Avalara – Seattle, WA
• Develop product positioning and messaging that differentiates the products in the market. Translate product features and functionality into crisp… Avalara
I have been working at Avalara full-time (More than 3 years)
If you live on or near Bainbridge Island (non-ferry rider), this is by far the hottest technology company for miles (excluding Seattle and points east). Their solution is still fairly unique, the technology sound and they spend quite a bit of time improving their software based on client/partner input. Their aforementioned partners are vast - almost 400 ranging from ERP's, eCommerce platforms, POS systems, etc.- and the company has done a fantastic job of including themselves into as many sales opportunities as possible. If you accept a sales job here and are lucky enough to receive some good partners, your sales will be through the roof (rare). If you get stuck with many of the un-certified, lesser partners, it will be an upward climb to even sniff your targets (common). The people are generally amiable, save any form of management (more on that below) and the culture tries hard to be cool and hip. While there is a wide range of ages in seemingly the same position, everyone gets along well and there doesn't seem to be much animosity one way or the other.
While I understand the CEO's determination in keeping the "island culture" of Bainbridge, this company is getting too big too fast for them to keep trying to under pay and think that there is equal talent on their side of the sound. If you're not familiar with the geographic layout of their main offices, it is located on Bainbridge Island - a 35 minute ferry ride west of Seattle. Now while the idea of taking a ferry to work may sound appealing, I can assure you the novelty wears off quite quickly after realizing it just adds 35 minutes to your already 20-50 minute bus ride. And this is commuting from inside Seattle proper, add 30-60 minutes to that if you're coming from points east. So if being underpaid for a two or three hour commute sounds fun, this is the place for you. The only ones who do it happily are the few managers who are getting paid much too handsomely to complain. As I alluded to above, there is quite a discord between normal employees and the managers at Avalara. Never before have I seen such a blatant elitism that tends to permeate from almost all senior management. This is quite a contrast from the gregarious, outgoing nature of our CEO so it's quite puzzling, to say the least. They preach "open-door policy" but are rarely inviting, so much so that they barely know who's working for them! It's truly top heavy. Lastly, the nepotism here is rampant and probably has something to do with the stagnant wages they've been getting away with for years. If you're pooling from an area where people are reluctant to do the reverse commute (as I mentioned above), it's no small wonder you can pay as low as they do and still thrive. Top it off by hiring as many siblings, friends and neighbors as possible and you start getting into a complicated work environment. Naturally, there is preferential treatment to those of which who get the job based more on relationship rather than merit. The issue of exhausting the island pipeline for employees is also changing - it is getting much more difficult to find qualified marketing managers from Bainbrige, that are willing to work for 15-20% under fair market value. This is apparent in their new hiring techniques, which are to dupe candidates into thinking their role is based in Seattle when only about 10% of the workforce have offices there.
Advice to Management
Open your eyes to the idea of expanding to Seattle. It's absurd to fight an inevitable decline in talent just to say your offices are headquarted on a cute little island (it's not, really), "just a quick ferry ride from Seattle!" This is nonsense. Add to it the fact that you're underpaying your employees and expecting them to be happy is asinine. Senior management really needs to take a look in the mirror. How well do you really know everyone on your team? Is your door really always open? Rid yourselves of the ego and be truly more inviting. Everyone I talked to agrees that the social and professional gap between marketing mangers and upper management is vast. You're all big fishes in a little pond and a honest self evaluation would go a long way.