RubyApps Insights: Team Culture

RubyApps Insights examines the impact of positive team culture by interviewing two representatives of the RubyApps team. Julie Barbarese, a Project Team Lead, and Michele Bianculli, our Operations Manager, each play important roles in defining, cultivating, and maintaining the work environment that we describe as Awesome Every Day.

Our conversation focuses on how they internalize our mantra, and the parts they play to preserve and promote our culture.

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Episode transcription 

Voiceover:                                            Cultivating company culture is not easy. It takes time, effort, and love—especially if it’s to be authentic, pervasive, and durable. This episode of RubyApps Insights focuses on the Awesome Every Day culture that we’ve built, and we’ll talk to two key contributors that keep it vital. Throughout our conversation, we challenge you: what are you doing to keep your work culture thriving, and how can you measure its impact?

Alexander Kotler:                                  Today's conversation features two RubyApps team members, both of whom play significant roles in maintaining and furthering our company culture. At RubyApps, Awesome Every Day is our mantra and rallying cry, and it's a concept that both Julie Barbarese and Michele Bianculli embody in how they perform their jobs.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Julie works closely with RubyApps clients, creative partners and our engineering team -- constituents that have different needs, objectives and communication styles. With that, I'll communicate by saying, Julie, welcome.

Julie Barbarese:                                    Thank you, Alex, it is fantastic to be here today.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Amazing.

Alexander Kotler:                                  And Michele, our Operations Manager, is one of our cultural stewards and the organizer and facilitator of many company functions, including employee education and, importantly, edification. Michele, welcome to you!

Michele Bianculli:                                  Thank you so much. Happy to be here.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Excellent.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Julie, we're gonna kick things off with you. Let's learn a little bit about what a typical day is like in your working life is like.

Julie Barbarese:                                    Well, a typical day for me usually consists of both internal communications and external communications. A lot of that is client facing. I work very closely with our design partners, the teams that we work with to, you know, build the websites themselves. And of course, our internal development team along with our management team, of which you are one.

Alexander Kotler:                                  That aside, let's learn a little bit more about your philosophy. What guides you in your day to day work life?

Julie Barbarese:                                    People. That is the reason that I love coming to work every day, and it's the reason that I have always been in client services, specifically, because that's kind of always been my, my, platform, where I can shine, so to speak. I have a fairly easy time making friends and creating relationships, both professionally and, you know, otherwise, but, obviously in this instance professionally, and, working with our clients and clients in general is always very exciting for me just because I feel like I learn a lot both about myself, about them, and about their internal struggles in terms of what they're trying to achieve, and it helps guide, it helps me guide the team better to create what it is that they are actually looking form.

Julie Barbarese:                                    But ultimately the answer to that question is people.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Yeah, you said the people platform. There's different types of personalities that you have to interact with. How do you modulate, if you will, your personality to speak to people that may be more technical in focus or in nature? Those that may be more of the soft skill sets, or how do you take Julie and put yourself in different meetings and scenarios and adapt to the different personalities you encounter?

Julie Barbarese:                                    I think it's less about what I do and more about just sitting back and listening. The biggest part, and the most important part, I think, of my job in general in any aspect is just listening to the people with whom I'm talking to so when they are more technical with them talking that will show me that they are more technical and I will then sort of curtail whatever conversations we have to be more specific and applicable to them. Same goes for clients as well, it really is just about hearing what people are saying and being less concerned with what you yourself want to say or get across.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Michele, I'm gonna come to you now. So, you have to hear what people say, and then you have to translate that into a social calendar. So, let's hear- of course you're not an event planner, so let's understand the scope of your role first, but then what I wanna come back to is how you then take the listening skills that you've adapted and put that into some of the functions that build culture here at RubyApps.

Michele Bianculli:                                  Sure, so as the Operations Manager, it is my job to make sure that everybody has what they need to do their job. And that also includes the social events that we plan. So, you know, I make sure that everyone has functioning work stations, I make sure that we have a fully stocked supply closet, I make sure that we have appropriate ways to caffeinated ourselves. And then I also plan and execute our various and sundry social events. We do at least one a month, actually.

Alexander Kotler:                                  So I'm gonna come back to that for a second I wanted to touch on the caffeination. How caffeinated is the team?

Julie Barbarese:                                    (laughs)

Michele Bianculli:                                  Based on the amount of Coke Zero that we go through, I would say highly.

Alexander Kotler:                                  (laughs)

Julie Barbarese:                                    And not to mention all the cold brew that runs out every other week.

Michele Bianculli:                                  The cold brew, yes.

Julie Barbarese:                                    Which is one of my favorite things ever.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Cool. So, hot brew, cold brew, um... No, that's not gonna work. I was hoping that I could segue that into some clever pun about going out, but let's just forget that I said that and focus on, you know, culture is very important to the organization and one of the ways that we express that is through team bonding type events, so how do you make those happen, and what factors come into play when making decisions about social outings, etc.?

Michele Bianculli:                                  Well, I sit out in the bullpen with most of the team, so I get to hear their general conversations, and I get to find out what it is that they enjoy, you know, how they're spending their time outside of work, and I try to find events that would appeal to them, you know... Our, our most recent mid-year outing was to do a scavenger hunt, and it was, you know, we broke up into teams and we ran all around the Financial District, which is where our office is located and, you know, took pictures with all of these things that I know for me I walk by every day and never notice. So it was kind of fun to get out there, be outside of the office with everybody and, you know, bonding this way and trying to find all of these things that we didn't know existed.

Alexander Kotler:                                  (laughs)

Julie Barbarese:                                    That was my favorite event.

Alexander Kotler:                                  It was your favorite event?

Julie Barbarese:                                    Yes it was.

Alexander Kotler:                                  What was your favorite item to scavenge for?

Julie Barbarese:                                    I think the act of scavenging in general was the most fun. We, it was so humid outside. It was-

Michele Bianculli:                                  It was awful. (laughs)

Julie Barbarese:                                    ...foul. We were all dripping with sweat after having worked the full day, and all were looking, you know, we were on our phones. We walked miles literally in some cases to find, like, a random monkey statue that's in the middle of Battery park, and have to take a picture with it and act like a monkey in the picture. If you didn't do that right, you didn't get the points.

Julie Barbarese:                                    So there were a lot of, sort of, smaller elements, but the, the most fun part about it, I think, was just being with the team that- we were all broken into little teams, but also walking passed the other teams, which did happen, and we would all just kind of shout and cajole with one another while we were going about it, saying, like, "We're gonna win." And we almost won. That's all I have to say about that. (laughs)

Julie Barbarese:                                    Came close.

Michele Bianculli:                                  You did.

Alexander Kotler:                        'll redeem yourselves in the next one.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Ah, so, that's, that's terrific, I, for one, missed that event, but I remember how humid the evening was. And so, it sounds like a special place where you can work together and then sweat together. What are some of the other ones that you've done over time?

Michele Bianculli:                                  When I first started I planned a skyline sunset cruise for the team, and that was, that was hugely popular. Everyone had a really nice time with that. We've also gone to a Mets game, we did karaoke one time, we do happy hours all the time.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Awesome. A lot of beverages seem to be consumed-

Julie Barbarese:                                    Yes.

Alexander Kotler:                         RubyApps.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Super. That's good to know. So, you know, instead of focusing on the, the- the play hard part, what do you think is most critical about these types of outings. How do you see that translate into the internal atmosphere, as surely there has to be some kind of payoff to the organization to do that, that people hopefully stay longer, that they enjoy the work atmosphere, they have closer relationships. Do you see the dividends being paid from those kinds of events?

Michele Bianculli:                                  I do. I think that, and Julie could probably speak to this more because she works more directly with the team, but I think that people who don't necessarily interact very closely on a day to day basis because they're working on different projects get together in these sorts of events and, you know, get to talk to each other, get to learn how to communicate with each other so that, when then are on a project together they already have that basis.

Julie Barbarese:                                    Yeah, I definitely would agree with that. I would also say our lunch- even having lunch all together, we all know one another's quirks. It's kind of like we all have our inside jokes that everybody gets, which is great, and it also just makes you feel a lot closer to everyone, like, we have, sort of, people that are known for specific ways in which... Like I leave my drinks out on my desk, which gets me in trouble with Michele, as it fairly should, but that's, like, you know, something I'm obviously trying not to do, but it's also a quirk.

Alexander Kotler:                                  That's actually why we brought you in here, is to have an open confrontation about that, I'm glad you brought it up.

Alexander Kotler:                                  (laughter)

Julie Barbarese:                                    But yeah-

Michele Bianculli:                                  I statements only.

Michele Bianculli:                                  (laughter)

Michele Bianculli:                                  I feel...

Julie Barbarese:                                    But yeah, exactly,'s those, it's knowing those sort of quirks about others and being able to, like just... it makes you appreciate everyone a lot, even if you don't work with them every single... like, Michele and I aren't on projects together but she's still a good friend of mine, and all of that, I think, is very much on display and in effect on, in the bull pen with day to day interaction.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Awesome. Every-

Julie Barbarese:                                    Every day.

Michele Bianculli:                                  Day. Yeah.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Day.

Alexander Kotler:                                  (laughter)

Alexander Kotler:                                  Any, any closing comments from either of you? Things that we should leave our, our audience with, pondering?

Julie Barbarese:                                    I would say that this is far and away my most favorite team of people I've ever worked with, and that's speaking as somebody who's been working for about over ten years now in New York City, and I've worked with four or five teams. This team in particular is, I think, incredibly inclusive, which is amazing to find in New York, because New York is kind of all about exclusivity, so... this, this team in general is just a very warm group of people that make it enjoyable to come to work everyday. Which is not always something you can say, especially since, you know, I've been here three years now, that's when they say you get some sort of itch, except that there really hasn't been one. I like coming in and I love the people that I work with everyday.

Alexander Kotler:                                  That's wonderful.

Michele Bianculli:                                  I would say it is a very good collection of personalities that sort of feed off of each other, and everyone's really personable, which I've worked at other tech companies where it was pure silence as everyone just had their headphones on and were at their computers coding, coding, coding, and that's not the atmosphere here at all.

Julie Barbarese:                                    Yeah. For sure.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Well, RubyApps is hiring across departments if there are a variety of personalities that would like to join our existing assortment, and so if you're interested in learning more, you can visit, that's B-I-T dot L-Y slash rubyappsjobs, (one word) and browse our open positions.

Alexander Kotler:                                  Julie, Michele, this episode has been awesome every play. I know you read that script and you saw that I was gonna include that pun in there. Thank you both for making time to chat with RubyApps insights.

Michele Bianculli:                                  Thank you for having us.

Julie Barbarese:                                    Yeah, thank you so much, Alex.

Voiceover:                                            RubyApps Insights is recorded at Studio 55, and is hosted by Alexander Kotlerander Kotler. For more insights, and detail on Ruby Apps an enterprise software developed by RubinsteinTech. visit Until next time, have an awesome every day.