Episode 128: Radhika Parashar on Creating a Vibrant Culture in a Virtual World

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs. Today I’m excited to have Radhika Parashar join us from Figma. Radhika, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Radhika Parashar: Sure. Hey everyone. Thank you so much for having me, Shawnna and Olivia. So excited to be here. This community is so vibrant and so wonderful. My name is Radhika Parashar. I currently lead sales enablement at Figma. A little bit about myself, I come from a learning and development sort of learning operations background. I’ve spent some time doing this work now at ByteDance, at TubeMogul and in the past at Couchbase. And I think a lot of my interest in this world and my interest in sort of training generally comes from the burning question of learning, how to learn, which I think a lot of us share as a community.

For me personally, it comes from my time as someone who was homeschooled actually from kindergarten to 12th grade. So, I think it’s something that I’ve always thought of like just what are the intrinsic motivators? How do you get people to participate? And more importantly, how do we create a culture of learning and a culture of curiosity that can allow people to succeed and motivate in their roles? So that’s a little bit about myself.

SS: Well, I’m excited to have you, and I now have a whole other level of respect for your parents homeschooling you because I’ve been thrown into a remote home-schooling situation this year and it is not easy. But that’s fantastic. I’m so excited that you’re here and, you know, you started at Figma earlier this year and have had to onboard in essentially also a completely remote environment. I’d love to hear from you what have been some of your lessons learned in regard to how one can get kind of immersed in a culture in a completely virtual world?

RP: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, First of all, I think I just have so much empathy for so many people who are working in this environment right now and kind of not having the choice or not really having the ability to create the right atmosphere, the right sort of opportunities to make sure that you can work completely remotely, whether that’s like you were just describing what childcare or teaching or learning, or even cooking, or just simple tasks that I think we’ve all had some level of organization for in the past that we don’t really have anymore. So, I think that’s the first thing is just realizing that, or just agreeing that it’s a really tough environment to be part of.

But past that, I think when it comes to getting immersed in culture, for me personally at Figma, the first thing I did was tons of one-on-ones. I think I clocked in around 90 one-on-ones and my first two months, and taking that time to meet people, spend time getting to know them, understanding them, hopefully at as much a full level or as deep of a level as you can within those short segments and trying to follow up with what their interests and their passions, and perhaps moments of communication or connection that you might share with them, I think has been so critical for sales enablement professionals, this is the case in a remote or non-remote world. I mean I think my managers described it in the past as like a long-term investment. And I wholeheartedly believe that just spending that time upfront, getting to people, being vulnerable, putting yourself out there as daunting as it is, is probably one of the best ways to get immersed in a culture.

In addition to that at Figma, we use platforms to sort of play like roulette with understanding and meeting new folks. We also just make sure that you’re attending different meetings. That for me has also been pretty critical. I sit on all of our weekly sales meetings and in an attempt to get to know the team and their fears and their hopes, as well as their progress, really up close and personal. If your company has employee resource groups definitely take advantage of those. I think those are huge opportunities to get to know the culture more intimately. I also want to acknowledge that it is a lift to be constantly on, especially in those first couple of weeks and months.

But I think, like I was saying earlier with that long-term investment strategy, it really pays off. The last thing I’d add there is like, ignore the voice in your head, right? There’s a voice in your head that’s going to keep saying don’t ask about that inside joke. You don’t need to know so much about blah, blah, blah, you know, but really ignoring that and jumping in with both of your feet and trying your best to be as present and as engaged as you can in those short stents are those 30-minute calls and are those one-hour calls that you might have. I think really helps for me. That’s like taking notes on everything. I’m trying to wrap my head around what’s going on. So, I have a sense of, okay, let me set the context for this next meeting or set the context for this next interaction with this person.

Being intentional about that, right? Like really sharing as much about yourself as you can. Your stories, your wins, you know, what inspires you? It requires a certain amount of vulnerability, which I know is really tough for so many of us, but right now, without that opportunity to be in an office and kind of share that in the hallway or in the bathroom or wherever else you might, or in the snack room, I think it’s really important to just take the first step, especially as someone new in an organization, get to know people, share what your favorite snack is, right? Share your latest Trader Joe’s haul, whatever it might be, just trying to create those moments of connection. I think really pay off in the long run.

SS: Absolutely. How have you taken some of these things that you’ve learned through your role in enablement to help create a healthy culture, while your company is scaling remotely?

RP: Yeah. That’s another great question. I mean, I think for us, I think the first step to that problem is trying to figure out what our culture is. I think a lot of us have a sense of what our culture is. We have our values; we have our mission. But I think for us, it was really understanding that we had a really robust and really vibrant sales culture that existed before we went remote and now, we’re also scaling in such a huge amount. And the last year, how do we sort of take all of the learnings and take the idea of what culture is and translate that to this virtual world. So, for us, that’s also been thinking through, highlighting good culture, passing that on.

So, for example, in our upcoming sales kickoff, we’re going to have awards for people who exemplify our culture. We’re thinking through a leadership council that’s actually something I implemented very shortly after I joined, which is, you know, having the teams nominate two or three people from their team who exemplify their culture and kind of are the stewards if you will, of their culture, of what Figma sales culture is individually for that team and collectively as an org. And using a lot of existing reps as are our buddies for our onboarding of new hires, as well as having a lot of cross-team collaboration opportunities with our EMEA team, as well as in the US so again, trying to bridge those divides that might have already been bridged had we had the opportunity to be in the same office in the same space.

Other ways we’ve done that is forging more connections with the team. So, in our onboarding program, I’ve created a module called tea with the teams. So, kind of forcing those conversations that can sometimes be really awkward for someone who just joins, and instead put it on an entire team. So, for example, if we have a cohort of three or four people, we’ll have them meet the entire PMM team with some prompts. If you know what you can kind of talk about. And get to know like an entire team in that context really early on. So again, you’re forging those connections so early on. So, there’s no sense of like, I wasn’t able to meet that person or I didn’t get the time or whatever. You’re just kind of doing it as organically as you can, but also in a way that is a little bit more efficient.

SS: Absolutely. Now, how do you go about ensuring that your reps feel comfortable coming to you and the enablement team with questions and ideas, kind of around creating a better environment especially when things often feel a little bit disconnected?

RP: Yeah. I mean, that’s been a huge focus for me actually because I recognize that pretty early on that if we don’t create a culture of reps feeling comfortable, and I know the word vulnerable is used a lot, but truly feeling like this is a space these are folks who understand them and are there for them, it’s really difficult for them to feel that unless you create those spaces. So, for me, it was trying to keep that door open from the get-go. So, in all of my one-on-ones, I let everyone know, feel free to email me, Slack me, if you need to call me, whatever it is, I’m your person. I like to describe the sales enablement role as a little bit of a sales therapist as well, where you will often hear about what’s going on and the inner workings and the inner team dynamics of a sales team and being mindful and cognizant of that. But also, very respectful of that and making sure that you create that safe space is really powerful.

I created a dedicated Slack channel early on for sales enablement questions, sharing of resources, all of the regularly scheduled programs that we made sure that we had regular updates in the Slack channel of what had been published or what had been presented the day before. So, people had access to all of that information. Office hours have been huge for us as well. So, like just having an open time and an open forum every single week. Shout out to our sales operations team who are running a fantastic office hour, other folks at Figma. So, we’re running that to just kind of make sure that everyone has an opportunity to come in and ask their questions.

Really it is such a huge focus because in an office you would just tap someone on the shoulder or you would ping someone really quickly and say, “Hey, can I quickly chat with you about X, Y, and Z?” So, I really thought about that and I thought about how critical shadowing was going to be for our onboarding. We have shadowing is like the advanced portion of our onboarding after their first two weeks for new hires to work with their buddies to shadow calls and also have their call shadowed. And in that process, I think there’s so much sharing that happens of best practices, but we try to move that past just one person too, because in an office you would probably be surrounded by four or five people. You could have those conversations with pause for thought.

I would also like to end by saying there are no right answers, right. Enablement is constantly evolving. So, my team, my network are just huge resources for me to sort of ask that, like, what are the ways you’re sort of keeping people on your team feel comfortable, right? I’ve heard of folks having private office hours with just their team, without their managers in an attempt to get the team to open up with one another, again, the way you would in the kitchen or over coffee to kind of share learnings or show concerns or whatever it might be like. That that is all so valuable, I think, to the sales experience and sort of creating that very healthy culture where you can address those things. Again, if you know you’re going through something, if you share it with someone else like that camaraderie can go a long way as well.

Even for me, having folks in the enablement world who I can sort of gut check things with my team, my manager has been so fantastic at that to just sort of say, “Hey, like, does this make sense? Are you seeing this too?” And if you are like, I know there’s complete confidence that you’re going to agree to disagree, but that’s going to be between us. So, I think that also is a really powerful part of creating that culture on a sales team.

SS: I love that. I also love encouraging that with my team as well. We call it player’s only meeting.

Thank you so much for joining us today. I learned so much in this conversation and I greatly appreciate your time.

RP: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me, Shawnna. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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