For nearly 5 years, Andy Olsen (Senior Director of People) has played an integral role at Immuta. Before joining us, Andy worked in talent acquisition, with additional experience as a counselor and mental health professional. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology and a master’s degree in Community Counseling.
When Andy talks about his role, he stresses the importance of building a cohesive, comfortable work environment. This interview explores how Andy’s team has fostered a distinct, genuine company culture, and how that leads to successful recruitment and a productive workforce.
Alec Gannon: I’m happy to sit down with you, Andy. I know how much folks value the work you do here at Immuta, so I’m looking forward to discussing just what that is. To start, can you tell me what your role is at Immuta, and what it entails?
Andy Olsen: Sure! I’m the Senior Director of People, and I currently lead the People and Talent teams. Behind the scenes, I am a part of People Ops. There, I work closely with our Recruitment Coordinator, Kathy Robinson, whose responsibilities include tasks like scheduling recruitment interviews, supporting our compensation and benefits team, and working with IT to send out equipment, which is super important and affects every single employee here. So that’s all under my purview as well.
Alec Gannon: I know as the Director of the People Team, you’ve been at the helm of some popular events in our offices, like the annual Cinco de Mayo Party, company barbecues, and you even began brewing some “Immuta Beer.” Could you talk about the inception of some of these events and what motivated you to start them?
Andy Olsen: When I joined Immuta, we probably had 25 employees. We were expected to do quite a bit of hiring, but I was brought on specifically to do talent acquisition as well as all of the other HR responsibilities that I had no idea how to do. At that time I asked myself, “What do we want this office space to be like? What do we want it to look like? What parts of Columbus do we want to showcase and highlight?” So Alan Quillin (Engineering Director for Cloud Platform and Operations) and I started brewing beer and barbecuing for the office.
Personally, I think these activities are good for visibility. It’s just another way I get to serve the people around me and show them that I care. And it’s a great way to connect with people that I don’t get to see very often when they come into the office.
Alec Gannon: Agreed! So, how do you think these office gatherings foster a connected company culture at Immuta?
Andy Olsen: At this company, there are a lot of people with shared interests. I think it’s events like these that allow for colleagues to build trust and rapport amongst themselves, and I think that builds cohesiveness. Personally, I’ve been able to build many relationships at Immuta over a shared love of something.
Alec Gannon: What effect does cohesion and cultural strength have on the workplace?
Andy Olsen: Getting to know each other in a setting outside of work can strengthen relationships, right? When you’re in a really tough situation at work that requires some collaboration, and you’re in the fire together, you’ve already got that trust built in that rapport outside of the work. I think that translates into people working even more effectively together. It helps to build that glue, where you’ve got all these different people with different skill sets and different interests coming together to collaborate and support a strategic initiative.
Alec Gannon: That’s a theory that resonates with me, and I’m sure with a lot of other people here. For me, those bonds built at work events seem to boost morale in the workplace.
Andy Olsen: Exactly. I help to create a framework where people can let their guard down and don’t feel like they’re competing with each other. The goal is ultimately to create a workplace where people genuinely care about one another. That goes into the talent that we hire. We’re looking for folks that match our core values.
Alec Gannon: Speaking of core values, I know that you’ve played a role in setting up our workplace awards, where we recognize five employees every quarter for their excellence in accordance with one of our core values. How did these awards begin, and what purpose do they serve?
Andy Olsen: The workplace awards are something that Steph Sheline’s group executes very well. The awards came about during the pandemic. It was a time where we were all working remote and feeling somewhat disconnected. At the same time, we were hiring between 40-50 people per quarter. It was an effort to remember who we were and why we joined Immuta. It’s another tool to foster connectedness within the organization, especially during a time where we were separated while growing rapidly.
For the awards, I’m part of the nominating committee along with some of my peers. Each quarter, we review all of the submissions, and then we make a decision on who’s going to be awarded. The submissions are just phenomenal to review. It’s really neat to see not only who’s nominated, but who’s doing the nominating. A majority of the time, people nominate others from different departments who they collaborated with on a project. What that shows to me is that people are recognizing the efforts of their peers, and these are peers that they don’t normally work with. That’s really special.
Alec Gannon: It’s encouraging to hear that folks from different departments appreciate the work that their coworkers do. Finally, I heard that you studied counseling and have experience working as a mental health professional. That’s a really interesting background to have as a member of the People Team. Are there any skills from those experiences that you bring to your role today?
Andy Olsen: Yeah, 100%. The work that I did after graduate school in the mental health field taught me to genuinely connect to people’s pain, and to do it in an intentional way to make sure that they feel heard and supported. At Immuta, I try to make it a point to listen to my colleagues and make sure that they feel heard, whether it’s light stuff or really heavy stuff. I’m grateful to work for an organization that puts value in an emphasis on our people, and making sure that they feel supported regardless of what they’re going through.
Even in recruiting, it’s important to connect to people’s pain. When I say that, I mean it is important to figure out what a prospective employee doesn’t like about their current situation and then showcase how we’re different here at Immuta.
A lot of the feedback we get from candidates as they go through our interview process is they go into it guarded, and they start to let their guard down because we’re real and we’re genuine with folks. It’s not rocket science. It’s being present with people, connecting to their pain, and walking with them through the tough moments. That’s what I enjoy doing.
Alec Gannon: Well, I know many people at this company value your approach to your role because your name comes up any time I am working on something people- or culture-related. Thank you for what you do, and thanks for taking the time to chat.
Andy Olsen: What you see is what you get, man. I’m not the smartest guy on the block, and I don’t have a lot of technical aptitude, but I love people. As long as they allow me to keep doing it, I’m going to keep doing it.
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