‘Enjoy the Ride’ — At Tagboard, Fun and Evolution Go Hand in Hand
Joshua MacCracken will never forget the conversation he had with Tagboard CEO Nathan Peterson about one particular core value: “Enjoy the ride: Let’s have some fucking fun.”
“I asked, ‘Well, are we spelling it f***ing?’ and he replied, ‘I think it should be ‘fucking,’” MacCracken recalled. “His point was, if we’re not spelling the word out, are we actually having fun or are we too scared to have fun?”
The VP of marketing had been on the team for merely two weeks when he had this discussion, and one thing was already clear: this company has a lot of fun. For MacCracken, this culture isn’t simply cultivated by their CEO, who prefers ripped jeans and opinionated T-shirts over a suit and tie. It’s also reflected in the product itself, which pushes the boundaries of what was previously possible in the world of television.
“We turn TV into a two-way communication device,” he said. “We offer ways to help shows engage with their audiences while allowing viewers to interact with each other, which is an invaluable tool for producers.”
Engaging Audiences From Anywhere
While Tagboard’s platform may already be revolutionizing the ways in which brands reach and interact with consumers, the company is eager to take its technology to even greater heights. Buoyed by an extra $10.3 million in capital raised earlier this year, the organization is currently expanding its headcount in an effort to round out its potential.
Yet despite major growth plans, Tagboard is determined to maintain the inclusive, exciting atmosphere that has defined it from the beginning. As senior vice president of people and culture, Stephanie Smith helps lead the organization’s efforts to care for its employees. She said the company continually strives to meet team members’ physiological needs, whether that pertains to creating a comfortable work-from-home setup or offering “Flexible Fridays” to give employees extra time to recharge at the end of the week.
“One of our key leadership philosophies is that we’re here to make a safe work environment so that people feel seen, valued and heard,” Smith said.
For Lead Engineer Craig Wills, this focus on recognition stems largely from the company’s leadership team, which dedicates itself to employee involvement and clear communication. In his mind, nothing comes as a surprise at Tagboard — and that’s a good thing. Employees always know why decisions are made, what the team is working on and how these efforts bolster the organization’s purpose.
“It’s all about consistency and adhering to our values from top to bottom,” Wills said.
MacCracken, Smith and Wills all agree that Tagboard offers many noteworthy perks, all set against the backdrop of a community-focused, empowering workplace. Yet for MacCracken, one of the greatest benefits of working at the company isn’t related to finances or uncapped vacation; rather, it’s having the chance to see his work appear on the NFL Network.
“I don’t have to work hard to make my job fun,” MacCracken said. “We get to go after some of the biggest names in entertainment, and that’s exciting.”
Below, MacCracken, Smith and Wills discuss the impact of Tagboard’s values-driven culture and product, the company’s growth plans and what excites them most about the future.
How does the company ensure its product reflects its own values as well as the opinions of its clients?
Lead Engineer Craig Wills: We have five core values: “come as you are,” “be accountable,” “give a shit,” “stay curious,” and “enjoy the ride.” A lot of these values are reflected through our design and development methodology. These ideas come into play when we’re working together to design new features. We listen to our clients’ feedback a lot throughout the design and development process to continually refine experiences and everything else we offer. We aim to be proactive with support, fix issues quickly, and respond to clients efficiently.
I understand the company has been scaling several teams, especially engineering. What are your current growth goals, and what are some traits your team prioritizes in job applicants?
Senior Vice President of People and Culture Stephanie Smith: We currently have $10.3 million in capital, which allows us to focus on key hires. We’re not the type of company that will fill a job opening simply because there’s a small need. We’ve been intentional in onboarding new hires and ensuring they know that they have a role to play in achieving our objectives. One of the key drivers of engagement is ensuring that you know where you fit in the company, so it’s very important that we hire thoughtfully to maximize this involvement. This has been our mantra as we continue to create sustainable growth.
Wills: When we were aggressively building out our engineering team, we were primarily searching for senior front-end developers to help us level up the tech that we already had and get us where we wanted to go. We also wanted full-stack engineers so that we could squeeze out more growth where and when we needed it. Currently, we aim to hire engineers focused on back-end technologies that we want to target in the future. Finding developers who specialize in automated testing and other key skill sets will help us round out our team.
In terms of preferred engineering applicants, we look for collaborators, people who care and those who wish to expand their skills during their time here. We also want people who will continually cultivate our culture by embodying empathy and inclusivity. These attributes are evident in our day-to-day interactions with each other.
Embracing The Unknown
How does the company ensure its employees feel both included and supported?
Smith: We base our inclusion practices around Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is a psychological theory that considers the drivers behind individuals’ motivation, such as security, belonging and self-actualization. For instance, we foster safety by enabling employees to function with a secure, comfortable remote work environment, ensuring that both our bodies and minds are protected and we are set up to succeed. We’ve created multiple methods of communication to ensure our teammates are seen and heard, and we’ve incorporated team training to make sure our team feels true belonging. With a review system and strong communication in check, we’ve ensured that inclusion is a key point of our company’s DNA.
From a perks perspective, we’re currently offering “Flexible Fridays” to see if a four-day work week is feasible for us. We have a $2,000 home ergonomic setup program and a $1,500 learning and development stipend, which is renewed every year. Besides that, we offer a $100 monthly technology stipend and a $25 monthly office stipend in addition to an unlimited vacation policy that requires employees to take at least two weeks of time off per year. Through our coworking program, the company pays for team members to utilize shared spaces as many times as they want per month, which has led to an increase in collaboration and deeper engagement. We also have a 12-week minimum parental leave program for every kind of caregiver, including foster parents.
Wills: We use the performance-management software 15Five, which enables our HR team to send weekly surveys in order to keep a pulse on employees’ feelings. If something seems off, the company will make changes. Along with that, we have lunch and learns, or Tag Talks, which enable employees to discuss different topics that interest them, from the Enneagram Personality Test to coping with autism as a parent. We also have companywide celebrations to recognize achievements and birthdays. Many people take part in these events, and it means a lot to those being recognized.
What core values mean the most to you, and how are these principles reflected in the company’s culture?
Smith: It’s a toss-up between “come as you are” and “give a shit.” The latter has been one of our core values since 2018 and is integrated into each of our programs, processes and conversations. The people team has striven to create an environment where people feel true belonging. Every single member of our leadership team agreed that “give a shit” was spot-on regarding our culture, as it’s an idea that is deeply ingrained into who we are.
Wills: My favorite values are “be accountable,” “give a shit” and “stay curious.” I want to work on a team that doesn’t just sludge through features. Rather, there has to be buy-in and the ability to provide feedback at all levels. Our “give a shit” value especially comes into play when support issues come up. It’s also reflected in how deeply we care about our engineers and allow each of them to put their best foot forward in their work. In engineering, people can often be pushed toward the mean, yet innovation stems from everything outside of that. I want to pull skill sets from our other engineers to help augment our tech stack, which fosters that curiosity everyone needs to continue growing. The emotional and technical support we receive enables us to grow in meaningful ways and gives us the chance to see how we can make Tagboard even better.
VP of Marketing Joshua MacCracken: “Enjoy the ride” is one value that the company wholly embodies. Our CEO lives out this value each day. “Stay curious” is also one of my favorites, as this relates to the idea that people should come into the company with inquisitiveness and continually demonstrate an eagerness to learn about the industry and our product. Employees should never stop being curious and question everything, both internally and externally. If our people see an area of opportunity or something that could be improved, they have the ability to go ahead and make changes.
An Honest Interview Process
What are you most excited to accomplish with your team in the next year?
Smith: My goal is for Tagboard to maintain its culture and integrity throughout ongoing growth while intentionally onboarding people so that they feel entirely equipped to start working and engaging with others. It’s been incredible to see the transformation of the platform and expansion of our communities and the clients we serve. You see our work everywhere you turn, which is extremely exciting.
Wills: While Tagboard isn’t new, it needs to evolve from where it was, so we’re going to take our existing codebase and make it something new. We need to shape it in a way that will allow our engineering team to move forward. We definitely have some major plans in the pipeline, which mainly center around allowing our customers to tell better stories with more effective tools. We have team members who have been in the production industry for years, so I’m eager to tap into their experiences and allow creativity to flourish.
MacCracken: I’m most excited to learn. I’m looking forward to getting my team up to speed so that they feel prepared to tackle challenges over the next year. While I’m excited about various campaigns we have in the works, I’m most eager to unlock the potential of our team and this company. We’re focusing on a very different subsection of our industry, which requires us to change our positioning, packaging, pricing, sales process and go-to-market motion. We have new competitors, and we need to uncover their weaknesses and create battle cards for them. We’re moving from playing checkers to playing chess. The moment you realize you’ve entered a chess game, it gets really fun.