eVestment hosts a popular and casual weekly lunch for employees in Marietta.
Photo: DAVID TULIS / AJC SPECIAL
Photo: DAVID TULIS / AJC SPECIAL

Collegial, casual and collaborative culture works wonders for Marietta's eVestment

On a recent unseasonably mild weekday that interrupted a teeth-chattering southern winter, scattered pairs of shorts and flip-flops were evident in the Marietta building.

This was no college dormitory or surf shop, but a worksite. Not just any worksite, but headquarters for a company with a global reach and $62.5 million in revenue last year, its aim set on the one-billion mark.

The casual apparel that extends to executives (one clad in a T-shirt, another in untucked shirt and jeans) belies the chop-chop work pace at eVestment, which develops cloud-based solutions for institutional investors. In function, it might sit on the fence that separates the buttoned-up financial and the more laid-back technology territories. But, in appearance, its feet are firmly planted on the tech side.

Top Workplaces in Atlanta 2016

A lenient dress code is one of many liberties extended to 197 local employees at eVestment. With a work environment that the motivated find inviting and a variety of welcome benefits and perks, eVestment emerged as the winner in the AJC’s Top Workplaces division for medium-sized entrants.

Instead of dress for success, it’s essentially come as you please. In fact, it can be come when you please should you have a personal matter to deal with and are caught up.

“A lot of ownership is put on you as an individual,” said corporate sales specialist Alex Trogstad, who views the atmosphere as so collegial that he relates it to “a family-and-friends business.”

“When you’re working with friends, you push each other to work harder.”

If the old saw about co-workers spending more time with each other than family is usually an exaggeration, it has a ring of truth at eVestment.

There are enough team-building events, departmental and company-wide, outside of the office to fill a calendar. Employees assemble for sports, both spectator (Braves and Hawks games) and participant (bowling, rafting and golf outings), along with chili cook-offs and barbecues.

Some lunch hours are occupied by soccer games and jogs, plus pick-up basketball at one of two nearby gymnasiums for which the company takes care of membership tabs.

“A lot of people are very competitive by nature,” said Trogstad. So, instead of vying against one another at work, they tend to collaborate and scratch their competitive itch away from it.

For those so inclined while on the clock, there are structured contests, one borrowed from the TV reality show world. “Shark Tank” style, groups spend weeks creating or improving a product, and judges choose finalists before a vote by colleagues determines a champion. Teammates share in the profits if the product rollout is successful.

“Hackathons” are similar, shorter-term efforts that usually involve crews from IT or product development. Prizes are gift cards.

In a way, employees are expected to compete against their own sense of restraint, of a natural timidness that deters them from decisive and bold thinking.

To emphasize the point, executives handed out blue poker chips bearing the company logo. They are a reminder to employees to “place a bet” by following instinct and make decisions.

Of the few walled-off offices, many are due to be torn down, further fashioning a sense of openness that encourages departments to interact with each other.

“You can be involved in multiple facets of the organization,” Trogstad said. “You can be a resource to others or not.”

The design also signifies a relative lack of hierarchy and structure. New hires often are brought in for their talents as much as filling a job description, and workers commonly bounce to other roles.

“If you are a self-starter, there are no limits to the impact you can have,” said Michael Magnan from product strategy/development.

Those who are sociable tend to thrive. Some tend to a community garden out back. Others shoot hoops on a portable goal. Few ignore the conviviality (and cost) of the weekly free lunch in the large meeting area.

Katie Jones was stationed in the London office when she became enamored of the vibe from annual visits to the year-end meeting and party. She left her homeland to accept a transfer to client services and has never looked back.

“Everybody is passionate about their roles,” said Jones, who is eager to plant tomatoes when winter’s grip finally is released. “It’s kind of contagious.”

The company, which has long offered benefits both routine (fully matched 401K) and unusual (pet insurance), recently introduced the grandaddy of them all: unlimited personal time off.

“At first, I thought it was a trick,” said Elizabeth Callen from data services.

Though the policy is appreciated, “It sounds sexier than it actually is,” Magnan said. “It’s more a gesture of the leadership saying, ‘We trust you.’ “

It will provide Hesom Parhizkar flexibility after the birth of twins. But the vice president of the technology group will not lay low for long stretches.

Parhizkar would miss the Fridays when his group seeks any reason for a celebratory get-together.

“Hey, this person coded something great,” he said, providing an example. “Let’s have a picnic again.”

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