On being seen as a whole person: Valentine’s Day at Imbue

March 1, 2024

When I first met Imbue’s co-founder Kanjun in 2017, I immediately bookmarked her as someone who I should jump at the opportunity to work with if I ever had the chance. What struck me most from our very first conversation was her genuine curiosity and compassion for me as a person. She agreed to meet after I cold emailed her, but there was nothing “network-y” or transactional about our call. It was evident that she was a capable leader and creative visionary, but also, more importantly, a kind soul.

Almost three years later, the opportunity to work with Kanjun finally arose when she was looking for a Head of Talent for her new AI research lab that would later become Imbue. I eagerly agreed to interview for the position.

When I visited the Imbue team for an onsite trial project, I was both surprised and totally unsurprised to find that the small team of people working with Kanjun exuded the same kindness I saw in her when I first met her.

After years of working with technical people, I had become used to not being taken seriously as soon as people heard I was a recruiter — so much so that I implicitly braced myself for this when meeting the team. When I arrived for my trial project, the team—an intimidatingly bright and capable group of people—treated me in a way that I had become so unaccustomed to that it felt like receiving a warm hug you didn’t even know you needed after a long day’s work.

Nic at the Imbue launch party. Photo credit: Kristin Cofer.

The team took me seriously. They listened when I spoke; they engaged with my ideas and gave me meaningful feedback on them. They helped give me context about their research so I could follow along and answered my questions patiently when I asked. Even more mind-blowing to me, they asked me for my opinion about the research and listened intently when I bashfully—and, over time, more confidently—spoke my mind.

In short, the small but mighty Imbue team that I visited in 2020 treated me like a human. It was a refreshing feeling—being seen and appreciated for all my complexities—and I knew that Imbue was a place where I could feel safe being myself. At Imbue, I was never known as “the recruiter”; I was known as me, a person with many hopes, dreams, passions, strengths, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. Consequently, my time at Imbue has been the most concentrated period of positive growth (both personally and professionally) of my adult life—feeling unconstrained by the confines of my role and supported by a team that is kind to its core has allowed me to grow in new, surprising, and very positive ways.

The team celebrating together over dinner. Photo credit: Kristin Cofer.

The way we seek to understand and encourage each other at Imbue evokes psychologist Erich Fromm’s definition of love as the “active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.” I was reminded of this on Valentine’s Day when we did our first ever Appreciation Exchange. Each team member received the names of four people for whom to write a note of appreciation; the four were (to a rough approximation) a mix of people that the person had worked closely with, and people that they didn’t know as well. Before Valentine’s Day, everyone wrote their notes of appreciation, and on the day of, we revealed the notes to each recipient.

Notes were marked as either shareable or private by the author, and I was delighted to see that the shareable notes focused not as much on people’s qualifications and performances in their roles, but the unique qualities they brought to the team as individuals.

I took the liberty of using one shareable note for each person to generate a poem about them. While the exact words of appreciation remain our little secrets, I think these poems show how deeply we’re all appreciated for who the unique and vibrant individuals we all are.

Kanjun, leader true and fair,

Brought a vision unique and rare,

A team so strong, a mission cared,

Kindles potential in others, declared,

Her genuine spirit, beyond compare.

Josh, a giant with a heart so rare,

His presence felt, his wisdom fair.

Across the globe, he shines his light,

Guides the team through day and night.

In him, possibility and inspiration unite.

Bryden, cool as a gentle, morning mist,

A balance of chill, hip and fresh, easy to persist.

His solid grounding in the frenzy, a beacon in the abyss,

A dynamic force, yet relaxed, none can dismiss.

With Bryden, hard work and lightness harmoniously coexist.

Ellie, with a mind like the morning’s gleam,

Guiding us through life, as in a dream.

With her calm stance, she yields the truth,

In problems tangled, she finds the root.

Her energy grounds us, like a steady beam.

If you’re interested in joining our team, we’d love to hear from you.

To apply, see our open roles or email jobs@imbue.com.