Founded in 2013 by a small group of ambitious engineers, the original Promptworks crew came up with a plan to design its culture the same way it designed software: custom.
Having worn nearly every hat in the tech industry collectively, the team set out to create the company they’d always wanted to work for, with a culture that respected the work of each and every contributor.
Today, using techniques like pair programming, Promptworks has enabled its highly-skilled engineers and designers to efficiently share knowledge and build high-value software products simultaneously. Combining its uniquely collaborative work style with perks such as continuous learning opportunities, catered lunches and “Talk Tuesdays,” the custom software company has struck a satisfying balance between working hard and living well.
At its core, Promptworks specializes in turning big ideas into custom-made digital projects. Driven by a desire to see its clients succeed, the company fuses agile processes, the highest-caliber code and automated testing to put out ‘wildly successful,’ sustainable software that clients can rely on, every time.
Of course, dangling over the cutting edge of technology requires a tight grasp on the value of employee growth and learning. For that very purpose, Promptworks employees are given non-billable time each week to learn, create or experiment with any project that will enhance their own growth or that of the entire company.
Promptworks’ proactive, tangible efforts give back to the Philadelphia tech community, as well as diversify its applicant pool, are widely appreciated across the company and throughout the community. Its breadth of work can be seen through its organization of and participation in a vast range of conferences, Meetups, apprenticeships and community events that educate and inspire.
I’ve never worked with a better group of people. They’re smart, hungry to learn, interesting. Nobody has an ego — and that’s rare for people so skilled. I really like that everyone is genuinely capable of delivering great work but doesn’t take exclusive credit for it.Ashley Hannan Senior Software Project Manager
Our projects vary a lot, which keeps it interesting. One day I’ll be working on business software for a spin studio, the next on a tool that helps a science museum collect oral histories from the public. I’m constantly solving new, interesting, strange problems.Andrew Croce UX/UI Designer
People feel like they have agency in shaping the company and how things move, and that lends itself to people feeling confident and letting the best parts of themselves shine. I feel safe being myself here, raising my hand and sharing ideas.Montana Goodman Software Engineer
The culture here is very special. Everyone is knowledge hungry, both eager to learn and to share what they know. Every single day I learn something new.Luis Cielak UX/UI Designer
It’s all about the people you work with. The people here are very interested in what they do and in learning how to become even better. Everyone is interesting, which you really get to see when they present at our Talk Tuesdays.Lan Ngo Senior Software Project Manager
In some tech-adjacent jobs, you can feel disconnected. Here, I’m part of the process. Operations touches so many different departments; I feel a strong connection to the people and our culture. Our engineers know they couldn’t do their jobs without everyone else on the team.Jane Lee Operations Manager
What makes Promptworks a unique place to work?
Being an engineer-founded company, we have a lot of empathy for every single person who contributes to our team. All of the roles within our organization — from engineering and design to QA and project management — we’ve once done ourselves, so we tried to build a culture that represents our ideal workplace for our employees.
Tell us about your approach to learning and development.
We believe that everyone, no matter how senior, has something to learn because tech is always changing. We also want our team to have time to experiment and push boundaries so that we can make sound recommendations for our clients.
That said, we don’t expect employees to learn on their own time. That’s why we carve out non-billable work time during which employees are able to reinvest in the company and themselves. Employees use 25% of their time to work on projects like estimations for prospective clients, preparing talks for “Talk Tuesdays” held in our dining room or to speak at a conference, engaging with the community through mentoring or Meetups, working on internal projects that let us try out new technology, or building something fun — say, for instance, a custom, voice-recognition-enabled Harry Potter game that lives in our dining room.
Through this approach, we’ve seen many people move up from entry level to senior positions, gain new specialities and advise their peers on what they’ve learned.
How would you describe the internal culture?
We have a very strong culture of openness and friendliness. We work together, listen to each other, share knowledge. There’s never any stigma attached to saying, “Hey, I don’t know how this works.”
From an operations standpoint, we take a very thoughtful approach to policy development. Policies are structured around what is important to our people. We look at how policies have been used in the past and take polls on what works best for our employees. From there we develop everything from new professional development opportunities to work/life balance policies that relieve day-to-day stress.
How does that culture help drive the goals of the organization?
Our mission is to help our clients become more efficient by creating custom software that’s made specifically to work for their companies. We’re able to deliver on this because we have such a strong, collaborative culture full of people who love to learn and share their knowledge. We continue to improve because of our people’s desire to learn new things, apply them and evolve.
Hiring people that are not only dedicated to their roles but also have outside passions has helped us succeed in a wide variety of industries and companies. We’ve worked with companies in ecommerce, life sciences, fashion, non profit, etc. Each new project brings the need to research new tools or learn new subject matter. Employees have commented that the variety of the work, and the constant need to solve new problems, keeps things interesting.
What do you look for from job candidates?
As a consultancy, at some point or another we all have contact with clients and need to see things from their perspective. We always look for candidates who are empathetic and genuinely care about client success.
We also look for candidates who are a quick study, whether when it comes to adapting to new technology or learning about a new client’s industry.
Our office is an ego-free environment. It’s not about you or your code, it’s about delivering a great product that we can hand off with pride. Everyone collaborates, shares knowledge and helps bring the product to life as a team. For instance, our engineers and designers commonly engage in pair programming, where two people work on one computer at once, taking turns driving. Having two brains on one thing is so helpful. It allows folks to challenge their assumptions, make sure they’re doing everything right, and trade control back and forth.
Also, many of our employees come from diverse backgrounds; several went to arts schools, a few have PHDs in education or neurobiology. These unique backgrounds are really helpful when we throw people into new projects where they can apply their expertise.
How about in terms of tech skills?
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