US HR Management: A Tour Diary

On November 11 through 16, as part of an open tour, HDRs and CEOs of leading CIS-based companies personally met with top managers from Airbnb, Netflix, Google HQ, Whole Foods, Plug & Play, 500 Startups, Cisco, and Zappos.

On November 11 through 16, as part of an open tour, HDRs and CEOs of leading CIS-based companies personally met with top managers from Airbnb, Netflix, Google HQ, Whole Foods, Plug & Play, 500 Startups, Cisco, and Zappos.

Day 1 
On this day, we got to know the accelerator that had nurtured Google and PayPal, learned about the switch to a four-day work week in Silicon Valley and were given a lecture by a Berkeley professor

Lecture by a mentor at the Plug&Play accelerator and professor at University of California, Berkeley 

The CEO of one of the best IoT (Internet of Things) companies in Silicon Valley gave us a lecture on Corporate Culture and HR in Silicon Valley. 

There were many interesting insights such as that LinkedIn is the main tool for attracting the best job candidates in the Valley. Yes, it doesn’t come cheap, but the recruiting department gets a lot of bang for its buck. 

Microsoft is one of the first companies in the Valley to officially announce its intention to adopt a shortened workweek.


What’s more, there has been a lot of talk about a four-day workweek and whether it’s effective and necessary to implement.

Getting introduced to Plug & Play Center 

Plug and Play Tech Center nurtures around 300 startups at the same time. They can benefit from seminars, webinars, and consultations on business operations, building business models, and promoting projects. But the most important thing about Plug & Play is that it gives access to a pool of 180 venture investors all over the world. 

Getting introduced to Plug & Play Center

Lecture and Q&A session by the head of talent acquisition department at the recruiting company CPrime 

CPrime, Inc is a global consultancy lending assistance to businesses undergoing transformation. The solutions offered by CPrime Agile Project Management help clients introduce Scrum and other agile practices as part of a larger management ecosystem.

In the last six consecutive years, CPrime was named one of the fastest growing companies in San Francisco Bay area. 

Day 2
How does recruiting in the US differ from that in Russia? How do they recruit and develop talent in Silicon Valley?

Meeting an expert from Walgreens Boots Alliance

Our expert used to be Senior Vice President and CEO for digital, mobile, and e-commerce at The Walt Disney. Quite recently, he headed several different teams at Amazon including Amazon Echo, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, the biggest-selling product in Amazon’s history. 

Our meeting was about recruiting and developing talent in media companies as well as about the overall situation with employment in Silicon Valley

Business visit to Cinemood

Cinemood is a manufacturer of handheld projectors with pre-installed content and online services for the whole family under the brands of Cinemood and Multikubik. 

The company was founded by Mikhail Bukhovtsev who once decided to show his daughter some Soviet filmstrips but was unable to find a modern device that would process them. Since then his idea gave birth to a startup and then grew into an international company.


Cinemood’s partner in the US is Disney. The mini-cinema was licensed to show Disney cartoons and numerous e-books were adapted for Cinemood. In the US, its digital platform has Disney cartoons and e-books pre-installed and users can also access Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

In the first quarter of 2019, the company employed 60 people. Between 2015 and the early 2019, the company sold more than 27,000 pocket projectors in 90 countries all over the world. 

The co-owner and manager of Cinemood gave a lecture and held a Q&A session on “Personnel management. KPI/OKR. Differences in recruiting and training people in the CIS countries and the US”.

During the meeting, the speaker emphasized the following points: 

  • recruiting in California is too expensive and it makes little sense to work there if your company is not associated with tech;
  • and don’t forget about the outrageously high taxes that do nothing but give you headache;
  • the competition among employers and employees in California is extremely intense; many people dream about working at Facebook or Google, but in fact the working conditions there are not much better than in other international companies; 
  • American employees know how to sell their skills because they know their worth and are aware of the strong competition on the job market, whereas in the CIS the situation is exactly the opposite; 
  • Americans can focus on one task whereas employees in the CIS often perform the same amount of functions three people would have performed elsewhere.

As for KPI and OKR systems, Cinemood uses quarterly planning where each KPI is divided into three or four target metrics. Meanwhile, OKR is unrelated to employee bonuses; it merely helps keep the focus on the target KPI and achieve them as soon as possible.

Our group during the meeting

Q&A session at Google HQ

Google develops and supports a number of internet services and products, generating profits primarily through advertising via AdWords. Google operates more than a million servers at data centers all over the world to process more than a billion of queries. Moreover, Google is developing the Android mobile operating system used on numerous smartphones, as well as Google Chrome OS and Google Glass. 

Incidentally, if you want to know more about the company and its corporate culture, we recommend reading How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle.

Day 3
On this day, we visited one of the world’s largest startup accelerators, a supermarket chain selling organic produce from local markets and a company with unusual corporate rituals

Visit to Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market, Inc is an American supermarket chain that purchases retail products from local, regional and international wholesalers. Most products are purchased at the regional or national level to make it easier to negotiate discounts with large suppliers and distributors. 

Some stores even have special employees called foragers whose only job is to look for local produce for their store.

At Whole Foods Organic Supermarket

Meeting at Airbnb

Describing what Airbnb does is probably redundant at this point, as we would wager that most of the readers of this diary have used this company’s services at least once. We have spoken to Airbnb employees, and they all agree that since day the company was founded, it has been about strong culture, clear values and unusual rituals. Everybody knows that one of the first large investors in Airbnb, Peter Thiel (Founders Fund) claims that the company’s culture was one of the main reasons he decided to invest. 

To learn more about how the innovative service has developed, we suggest you read The Airbnb Story by Leigh Gallagher.


Visit to 500 Startups 

500 Startups is one of the world’s largest accelerators specializing in incubators, seed funds and infrastructure for startups. The fund’s capitalization is more than $350 million. Its network of mentors is called 500 Family (these are the alumni of previous accelerator programs, mentors and experts from PayPal, Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and Apple).

The main topic of the Q&A session at 500 Startups HQ was “How to look for, work and get results with startups”.

Waiting for a new interesting meeting
Day 4
This was the day when we learned about a supermarket without sales assistants and merchandisers and the fight for talent at the world’s largest high-tech company

Visit to Trader Joe’s 

Trader Joe’s is a private American supermarket chain that has 504 stores in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Each store sells more than 4,000 different products. What makes Trader Joe’s stand out is its personnel. There are no sales assistants, loaders or merchandisers, no uniforms or position-based duties. Any employee – or rather crew member, as they are called at Trader Joe’s – can perform any function in the saleroom like operating the cash register, arranging items on shelves, talking to customers etc.

About 20-25 people work one shift. Employees are required to communicate with customers and be as accommodating as possible, which includes describing products, showing customers to the shelves where they can find the items they want and helping shoppers to bring their purchases to the car. 

Meeting at Cisco

Cisco is the largest high-tech company in the world that sells network hardware to large organizations and telecommunications businesses. The company’s unusual business model includes a multipath certification system for network engineers. For instance, Cisco’s CCIE certification (Expert) is one of the best known and most respected in the IT industry. 

The speaker from Cisco told us much about the fight for talent, recruiting and onboarding, as well as in-house training. 

Day 5
On this day, we learned the story of a multibillion e-commerce corporation that 10 years ago started out at as a small company with an office in a bedroom and visited the producer of the best TV shows that everyone waits for with bated breath

Visit to Zappos

When Western executives and managers want to describe a kind of business that thrives thanks to the power of its corporate culture, they often say “Zappos-like” or “Zappos-style”. That’s why when the time came to visit Zappos, we decided to discuss the ways corporate culture is created and supported, as well as the company’s values and features, employee motivation methods and what the WOW Effect should look like. 

Meeting at Netflix

Netflix is a unique company with a very unusual corporate culture and some astounding achievements: 

  • As of January 2019, the company had 139 million subscribers all over the world;
  • Netflix streams about 250 million hours of  video in 190 countries every single day;
  • Each year, about 10 billion US dollars is spent on quality content. 
Netflix has 139 million subscribers worldwide

Netflix analyzes everything from its users’ preferences to the most popular movies on pirate websites, which gives the company a clear understanding of its audience so that it can offer the most sought-after products.

Day 6
On this day, we came to a place where volcanic rock met lava fields and discovered ancient Native American petroglyphs
Our group in an absolutely incredible place - Valley of Fire

Touring the Valley of Fire

There used to be a desert where the Valley of Fire now lies, but sand dunes had gradually turned into sandstone, while the wind sculpted them into tall “hives”, gentle “waves”, graceful arches, picturesque valleys with “layered” slopes, and all kinds of figures that were later named. Interestingly, some rocks and faults in the Valley of Fire are more than 150 million years old.

During the six days, the participants of our HR management tour received a lot of new impressions, knowledge and valuable contacts.



Join FastForward management tours, get unique experience and learn from industry leaders!

Participants’ impressions of previous management tours:
Having already taken part in educational tours, these people are happy to share their knowledge and impressions.
Anton Nesiforov
Anton NesiforovProcess Manager for fruit and vegetable preservation, beverages, and alcohol

On our tour of Germany, we visited the most famous food exhibition, the Green Week, as well as numerous retail chains and enterprises operating in various interesting industries. We have a lot to learn. We must take the best and use it. Thank you, FastForward, for your careful approach to creating this tour.

Alena Nesiforova
Alena NesiforovaUnified Concept Manager for Izbenka and VkusVill

We visited several retail stores in Germany, as well as manufacturing facilities. What we liked the most about the stores we visited was the high quality standards of German retail. Retailers know how to sell high-quality goods at affordable prices, and this is probably the main secret of Germany's retail success. As for production, we were inspired by some of the small family businesses we saw.