Building Better Leaders at Alation

By Joy Wolken

Published on July 5, 2022

Multiple chalk-drawn arrows on a chalkboard pointing up

If you’re unfamiliar with our mission at Alation, it’s to empower a curious and rational world. Curiosity creates a thirst for knowledge. Knowledge needs information and data. Rationality forces people to understand the data, seek out the best data for their needs, and make sure that data is appropriately used. Alation solutions bring people and data together to quench that curious thirst for knowledge but to do so rationally.

That mission requires more effort than just our co-founders Satyen and Aaron can provide, however. We’re now a global team of more than 600 Alationauts all working together to reach our goals and delight our customers. But organizational growth requires ongoing personal growth for those who power the organization. So we strive to live that mission of empowering a curious and rational world within our own ranks, too, which we’ve codified in our company values:

  • We move the ball by taking steps today to build the future we’re seeking.

  • We build for the long term to fulfill our bold, ambitious mission.

  • We listen like we’re wrong because that’s when data is the most valuable.

  • We measure through customer impact instead of by the benefits received by the company.

We all live those values because we believe it’s the best way to drive company growth in a sustainable way. We also expect our colleagues to live them, too. Executives, managers, individual contributors — everyone.

But, as we continue to grow, we need more leaders throughout the company to promote and model these values in a way that’s consistent with our values. Enter the new Alation Leadership Behaviors.

Alation Leadership Behaviors

Everyone at Alation benefits from clear leadership principles. We’re all responsible for reaching our goals. They reflect our culture and values and ensure we all know what’s expected of us and our leaders. As Alation continues to grow and scale, we want to solidify the values that got us here, which will drive our next phase of growth.

These are the Alation Leadership Behaviors, with additional context from our co-founders, Satyen and Aaron, provided at a recent companywide meeting:

Alation Leadership Behaviors slide deck with 4 of our values listed

We’ll win together when you…

Put the company first.

We need aggressive, proactive people working together at Alation so we can reach our goals. Sometimes, however, people are more driven by their own aspirations and next career move rather than making the best decisions for the company. Alation wants leaders who can lead the company forward, not just their resumes.

Practice empathetic accountability.

Every company is a team of teams. For the overall company to win, teams must win individually and together. Leaders must hold themselves and their team accountable for results and sometimes may need to manage someone out of the team. Through it all, Alation leaders should be human and show they care.

Give and get constructive candor.

This behavior originated as “be kind,” but that sometimes keeps people from doing difficult things. Good leaders give (and receive) feedback that’s hard to hear, for example, but they do it with honesty, humanity, and compassion.

Align, inspire, and empower.

Leaders can rally teams around seemingly impossible goals or unclear routes by convincing them the direction is worth the effort. But it’s up to the individuals to get there the best way they know how. Leaders at Alation provide the context so everyone can be the best they can be.

Being an Alationaut Leader

So why are these new principles needed? Alation is made up of many teams and subteams, all working together to drive company growth aligned with the values mentioned above. But every team needs a leader and a playbook by which to lead and execute. They must do a good job of leading so we’re all working together.

Plus, anyone at Alation can be a leader, not just those who manage people. Individual contributors may lead specific projects, temporary teams, or outside vendors. They may also have specialized knowledge that makes them a natural go-to resource to others. They may have career aspirations that involve a leadership role, or simply want to be a leader within their team. They might just want to know what to expect from their direct leader and the company’s leadership team.

We are hiring aggressively at Alation. If you’re looking, check out the dozens and dozens of current openings. Then, drop us a line.

Turning Values Into Wins

We have an incredible opportunity in front of us at Alation, but we need to act as a team of teams to take advantage of it. We’re collectively moving the ball because our leaders hold us accountable. We’re building for the long term and measuring success through customer impact because our leaders put the company first. We’re listening like we’re wrong by giving and receiving constructive candor.

Putting these leadership behaviors in a handbook might invite incremental improvements. Promoting them internally may improve leadership capabilities in pockets across the organization. Publicizing them for you, our customers, partners, competitors, and others, to read and understand engrain them in our company persona. We are our values. We live our values. They make us better people and a better organization. And we want everyone to know because they also make us a better vendor, a better partner, and a faster, more agile competitor.

They also make us a great place to work! Inc. also rated Alation a Best Workplace three times. We’re being completely honest and transparent with our values and expectations because that’s a lot easier than recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a new employee, only for them to onboard… and realize it’s not a good fit. We want to attract those who put high expectations on themselves, their leaders, and their employers.

Did I mention that we’re hiring? (Sorry, occupational hazard for a Chief People Officer.)

  • Alation Leadership Behaviors
  • Being an Alationaut Leader
  • Turning Values Into Wins
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