Tech culture is one of the most talked about and simultaneously misunderstood elements of building a successful company. Most companies fall into the trap of approaching it with a skeletal nature – and while that comes with good intentions in establishing the bones and the structure of a culture so it can stand up, culture needs to breathe, it needs new blood, it needs muscles and exercise, it needs to fall down, it needs to get up, it needs to suffer and it needs to get sore. It's organic. To me, the culture of a group is like the identity of an individual, rooted in core elements, but changing all the time. Culture can be challenging to realize in tough times, but it most certainly grows for the better after overcoming adversity.
This is why I love Denver culture, both working in/with tech companies and the culture of the city as a whole. It’s complex, it’s emotional, and it’s morphing as we grow. The whole country knows about how great our Rocky Mountain lovin' lifestyle is and a lot of folks move to our great neighborhoods to be a part of it all. We ski, we hike, we race bikes, we run, we climb, we do yoga at Red Rocks... Many times before most people have had their first call of the day. We've got the highest mean elevation of 6800 feet and the highest low point of any US state at 3,315 feet. The mountain scenery is stunning... At times it feels unreal and I love it.
With all of that, we are growing... Fast! (IMO, too fast, but who am I to say?) Denver is in a mega-delta of change that is apparent in the town and can cause uncertainty, friction and can potentially lead to a feeling of being behind or even lost. But it does not have to! If we keep ourselves focused on the foundational parts of Denver's cultural DNA, anything is possible.
Here are three consistent positive qualities of Denver's culture and DNA that I know to be true and should be a part of every Denver resident's lens on business and life to achieve success:
A feeling and an attitude of abundance
If you feel this abundance, then you’re a contributor, you’re a winner, and so is everyone else. Maybe it's the amount of opportunity from all the job growth recently, but I think the feeling of abundance here is heavily influenced by the vastness of the landscape that surrounds us.
There are almost 23 million acres in BLM or Forestry service land in CO; you can always find your place of solitude and alleviate any sense of scarcity. But beyond the quantitative, there is also a culture of celebrating other's accomplishments in the Denver community. Seems that if one strikes gold, so does everyone else… Maybe that's a remnant of pioneering accomplishments and victories, I can't be sure, but it's definitely here.
Culture of alignment and giving
According to PowderKeg's 2018 Tech Consensus Report, the top three values of the Denver tech community are inclusion, collaboration, and give first (thank you to David Cohen and Brad Feld at TechStars for codifying #GiveFirst in Denver). The culture of alignment-seeking runs deep in Denver, and for those seeking alignment naturally (rather than forcefully), they’re rewarded with opportunities to help others at every corner.
We have amazing projects that encourage extending one’s time to assist the community and not expecting anything in return. Project Helping, founded in Denver has empowered over 8300 volunteers to give almost 23000 volunteer hours back to the community all with a goal of making people feel better and more alignment. Promoting someone’s ideas without expectation is common here. I love this place.
A ridiculous amount of "Who Luck"
The concept of "Who Luck" was talked about by Jim Collins in Great By Choice and refers to being able to find the right partner, teammate, mentor, etc. and that can change your life. Thing is, you never know who that could be, and in Denver – that could be anyone. There are people from every walk of life that either choose to stay here or are looking to expand their lives by relocating to Denver. I promise you, it is easy to meet the right person you need in your life just by staying open, by offering your talents and your help, by being inquisitive, and by being cognizant. You don't have to be a Colorado Native to be successful here, from my experience Denver might be one of the most open communities to transplants in the whole country.
We are still a small town… we still have just two phone area codes (303 & 720), and trail talk matters… saying hello to a fellow hiker on the trail is incumbent. Taking that further can change your life. If you are open to it, you will meet whoever you need too here.
Some last minute thoughts for members of the tech community on how to work with these elements of Denver culture to be more successful:
--If you are looking to join a company and it does not seem to embrace these Denver DNA elements, be aware. A company that does not align with these values here will feel a lot of thrash, feel lost in the town, and won't be the best place to work.
--The office environment is not the same as culture, let's not mix perks and culture. We have to seek a mission/impact alignment and keep our culture muscles strong and toned. Let's try to achieve the feelings of the above Denver cultural traits in our workplaces, not try to distill something that has the feeling as it's most concentrated form.
--Remind yourself that you are a Time Billionaire - How do we spend our time together? Time is a good indicator of culture... Are we giving back to our team, our families, and our community with our time? It's definitely hard, but of the highest value. If you spend your time in alignment with the three Denver culture DNA markers listed above, you will find success in whatever way you define it.
Thanks for reading, I hope you are either more intrigued by Denver after reading this post and considering moving here, or are just feeling better about this place we call home for our families and businesses.
Seize the day!
Dave Bacon -- Founder/CEO BWBacon
Here at BWBacon Group, we know and live what you are experiencing as an employer or job seeker in Denver, Boulder, Dallas, San Francisco, New York City or any of the other cities we work in. We believe great recruiting starts and ends with understanding people.
If you have any questions about living, working or playing any of the areas we serve, please contact us. We are happy to help. Seize the day, every day, that’s what we say!