Tending a Community, Growing a Business: Maintaining Culture at Mirador

When I hear the word “culture” my Portland foodie brain flashes to thoughts of yogurt or kimchi. The definition of culture that I interact with more often in my role as Head of People Operations for Mirador unfortunately leans more toward a startup cliche—fodder for plenty of mainstream comedy (e.g. Silicon Valley the TV show).


From the outside, table tennis, a kegerator and the ubiquitous beanbag quickly define what sets the start-up professional ecosystem, or culture, apart from others. Sure, some groups have stopped with the stock window-dressings of unlimited PTO and casual Friday every day, but Mirador takes pains to go well beyond stereotypes. The opportunity to establish and curate mindfully community values as a compass to guide collective efforts is not afforded to all organizations, and our group is one dedicated to thoughtfully and proactively seizing the occasion.

Nearly six months ago I joined the Mirador team to help expand and support our rapidly growing professional staff. Our team has more than doubled in the intervening months, and has plans to double again before year-end to support our growing list of customers further. This hyper growth is taking place in a highly competitive (and yet extraordinarily supportive) local start-up community concurrent to our efforts to establish systems and processes - employee handbooks, review processes, and other fun HR functions. As it relates to my service to the Mirador team, the definition of culture that I have adopted as most fitting comes from biology whereby culture is that which is required for one to maintain - tissue cells, bacteria, (people!) etc. - in conditions suitable for growth. So basically, my role for Mirador could just as appropriately translate to “resident biologist.”

The Mirador team gardening at Washington Park in Portland, OR
Yes, conditions suitable for growth on the surface can be seen as a well-stocked pantry of healthy snacks for the team or our weekly team lunch gathering, but is also requires creating conditions ideal for productive and spirited conversations and collaborations. We establish processes to keep our team propelled in the same direction and to keep our professionals to supported in their own development. It's an ever-evolving exercise, but one that for our team is guided by our three management principles:

  1. Mirador is customer-focused. Everything we do is in the service of our customers. We deeply understand their problems and design simple, beautiful solutions to solve their problems.  We help them see new possibilities and ways to achieve their business objectives. We only win when our customers win.
  2. Mirador is dedicated to employee empowerment, accountability and appreciation.  We are committed to curating a workplace where everyone is respected, valued and enabled to do their best work. We believe in clear goals, empowering individuals and measuring outcomes.  We understand work is the not entire person, and have policies to support employees in fulfilling their personal, familial and communal responsibilities.
  3. Mirador is community-centered. We are committed to contributing in meaningful ways to the communities in which we operate, both collectively and as individuals.

The Mirador team gardening at Washington Park in Portland, OR

With each new job requisition we open and fill it is my privilege to introduce new teammates to these principals and continue support them in their service to our community and vision with these as our compass. They give us direction, purpose, clarity and often opportunities for fun (as evidenced by photos from our recent community service project in Portland's city gem, Washington Park). What makes the Mirador culture unique and extraordinary cannot be defined by our Wednesday smoothie bar nor our internal project management process. It is much more of an art and science than individual indicators alone can capture. Collectively it defines what we feel situates our team and our product for long-term success - and fun.