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Fostering a Creative Company Culture at Formlabs

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Jacki Morisi has been with Formlabs as their Workplace Experience and Operations Manager for three and a half years, where she helps to run both the existing and expanding new space, along with all company-wide events. The engineering company builds professional 3D printers and accessories, and is committed to developing cutting edge technology that expands access to digital fabrication. It’s a creative and inspiring place to work, and Jacki’s passion for people and culture has helped make it even more so. We spoke with her about what she brings to the company, and what Formlabs has given back to her in return.

What’s a typical day like for you as the Operations Manager? How does your work keep your company running smoothly and moving the mission forward?

As the Operations Manager, I am focused on making sure our ever-expanding three building campus is running smoothly, ensuring our employees have the resources to be productive at work. I am also responsible for managing and developing Formlabs’ company culture through catering, events, surprises, and so much more. I split my time between managing my incredible team, meeting with architects, contractors, and leadership, and putting out the inevitable fires that pop up throughout the work week.

The Ops team are often behind the scenes handling everything from keeping the lights on and stocking supplies, to coordinating our generous food and beverage program, to designing creative office installations that highlight our 3D printing technology. We also coordinate and host company events both big and small. All of these pieces are essential in enhancing the overall employee experience in an effort to make Formlabs an inspiring place to work.

With so many responsibilities, what strategies, skills, or tools do you use to streamline your workload?

Inevitably my day rarely goes as expected—the more you anticipate a Plan A, B, and C the better you set yourself up for success.

Over the past three years, I’ve become stronger at delegating, and learning that communication and setting clear expectations are key when you’re working with a big team while juggling several moving parts at once. Formlabs uses Slack to stay connected, Asana to track everything from recurring weekly tasks to larger multi-layer projects, and Managed by Q to find and order office services. Weekly syncs, project templates, and documentation keep our projects on track while making sure team members are aware of who is doing what.

Formlabs is constantly growing and changing, which means flexibility is another requirement. The template that worked for our last project, might not be ideal for the next. Knowing when to adapt to improve scalability is important to keep things efficient.

What is the company culture like at Formlabs, and how has it influenced your career?

The company culture at Formlabs is smart, creative, and quirky. People often ask me what’s the best part about working here, and there are two parts that always comes to mind: 

For one, it’s the people (aka Formlings). Formlings are passionate, interesting, incredibly talented, and all very different. Our people foster a culture where we can be creative and solve problems with out-of-the-box thinking. We have such a diverse mix of personalities within our organization across our 12 teams, all of whom are working together towards the same goal. Everyone is really hands on and cares so much—it’s amazing to be a part of. 

Our company events are where the unique backgrounds of Formlings can really shine. We have artists who sell their own handmade wares at our seasonal makers market, musicians who come together to provide music at our parties, and staff who take the stage for hours singing karaoke in our office lounge. Our events always include a lot of games and surprises to keep people engaged and excited whether they like drinking, socializing, being physically active... or not. There is always something for everyone.

The second part is the idea that anything is possible at Formlabs. 3D printing is still a relatively new industry—10 years ago you needed a lot of money, space, and technical skills to house and operate a 3D printer. Formlabs was the first company to make the technology accessible to many professionals by offering an affordable price point, with an easy to use operating system and in a desktop size. What seemed impossible, now exists. I think this same sentiment extends to our culture where anything is possible—you just have to figure it out.

For example, at our annual Hackathon, Formlings are encouraged to pitch and accomplish a project across two days. We had just opened our Sales and Support office, and the walls needed some artwork. With the Hackathon happening right before our opening, I had a grandiose idea to build a massive 3D printed wall display. To my surprise, I immediately had 10+ colleagues wanting to join my team and bring this idea to life.

In 48 hours our group came together and designed an Escher-like tessellation inspired by our wireframe butterfly logo, printed thousands of said butterflies, finished, washed, painted, assembled, and installed what is still one of my favorite displays in the office. There was a silver butterfly thoughtfully included for everyone who worked on it—lending their individual expertise to make this happen in an insanely short window of time. It truly was amazing. 

The culture here had an incredible influence on my career. Having so many talented people around me has not only made my work stronger, it’s given me the opportunity to do things I couldn't imagine.

What is your favorite project or company event that you’ve worked on so far? Why was it important?

For events, thats easy. Camp Formlabs. Camp Formlabs is an annual event we host every year and was the first project I worked on here. I joined in August of 2016, and was given two weeks to organize that year’s summer camp. All I had to work with was a venue (that had already been booked) and a lean budget. Events was my life before Formlabs, so it was right in my wheelhouse. But being introduced to a company, and being tasked with planning an amazing weekend for 200+ people I’d never met was intimidating. I did what I always do—got to work.

When tasked with a big project and a tiny budget, being resourceful is key. I used the challenge as an opportunity to meet people and leverage my new community to help put together an amazing retreat. That included coordinating a team of employees to volunteer in the camp kitchens for meals (to subsidize our food costs), engaging employees who had an interest in organizing activities to inform, and lead, various parts of the weekend itinerary (like a soccer game, Formlabs olympics, slip & slide, etc.), and working with my creative colleagues to come up with some fun concepts around signage and swag.

It was really rewarding when an engineering lead approached me and told me it was the most organized event he’d seen hosted at the company yet. And I couldn’t be more proud of what that weekend has become now, four years later. With over 400 attendees, the weekend has grown with us. Now at a bigger venue, with even more activities throughout the weekend, and dedicated programming for our employees who have families.

If you were to give a piece of advice to other workplace professionals and operations teams, especially those just starting out, what would it be?

In Operations, you wear a lot of hats. That doesn’t mean you need to be an expert in everything. But being resourceful will help you be successful and stay sane. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know, and leverage your community and those in your network to help get the answers you need—or connect you with the people who can help.

Advocate for yourself and what you need. It may seem obvious to you that this is not a one person job, but your boss may not realize that. If your organization is asking for things you want to take on but simply don’t have bandwidth for, think strategically about what you can delegate to someone else—and what that would mean for your own output moving forward. 

Is there anything we missed that you’d like to share? Tell us!

When planning events, the actual event planning is only a part of the role. The other is selling those events. You have to market the event you are trying to sell, and get people to show up and have a great time. It’s the same when building a community at work—if you don’t tell people what’s happening, and get them excited about being there, they may not show up. 

The creativity, organization, and hustle of event planning at Formlabs is similar to working in a restaurant. The hard and soft skills that play into events are transferable in many professional settings. Being flexible, having strong creative problem solving skills, and not getting flustered when things don’t go as planned are bonuses from running events that can help you in any career.

Photos provided by Formlabs.

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