A Look Inside the Culture at 14 West
At 14 West, employees and their career path are front and center. And often, teammates break the mold.
“You don’t have to have a degree from MIT or have X years of experience,” said Jennifer DiFolco, Director of Talent Acquisition for 14 West. “If you can show us what you’ve done, on your own or with a group of friends in your garage, and if we can see that you’ve got the skills to translate that into our world, some of our best hires have come from that.”
Director of Development, Cory Chambers knows of this first hand. “My personal story is they gave me an opportunity when no one else would,” he said.
When Chambers graduated from college, he couldn’t find an engineering job. He felt that no one would take a chance on a junior developer.
But 14 West did.
After he was hired, Chambers was promoted to a management position within nine months. And the company asked him how they could find and coach more junior developers like him. “At the rate in which we’ve grown, I now manage a team of about nine or 10 people and we’re still adding to that,” he said.
14 West also hosts an extensive internship program, wherein 26 to 28 interns come in for orientation each May. The internship program includes big outings such as sailing, team building activities, and real world experience in an elite and growing enterprise.
It’s a demonstrated set of values — focused on people — that extends to the company’s philanthropic approach, as well.
The company has set up a philanthropic newsletter that reaches out to employees wanting to volunteer with one of 40 non-profit organizations the company is in touch with. This includes food drives, toy drives, monthly volunteer activities, toy and food distribution following the drives, and monthly visits to Our Daily Bread, a Baltimore-based hot meal program and employment center.
What’s it like to work at 14 West in Baltimore?
Missing a day in the office at 14 West makes you feel as if you’ve missed out. We have a great group of really smart and motivated people that come up with truly brilliant solutions to the challenges we face in the publishing and subscription services we enable. This being said, the office is totally casual — people bring their dogs to work and there’s work/life balance in that you can work remotely if needed.
Our offices are beautiful. They make up a campus of 12 individual buildings in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore. In the summertime when we have interns working with us it starts to feel like a college campus as you see the interns going from building to building with their backpacks. The buildings are a mix of incredible historic homes and some modern construction. We sit in massive open offices that carry mixes of the functional roles; this enables cross collaboration. You can stand up and go talk to anybody, you don’t have to set up formal meetings. It’s open and easy, and that’s how we’re able to move so quickly to get things done each day.
Who is 14 West and what do you do?
14 West is the backbone of The Agora; a network for over forty companies in publishing and direct marketing that exist across 17 countries. The various companies span from Money Map Press to The Oxford Club and the very first of The Agora Companies, International Living (now based in Waterford, Ireland). At 14 West, we are a centralized service provider that enables the growth and innovation of all these different niche companies; internally we refer to them as affiliates. We are the technology, accounting, human resources, legal and facilities teams devoted to them.
What’s a common attribute amongst 14 West employees?
The preeminent traits seem to be a desire to learn and curiosity. If you are willing to work hard and want to understand how 14 West works, how The Agora Companies make their money, how things are done and how to contribute new ideas, you’ll be rewarded and will move up quickly. One thing that is expected of everyone that walks in here is you need to raise your hand and you better have high expectations for yourself. If you’re waiting for someone to tell you what to do, that gets noticed very quickly and not in a good way.
What is the team working on at the moment?
We handle all of our enterprise data. A lot of our focus right now is in optimization and building world class tools for our affiliates. One specific project our team is working is developing a set of new self-service applications where instead of Agora affiliates reaching out to our team directly for data and reports, they’ll be able to source what they need on their own. We are developing a series of new, cutting-edge feed applications where data can be loaded in, reports can be generated on the fly and our developers can understand exactly what the affiliates most want.
How do 14 West employees stay connected and engaged with each other?
A lot of us travel to different conferences to develop our skills and that’s always a great way to reconnect in a more personal way with your colleagues.
We do a lot of volunteer work within the community right around us here in Baltimore. Aside from this, we take pride in having the best holiday parties — there have been people caught trying to sneak into them! We also do a lot of happy hours in the office (employees enter their preferred beer or wine via their Drizly account).
What can new employees expect?
New employees can expect extensive training through 14 West’s learning and development division, which features hands-on classroom learning and online guided courses that ensure new hires have been inducted into the company through a mentored program. Otherwise, get ready to run with your ideas. We like big ideas and if you bring them to the table you better be ready to act on them, we’ll provide the resources to drive it.
Cory ChambersDirector of DevelopmentHired in October 2014, Cory began as a web developer in what was initially a WordPress-based environment at 14 West and grew from there, picking up new languages as well as learning about new platforms and techniques along the way. Cory is now at a point point where he has started a team and is […] Read More »
“When people come to us with ideas, we support them, we challenge them, we poke holes. But if they have a good idea, we’re going to give them the resources they need to drive that idea.”
Alexei YuknaDirector of Marketing Technology ResearchA relative newcomer to 14 West, Alexei arrived at 14 West in August 2018 with a 20 year career in marketing technology. His team, the internal 14 West tech group, handles enterprise data, marketing data, marketing products, and is looking into AI and smart decision making to get the biggest bang for the advertising buck. Read More »
“What keeps me excited to be here is the overall promise of ideas over process and red tape is realized and I felt that right away. A lot of firms say that they value ideas, but there’s barriers in place and that’s not the case at 14 West. ”
Radhika ShenoyProgram Manager for the Business Intelligence TeamA six-year veteran with 14 West, Radhika came to the United States in 2004, began as a software developer and used her experience to become a terrific interpreter between the technical and business sides, ensuring that both sides communicate effectively. A rare talent, she helps interpret what both sides want from a project and helps […] Read More »
“Compared to other jobs, this is by far the one that gives me the most opportunity. I started as a business analyst at 14 West. Within a year however, I was given an opportunity to manage a team and be the technical lead on that team. Over the years, I’ve moved up into the program manager role, what that means is I now head up the project management as well as the business analysts.”
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