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At Skookum, an open environment that gives employees freedom to try new things

Skookum is a custom software development and consulting company based in Charlotte.
Skookum is a custom software development and consulting company based in Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Skookum

Enrique Gonzalez described the digital strategy, design and development firm Skookum as “very open and transparent,” both with how it’s run and how it interacts with clients.

“Nothing’s off the table here,” the senior software engineer said, adding that the culture of openness helps teammates who are often working in isolation on separate projects forge through problem solving on technologies they’ve never touched before.

“We always sync up to share resources and information about what we learn and avoid mistakes in the future,” said Gonzalez, who is coming up on his third anniversary with the company. “It’s big factor in how we are successful.”

Skookum is a private company based in Charlotte that was founded in 2005 by UNC Charlotte alumni James Hartsell and Bryan Delaney. It’s got 43 employees in its Uptown office, and a handful more in Denver.

The company’s name is a Chinook Jargon word used historically in the Pacific Northwest, according to its website. It roughly translates in English to strong, brave or marked by excellence in quality.

Patrick Faulkner, a principal software engineer, said working at Skookum comes along with a variety of perks, including teambuilding outings to go bowling, trivia nights, tickets to Charlotte Knights baseball games and an occasional in-office massage. There’s even free soda or beer and snacks.

But the company’s flexibility and work-life balance is the biggest benefit, Faulkner said.

He’s an early riser and dives into his tasks between 7:30 and 8 a.m. each day. Others don’t start their workday until 10 a.m. “You can figure out how you want to work together at the beginning of a project,” Faulkner said. Projects can last anywhere between 3 months to a year and a half.

Employees’ offices are usually shared with another developer, but there’s “a lot of heads down quiet time if you need it to rattle large problems in your head,” Faulkner said, adding that the working environment is a “super perk for what we do and letting you concentrate.”

When it’s time to collaborate, there’s always a good crowd in the lunchroom, he said. Most people get takeout and head back to the lunchroom to eat together and chat.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” Gonzalez agreed. “One of the biggest takeaways for me is that it feels like a family, with values and balance. Your family is part of who you are, and they value that and appreciate that.”

On most Fridays, there’s either a tech talk gathering or a catered lunch where everyone can get together and talk shop or show off their progress on their latest project.

“We try not to do things just because that’s the way we do it,” Faulkner said. “I get a lot of freedom here on the projects I work on. The client comes to us with a hard problem to solve, and we get to just dive in and tackle it.”

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