If you visit MailChimp’s Atlanta HQ on a typical Wednesday morning, you might see a lot of people with headphones on, tapping their feet, occasionally laughing in sync. In fact, it might seem a little spooky until you realize we’re enjoying KIMP, our employee-run radio station.
Music is baked into MailChimp’s DNA. Some of us play in bands, collect LPs, or DJ on the weekends. A few of us used to work at a radio station. And several of us have written for or edited various music publications over the years. So when a coworker offhandedly asked in 2015 if MailChimp should start an employee radio station, the answer was resoundingly positive.
KIMP Radio was born.
Now 3 years old, the station serves as a fitting microcosm of the way we get things done at MailChimp. Our core values of humility, creativity, and independence tend to show up in everything we do, and KIMP is no exception.
When the idea of KIMP first emerged, people from various departments stepped up to make an ad hoc team. The naming was easy. In the wake of Serial, It had to be KIMP, even if we are on the “W” side of the Mississippi. People signed up to DJ, but also to spend personal time training fellow coworkers. One of MailChimp’s co-founders, a DJ in his own right, let the studio borrow his turntable setup. The Facilities team put together a sound booth. IT figured out the logistics of audio streaming to hundreds of people. Our friendly Legal team made sure we were legit. Designers made posters. All sorts of people contributed voiceovers.
Best of all? Everyone did this without being asked. They all came together for a fun side project, quickly and quietly filling in the gaps to make KIMP happen. It was humility at work.
KIMP also reflects our strong sense of independence, including the freedom to fail. Aside from some light embarrassment amongst coworkers, there are no repercussions for awkward on-air moments or playing the wrong song. And because it’s all streamed live to hundreds of MailChimp peeps, it lets us fail safely and noisily, and is helpful for the many introverts here to get experience with “public” speaking. In a way, it’s practice for “failing” in bigger ways, like speaking up in meetings or making suggestions to a team. When you have permission to fail, you’re more likely to try stuff that others might consider weird or unnecessary. A crucial by-product of that spirit is that it leads to innovation, which is essential to our growing organization.
Most obviously, the station is a way to practice creativity. Each week, 3 employees get an hour to play whatever they want (as long as it’s respectful and FCC safe, of course). We’ve had humorous talk shows, an hour of music from a 1994 water park, a show highlighting women in music, and a show celebrating Jay Z’s birthday. If you walked around our office the Wednesday after Prince died, you would have been hard-pressed to find a dry eye thanks to a powerful tribute show. KIMP has become a way to celebrate teams, mark milestones, and revel in our differences.
We even have a KIMP Slack channel where we talk about each show as it’s happening. More than that, employees discuss what they’re listening to, band t-shirts, each week’s new releases, and more. That channel is just one way our radio station has fostered new bonds and improved communication across the company. Perhaps most of all, KIMP has reminded all 800 of us that being yourself makes all the difference.