Stripe Theory: A Career Conversation with Laura Braun and Isys Caffey-Horne

What motivated you to join Stripe Theory?

IH: I started at Stripe Theory around four years ago and it was after about a decade at a leading PR firm where I had grown quite well. I joined Stripe because I wanted the opportunity to really test the abilities of solving marketing problems, not just through a PR lens but through a broader integrated marketing perspective. One of the things that I loved about Stripe is they were doing work that I hadn't done before. The communications half of my position I knew really well but the digital marketing side was brand new for me. I had the opportunity to gain a whole new skill set and really round out my expertise as not only a strategist, but also a leader.

LB: Throughout the interview process, I had insight into Stripe Theory’s values and culture. I was looking for a culture and a support system through company leadership that would teach me everything I could absorb and support me throughout that. Throughout the interview process, I saw that Stripe could give me all of that and more. As I work with Stripe now, I know all of that to be true, and I am incredibly grateful to be in such a supportive environment.

How does Stripe Theory convey a sense of belonging among employees?

IH: One thing I tell every employee who starts here is that there is not a single source of success here, we are all going to succeed or fail together.  We are working as a unit, which creates a strong sense of belonging. You're never on an island by yourself and you're not expected to know everything on your own. You are expected to partner with your team and there's always a level of collaboration no matter what we are working on. 

LB: I also agree. We all know we will win together and lose together. We work to create a culture that promotes natural and organic collaboration. We also focus on celebrating and supporting each member of our team individually. All of this together, creates an environment where we each feel we belong and have something special to bring to the table. Also, we just have a fantastic team that is so supportive of each other.

How does Stripe Theory support your professional development and growth.

LB: I remember being surprised during the interview process at how much they stressed I could learn anything at Stripe and mold my role to fit me. Since then, Stripe has poured into me so much and given me so many new opportunities. Professional development is one of the main priorities at Stripe. On the first day, the incoming team member sits down with Craig, our CEO, and discusses what they want out of their role here and what they envision for the future. All of the support staff and management work to meet those goals with the team members and re-evaluate those goals yearly, to find and reach any new passions they are working toward. We have our management system setup to support and plan out individual professional goals to create mutual growth between the team member and the company. Individuals can take their career in any direction they want to go, and Stripe is passionate about supporting that every step of the way.

IH: Looking at the Agency as a whole, our CEO was very focused on building a non traditional agency model. This greatly contributes to our professional development because you're not siloed. Our environment is made to ensure we do not have isolated teams. It's not like we have a PR team and a digital team and a communications team completely separated from one another. All of these teams are cross trained and work together, so on different accounts you do different things. I think that really allows for a lot of professional development. As a leadership team, we all very much believe that the first and most important part of our job is supporting our team in doing their job and where they want to grow in it. We always say you should never leave Stripe because you ran out of opportunities. We will always find a role as you grow.

How are you supported in maintaining a healthy work-life balance?

IH: I think Laura is literally part of the healthy work life balance in terms of creating culture, so we work hard, but we also play hard. When I say that, I mean we make sure that we have a fun and hands-on culture to contribute to and build a stronger team. For example, we had a quarterly outing a couple of weeks ago. We had an axe throwing event and we stopped everyone’s day at noon to go axe throwing. In addition, we are very honest with the team about allocations and bandwidth. Each month we're looking at where people spend their time and try to relocate to keep it as balanced as possible. I think the reality of comms and marketing is it's never going to be a traditional 9-5, but we really try to honor that with a lot of flexibility.

LB: First, we like to bring life to the office and into work itself. One of my main focuses is to ensure whenever our team comes into the office, they enjoy it. I don’t want it to be something that is dreaded or just part of the routine. We do something every single week to bring joy, connection, and fun into the office. For our team, we focus and strive to build on flexibility whether that is in the form of time for family needs or just having a flexible work schedule. As Isys said, this will probably not be a normal 9-5, but our leadership team really works to know bandwidth. They are focused on being proactive in balancing allocations.

How do you feel like you make an impact with the work that you do?

LB: One of my main goals coming out of college and moving into HR was basing everything I do on the fact that everyone is human.  My main mantra is that every single person has a life outside the office. They all go home, and they have families, partners, and even pets. Every single person has their own background and experiences that have shaped who they are. They walk through the door with their emotions and whatever is happening outside these doors. No matter how much our culture expects everyone to leave that at the door before they walk into work, they cannot. People are not working robots. I think coming in with that mindset has given me a lot of room to create a culture that is built around understanding. We want everyone to do their best at work, but first of all, they have a life and are human, and we know that. Mostly, we want to know that side of our team members, and we want to provide for that side of them. We work to create a culture that is creating a space for each person to know they are heard and cared for. Hopefully, that is making an impact on someone in the end.

IH: One of the things that we do is a quarterly culture survey. Our CEO is very adamant that we have a happy score: how happy are the employees. We always exceed our benchmark, but particularly in the notes Laura gets called out so much for creating that culture and helping always improve the happy score! For me, though, I focus on reputation management for our clients. I find an incredible amount of purpose and impact in the work the team and I have been able to help navigate for our clients. That work is really hard, but every time we take on a piece of work like that, it's incredibly humbling because it reminds me of the impact that communications and marketing can actually have on lives and livelihoods.

What makes you proud to represent Stripe Theory?

IH: We are authentic in who we are as a company in the sense that we truly put people first. There has never been a day when we have ever made a decision, whether for our clients or for our team, after which I went home and didn't feel good about it. I'm really proud of not only the work that we do--the work that we do is phenomenal-- but the fact that we are good people who treat our people well while doing good work.

LB: I know everyone can always depend on people here to care about them, and that's why I really love being a part of Stripe. There's never going to be a moment where if someone has a question, or if something's wrong, that someone's not going to step in and help take care of them, and listen to them.

How have you grown personally or professionally since working for Stripe Theory?

LB: I was so excited and opened myself up to learn anything and everything when I started at Stripe. Honestly, that's what I have been given. I have had exposure to so many different scenarios and throughout each one there was never a moment in which I was not supported. I constantly have the opportunity to learn and grow professionally and personally. In growing here, I know I am also always celebrated no matter how small the win.

IH: I was always comfortable building strategies and leading accounts. I have had the opportunity here to learn how to build a business and learn how to build a team, and so I feel like in four years I have grown so much as a leader. There's still so much space for me to continue to grow, but I think really making the pivot from being the key point to execute work to being the point that is encouraging, informing and supporting others has been a big shift.

What advice would you share with emerging professionals seeking their first opportunities?

IH: It's okay to be a real human and to bring yourself to work. I remember when I first started my job, I didn't talk to people and I was very heads down. One day my boss asked me if I liked working there. I was said yes, I just thought this is what adults did! I think we all have this idea of what adults do. I think in today's world it is very easy to get proficient at buzz words and keywords to sound like you know what you do. What happens is you set yourself up for a disservice, because people will have a baseline expectation that you then can't meet. Be honest about yourself so that your leaders can know how to help you when you join their team.

LB: I came out of college thinking that I needed to have every answer, and that I had to be perfect at my job. I thought everything I encountered I needed to have a handle on, and I would know exactly what to do. Surprisingly, that is not the case! Nobody always knows what to do, or always knows the answer, and that's okay and normal. I realized that if someone doesn’t know the answer and is honest about not knowing what to do, they can sit down with the team and get other opinions that they can learn from, and are able to apply in the future. I would also say, no matter what's going on, even if someone thinks they are failing at something, if they are going to miss a deadline or don't understand something just communicate! People are going to appreciate the communication and are more than likely happy to help support that person. It's all part of learning.

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