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Working in the Future

June 13th, 2011 by John Foster Head of Talent and Organization

Whenever I wear my official Hulu jacket, people stop me to ask, “What’s it like to work at Hulu?” And I usually smile and think, “Dude, you have no idea!” And then I say something like, “Imagine being on a rocket-powered roller coaster with lots of surprise tunnels and unexpected turns.” It’s hard to convey the electric vibe of being on a team that is building a revolutionary service in a transforming industry, full of worthy competitors and complex partnerships. It’s like working in the future, when it’s not actually here yet. There is no flat or normal. It’s rapid-fire building. It’s spurts of anticipation. It’s bursts of speed that make your stomach jump in your throat. And for me, it’s an awesome job.

In just over three years, Hulu has become a hotbed of innovation from a business and technical perspective. So it makes sense that job candidates and press alike are increasingly interested in how we do stuff inside Hulu. Recently, Fast Company detailed our company culture, “Best Jobs Ever” profiled us, and Seattle Met Magazine did a writeup on our new Seattle development office as part of their 2011 “Best Places to Work … and Play” issue. And on top of all of that, WorldBlu has certified Hulu as a “democratic workplace.” Through all of this coverage, we’ve started to clarify a few things about what we are doing, and since we get asked about our culture and approach to management so often, I thought it would be good to put it out there for anyone who is curious about Hulu “behind the scenes.”

What type of people work at Hulu?
We are builders, entrepreneurs, and innovators, driven to surprise and delight our customers with a premium quality entertainment experience. We believe that who we hire is the single most important decision we make on a continual basis, so when looking for new “Hulugans,” we view candidates through two lenses:

    • 1. We hire for values. As detailed in “What Defines Hulu,” our values are real and ever-present. We look for people who obsess over quality and customer service. They trade stories of greatness in these areas like some people discuss sports. And, we look for people who have a relentless desire for finding better ways of doing whatever it is they do.


  • 2. We hire extraordinary people. We look for people who have developed and demonstrated an extraordinary ability that is of value to our team. Every team member shares a deeply held belief that his or her individual efforts are not sufficient to accomplish our mission. From this extraordinary ability and sincere belief, Hulugans are humble and collaborative by nature, in the face of our audacious goals.

As we grow to meet the challenges ahead, we need the best and brightest talent on the Internet. Every Hulugan is expected to apply his or her unique skills to build something that makes it easier for people to find, enjoy and share the world’s premium content. Hulu has a small team of people who have excelled in a diverse array of both startup and corporate environments to give us speed, strength, and agility in our mission. Check out the video we created to capture the spirit of working at Hulu:

How do we get work done?
There are several patterns in how we work that are critical to our success so far:

    • - Teams solve difficult problems better than individuals. We believe in small teams and big ideas, and that familiarity breeds innovation. Our teams are not just a format for working together, they are the best way to manage the ambiguity and uncertainty inherent in our business.


    • - Freedom to build. We maintain an open and creative environment at the office — it’s energetic, fun, and a little bit chaotic. And very productive. Everyone has the freedom to provide input into what work we do and how we do it. We depend on the great judgment, healthy debate, and entrepreneurial work ethic of our people to keep our work sensible, prioritized, and on track.


    • - Interesting work leads to growth. People do their best work when it’s interesting and challenging; and this naturally results in personal and professional growth. Hulugans appreciate the chance to employ and hone multiple skill sets and are encouraged to tackle new things that help both Hulu and each other grow.


    • - Reward great work with bigger challenges. Every Hulugan has the opportunity to take ownership of a project and make it bigger and better. This is what meritocracy looks like in action: do well, keep going, earn credibility, get more responsibility.


  • - We are part of something bigger. We believe in giving back. We fully support and are a vibrant part of the larger community. Our developers work on many open source projects and have built much of our infrastructure using open tech stacks. We strive to make improvements in the communities where we live through individual and group philanthropy projects.

What is the work environment like?
We’ve constructed a workplace that supports a balance between three work modes: heads down focus, active collaboration, and serendipitous interaction. This means nobody gets an office to hide in, but we have lots of private conference rooms for spirited debate and creative whiteboarding. We have generous amounts of open communal space where Hulugans break out, relax, and play around, because we know that creative minds are more effective when they have regular distractions. Our kitchen is in the center of everything to encourage regular visits and spur connection.* When you enter our office, the first thing you notice is a wall of portraits with every team member showing off a bit of his or her personality. From this gigantic photo wall, even a casual visitor will quickly notice that our people are our most precious asset.

What benefits does Hulu provide?
Everyone who works for Hulu owns a part of the company. Thus, our benefits reflect an “ownership” culture, which means that we treat each other as high-judgment owners who can make decisions as owners. Here’s a couple of examples:

    • - “Be Well:” Everyone on our team may expense up to $600 per year on “being well.” This means different things to different people. If training for a marathon helps one person be well, but signing up for a yoga class helps another person be well, then they each can expense up to $600 annually on that activity.


  • - “Take the time off you need to perform at your best:” As a start-up, our team works really hard. And within our ownership culture, it is strange to dictate how many days someone can take for vacation or a personal day. Rather than have no time off policy, our team told us they need a target to aim for so they don’t feel bad leaving their team behind. So we set our policy to a minimum of 32 paid days off, and team members may take additional time as needed by discussing with their manager.

We strive to do anything and everything to make Hulu a place where builders come to build great things. This is a standard measured by the builders themselves, who are passionate and relentless in their desire to always make things better. And that is what we mean when we say we have an “ownership” culture. We are our own best critics and as a team we are all improving Hulu together.

If you liked what you just read, and are interested in joining us, please check out our jobs page.

* We have done extensive research to determine that Hulugans are strongly attracted to free food.

Last comment: Dec 5th 2015 7 Comments