Our Mission, Our Principles, and Our Values
At Oxide, our mission, principles, and values are not mere corporate bromides; they comprise the emotional, moral, ethical, and spiritual core of our company – they are the soul of Oxide. For more details on why we think it’s important to be explicit about our mission, our principles, and our values (and why the distinctions between them matter), please see the 2017 Monktoberfest talk on Principles of Technology Leadership.
Kick butt, have fun, don’t cheat, love our customers, change computing forever
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s essentially Scott McNealy’s coda for Sun Microsystems. But we use this mission not because it happens to have been Sun’s but because it is ours: it is a concise expression of why we’re here and how we operate. Taking it apart:
Kick butt: We believe in working hard to deliver a kick-butt product, experience and company. We are by nature a competitive company, but we compete by offering a better alternative, not by denigrating or otherwise undercutting the competition.
Have fun: We believe that work is most fulfilling when it is fun – and that a good sense of humor is essential for humility in the good times and endurance in the lean ones.
Don’t cheat: We believe in playing by the rules of the game, abiding by both their letter and their spirit. If we don’t like the rules, we work openly and collaboratively to improve them.
Love our customers: We recognize that our customers take a risk on us, and we love them for it. We work to deliver products that they will love in turn – and if and when our products fall short, our love for our customers trumps our own ego.
Change computing forever: Computing is our shared passion; our calling is to advance the state of the art, bringing those advances to the broadest possible audience.
Principles are fundamental, universal truths that transcend time, geography, culture and context. These principles are not aspirations, they are constraints; we expect them to be the marrow of all Oxide employees and adhered to under all conditions.
Integrity. Principles are meaningless without the integrity to uphold them; we view our integrity as our single most important principle. We do not sacrifice our principles for expediency or comfort.
Honesty. We seek and tell the truth, even where those truths are painful or inconvenient. We abide by the spirit of the truth, not merely its letter; we do not hide falsehoods in language that is technically true or otherwise misleading.
Decency. We treat others with dignity, be they colleague, customer, community or competitor.
Unlike principles, values indicate relative importance: they are objectives rather than constraints, and can come into tension with one another. Indeed, many of these values can become pathological when taken to an illogical extreme; absolute adherence to a particular value should never trump prudence. Moreover, values are not universal: while we would hope that every company would share our principles, we know that not every company will share all of our values – but they are the bedrock of Oxide.
To ensure these values are explicitly considered and internalized, we take an unusual step: we ask Oxide employees to commit these values to memory. To some this might seem outlandish or fusty, but we believe that it serves to emphasize our values – and allows us to turn to them quickly in the course of building our company together.
In part to facilitate their internalization, and in part to make clear that there is no hierarchy or ordering among them, we present these values in alphabetical order.
Candor. We believe in being forthright, even when that’s difficult. We avoid euphemism or otherwise cloaking our opinions or experience. We respect those who speak candidly, even if we disagree with what they are saying.
Courage. We are bold, willing to do things even if they are unconventional, difficult, scary, or otherwise unproven. We are not, however, foolhardy: where we are contrarian, it comes not from mere desire to take a less travelled path, but from a deep and well-informed conviction.
Curiosity. We are lifetime learners, unafraid of learning something new – be it an intimidating new technology, a perplexing system behavior, or a novel customer use case.
Diversity. We believe the best results come from combining different perspectives and uniting them with shared values and mission. We believe in and encourage diversity on any axis that remains consistent with our mission, principles and values.
Empathy. Engineers serve to deliver utility to others; to do this effectively, we must be able to see the world through the eyes of others. Empathy doesn’t merely inform our engineering, it guides our interactions with our colleagues, communities and customers: we treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated.
Humor. While we are engaged in serious business, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We enjoy the company of our colleagues, and cannot imagine a day without laughing – even if occasionally with our mouths full.
Optimism. While we are in the business of figuring out why things will fail, we nonetheless retain a deep and fundamental belief that better things are possible.
Resilience. We believe in the words of the late mathematician Piet Hein: “problems worthy of attack prove their worth by fighting back.” We persist even when problems are fighting back, pushing through the disappointment and setbacks endemic to our chosen domain.
Responsibility. We feel a duty to things larger than ourselves. We don’t merely fulfill our obligations, but actively seek ways we can help. We balance our professional responsibilities with our personal and familial ones, and we honor those who do the same.
Rigor. Computing systems must be correct above all else, and we must be disciplined and thorough in our approach. We insist on getting at the root of things, and are unsatisfied to merely address their symptoms.
Teamwork. We are intensely team-oriented people: we draw strength and inspiration from the terrific people we are blessed to work with. We like to collaborate, and believe that our best work comes when we work not merely together but for one another.
Thriftiness. We believe in spending wisely, seeking to make our finite resources last as long as possible, while still making the necessary investment to achieve our mission. Our shared thriftiness allows us to empower ourselves to make the right spending decisions.
Transparency. We believe that secrets are often corrosive – and that we work most effectively when we are aware of broader context. We err on the side of transparency and communication: every Oxide employee should feel that there is a standing invitation to any meeting. At the same time, we are respectful of privacy: personnel issues should remain private.
Urgency. We have finite resources and limited time with which to achieve our mission; we must be focused in our approach, however immense the task at hand. Urgency should not be conflated with pace; it is important to move deliberately rather than hastily.
Versatility. While we must naturally specialize, our bold mission also demands that any of us may need to apply ourselves in a new domain – and indeed, that much of us will be doing this much of the time.