Deva lifts Zymergen culture to its full potential

NAME:

Deva Berman

ROLE:

Director of Workplace Services

JOINED:

2018

Deva Berman has been helping startups grow throughout her career. A veteran of the first dotcom wave, she likes to join companies during growth phases—when founders and employees stretch themselves and pieces like facilities and workplace services become more demanding. Deva specializes in running these areas like fine-tuned machines.

At Zymergen, she leads a team that enables the company to perform to its full potential, from security, food programs, and transportation, to office management, environments, and events. The work is right in her wheelhouse, but the experience is unlike anything she’s had in her career so far.

“You just make it work. Until a new way is needed.”

There’s a point where the way things have been run is no longer scalable. That’s the point when folks like me come in and ask, how are we doing each of these things? Can we double in size? Can we triple in size? Will this carry to a bigger facility? Are we doing things the most efficient way? Are we using the right vendor? It’s not just figuring out what to do but figuring out how to do it in a way that best serves our company and its employees.

“We are a group of very dedicated people who believe in what we’re doing.”

We’re doing something that people actually feel really strongly about. You want to work at a place where people are doing something good for the world. Most people don’t have that opportunity. I think that’s a rallying point for us.

“We’ve got a very diverse company.”

We come from a diversity of fields, backgrounds, and age groups. Some people come from academia. Some come from older, traditional companies, some from tech startups. Having that diversity of perspectives means you’ve got a group super excited to work in new ways and has a range of expectations of our workplace. That makes you want to do things for them. It’s a real difference working here, and you can feel it.

“We’re a startup in scrappiness and mentality.”

That’s what the founders really want to hold on to as we grow. We’re encouraged to experiment and learn from our successes and failures; we change direction as we learn more about the business and our customers. In that sense we are more of a startup. That being said, I’m not working on a metro shelf with a door on top of it. That was my first company. We’re a lot more grown-up than that.

“One huge difference is that the founders try to be very transparent with us.”

They tell us things that in other companies, we would never have been told. They actually talk about mistakes. It’s like, ‘hey, we just blew this thing, and this is what it’s going to cause. This is what we learned from it. This is why it’s not a disaster. These are the challenges.’ When a company does that, it’s not typical. There’s trust. I really think that transparency is huge.

“We have a range of smarts.”

It’s a great mix of super left and right brain people. We’re not all scientists or software engineers. There’s a high competency in very technical things spread across a lot of different categories, and that’s what makes it interesting for me. We’ve got a lot of intelligence but in very different ways. I think that’s a real draw for folks.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER:
I had a lot of thoughts about sociology and psychology, but my love for people, logistics, and customer service led me down the path of facilities management.

WHAT DID YOU STUDY:
I have a BA in Women’s Studies.

SOMETHING THAT INSPIRED YOU RECENTLY:
My partner works in adult education for marginalized communities. I am constantly inspired by the tenacity of her students and their quest to go back to school as adults to get their diplomas, or sometimes just learn to read. These folks remind me that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and that you can conquer obstacles you never thought possible.

ONE THING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU:
I used to be an active musician. Some of my bands were The Fallopian Tubes, Pat the Bunny, and Creamy Goodness. You probably won’t hear any of those on the radio.

BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED:
Order the burrata.