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Culture

Sustaining the Beauty of iKala with Respect and Trust

Human-centered is caring about every employee genuinely.

Dictated by Diana Lu, Senior HR Specialist, iKala
Written by Iris Hung

Compared with the software startups I've worked with in the past, iKala displays a greater degree of flexibility. Within reason, the company gives the workers enough room to try new ideas. It maintains an open attitude that encourages innovation, and it does not berate or punish employees for unintentional mistakes. 

For new members of our company, besides orientation on the first day and onboarding training, they are also invited to go onstage and introduce themselves during our TGIF all-hands meetings. TGIF is a company-wide event where newcomers can quickly get up to speed about what's happening in the company. What's more, from their first day of work, the company encourages managers to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with the new blood to help them evaluate their own work and set performance goals.

Another practice that's worthy of note is that after a full month with the company, HR will also conduct a one-on-one meeting with the new employee. A newly hired employee is bound to have questions about the new environment; they may still be unclear about the rules and processes within the company, or about their own career paths. For those who lack work experience, they may even be unsure about how to solve the problems they face, how to ask for help, or how to ask the right questions. Usually, I try to guide them so they can figure out what is confusing them, or what kind of obstacles they are facing, by themselves. In this way, they learn their role is not only to ask questions, but to try to figure out the answers. This helps them come up with proposals they can discuss with their managers, after which they may discover an even better solution. In essence, I want newcomers to learn to think for themselves and to acquire problem-solving skills. Such meetings at the end of the first month not only help employees grow, they also effectively alleviate any difficulty a newcomer might face, such as trouble adapting, a loss of direction, or a sense of frustration.

I am one of the more senior members of the HR department in the company. I have empirical data and past experiences to rely upon. Whenever there are new employees on my team, I always try my best to help them, even if I am not appointed their mentor. Every time someone asks me a question, I do more than provide answers—I explain the reasoning behind my methods and why my way works. This allows newcomers to learn about the company more quickly. It also gives them a chance to think, to analyze and comprehend what they've learned, and to discover a new way of working that suits them best. 

At iKala, HR is given plenty of room to demonstrate our professionalism. The company also adopts a comprehensive approach to hiring new talent. We conduct peer interviews with potential candidates because different members of the team may think of new aspects to consider. In addition to what the job position requires, we also carefully consider whether iKala is suitable for the interviewee, and what kind of future they can expect to find here. Our coworkers express their full confidence in and utmost respect for the HR department. For example, during interviews, some departments may express interest in a certain candidate, but HR may have doubts or misgivings. Most of the time, the team is willing to take our professional advice under serious consideration, and review whether the candidate is fit for the position. 

Many people say the HR department at iKala is different, because the HR departments of many other companies are indifferent—they don't contact you unless strictly necessary, and most employees are unwilling to proactively bring questions to or discuss matters with HR. I believe iKala's HR is different because we give from our hearts, and we provide our colleagues with the greatest support we can. In return, our coworkers reward us with their respect and trust. This is part of the innate beauty that flows within iKala, and it creates a sustainable, positive cycle of reciprocation.

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Culture

An Open Culture Creates a Positive Cycle of Sharing and Communication

Human-centered is facilitating every employee to grow and realize the company's vision.

Dictated by Tammy Chen, Chief Designer, iKala
Written by Iris Hung

 

At iKala, designers enjoy a lot of freedom when developing new products, which is different from my past experiences. Here, we need to take care of both UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) design. Because of this, during the early stages of product planning, we all put our heads together and bounce ideas off of one another—especially the product managers and engineers. This is in line with iKala's "Human-Centered" approach. Here, designers can do more than hone the skills we already have. We can be trained to develop a keener perception of the products, and nurture design thinking. Then, we can optimize our products and services through trial and error.

At iKala, everyone keeps an open mind when attempting something new. Whenever someone wants to share or teach, their colleagues are always eager to participate and provide positive feedback. So, whenever I discover an effective tool, I cannot wait to share it with everyone else. To cite a recent example, I found that the UI/UX design tool Figma has announced a remarkable set of new functions in the past few years. Everyone is talking about it online, and after trying it for myself, I was impressed. I began to share what I've learned with my colleagues.

To reveal a bit of inside baseball, this is how designers used to work: first, they created the interface with the user interface design program Sketch; then, they connected the interfaces by using the user flow diagram tool Overflow; then, they go into the app interface collaboration program Zeplin to mark the coordinates and data that R&D engineers need for development. It's a three-step process, and it can all be done with Figma at nearly half the price. In the past, colleagues in charge of different tasks used different tools, making it difficult to manage assignments and communicate between them. But Figma was a tool that everyone could use, and it made collaboration between colleagues a breeze. 

Because it is a relatively new tool, there isn't a lot of information or tutorials online. Fortunately, everyone was glad to share what they've learned. As the head of the design team, I did everything in my power to give members of my team a heads-up about the challenges they might face. I also gave them enough time to switch over the systems. The entire process, from start to finish, was initiated by our team from the inside out, without any pressure from the management. After all, it is a sign of commitment to voluntarily improve our workflow, so we can achieve better efficiency and results.

Our HR department, which is in charge of internal training, also played an important role in the process. They proactively set out to discover what members of the team wanted to learn, and they instilled in everyone the habit of sharing and providing feedback. In the past, when they found that salespersons and product managers often prepared presentations and asked designers for pointers, they arranged a training course so designers could share the tools and methods they use for presentations with everyone else. It was the same this time. When I mentioned I had something to share, HR began planning courses and actively inviting everyone in the company to attend. After my presentation, I saw some colleagues actually using the new tools in their work. Through the process, I understood the importance of sharing: not only did I achieve personal growth, but I made our whole team better, as well.

I believe this positive cycle will not end with me. It will continue throughout the whole company, creating a sustainable loop of positive growth that will help everyone learn and improve themselves.

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Culture

8 Years in 6 Positions for 3 Products: iKala Sets the Stage for Talent to Flourish

Human-centered is treating employees as the most valuable assets of the company.

Dictated by Yachun Tsai, Lead Engineer, iKala CDP, iKala Cloud 
Written by Iris Hung 

I joined iKala in 2013. From LIVEhouse.in to Straas to CDP; from Mobile to the back end to streaming engineer; from member to leader, I have experienced an incredible journey, one that has presented me with a series of challenges, as well as multiple chances for growth.

I remember the first time I was put in the role of Mobile Engineering Team Lead of LIVEhouse.in. I was nervous but happy that I had been chosen to lead a team of around seven members, after just three years as a full-time worker. I was very grateful for the chance the company had afforded me. However, I eventually discovered that more than managing a team, I wanted to be closer to the development process of a new product. When the company understood I wanted a change of responsibilities, they were less concerned about how to fill my soon-to-be vacant position, and more desirous of seeing a talented person stay with the company and find new room for development. Shortly after, I was transferred to the back-end engineering team. Under the leadership of our colleague, Li-fong, the entire team was a swell of positive energy, and I acquired many back-end engineering skills. 

The change of job positions brought its own challenges, such as the difference in technical know-how and field knowledge. But in terms of the frameworks and concepts, there are quite a few similarities between engineering and product development. A bit later, I was put in charge of the back end of the Straas product; and then, I became the streaming engineer; after that, I was made head of the entire Straas team. The company has devoted every effort to nurturing my career; my only hope is that, when the company has need of me, I will be ready to step up and give something in return. iKala is mindful of every individual's personal growth, and it is careful to place you in a team where the right leader and right team members can help you develop new skills and contribute to the team effort. I think this is closely related to the unique quality of our company: we like to share, and we are not reluctant to teach someone about something they don't know. The culture of the entire company is the catalyst for this kind of camaraderie. It is what helps everyone achieve personal growth and acquire new skills when changing from one job function to another.

Looking back, my different roles and responsibilities have afforded me a more fulfilling experience in my career. I have been given a more complete understanding of our products, and now I can look at new problems from a more all-encompassing perspective. For example, engineers are accustomed to using the work hours it will take to complete a task to evaluate whether a client's request can be fulfilled. But if we looked at this problem from a broader perspective, we would realize there are other questions to be asked. For example: does the client really need this? Is it possible they don't fully grasp what they want? We leverage our in-depth understanding of the product so we can return to our client with counterproposals. Sometimes, there is more than one way to give customers what they want.

In recent years, as the person who's in charge of a whole team, I've spent a lot of my time communicating with team members about our "vision". You must first help everyone understand what the company's ultimate vision and goal is. Once everybody is on board, you can get down to the nitty-gritty and provide individual assistance, such as helping colleagues learn new skills, earn a bigger paycheck, or develop an affinity for the team. In the process of communicating, I can clearly feel the company is willing to listen to its employees, to accept logical counsel, and to strive for a win-win situation.

After so many different roles and responsibilities, I still choose to stay with iKala, precisely because of the people. The company has always offered me a chance to grow. It has given me a platform to develop my abilities, and it has demonstrated that it values and respects the talent of its employees. After more than eight years with iKala, I can say that I like my workplace and my colleagues from the bottom of my heart. I look forward to working harder to make my team and company even better.

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Culture

Human-Centered: A Beautiful Flower Built with Teamwork

Human-centered is treating employees as the most valuable assets of the company.

By Fiona Chou, Senior Vice President of Corporate Business Development & Communication, iKala

human-centered-ai

As anyone who works at iKala will know, "Human-Centered" is the core of iKala's culture and vision. However, some may not know the circumstances that created the concept of "Human-Centered", and how it became the core ideal that drives iKala forward.

I joined iKala at the beginning of 2019. At the time, one of my tasks was to help rebrand the iKala group as "One iKala". Before I came aboard, there was no specific person in charge of branding, public affairs, or corporate communications. Because of this, even though the company had a lot of experience creating new products, there was a relative lack of ability to narrate and promote the story of its brand.

In the past, my experience with corporate brand strategy research and practice has taught me that 90% of companies know little about branding beyond naming their products and describing their functions. That is not true branding. True branding is about fostering a partiality in the minds of clients and customers; so that, in addition to the benefit they gain from buying the product, there is an added value. To the client and customer, a good brand is a sense of trust; a cherished asset; a guarantee. Therefore, before we can create the iKala brand, we need to understand the core values of the company, including the "brand identity", "business philosophy", and "corporate vision". Especially since iKala has such a broad range of products used in different industries and regions, if we did not keep a set of ideals as the unifying basis, it would be easy to lose focus in our messaging.

So, I conducted interviews with our CEO, Sega, to understand why he founded the company; what he learned along the way; and how iKala is unique among other AI-related companies. Sega explained that to his mind, the greatest technological revolution since the Industrial Revolution has been the development of AI. This inspiring new tech should be used to augment humanity's capabilities. Instead of replacing humans, it should be a step towards ensuring our happiness and advancing our society.

This is the basis of iKala's corporate vision of being "Human-Centered".

What's more, to inspire trust, a good brand should adhere to the same rules of character as a human being. That is to say, there needs to be "consistency" and "constancy" in its brand image. If we put iKala under a microscope, we will see that despite the evolution of its products and technologies over time—from cloud-based karaoke services to streaming social platforms, to audio-video platform software services for enterprises, to cloud-based infrastructure, to AI marketing and business technologies—in the end, all these products and services were a combination of technology and humanity, which helped people create more value and achieve greater influence. In other words, they were the actualization of the "Human-Centered" technological empowerment.

Certainly, some have said that "Human-Centered" sounded like a marketing slogan, while others have raised questions about how our vision became the core value of our corporate culture.

In fact, if one looked at the operating guidelines iKala has followed in the past, one could hardly fail to come to the conclusion that the entire operation has always been centered around people. This can be seen from our internal rules and regulations: including our "Peer Review", "Peer Interview", and "Peer Bonus" systems. This is also evident from iKala's six "Human-Centered" core values, which guide the company to this day. Through these guidelines, we hope every member of our team will be able to turn theory into practice when going about their daily tasks. Together, we will build the ideal work environment and corporate identity. 

If we turned our gaze inward, we would see that "Human-Centered" has always existed in iKala's DNA. It's only that, as the company has grown and prospered, the unchanging culture of iKala has advanced with the times, and we should help the company, the team, and the individuals grasp its meaning more clearly by using different methods and practices.

The Japanese entrepreneur Kazuo Inamori famously said: "Great inventions and major discoveries result from continued effort in such tedious, mundane activities." iKala's "Human-Centered" corporate vision and culture has been nurtured by the collective effort of many; by their steadfast stewardship has this beautiful flower bloomed at last.