Main illustration: Jason Yim
Back in 2018, we realized we needed to scale the APAC team to meet Intercom’s rapid growth. And thus, the Sydney office was born. Now, we hear from the Aussie team to learn how the journey has been.
World-class customer support comes first. That has always been our priority. This means that, for the past few years, we’ve been working to staff teams across multiple time zones to make sure all of our customers have the help they need when they need it, no matter where they live. And so, naturally, we’ve slowly started building a remote team across the Pacific.
In 2018, it became clear we needed to scale, and fast – our APAC customer base had increased more than 900%, and about 10 to 12% of the company’s revenue was already there. We decided to open our fifth office in Surry Hills, Sydney, over 7000 miles away from our headquarters in San Francisco.
Moving a remote team into an office and scaling that team while staying connected with colleagues in Europe and the USA brought its own unique set of challenges, and yet, three years later, our Harbour City office is flourishing. In this episode, we go on a tour to the land down under and chat with Samira Alamudi, Sam Hoare, and Alex Burton to learn more about what’s it like to work from Sydney.
If you’re short on time, here are a few quick takeaways:
- When you have several offices across the world, it’s important that people don’t feel isolated from each other. Even a simple daily or weekly meeting will help everyone stay in the loop.
- Hiring for attitude is key – a mix of people who are eager to learn and more experienced people who are passionate about helping others grow fosters the collaborative, thriving environment our Aussie teammates love.
- Few things are better for employee retention than career development. In the Sydney office, they’ve seen firsthand they can grow within the company, which helps keep turnover low.
- Even though everyone had the flexibility to work remotely when everything started opening again after the pandemic, most people still went to the office three or four times a week – a great way to gauge people’s feelings towards the Sydney office culture.
- Having a clear mission and strong company values not only helps with recruiting but, more importantly, it unites everyone and helps them feel invested in the future of the company.
If you enjoy our discussion, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.
Growing in the Pacific
Liam Geraghty: Hello there, and welcome to Inside Intercom. I’m Liam Geraghty. You might already know that Intercom has offices in San Francisco, Chicago, London, and, of course, Dublin, but we also have an office in Sydney, Australia. In today’s episode, we’re venturing to the Harbour City to meet some of our Sydney team and find out what it’s like working over 7,000 miles from headquarters.
Samira Alamudi: Yeah, it’s in a really cool spot of Sydney, in Surry Hills, so a bit of a hipster strip.
Liam: Samira Alamudi is a Sales Development Manager in our Sydney office as part of the Asia Pacific or APAC team.
“World-class, awesome, human customer support comes first. Offices come later”
Samira: Very mixed crowd, I think. We’ve got a few startups in our building, which is cool. And we just got a new office that is a former health grocery that has been gutted out into our office, and it’s sat ever so nicely in front of this great wine bar. From our kitchen, on a Friday, you get a perfect view of where everyone’s going to catch up for drinks at the end of the day.
Liam: Because of our rapid growth, back in 2018, we needed to scale the APAC team remotely before opening an office. As we’ve always said, world-class, awesome, human customer support comes first. Offices come later.
Sam Hoare: I think what was unique about Intercom in the Sydney office was that we only had about 13 support people on the ground here.
Liam: Sam Hoare leads our sales team in APAC.
“We had about 10 to 12% of the revenue base of the company already in APAC before we even had a sales team on the ground”
Sam: Intercom’s legacy was a self-serve credit card business. You came online, and people could just start using the software very simply. We had about 10 to 12% of the revenue base of the company already in APAC before we even had a sales team on the ground. So we had a pretty viral customer base here. When I joined, I was the fourth sales hire. We had two SDRs and one account executive. And this is when we started to make that transition from a self-serve credit card model to more of a sales-led motion, where we could start selling to more strategic and more complex organizations.
I was at Salesforce for six and a half years. I had a tremendous run there, really enjoyed my time. I took some time off for paternity leave and then came back. And when I came back, it was funny because I had a really good year the year before, and I’d enjoyed my time at Salesforce, but I just felt this urge for a change. I had been following a few startup companies in Sydney, and Intercom reached out to me, which was one of the ones I was following. I went through a fairly lengthy recruitment process there, joined the team in 2018, and had a blast ever since.
A collaborative culture
Samira: I actually joined not knowing too much about Intercom. And the thing that drew me to the business was reading the company values in the job description. Something that really jumped out was the company value “confident but humble,” which really, really struck home with me because I love the idea of working with a high-performance team that’s humble enough to want to share that information. So that was something that drew me to the business. Everything else was like a bonus add-on, really.
Liam: Alex Burton is a Sales Manager looking after our new business account executives. And I asked him, what’s it like to work at the Sydney office?
“I’m in meetings every morning with my colleagues in San Francisco. I feel really, really connected”
Alex Burton: I think when asked to describe it, I would say it’s just a really, really close-knit team. We’re about 20 to 30 people at the moment. One thing I really enjoy about it is their very diverse levels of experience across all the different teams. We’ve been really lucky that the people earlier in their careers are super hungry to learn and eager to develop their skill sets. And the more experienced people have been super generous with their time and really passionate about seeing people develop. So it’s created this really, really collaborative culture, which is a lot of fun. We’ve been very lucky with the team of people that we’ve been able to put together. I really enjoy coming to work every day. I think there’s a great sense of humor amongst the team. And I’ve not always been able to say that I’ve enjoyed coming to work every day at everywhere I’ve worked, but it’s certainly the case at Intercom.
Liam: Starting a satellite office from scratch and instilling a sense of team culture and Intercom spirit almost 7,000 miles from headquarters was the challenge.
“I think Intercom does a better job of keeping the global teams connected than any business that I’ve ever worked at”
Alex: To be honest, that was a big question mark I had when initially joining Intercom. At that point, we didn’t even have an office in Sydney. And I was always wondering about how we’d stay connected with the global teams. But it was certainly the case for me when I joined, and it’s definitely continued even when we’ve set up the office. I’m in meetings every morning with my colleagues in San Francisco. I feel really, really connected. And I definitely don’t feel that I’m out of the loop or missing any opportunities to contribute. I think Intercom does a better job of keeping the global teams connected than any business that I’ve ever worked at.
Liam: The Sydney office has had tremendous growth in the last three years, going from three to 27 people.
“Most people were coming in three to four days a week. And I think that speaks volumes about the culture and the enjoyment people have by coming to the office”
Sam: One thing I love about the Sydney office is that it’s a very tight-knit crowd. We’re very young, collaborative, there’s good competition amongst the team, good banter. I think everyone’s very conscious of the opportunity here. People have progressed their careers quite dramatically. Some people have come from a non-sales background and now they’re leading teams, and some people have gone from a small business account executive to an enterprise account executive. We’re all shareholders in the company. Everyone’s just very hardworking.
One of the things I liked when we came back from the pandemic was the flexibility to work remotely or come back in as frequently as you liked, all the way to October. When we came back in September of 2020, most people were coming in three to four days a week. And I think that just speaks volumes about the culture and the enjoyment people have by coming to the office rather than working from home. So yeah, it’s a very fun place to work. And there’s a lot of growth on the horizon as well.
Invested in the future
Samira: We have good tenure in our team. We don’t see a lot of people leave.
Liam: Samira again.
Samira: The biggest reason why we have such high-caliber people stay is because we’re so invested in the mission and the trajectory of the business. I know this sounds super cliché, but we genuinely believe we’re one of the best products on the market and that there is so much potential in this space. At the moment, on the team, we’ve got people coming from Salesforce, LinkedIn, really, really big companies. And they’ve come to Intercom because they’re taking a bet on what we’re working towards. You were speaking with Sam and Alex, and hearing how they speak about Intercom and our trajectory really gets you fired up and invested in where we’re going.
“When you’re coming from a larger organization, you’re a cog in a wheel. Whereas, at Intercom, we have a say and a voice in how the team’s growing and the trajectory of the business”
Because we’ve had people coming from large organizations, we’ve had such a big impact on how the team is being shaped and how APAC is seen as a region. And more importantly, we’ve had very significant feedback on the product and the sales process. And that’s exciting because when you’re coming from a larger organization, you’re kind of a cog in a wheel. Whereas, at Intercom, even with the APAC team being so small, we have a say and a voice in how the team’s growing and the trajectory of the business.
We feel really invested in the direction, we believe in the product, and we just genuinely like working together. So I can confidently say everyone enjoys coming in and hanging out or working together. And I didn’t realize how unique that was, but it’s a beautiful combination.
Liam: Alex’s belief in the product contributes to the strong atmosphere.
Alex: I think people are really, really passionate about the product that we’re selling and the impact it can have on a lot of our customers. We’re predominantly a sales-focused team in Sydney, and I think you really are attracted to companies where you can say that about the product that you’re offering. The fact that there are genuine friendships amongst the group makes coming to work a lot more fun, and people would struggle to replicate that anywhere else. We really enjoy the day-to-day together and that’s certainly why I’m still here three and a half years in.
Liam: Thanks to Sam, Samira, and Alex for chatting with me. If you’re interested in joining our Aussie team, then good news. We have some open roles. Go to intercom.com/careers.
That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with another episode of Inside Intercom.