CHRO Silvia Johnson on Ridgeline’s “Best Workplace” Secret Sauce

May 27, 2021
Ridgeline Staff Writers
4
 min read

On the heels of Ridgeline being recognized as a 2021 Best Workplace by Inc. Magazine, we sat down with Silvia Johnson, Ridgeline CHRO, to talk about building a best-in-class workforce and workplace.

We are so excited to have been named an Inc. Best Workplace! As a company founded just a few years ago, this recognition is particularly rewarding. Were you surprised by this win? Why or why not?

I should not be surprised, but I was! It’s humbling to be part of a company that has garnered best place to work accolades — during a pandemic, while tripling in size! But ultimately the recognition is a testament to the people we’ve hired and the enthusiasm and resilience they’ve brought to the organization.

Prior to Ridgeline, you led HR at big-name companies in the tech world. What have you brought to Ridgeline from other parts of your career?

Ultimately I believe it’s patience and calm. I’ve seen a million and one ways to solve problems, so most things don’t phase me. Understanding needs and finding solutions while fending off drama and spin comes pretty naturally to me at this point in my career. :)

Compared to the other, more established companies you’ve worked for, how is Ridgeline different or unique?

Aside from our headquarters being on the shores of Lake Tahoe? I do think we are unique in that we trend younger and more diverse than your typical startup. This presents a great opportunity for us to leverage new ways of doing work, as those earlier in their careers usually perceive fewer constraints. In addition, we have a great blend between industry experts and technology leaders. This combination can cause friction in a good way by helping us better deliver for the industry and solve problems for the asset management community in new and unique ways.

Culture is something every company talks about but is sometimes hard to define and cultivate — especially during a working-from-home period where everyone was behind screens. How would you describe Ridgeline’s culture?

Fun — really. Every time we survey our employees about our culture, “fun” always comes up in feedback. Of course we are guided by all our core values, but it makes it that much easier to come to work when we can laugh and have fun together. Even in the middle of a pandemic we found lots of fun ways to connect.

What has Ridgeline done to sustain a strong culture in face of the challenges of the past year?

We did two things. First we established a culture that is employee led. From day one, we ask all employees to take responsibility for owning the culture and values to ensure persistence beyond the leadership team. In addition, during the pandemic we were intentional about incorporating virtual connection points into our work days.

In the early days of the pandemic, teams planned socially-distanced picnics here in Lake Tahoe — masked up, six feet apart, while enjoying each other and the outdoors. In NYC, our team got together in Madison Square Park to (safely) build an epic snowman. We’ve also had virtual pie-baking contests, shipped surprises to employees around the country, and spent Earth Day competing with virtual teams by earning points for environmentally-conscious activities, such as picking up litter in neighborhoods, skipping meat, or taking short (or no!) showers. Oh, and we pride ourselves on a very strong emoji game in Slack!

Being called the “best” at something right out of the gate could make for complacency. What are Ridgeline’s long-term plans for remaining a place that employers and customers love to be associated with year after year?

I wish we could be complacent some days! However, we have no room for that. Over time, we may make decisions to refocus or rebalance resources, but at the end of every day, our number one priority is solving for our employees. As our CEO and Founder Dave Duffield says, “When you care about your people, they have fun, they do rewarding work, they serve customers, and customers help sell products. It’s all an ecosystem, and it all starts with the employee.”

What is the most satisfying part about working at Ridgeline?

I could pull from any number of examples to describe the type of company we are building, but the most poignant stories for me are the personal anecdotes. More than once I’ve been told by a new employee, “I’m happy to be at Ridgeline because it’s the first time I feel I can bring my whole self to work.” That is by far the biggest compliment from my viewpoint. Though we are working hard and building for a demanding space, it’s easier because employees don’t have to compromise who they are when coming to work.

Sound like somewhere you want to work? Ridgeline is growing fast and hiring for a number of exciting opportunities! Check out the roles here.

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