The Secret Sauce, Ep. 19: How to Make Sense of Human Resources and Operations

In this week's Secret Sauce podcast, our Director of Operations Colleen Carroll talks about how some helping hands come in the form of a service rather than a person, and explains the positive impact one can have on your company and culture.

Running a 30-person team is no small feat, and is absolutely a group effort to ensure everyone is happy and healthy. Sometimes those helping hands come in the form of a service rather than a person however. Our Director of Operations Colleen Carroll talks about one such tool, and the positive impact it's had on our company and culture, in this week's Secret Sauce podcast.

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We'll be back next Tuesday with another episode of the Secret Sauce and a new installment of our long-form interview podcast On the Air With Palantir next month, but for now subscribe to all of our episodes over on iTunes.


Allison Manley [AM]: Hi, and welcome to the Secret Sauce, brought to you by This is our short podcast, up to 10 minutes, that offers a quick tip on some small thing you can do to help your business run better. I’m Allison Manley, an account manager at Palantir, and today’s advice comes to us from Colleen Carroll, our who is going to talk about a tool we use in human resources called Bamboo HR.

Colleen Carroll [CC]: Hi, I’m Colleen Carroll, the Director of Operations here at Palantir, and today I’m going to talk about Bamboo HR.

It’s important to me, as the Director of Operations, to develop a culture within the team where the team is informed, where they feel independent, and they feel empowered. And one of the areas that I think is overlooked quite often in companies is the employee resources side of things. And quite honestly the term is “people operations” or “employee engagement “ . . . there’s a lot of terms for it . . . but all the resources and things that relate to being an employee of a company.

In my past, I’ve experienced first-hand what it is to be an employee and be in the dark. The things that often times you’re in the dark about are, “what was that 401k percentage that I had put on my check that doesn’t show up on my check stub?” and, “what are all the things that I can elect to take advantage of, the benefits that the company offers me,” “what does the company think my PTO [paid time off] balance is?” It’s little things, but it’s things that when you’re in the dark about them you start to worry, or anticipate, that something might be wrong, and you don’t know who to talk to about it. And again, having working for a large institution in the past, it wasn’t clear what those services and resources were, and you didn’t know who to talk to, and yet it could be easily answered in a five minute question.

So at Palantir I made it my job to be that resource. And it was easy to do for a very long time because we were a small team. And I felt it was important that people could reach out to me and say, “hey, what benefits are available to me, and why is this a good benefit?” But as the company grew, it got harder to be that centralized resource. I didn’t always have the answer right away, which I always liked to do. But more importantly it became a situation where it was inefficient. The amount of time that was needed on my side, as well as the employee side, to understand the benefits before we could even get to a point of asking specific questions . . . and through my little bit of research I realized that there were tools out there that do this. They often call them HRIS systems. APD is a payroll-related system that also does some of this. But all of them felt too big, too large, and didn’t really meet the culture of Palantir.

And one day I came across Bamboo HR. And it’s mission statement, or it’s promise I should say, was that, ‘if you’re in people operations and you have a bazillion spreadsheets out there, then Bamboo HR is the right thing for you.’ And that caught my attention right away, because I had at least 20 spreadsheets to help me manage all the things that related to the employees here at Palantir.

But then there was the big gotcha, and it was, “do you need help managing PTO balances and communicating that to your team?” So I looked into it and, sure enough, that was exactly what Bamboo was able to offer us. And that was the hook! I took on Bamboo to help us manage paid time off (PTO) and to be able to put that information in the hands of our staff so that they didn’t have to come to me. So that in real time, when they were ready, when they had a question, they could find that information themselves.

And what happened after we got Bamboo installed and set up, was that it had a lot more things to offer, a lot of really great things. Stuff that was even more cryptic to find, I think, in a lot of institutions. For instance, what has your salary history been the entire time you’ve been at the company? Or how much am I contributing to these different benefits for my salary, and what does the company contribute?

Some other services that Bamboo was able to offer us was a phone directory. The phone directory created an opportunity for individual employees to update their personal information on their own. So it wasn’t on me to make sure that I always had the most current home address, emergency contact, personal phone number for everybody.

Then when it comes to much more secure information, personally identifiable information like social security and birthdate, I never had a really secure way to do that except for the payroll system. But I don’t really want to be logging into the payroll system to figure out when people’s birthday are so I can send them a birthday card! Well Bamboo lets me do all these things in a really easy way, and I can’t tell you how much easier it’s made my job, and I think how much happier it’s made the team here at Palantir, because they can now come to me and say, “hey I’ve been looking over this benefit package,” or, “I’ve been looking over this information and have a couple of questions for you.“ So our conversations are much more informed, they’re much more efficient . . . I’m not wasting their time, and they’re not eating up too much of my time either, and we can get to the specifics and I can be a better resource to them.

But probably one of my more favorite items — well, I should say there are two new favorite items in Bamboo that I take advantage of — one of them is the Job Board. It’s an applicant tracking system for handling people who apply for jobs at Palantir. No longer do I have to go to and log into the system and maintain different job postings. I have a whole dashboard within Bamboo that tracks people who’ve applied for the position, how long I leave it open. It broadcasts it out to different resources out there, whether it be LinkedIn or other things. It allows me to see how we’re faring, how many people have actually looked at the job posting, and how many of them are actually transitioning or converting into applicants, which is awesome. Then I can roll that applicant once we’ve hired them right into the system.

So administratively — at least ten less spreadsheets! Which is pretty great.

But then the real exciting feature that comes with Bamboo has to do with reporting. This is again where a lot of the spreadsheets come in. For tax reasons, for census-related reasons, for different benefit packages . . . there are a lot of forms you have to report back about how many employees do you have, and where do they physically live, and in our case we have people in different states. So what states do we have employes in? How many people are taking advantage of your benefit systems?

And so as we move towards becoming a more diverse company, it’s important that I have patterns and statistics — historical patterns and statistics to look at — to see how are we faring. What did our metrics look like on applicants who applied and came into Palantir and where can we do better? Where can we knock down some of those unbiased . . . sorry, unconscious biases . . . so we can help drive diversity at Palantir? And Bamboo helps me do that quite easily.

In summary, Bamboo has pretty much saved my life, made me be a better Director of Operations, have a better grasp around all of the things that involve being an employee at Palantir, to help the staff become more informed, and it fits very much to our culture here. And being a distributed company, and one that focuses on being a remote-first culture, I can put this information at the fingertips of the team. And then they can reach out to me and ask more specific questions so that I can have a more thoughtful and informed conversation from my side.

AM: Thank you, Colleen. As an employee of Palantir using Bamboo, I have to say it’s pretty great, so kudos to Colleen for the implementation and choice there. For more great tips, follow us on Twitter at @palantir, or visit our website at Have a wonderful day!