May 21, 2015

At MailChimp HQ, Happiness is Serious Business

“Hi, my name is Ashley Wilson, and I’m the employee happiness ambassador here at MailChimp.”

It feels a little silly every time, but that’s how I introduce myself to new hires while giving them the tour of our office. We’re growing fast, which means that I lead this tour around our fancy new digs every 2 weeks or so.

Understandably, some people have questions about my job, including "Really?" and "Did you go to school for that?" and "What does that even mean?" The answers to those first two are "yep" and "nope." As for the third, let me explain.

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The path to happiness

I joined MailChimp about 6 years ago. Like most folks here, I know my exact hire date (July 13, 2009!) and employee number (#22!). I started out in tech support, back when there were only 5 other people on the support team. Now, we have 165 people in support with 90 agents taking chats, and an overnight crew of 43.

I officially became our Employee Happiness Ambassador in early 2014. There are a few aspects to that "happiness," though—namely connecting, engaging, and empowering the people who work here in a culture of learning and discovery. By encouraging that culture, we ensure that MailChimp employees are better equipped to figure out happiness for themselves. Of course, my job also involves ordering cakes, planning our annual holiday party, making sure we have an inflatable turkey for Thanksgiving, organizing employee socials (including podcast listening parties), and acquiring donuts and bagels for our Friday morning Coffee Hours.

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The best part of waking up

Planning those Coffee Hours is maybe my favorite thing I get to do. They started way back when we could all fit into a single conference room. We’d talk about anything and everything that was happening in that given week (though it would somehow always end up on the topic of who would win in a zombies vs. werewolves fight).

These days, not only do we have more intense coffee habits, but we’ve also started mixing up the format. Sometimes we do company updates where people from all different teams talk about what they’re working on. But we also bring in creative and thought-provoking speakers, from journalists to designers, chefs to brewers, videogame composers to billiards legends. Last year our hometown hero Clark Howard came in and talked money, 401(k)s, and best deals on cars. Recently, the mayor even dropped by.

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Atlanta’s got something to say

One really rewarding part of my job is getting our chimps out of the office, getting our hands dirty, and contributing to our community. To show just how much #WeLoveATL, we co-sponsored and built 2 houses with Team Clark Howard and Habitat for Humanity. I loved watching more than 80 of my coworkers wake up early on cold Saturday mornings to swing hammers, use power tools, and lay sod. This was our first year helping Habitat for Humanity, but it won’t be our last. We now give employees 16 hours of time off to use to volunteer for organizations they’re passionate about instead of having to tap into their vacation days.

We love Atlanta, and Atlanta loves a good festival. Last October we passed out 10 thousand foam hands during the city’s annual Pride Parade, and a few weeks ago a group of us walked in the Inman Park Parade with a giant Butterfly Freddie made by Raymond Carr of Ninja Puppet Productions (another awesome Atlantan, and a Coffee Hour alumnus). This time we just passed out smiles, but it’s not hard to make other folks happy when you’re happy, too.

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Serious fun

Like I said, sometimes I feel a little silly introducing myself as "MailChimp’s employee happiness ambassador.” But I take my job seriously, because I know it’s about way more than fun and games. Making opportunities for everyone here at MailChimp to cut loose, feel appreciated, and use their talents to help make Atlanta great is just another way we invest in people. Happy chimps do better work, which makes for a better MailChimp—which helps customers like you do better work, too.

But sorry, you’ll have to get your own donuts.