Culture As A Profession: What Does It Mean?

We spoke with three "culture" professionals to see what they do, what's most important when it comes to culture at a company or brand, and how their roles differ. What we found was that culture is very subjective. It can come in the form of human resources and internal communications, marketing and branding, and identifying brands with communities. Each are equally important roles that seem to be growing within organizations.


Shoshana Balistierri

Director of People & Culture at Indagare Travel

Define "culture" in your industry. 

The travel space is nuanced. Coming from fashion/retail, I did a lot of research when I started with the company. From my perspective, there's a divide between up-and-coming travel startups and traditional agencies. I say this all the time, but Indagare is truly unique. We're not simply a content brand or simply an agency, and we don't symptomatically do one or the other. Our content drives our planning behavior and vice versa. Because our company was founded by journalists and editors, we've taken a very different approach to the travel planning process and our business model. In turn, this creative focus has impacted the way we engage, communicate and educate our team. Unlike other travel firms, we don't operate with independent contractors (IC's), instead, our model is team focused, and we concentrate on nurturing a collective intelligence with long-term employees. Collaboration is very much at the core of what we do. It’s very much a hive mind culture. Early on, our founders realized that there was a lack of knowledge sharing in the industry, so we decided to combat this by creating a culture that was more of a community than just a group of independent agents. I can't speak to other cultures in other travel firms, but I can say that we are a unique hospitality brand comprised of a community of passionate travel advisors.

What does your position entail? 

One of the reasons I joined Indagare was because I was ready to really make an impact. To me, being an HR Business Partner involves so much more than compliance, policies, procedures and administrative duties. I believe that traditional HR practice has moved farther away from being, well, human. In HR, we're trained to be simultaneously connected and disconnected from the clients we support. I became an HR leader because I wanted to work with people. Since we spend most of our time at work, it was important to me that I play a role in creating a positive and kind work environment. I was very much drawn to the role of being an advisor, coach, developmental lighthouse, and business partner. So, my position here has many different components, and I have the autonomy to be creative with my people strategy. I spend a lot of my time focused on developmental work: teaching and coaching others, participating in business strategy sessions, leading learning and development courses and conducting interviews. We're experiencing a major growth phase right now, so my team and I are focused on talent acquisition and thinking about the holistic employee life cycle. As the People & Culture leader, I'm constantly challenged to find a balance between bigger picture thinking and tactical day-to-day people operations. Which is great for me because my background is in entrepreneurship... 

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