Coming from other consulting organizations (large and small) as well as a Fortune 50 financial institution, I had formed an impression of a “corporate culture” full of holiday parties, quarterly meetings, and the occasional team celebrations. This was my assumption as I didn’t know any better at the time. Then, as I discussed a career opportunity at SEI, I realized that there truly is so much more to a culture (and maintaining a culture) than I had thought previously. Through the gauntlet process (multiple rounds of interviews with other SEI consultants) and my tenure now as an SEI-er, I have gained a new perspective on corporate culture that goes much deeper than my original impression.
As I mentioned above, prospective candidates are put through a gauntlet of interviews with local SEI consultants to determine if they are the right fit for SEI. By meeting with potential future colleagues, the candidates gain in-person perspectives on whether or not SEI is the right place for them by hearing from those on the ground living it every day. Depending on the candidate, some selling may be involved, but understanding motivations, professional experiences, and cultural fit really support the decision-making process. We like to call it “guarding the gate,” and SEI does this effectively by including its consultants in this process. This was my first taste of what it takes to truly maintain a culture by only hiring exceptional consultants who understand and live our core values.
I heard about the team building activities during the gauntlet, but once I joined SEI, I realized how much each local office makes these interactions a priority to maintain the culture. The regular staff meetings (generally bi-weekly and often in-person) are transparent, candid, and usually have a social component to them. On top of this, SEI-ers will organize one-off extracurricular activities that build camaraderie and help to strengthen the culture. What I have found in my time at SEI is that we all actually get along and enjoy spending time with one another outside of work. As an example of this, some of the Phoenix consultants participated in a race, and several other SEI-ers who didn’t even run the race were waiting for the finishers with celebratory drinks in hand. They literally took time out of their busy weekends to be with their co-workers. I had never seen this type of commitment before, and it once again reinforced why SEI hits the mark on culture.
Plenty of companies say they collaborate well amongst their employees, but there are often siloes and even invisible barriers created within teams to stymie collaboration. Whether it’s related to experts not wanting to share knowledge or a perceived lack of a forum to collaborate, companies often make poor decisions or take too long to make decisions that greatly impact the business. At SEI, collaboration is simple and straightforward. It has always been a part of our core values, and we live it every day through the tools we use and the collective value we bring to our clients by tapping into our national network of consultants with broad, yet deep backgrounds.
Oh How Perspectives Change
What I’ve really come to understand about culture in my time at SEI is that culture is difficult to maintain and each SEI-er is required to put in plenty of effort. This may seem daunting, but you quickly find that you’re willing to fight for it when you see and feel all of the gains a great culture can bring. Through SEI’s practices around hiring, team-building, and collaboration, it seems as though we have found the right recipe for sustaining the corporate culture we all cherish.