverse and inclusive team. So, even if someone is different from us and has different experiences, we ask ourselves what this person will bring to the company in a positive way. We emphasize “culture contributors” over a “culture fit”.

What qualities would you say we look for in potential new hires?

We really look for someone who has both empathy and an entrepreneurial spirit, in addition to great work experience. We’re not looking for individuals who are just like us, but people who have both high standards and a high regard for others. This is especially important for a company like Pattern, with a mission to improve the world’s most important health decisions.

How is Pattern working to build connection and openness during this challenging time?

We’re an essential business, so many of our employees, particularly in our research lab, work on site. Others like myself, whose job function can be done remotely, work at home right now. We look for ways to help people connect with each other, whether they work here in the office or at home. Sometimes we order food and sit outside on the lawn in a socially distanced way. Sometimes we play games online. Other times we might invite our spouses and partners to swing by the office at the end of the day to grab a beverage and sit outside. We started doing personal intros once a month, where people have a chance to share more about who they are outside of work. On the job, we encourage people, especially new hires, to engage and ask questions, even though we’re all working hard to stay safe.

Describe some of the other adjustments Pattern has made.

One thing we recognized early on is that parents were being faced with school closures, daycare interruptions and things beyond their control. Since many of our employees work at the office and in our lab, we converted our conference rooms into child friendly work environments where households could be separated and kids could still work on school. Right now, kids over the age of six who can be self-contained and work at the computer are welcome to come to the office when parents need to be here. All team members are utilizing more flexibility between schedules and sharing workloads.

Because of distancing and because of our growth, we identified the need for greater clarity and communication of company goals, team goals and timelines. We’ve adopted a couple of tools to help with those processes.

What else makes Pattern a great place to work?

We try to recognize people not just for their accomplishments, but for the path it takes to get there. Sometimes, particularly in biotech, that can be a long path, fraught with lots of setbacks and things that didn’t go the way you planned. Making sure that managers let their employees know they’re valued and appreciated for who they are is a really important part of building an environment where people want to be.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

I think the biggest thing I want to get across is that this is a place where people really care about you—you’re not just a cog in a wheel. By joining us, you have the opportunity to make a significant impact on people’s health, on people’s lives and how humanity thrives in the world. You’ll not only make a difference in an esoteric way, you’ll also have a strong individual ownership of things. You’ll have a chance to solve really hard problems and figure things out that haven’t been figured out before.