A Q&A session about building strong culture through courage, curiosity, and authenticity
As Inspire grows, our commitment to building a world-class team of talented and unique Avengers is stronger than ever. Our People team is critical to the success of our business, helping to bring our mission and values to life across all Avenger touchpoints. Equally important, the team is creating processes and structures that will serve as the foundation of strong teams that are prepared to crush our goals.
We’re excited to introduce Christine Ponzio, our new VP of People, who joined our team to lead our employees through this next phase of exciting growth at Inspire. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What led you to Inspire?
A few things; first, I have been lucky enough to work for mission-driven companies, and I know how incredible it feels to have a great job that makes a positive impact on the world. Second, I love working for high-growth companies. When companies are growing, that's really when they have to consider their People strategy the most. I’m excited to be a part of Inspire’s growth and to chart out a path for the people who work here. Finally, I bet on leaders and I truly believe in our CEO, Patrick Maloney.
My interview with Patrick inspired me. He dreams big, has a strong vision, and as a leader, he makes it a point to embrace vulnerability and authenticity every step of the way. During our conversation, it was also clear that he believes in cultivating a performance-driven culture—and that great talent attracts even more great talent. This is something I personally believe in, and this type of leadership and mentality is critical to the success of a high-growth company like Inspire.
Ultimately, I think I made a good bet. Even in the short amount of time I’ve been here, I look around Inspire and I feel the energy of the rocketship right before it launches. I feel that it is the right people, the right strategy, the right opportunity, and the right passion for success. I believe this is a team that can meet whatever challenges come our way.
Q: What was your first impression of Inspire culture?
My first impression of Inspire’s culture is that this is a place where people can be authentic. I believe that Inspire truly wants people to think for themselves, care deeply about what they’re doing, and show up as their best selves at work. I also love the way we approach work with boundless creativity and determination. Having “Crush It” as one of our core values emphasizes Inspire’s “How Can I?” culture. We don’t think too hard about the challenges or roadblocks; we stay focused on how to make big things happen.
Q: What’s the most challenging, but rewarding, part about growing a company from a People perspective?
People take time. Companies can accelerate their growth with money and smart strategy, but human beings take time. I love working at high-growth companies because if you stick around, you will grow way faster than the peers you may have in more traditional environments. Growth is not easy; it takes dedication, it challenges you and makes you uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. The hardest part of my job is putting the systems, processes, tools, and support in place that allows people to grow as fast as the company does.
Ultimately, what I hope for everyone who works here is that their individual purpose in life is in some way nurtured and fed by the work that we do here. I think having an amazing job IS possible, and I want everyone to search for that. Personally, I made a lot of bold choices to get here, but ultimately I feel that I now work for the company, the leader, and the team that I have always dreamed of. What would feel most rewarding to me, is creating an environment that accelerates personal growth just as fast as company growth.
Q: What’s the importance of culture and values in an organization?
Culture isn’t a poster; culture is what you do. It’s a guiding light. I’ve worked for a lot of companies that say they have amazing culture; I’ve only worked for a few that truly had amazing culture. Culture boils down to one thing: When you have really hard decisions to make, is that when you consider your values, culture and mission? Is that when you hold yourself accountable to who you said you wanted to be? Or is that the last thing you do in that moment? Ultimately, having a great culture means that it’s truly part of how you make decisions.
Values help you hire people who are going to be successful in the culture that you’ve built. The clearer we are about our values, the better we’ll get at attracting the right people - because it’s people who truly own the values. What separates companies with great cultures from the ones without, is how you bring your values to life and lead with them every single day. At Inspire, one value that comes to mind is “Study It.” Something I believe is true about how we operate is that we’re genuinely curious; we want to learn. Everyone is on a journey to better themselves; and we’re doing that together. We do a great job of having our own point of view as a business, but also seeking out the best of what’s out there and making sure we’re taking everything into account. “Study It” is one of the values that resonates most with me; continuously striving to learn more and improve is what uniquely binds us together and provides the foundation we need for success.
Q: What’s your best advice to women who aspire to reach a position of leadership like yours?
This is probably true for people of all genders, but, I have seen many women delay the moment they decide to take their seat at the table. What I have learned over the course of my career that I didn’t realize 20 years ago, is that I got my seat at the table when I decided that I deserved it. No one else gave it to me, no one else told me I was ready, no one asked when I was joining. One day I just stood up and said, “I’m ready,” and that’s when it happened. We have to be confident in ourselves and trust our intuition instead of always thinking someone else has a better idea. I’ve grown wiser, but a lot of who I am hasn’t changed since my mid-twenties. The only thing that changed was my confidence that I was a voice that needed to be heard and had valuable thoughts to share. For whatever reason, some women tend to take longer to make that moment happen for themselves. So, the best advice I can give is to go test it out! Give yourself a pep talk, and then walk into the room and show up with your great ideas, your value, and your confidence.
Christine describes culture as a “great salad.” Every time we hire a new person, we must consider what she or he uniquely adds to our company. We intend to continue building diverse teams that foster an environment where all Avengers can be their very best. If you’re interested in bringing something new to our team, check out our job openings here.