I’ve been in the software industry for nearly a decade. I’ve worked at all sorts of places. Some were pretty good, and some were less good, but none of them felt truly significant. Sure, they paid the bills, with maybe a few nice perks here and there, and I learned some neat stuff. But why settle for just that?

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Five months ago, I decided to join the Keen IO team as a platform engineer. Why? To change the entire world. No, but seriously.

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They may take our lives, but they will never take our Keendom!

See, I didn’t want a job. I wanted a quest. A chance to do something huge and real. The possibility to change the world, or at least the right to honestly say I tried. I wanted Good vs. Evil, right against wrong, dramatic music with a voiceover saying, “And the world will never be the same again…”

Find that, I thought, and a job wouldn’t feel like a job — it’d feel like an epic battle for the forces of righteousness.

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Basically, I wanted to be Harry Potter.

And, while there are tons of cool, exciting, and successful startups out there, this is the area where Keen really stood out for me.

Our quest is a momentous one. And no, I’m not talking about building a world-class analytics platform (although that’s pretty cool, too).

The real quest Keen is pursuing is this:

To restore sanity to the way that we work for each other.

And by “we,” I mean “all of humanity.

(I said it was momentous, didn’t I?)

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(In this image, Gollum represents capitalism.)

Here at Keen, we’re trying to prove that it’s possible for you and your team to be genuinely, life-affirmingly happy at your work, and at the same time provide exceptional experiences for your customers. (In fact, we’re trying to prove that it’s not only possible to do this, but that this is the best way to do things, for everyone!)

We’re trying to build a culture where you work hard because your team, your partners, and your users are real live human beings, and you care about them, and you want to do right by them.

We’re trying to drive a shift in how we all think about work, and why we do it. Working to make money is fine, but working to make the world a better place makes it a calling, a way of life, a quest.

The thing is, ambitious goals are great, but we also need to actually do thingsto make a difference. Obviously, we haven’t revolutionized global employment structures (yet), but here are just a few things we already do that I think are pretty amazing:

  • We start from the assumption that everyone on the team wants to add as much value as they can. The goal of any and all process is simply to enable us to do so.
  • We recognize that people do their best work when they’re happy and rested and challenged and fulfilled. “Work-life balance” doesn’t mean you get a few extra days’ vacation — it means your outside life is important, and we’re all here to support your needs, whatever they are.
  • Self-awareness and the ability to communicate both positive and negative emotions are viewed as core competencies. (Yes, even for engineers! ❤)
  • The culture is treated like a flagship product and a major competitive advantage (our “social operating system”), and everyone is responsible for nurturing and growing it. There are no mandates handed down from on high; we’re all building a system where culture comes from the ground up.
  • At the end of the day, we’re working to make our customers happy because we like making people happy. (We also happen to believe that it’s good business, but that’s honestly kind of a logistical detail.)

I’m cynical enough to know that redefining corporate culture and surviving in a competitive market isn’t going to be easy. (Quests rarely are.) We’ll have to overcome all the usual hurdles that startups have to face, while at the same time defining entirely new social structures, and figuring out how to walk that tricky line between co-workers and family.

To do all that, we’re going to have to be open and empathetic and introspective and passionately self-improving — both as individuals and as a group — every single day. We’ll have to confront evil wizards and battle our own inner demons and never, ever give up, even when the whole world is against us.

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No, no — this is totally gonna work out fine!

Despite the daunting road ahead, I’ve never felt so good about what I’m doing with my life — because this is a quest that I feel passionate about. How much better would the world be if work was merely just a framework for making each other happy? To me, that’s a vision worth fighting for.

I hope you have a quest that you’re just as passionate about. If not, I hope you can find one — or join ours! 🙂

Got questions or ideas about this? We’d love to hear them! Get started in the comments below, or shoot us an e-mail.