February 23, 2022

How Cloudburst fosters entrepreneurship on its team

Cloudburst X is our paid side project program that compensates team members to build their own thing


Hillary Manning

Entrepreneurship, stability, and me

When I applied to Cloudburst in 2020, one line in the job posting gave me pause: “Ideal candidates have entrepreneurial experience.”

I had to Google “entrepreneurship,” and it almost scared me off from the whole thing. It seemed that entrepreneurship meant living out on a financial limb. I admired it, but that wasn’t me. Still, Cloudburst’s flexible working model, benefit corporation status, and core values resonated with me so much that I submitted an application anyway. To my delight, I ended up getting invited to interview, and that word, “entrepreneurship,” kept coming up in the process. Which made sense—it’s one of our core values: “Entrepreneurship: we are rational optimists who love to ask questions and create.”

Okay, I thought, I can connect with that definition. But in contrast to what we usually think of when we hear the word “entrepreneurship,” I’ve always needed stability (read: a full-time job) in my professional life. Beyond the financial pressure, too much uncertainty can crush my willingness to take risks and be creative, and my enjoyment in learning new things. I don’t believe I’m unique in this (otherwise everyone would be an entrepreneur!). But I do believe Cloudburst is unique in how it empowers its employees to pursue entrepreneurship while still being taken care of financially:

  • We get the stability of a traditional “day job:” a salary, benefits, a team to connect with, and steady work to do
  • At the same time, we get to work on a variety of projects with entrepreneurs who are out there putting it all on the line to make a difference
  • We get to work on our own independent projects through the Cloudburst X program—something so cool it feels like cheating! More on that below.

Cloudia, Cloudburst’s unofficial mascot, reminding us that entrepreneurship is a mindset. Felted and photographed by Hillary Manning.

The Cloudburst X program and how it works

What it is

Cloudburst X (CBX) is Cloudburst’s paid side project program. It’s a perk for team members that compensates us to build our own thing, learn or deepen our skills, or volunteer our time for a cause that resonates with us. While Cloudburst has a license to use what we create as long as we're employees, we maintain all intellectual property rights to our work.

How it works

Cloudburst X is paid by the hour, and those hours are based on how much of our time we give to clients. Another unique perk of being a Cloudburst employee is that we’re able to choose our own time commitments to client work, between 30 and 40 hours per week. Every year, we make or adjust our “core commitment.” Whatever we choose, we get an additional 20% of our total hours per year to spend on Cloudburst X. My core commitment is 35 hours a week of client work, so I have roughly 83 hours (20% of 35 hours x 12 weeks) to spend on CBX each quarter. We track our CBX hours with the same time tracking software we use for client work, and Cloudburst X compensation is paid out quarterly at our salaried rate.

Some folks make the time for Cloudburst X work on nights or weekends, I choose to lower my core commitment to build in CBX hours into my week. It’s all about balancing your work and your personal priorities in a way that makes sense for you.

Built-in community

We have a dedicated Slack channel for folks to share their CBX progress internally. Even though most of our projects are independent, it’s energizing and encouraging to see your teammates’ reactions to your CBX work.

No strings attached

The program has no requirements around outcomes. What you do with a project is up to you: if you want to grow what you’ve done into a business, Cloudburst is supportive and Zack is always a cup of coffee away to help. Or you can simply enjoy learning or contributing without it needing to generate income. Having the freedom to ask questions, pursue answers, and work independently makes us better, more empathetic partners with our clients. We know what it’s like to let ourselves care about an idea and do the hard work to get started and keep building, one hour at a time.

Cloudia right after a launch. Felted and photographed by Hillary Manning.

What we’ve built through Cloudburst X

Through the past two years of client work and side projects at Cloudburst, I’ve learned to embrace that word, “entrepreneurship.”

Since joining I’ve used CBX time for everything from making data visualizations on police violence or COVID numbers to creating art in virtual reality. You can learn more about the different ways to use CBX by reading my Cloudburst team member story or my colleague Nic’s. Whatever it is that moves you, this program gives you time and incentive to do, even if it’s something you’re still learning or it feels hard to prioritize your own project day to day.

This winter, we held our first Cloudburst X-athon, an all-day virtual event where the team could come together for a dedicated day of co-working on our CBX projects. The theme was “Do it in a day,” and it was all about finally tackling what we’d been putting off or building up in our heads. For me, my goal was to get started on figuring out how to build augmented reality apps through a Progressive Web App pipeline (as opposed to through a native mobile app). Other team members worked on everything from art and video games to making a landing page for selling 3D-printed Roomba stoppers.

It’s amazing how Cloudburst X has given us the space, community, and financial support to #buildinpublic on things we’re passionate about without having to worry about being “successful” at it. Even though we aren’t building the same things, our sharing and excitement keeps us moving forward. Getting to know coworkers in this way makes us a stronger team who respects each other’s ideas, perspectives, and values.

One of the big reasons I joined Cloudburst is because the people who work here are all-around kind and interesting people who want to use their talents for good. You could call these types of people artists or makers—Cloudburst calls them entrepreneurs. Most people associate entrepreneurship with taking risk. Through Cloudburst X, Cloudburst is broadening that definition.

Are you an entrepreneurial technologist who can see yourself working at Cloudburst? Learn about openings or submit a general application here.

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Hillary Manning is a Senior Developer at Cloudburst, short-story enthusiast, and cross-reality crafter. In their studio you will find VR gear, wool for felting, driftwood, crystals, texture photography, and books on the social impact of technology.