How Dropbox’s People-First Culture Fosters Connection and Growth

Built In heard from three women leading Dropbox’s inclusive culture about how the company supports growth and opportunity for all.

Written by Brigid Hogan
Published on Jun. 13, 2023
How Dropbox’s People-First Culture Fosters Connection and Growth
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Great people. Engaging work. Strong culture.

It’s not a “choose two” trick question — it’s exactly what Dropbox has to offer every employee, according to three women who have built careers with the company.

“Over the last six years, I have had the opportunity to interact with a wide pool of talent,” Engineering Manager Vrushali Kulkarni said. “Working alongside this particular team and with my managers has fostered psychological safety for me, even while we work in a super technically challenging area of Dropbox’s business.”

“For sure,” Supply Chain Manager Jesenia Landaverde agreed, “but the most important thing that stands out for me is the culture piece. We lean on one another for support and really recognize how much of an impact our workmates can have as we all grow together.”

 

Our leaders are constantly looking for ways people can grow. So that is what I appreciate — the work, the people and the culture of growth.”

 

That support to learn and grow is a central piece of Dropbox’s culture and results in a wide array of opportunities to have an impact on the team, according to Senior Software Engineering Manager Anuradha Agarwal. “Our leaders are constantly looking for ways people can grow. So that is what I appreciate — the work, the people and the culture of growth.”

Beyond benefitting from these features of life at Dropbox, or #LifeInsideDropbox as it’s affectionately internally referred to, Kulkarni, Landaverde and Agarwal are torchbearers for the inclusive culture across the team — supporting Dropbox’s robust organizational programs and demonstrating excellence in their roles each day. 

 

WHAT THEY DO

Vrushali Kulkarni, Engineering Manager: I am a software engineering manager on the file system team for the Dropbox product, specifically file sync and share. As a manager, my schedule changes every day, and while I try to maintain consistency, a lot of my day is responsive to the people on my team. 

Jesenia Landaverde, Supply Chain Manager: I'm on the supply chain team and manage a category called data center operations, which includes anything that has to do with our data centers, including logistics, warranty, support and hardware purchasing.

Anuradha Agarwal, Senior Software Engineering Manager: I used to manage a team responsible for storage at Dropbox. I now manage all of the developer infrastructure.

 

Culture at Dropbox

When Landaverde joined Dropbox eight years ago, her introduction to the company’s culture was through the people on her team. Early in her tenure, she had the opportunity to learn from a talented group of experienced tech professionals. As those colleagues retired, her current team began to grow and so did the strength of her team relationships.

Even as her team moved to a virtual first work environment during the pandemic, Landaverde found ways to continue connecting virtually and foster those ongoing relationships. Agarwal joined the team at the same time, and echoes Landaverde’s sentiments about the strong culture across Dropbox.

“I love the impact each individual can have on our work,” Agarwal said. “The culture of empowerment encourages people to make bold decisions and move our projects forward.”

The culture of empowerment creates space for employees to move their careers forward as well. Over Kulkarni’s six years at Dropbox, she has had the opportunity to move through a series of projects as an individual contributor with more and more influence, ultimately transitioning into a management role.

“The opportunity to switch teams or work on an interesting project is a formalized process,” she said. “There are stretch projects you can take on, and my team participates in quarterly hackathons, which allows a group of engineers to work without distraction to build out a new roadmap item.”

 

Community and Support

Crucially, programs and structures that support clear paths to growth for employees surround the entrepreneurial spirit at Dropbox.

Kulkarni points to support from her team, mentorship and coaching circles, the Women in Platform group, Womens@ ERG, and an organic group of fellow new mothers as crucial for building community at Dropbox. Clearly there is no shortage of support here.

“I needed to learn how to balance a role where I want to make an impact with parenthood,” she said. “The investment in ERGs has helped me find my community and space here, even as we moved into a virtual-first environment.”


The investment in ERGs has helped me find my community and space here.”

 

For Agarwal, joining Dropbox in early 2020 didn’t leave much time for building community with her colleagues before shifting into remote work.

“There was no kitchen or office space to run into colleagues, and so when Women in Platform was created, it gave me the forum to meet people across different teams within the platform organization,” she said. “Having a place to connect with people who might feel isolated on their teams has been invaluable for building community across the organization.”

Leaders across Dropbox are focused on building out structures and opportunities for employees to make meaningful connections and build relationships, with a focus on offering space to interact and get involved with programs outside of daily tasks, according to Kulkarni.

“Whether it’s quick profiles of our colleagues within the platform organization or quarterly off-sites, there is a commitment to having the time to celebrate success as a team, which helps us all stay connected,” she said.

 

Growth and Opportunity

Kulkarni, Landaverde and Agarwal have all benefited from mentorship programs at Dropbox, while also paying those benefits forward to their colleagues.

In addition to expansive networks of informal mentorship facilitated by Dropbox’s people-first culture, the company offers startup programs for new managers with peer coaching pods, shadowing programs to explore new roles and funds for conferences and courses to allow employees to continue their professional development.

For Agarwal, paying attention to where her colleagues shine helps her set them up for success, whether through expanding scope and impact on their team or supporting them as they grow within the organization. 

“Supporting their growth might even mean asking them to leave the team because I know they are ready to take on bigger responsibilities within Dropbox,” she said.

 

Across Dropbox, we honor and respect each other’s working styles and strengths, both day-to-day and when considering larger decisions for the team.” 

 

When reflecting on her own growth, as well as the inclusive environment her managers have created for her team to succeed over her time with the company, Kulkarni echoed Agarwal’s sentiments. 

“Across Dropbox, we honor and respect each other’s working styles and strengths, both day-to-day and when considering larger decisions for the team,” she said. “It’s a level playing field for everyone.”

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images from Dropbox.

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