Credit Karma was built on an idea that doing the right thing and helping the consumer was the smart business choice. Working in the credit industry many years ago gave me first hand insight into the real impact credit reporting had over the lives of everyday Americans and the need for greater transparency and access to this information. Addressing this need led to Credit Karma, and this sense of shared mission in our company created a fun-loving work environment built on feeling connected and making a difference.

As our company has grown to 350 employees, staying focused on our founding values and culture has taken work. Making this transition successfully has meant clearly articulating the values that make us a better company, both for today and the future.

The best way to do this has been by trying to operate as a start-up at scale. The following four beliefs have helped us do this and in the process hold onto our founding spirit and mission.

Prioritize empathy

In our early years in operation, our drive and mission helped birth a unique workplace culture where people genuinely liked the people they worked alongside. As we've grown from a few dozen people to 350 in three years, maintaining this shared empathy has been a focus point for us. We've worked hard on our hiring, prioritizing team players and hard workers above difficult geniuses. We've encouraged people to learn about what their coworkers do and to stop and chat when they spot someone in the halls they don't recognize. And it goes without saying that even with over 40 million members, every member should still be treated with care and urgency. I believe that by stepping into the shoes of our coworkers and members, we can learn from their strengths, better address their needs and all become stronger as a result.

Communicate efficiently

People need to constantly work to share only what matters, knowing when it's appropriate to surface information to another coworker or superior and when it makes more sense to take the lead and get it done themselves. Information can empower someone to do their job well, or it can weigh them down with needless detail. Getting this right means truly listening to others and understanding their position before presenting them with information they might need. In a large company, when communication is done right you often don't notice the amount of thought that has gone into creating a system that feels seamless. At Credit Karma this effort has taken many different forms, from constantly adjusting the format and frequency of our management meetings depending on the demands of growth, to putting initiatives in place to reduce the amount of pointless meetings, or incorporating Slack into the company workflow to reduce reliance on email. It's been a many-sided balancing act.

Challenge the status quo

Credit Karma wouldn't be the company it is today if we didn't push the envelope. When we began offering free credit scores in 2007, virtually no one wanted to partner with us, let alone thought we would survive eight years and attract 40 million members. In 2015 credit reporting data is infinitely more accessible to the average consumer at no cost. However, just because that one problem has been addressed doesn't mean we can relax. As we continue to expand our product past our initial offering of free credit scores and reports, every project we undertake should still address a pain point, reducing friction in consumer finance or offering a better solution than what's currently on the market. Similarly we need to be vigilant internally in not letting our processes get stale as the company grows. We encourage people at Credit Karma to always challenge basic operating processes, even at our current scale, and want everybody to always be wary of entrenched traditions that have lost their usefulness.

Act quickly

As a company, none of your values matter if no one is acting on them. In a small startup everyone is jumping in and doing a bit of everything. In a larger company, a certain malaise can set in if you're not careful, where people see things that could be fixed or improved but think it's someone else's job and don't say or do anything about it. At Credit Karma we are always looking to move fast and bring our members more than they expect, whether this means organizing our engineering department around small product teams that can ship quickly and iterate fast, or empowering everyone at Credit Karma, technical or otherwise, with a sense of ownership over the product.

Published on: Aug 11, 2015
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