The Karma Revelation
How Palantir's Director of Production Services Scott DiPerna came to know what ++ means.
illustration with ++
Joining a company and starting a new job is always an exciting, yet somewhat nerve-wracking milestone in life. There are the looming questions in the back of everyone’s mind “Did I make the right decision? Is this a good fit? Is this company/person going to follow through on all of the things they said they would?” I’ve been on both sides of the table at this point, and I can say with certainty, that qualifications and breadth of knowledge/skills is on equal footing as the kind of culture fostered in an organization.
Gone is the Mad Men era of advertising culture, replaced by companies that are competing over who can create the coolest office space, has the best lunch/snack options, and beverages are on tap. It’s these perks that provide the fodder for employees to make personal and professional (emotional) connections. What happens when you remove the physical space, the “things” that help establish “the feels” of work culture when your coworkers are remote and distributed? What happens when there’s no craft beer on tap? Enter Karmabot.
Admittedly, when I arrived at Palantir, I had absolutely no idea what Karmabot or ++ meant. I saw people in HipChat using it (phew, we moved to #slack!) and asked what it was. The response was “Oh, that’s Karma.” It was a sensible answer, so I didn’t dig in more. There was fierce competition in the channels which is funny, yes, but if you look really closely, it’s essentially a group of people actively supporting each other while doing difficult work. I thought, “Oh, that’s cool. Karma!” and began to give the ++’s to others as they helped me onboard and get familiar with my new job. I felt amazing when my karma reached 10! (Which by the way, is super low in comparison to others).
A week or so later, I found myself designing some slideware with specific instruction to provide them a bit of a brand refresh. I happened to be wearing the pair of socks that I received in my “Welcome to Palantir” swag kit and thought, “Hey, we should use these ++’s more” and so I played with various ways of using it on the slide designs. I played with one plus sign, 5 plus signs, patterns of them — it was a ++ design extravaganza (in a good way of course). Shortly after sending Tif the first draft to review, she pinged me to jump on a call and go over some of her thoughts. She just came right out and asked me if I knew what the ++ meant. I was so confident, “Totally, it’s Karma!” It was crystal clear to her that I did not know based simply on the way I had used them in the various designs.
Tif, one of our founders, took the time to explain that it was more than “just Karma.” That it has meaning in the world of coding, meaning at Palantir, and is one of the ways we emphasize the importance of showing appreciation for each other in our remote environment. The ++ is part of the fundamentals of Palantir and at the core of our team. Describing this with words is hard with new team members, but there it was — my first ++ moment and I began to understand.
Even only three months in, I can already see that the culture of Palantir is a representation of our people practicing our core values. This helps solidify our brand integrity and the results present data to our leadership that can be linked to our company values, vision and mission. This is not an easy thing to achieve, so, @palantir ++!