Culture is a concept that's as hard to capture as it is important to a company. It's not well-defined, it's hard to observe from within (unbiased self-reflection is inherently difficult!), and it changes all the time, especially at a high-growth business.
Moreover, when a company describes its culture, it's almost always focusing on the behaviours seen in its top performers (at hx, this is about far more than financial success). By definition, no business is full of these amazing people, so, it's inherently aspirational: to us, this is a good thing! We know that hx is far from perfect, and we have to work together to preserve the great bits of our culture, while continuously learning and refining it into something even better.
With that being said, there are two key aspects of our culture that we don't expect to change much, if ever:
- The context in which hx operates
- Our values
Both of these characterise the mindset of a top performing hxer; everyone here is either performing at this level, or striving to do so. If this sounds like you, and you want to surround yourself with similar people, we will be extremely excited to connect, and get to know you! This applies even if now isn't quite the right time for you or hx - some of our best hires have taken months or even years to come to fruition; building great things takes time.
A truism that surprisingly few people think about in the context of their careers is: "you are shaped by the group of people you spend most of your time with". If you love your work, and enjoy spending time with similar people, your teammates will be one such group (probably second only to your family). This is even more likely to be the case at a high-growth business like hx. We hope that by giving you an honest perspective on what life is like here, you can make a well-informed decision about whether we are a good fit for each other.
For potential hxers, we've embedded some questions to help you frame yourself within our culture. It's important to honestly answer these from the perspective "am I this sort of person?" rather than "could I be this sort of person"? If it's going to be a massive shift for you, against your natural temperament, then hx probably isn't the right place for you. On the other hand, if you find yourself saying "finally - a place where I can be myself!" then we'd love to hear from you.
We are here to become the best version of ourselves, by doing hard things
Note the wording here. hx is an inherently restless, high-ambition place; we are all incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by amazing teammates with outsized achievement lists, but are hungry to achieve far more! No-one here sees themselves as the finished article.
You'll also notice a theme of "voluntary hardship" on this page. That's intentional - we are deep believers in lasting, long-term benefits conferred by attempting, and regularly succeeding at, things we are not sure we can do. We actually see it as a critical factor in driving exponential growth in ourselves. The "red-queen race" in startups is well-documented, but often glossed over in the hiring process; it's important to think deeply about what's required to stand still, let alone outperform, at a business that is growing at triple digits a year, rather than the 5-10% seen in many, if not most companies.
Are you someone who is regularly called out by your colleagues as exceptional, but feel that personally you have lots you want to develop in yourself, or are you happy making small, incremental changes from here?
We overindex on doing the right thing because our reputation depends on it
Some of the world's leading financial institutions trust our platform to help them make decisions that could materially impact their profits, strategy and reputation. We take this extremely seriously - we are a far smaller, earlier-stage business than most of our peers, and we win not just because of our product - it's also because our attitude and performance reflects the respect with which we treat our customers. We never want this to change.
This means that we go the extra mile to make sure our work is premium-quality, customer-centric, and minimises the risk of unpleasant surprises to our users - even if what needs to be done isn't "on the spec sheet". hxers don't need to be told to do the right thing! This doesn't mean that we underspecify work, or have lots of "shadow tasks"; the rules of thumb are:
- Aim for gold standard every time
- Put the customer first in your thinking and this fundamental expectation is implied with every requirement or specification you see at hx
- If you're not sure whether to do something, surface it and make it explicit rather than assume it doesn't matter
Are you the go-to person in your team for the things that matter? If presented with an ambiguous problem, do you tend to go the extra mile, or use the opportunity to get away with doing less?
We want to keep the team as small as possible (but no smaller!)
We like working in a relatively small team here. This is partly a function of our bootstrapped roots - we've experienced first-hand how a small group of tight-knit, high-performing, transparent communicators can create improbably outsized achievements, while affording hx independence and autonomy that's rare in our space. This is something we are keen to preserve.
This doesn't mean that we don't want to grow fast. We have a lot to do; far more than we have capacity for at the moment, and we are scaling all parts of hx in response to demand. However, we are always thoughtful about how we grow, so we can do so as efficiently and effectively as possible.
By choosing to keep the team size low relative to our peers, we make some conscious trade-offs in our approach to Work-Life fit at hx. They aren't right for everyone, which we completely respect; it's worth thinking deeply about whether they are right for you.
Do you enjoy working in high-trust, high-expectation environments where you have a broader remit, more flexibility and a "tighter coupling" to your teammates than average, even if it means a higher level of intensity and visibility?
We push the boundaries here
We have very demanding clients, who sometimes make requests that would be considered unreasonable by many companies. We don't shy away from this challenge - we embrace it.
This means that we are often tasked with seeking out the frontier of what's possible in multiple domains of multiple industries. This may sound grandiose for a business of our size and scale, but it's demonstrably true. Here are some of the problems we are working on:
- How can we start up a container capable of running a complex mathematical model on 20m data points in less than a second?
- What's the optimal algorithm to dynamically lay out multiple large financial tables on a single page, so our users have to spend as little time thinking about column widths as possible (at design and runtime)?
- What sort of data structures do we need to implement to allow our clients to perform real-time analysis of datasets which are unbounded as to size, source or structure?
- How do we build a data-driven partner led approach to SME sales whilst maintaining a relationship with the customers and ensuring best-practice sales, and delivery, prevails?
It's important to note that it can be as complex, ambiguous and challenging to work at the frontier as it is exciting, trendy and rewarding! We regularly have to spend a lot of time exploring edge-cases and articulating trade-offs. We also need to be able to reason about the most likely uses for our platform, while trying to avoid cul-de-sacs that are hard to escape. Intelligence isn't enough here - it takes determination, empathy and foresight to do this well.
What was the biggest project you owned where you had to persevere through significant ambiguity and uncertainty to get it done? How do you feel when you have to think deeply about a problem from first principles, without being able to "Google your way to a solution"?
We are a data company
hx exists to help companies make better decisions using datasets that are hard to collect, wrangle, and interpret. It therefore shouldn't come as a surprise that we strive to do the same in our own work!
We collect a lot of data at hx, and we spend more time reflecting on it than most. In addition to using data wherever we can to support our strategy and execution of our work tasks, we also strive to use data to help us reflect on how we are using our time, and our own performance.
This doesn't mean we obsess about finding the perfect formula for estimation and prediction; our founders' experience as actuaries means we know this is a thankless task in many circumstances. However, the act of collecting data and working out what's useful and what isn't is very valuable, even if the data itself may not be. We believe strongly in using data to anchor a conversation wherever possible, and to help us focus, plan, and manage our workload fairly across the team.
Are you comfortable measuring your own effort transparently, even if you find doing so hard or it doesn't look immediately useful? Do you thrive in a culture where we write down what we are planning to do, and reflect on what's working well, and what's not?
We are united by our passion for what we do
This is arguably the most important point. Building a high-growth business is inherently hard; add to that a very large, highly-regulated, historically traditional and conservative target client base, and it gets even harder! Our early success was achieved with a very small team, very little money and even less outside help. It's not possible to "ski uphill" in such circumstances unless your work regularly/mostly doesn't feel like work.
This manifests in several ways at hx - you will definitely see it directly in people's work (particularly in their understanding of, and prowess with, the cutting-edge in their fields), but also in side projects, meetups (attendance and presentation), hackathons, and the hx-special: esoteric non-work work chat (what Raspberry Pi and LED matrix setup should we use for our office door sign?!).
While we are glad to have broken free of some of our historic constraints, this blurring of the boundaries is something that has been a huge net positive for us, and produced relationships and experiences that we wouldn't change for anything. We know this isn't for everyone, but it's been a key part of our success, and hx will continue to invest heavily in supporting and fuelling this passion.
In the current environment, "big tech" companies offer a low-risk, high-pay career, with a relatively rigid career track and without the ownership or pressure of an early-stage business. What are the reasons you want to follow the high-growth path?