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Creating culture with care: Mark Frein on joining Oyster as Chief People Officer

Introducing our new Chief People Officer.
November 23, 2021
Mark Frein
Creating culture with care: Mark Frein on joining Oyster as Chief People Officer

Being a great distributed workplace is, first and foremost, about being a great workplace. Good work remains good work, regardless of place or placelessness. 

As a knowledge economy worker, I’ve been extremely fortunate to live during a time and in places that grant considerable privilege around what work is and can be. However, many people in this world do not have that privilege and it is oftentimes a question of where they happen to have been born, as opposed to potential or talent. Oyster is changing that. 

With a mission to create a more equal world by making it possible for companies everywhere to hire people anywhere, what I can see in Oyster’s impact is a company that can help raise the standard of workplaces everywhere. 

That’s why I’m proud to announce that I have joined Oyster as its first Chief People Officer.

Connecting through common experience

I’ve spent the last decade working in venture-backed startups and building out their people teams. What I’ve learned is that, when a company is growing extremely rapidly, it is crucial to nail the rituals and practices for how members of the workplace share a common experience—rituals such as how we hire, celebrate victories, learn from defeats, grow as leaders, and reward performance. 

All of those rituals support (or fail to support) a shared experience and this shared experience is what produces culture.

During the 15 years I’ve been working apart from physical teams, I’ve had the privilege of helping to establish some foundational workplace rituals at other companies.

Particularly, I’m proud of my work at InVision and how seriously we took designing elements of our remote employee experience. Elsewhere, at Lambda School, we took on the challenge of planning a remote company retreat. It was an enormous amount of work, but demonstrated to me that you can create a fantastic retreat experience without being co-located.

Practicing depth of connection and building relationships at a distance takes more effort, but on the other side you get the freedom and flexibility of distributed work. 

Building culture at Oyster

Before joining Oyster as Chief People Officer, one thing I emphasized to the leadership team here was how much I wanted my next opportunity to be at a place where I could bring a lot of who I am. Where I could be more than my resume. 

What I’ve noticed is that when people come to the workplace feeling that they must contort and shape themselves to appeal to others, it is incredibly fatiguing. 

Thankfully, I discovered early on that Tony and other members of the team want Oyster to be the kind of place that welcomes philosophizing, that welcomes playfulness, that welcomes thinking about distributed work in new and interesting ways.

That’s also the way I like to think about organizational cultures. Can we be a company that allows you and encourages you to bring as much of yourself as you’re comfortable bringing?

As Oyster continues to grow, one area of focus for me will be designing the structures, employee experiences, and organizational practices that build these valuable connections and foster a robust workplace culture. 

Culture will always be something that bubbles up from all across the organization—it’s fundamentally uncontrollable. But it can be shaped by demonstrating care in the design of these shared practices and rituals.

About Oyster

Oyster is a distributed HR platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches or the expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

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