That time when I realised it’s time for the rise of the individual

At Shazam we want people to come to work as themselves. That means in terms of how you look, how you speak, how you think and however you want to put yourself forward. Personalities are not only welcomed with open arms here, they are positively encouraged.

If you want to dress up? Do it. If you want to dress down? Do it. If you want to come up with a quirky way of getting your point across in meetings? Do it.

If we think you are brilliant enough to come and work on whatever it is we have hired you for, that’s all that really matters to us. Whether physically or spiritually, bring your own vibe, bring your own voice and don’t be afraid to use it.

Whilst I fully respect that companies want to keep a certain standard in appearances, I firmly believe that when you let people come to work as themselves and be themselves, that’s when the magic truly happens. I know from my own experiences that being able to approach my working life as myself has been a huge factor in how much I love my job and how much time and energy I choose to give to it (which is a lot!). When you are pretending to be someone else all day, you can’t wait to ‘clock off’, now the opposite is true.

Give people a little more freedom along the way and they generally work out what the appropriate vibe for each scenario is for themselves, without being told. Think also of the child that’s never allowed to explore their independence growing up, when you try to control people and then let them ‘off the leash’ you are far more likely to see a much more extreme difference and a bigger reaction – we’ve all seen people go off the rails at university when they get their first taste of freedom.

The start up world is different, and that’s why I’ve found a home here. I am able to speak like me, think like me, dress like me and act like me. The real me is smart and commercial, but also incredibly silly – I like to laugh at the same time as getting a kick out of doing great work. The real me likes to dress up one day, down the next (hair up one day, down the next haha). By allowing my wings to unfurl, Shazam have provided me with an environment where I can truly thrive, my work and my output for the business stand as testimony for this. I’d like to see this approach extend beyond the start up arena to more areas of the working world next. It’s time for the rise of the individual.

Aside from the incredible technology and innovation that the start up world is creating, one of the most important and incredibly beautiful things that a large portion of our sector has given rise to, is a growing number of companies that greet people without judgement. We don’t care what you look like or how you choose to dress, we only care how clever you are and how successful you are going to be in the job that you have applied for. Put simply: you are judged on your actual merits and ability to do the role – revolutionary stuff huh ;)?

Sure, there might have been sectors before where people have been able to ‘dress’ however they feel, fashion for example, but I can tell you from my experience in hiring for those companies, the way people are assessed for their suitability there is often loaded with judgement. Are you cool enough? Are you this enough? Are you too much of that?

Working at Shazam has made me realise that I’ve never worked in this kind of ‘all embracing’ environment before. Much of my career has actually been with companies that do the opposite, with every little slice of individuality I expressed being challenged. That happened from the year I got my first office job, at age 17, where I quickly towed the line and attempted to morph myself into what I thought the rest of the world needed me to be, shrinking my personality to match.

And that was a shame. Human beings are wonderful creatures. Each of us is completely individual and unique. Perfectly imperfect. I only learnt to embrace who I really am in my 30s, and now I’m fiercely proud of that. But I’d like to see people feel able to embrace their sense of self sooner, rather than have their creative expression bashed out of them and attempting to fight to bring it back later, and more companies and sectors supporting that freedom.

When I look around our offices, one of the things that strikes me even more than just how different everyone is, is that no one else here seems to notice – and that’s perhaps the most special thing of all.

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