Craft talk

Plus: Collaboration contracts and how Steph Curry meets CEOs this week in The Memo.
Craft talk

Hello, Quartz at Work readers!

Conventional career wisdom holds that once you climb far enough up the professional ladder, the only way to advance further is by starting to manage people. But management shouldn’t have to be the only path to promotion, says Shopify chief human resources officer Tia Silas.

“No one thinks that Steve Jobs was a great leader because he loved people. He was an incredible innovator,” she tells Quartz’s Anna Oakes in an interview this week. “It would have been a shame for someone to tell him that he had to put his building tools down.”

Using that philosophy, this year the ecommerce company created a career system that helps people who want to build, rather than manage, advance to senior ranks—without having to lead people. At Shopify, they call them “crafters.”

Employees now choose whether they’ll become crafters or managers as an official designation in their role. When rolling out that system, Silas says, Shopify leaders emphasized that both career tracks were valued equally. And they needed to back it up.

“[We] had to create a compensation system that proved that was true,” Silas says. “Are you going to pay me the same amount you’re paying the VP with a sizable team? The answer is yes.”

No matter their path, crafters and managers have the same earning (and promotion) potential. So how does the org ensure they evaluate—and reward—them equally? It took some new thinking.

For one, Shopify tasked its in-house industrial-organizational psychologist with writing new questions for self-assessments. A behavioral science team helped rework performance scoring. And the company began basing its 360º reviews on who an employee spent the most time with over a six-month period, rather than traditional manager-report matchups.

All in all, the company offers a case study in supporting career paths away from traditional management. Read on for how teams can replicate their approach.


🛳 Welcome aboard the Executive Express! It’s dominated by white men, and its pace to pick up new members is glacial.

That’s what you might conclude from the latest report on boardroom diversity, which finds that Fortune 500 companies delivered a new record in 2022—but as Quartz’s Annalisa Merelli reports, the numbers aren’t enough.

Underrepresented groups—namely, women and minorities—make up a larger portion of Fortune 500 boards than ever before. But according to a report released by Deloitte, their gains are still small. In 2022, less than a quarter of board seats are held by members of racial and ethnic minorities, and the majority are still taken by white men. A few choice numbers:

  • 6.6%: The portion of seats held by women of color in 2020
  • 8.8%: The portion of seats held by women of color in 2022
  • 78%: The portion of seats still held by white people

At this rate, these groups won’t gain full representation across Fortune 500 boards until 2060. Check the numbers to see just how slow-moving change can be.


Representative or not, boards can also help break convention. When Guild CEO Rachel Romer started the edtech company, she made an unusual first request to her leadership board: Getting her an executive coach.

Romer is just one CEO to tap a coach-in-residence—a leadership position dedicated to keeping an executive team in sync—to benefit a company. Think about it, she says, like basketball’s most high-performing players. While even Steph Curry has a trainer dedicated to his personal skills, he reports to head coach Steve Kerr for direction on how to work with the team.

🏀 A coach-in-residence, Romer says, helps build up her team with surprising agility—and offers help beyond the c-suite. Hers takes on some unexpected extra roles, too.


Set “working agreements’’ with your team to get things done. When your teammates are busy working across hybrid schedules, hiring collaborators in distributed places, or figuring their way back to the office, you need better tools to keep you moving in the same direction.

A working agreement—or an informal contract that outlines how your team works together, from preferred communication styles to feedback systems—can help keep you in sync. And writing one takes less than an hour.

Try this six-step exercise to create that contract (and find our handy template to keep the momentum going, too).


🗯 The most confusing workplace jargon around the world 

🐦 What Twitter’s new CEO was really saying in her memo to staff 

⛹️‍♂️ Why your company needs a coach-in-residence 

💼 Fortune 500 companies delivered a new board diversity record, but it’s not enough 

🔄 Google has officially changed its mind about remote work 


Send questions, comments, and your best collaboration contracts to This edition of The Memo was produced by Gabriela Riccardi.