How a Unique Onboarding Process Activates Twilio’s Core Values

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Stephanie Alofoje was nervous. Not only did she have to build an app that interfaced with Yelp’s API, but she also had to present it to the entire organization. Plus, she’s not a developer or product manager—she’s Twilio’s Director of Global Employer Brand and Recruitment Marketing, and she was in the middle of their unique onboarding process.

Why Every New Hire Learns to Build an App

Twilio is a tech company headquartered in San Francisco that powers personalized interactions and communications. Their API allows you to embed communications capabilities to do things like text a customer if the table they’re waiting for is ready or text that their rideshare has arrived and give them the option to call the driver. When Alofoje joined the team in 2018, Twilio had 1,200 employees, and now they sit at well over 8,000 people on the team (and are adding even more as we speak).

“As part of our onboarding, all [new employees] have to develop a new Twilio-based app and present it to the entire company,” Alofoje says, which earns them a stylish red track jacket. “The reason why we have this program is because everyone’s not an engineer,” she says, “I’m a marketer and so going through that challenge where I was able to build an app through the Yelp API made my job so much easier in terms of understanding the product and how people use it.”

How Onboarding and Values Intersect

As you can imagine, not everyone’s app ideas go on to hit the big time, but the important thing about Twilio’s onboarding program is that it builds company culture and values centered around their core product. No matter what branch of the business you’re in, you need to go through the process of learning how it works, how to think about where it might be useful in your daily life, and learn the basics of what it takes to work with the product.

This process puts you in the shoes of both the engineers working at the heart of the company and how it benefits customers. At the same time, you’re pitching your app to everyone at the organization, and at the end of it all, you get a nice little status symbol to sport around the office or at home.

The Values That Drive Twilio

“When you think about company values, it’s not just the writing on the wall—it really is the ways of working,” Alofoje says, “and if your style of working is different than the preferred ways of working at a company I don’t know that you’ll ever thrive or really be successful.”

At Twilio, their values are clearly defined and originally authored by their CEO. That means that it’s relatively easy to get organizational alignment throughout the company because it comes from the very top, is infused into their onboarding process, and is a key part of everything in between.

Twilio’s values are broken down into four key principles: we are builders, we are owners, we are curious, and we are positrons.

  • Builders, meaning they believe in tackling hard problems through ingenuity and innovation.
  • Owners, meaning they take responsibility for the outcomes of their work.
  • Curious, as in learning from mistakes instead of not acknowledging they happen.
  • And positrons, meaning they seek to be a source of positive energy by standing up for what they believe is good and right for their customers, company, communities, and the world at large.

For Twilio, building a unique onboarding process around its core offering puts its values and culture into action in a way that every new hire can understand. The first step, however, is naming what those values are and developing a framework for how everyone in the business should think about them. It’s not always so easy, but a little research can go a long way, and Link Humans can certainly help you get started.

To follow Stephanie Alofoje’s work in employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn. For help identifying the values and culture you want to create in your company, get in touch.


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