Unifying Team Culture Through Branding with Julia Blachman

In this episode of the B2B Leadership podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje speaks with Julia Blachman, Head of Global Human Resources at IRONSCALES.
In this episode...

0:23 - Julia's background - Julia explains her role at IRONSCALES.

4:48 - Building a company identity - Julia calls her team "scalers" instead of employees.
10:31 - Your role as an HR leader - Julia lives by this philosophy.
11:11 - Decisions vs approvals - What's the difference between the two within an organization?
16:36 - Focus on opportunities - What does this mean in the context of leadership?
19:15 - Important leadership characteristics - What does Julia look for in a candidate?
27:05 - Julia's advice to herself - What advice would Julia give her younger self?

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There are many different ways to achieve a unified team culture but it is not easy because of cultural diversity.

In this episode, Julia Blachman shares how branding helped her organization achieve a unified team culture.

Julia's background

Julia Blachman is the Head of Global HR at IRONSCALES, a self-learning AI-driven email security platform. Her role involves supporting their people, their people's experience, and all of the HR functions from recruiting to engagement and professional development.

Building a company identity

IRONSCALES and all of their "Scalers" are extremely passionate about cybersecurity and creating a safer tomorrow for their clients.

What does Scalers mean?

Scalers are what they call their employees at IRONSCALES.

Julia didn't like calling their people, "employees" so she came up with the idea of branding their people as "Scalers" to identify everyone at IRONSCALES and this made a big difference to their company culture.

Julia partnered with their marketing team and created a Scaler logo. Their CEO addresses the employees as Scalers when sending weekly updates and everyone is constantly using it now.

Being a Scaler means having DNA that they all share. Everyone is unique, but they're all similar at the same time because of that same thread that is threaded throughout who they are.

Branding unified their team culture and because of that, they overcame one of the biggest challenges during the last year and a half of the pandemic where everyone was remote and global.

What advice does Julia have from a leadership perspective for somebody who wants to build their own company identity?

Start with having conversations with everybody in your organization. It is critical to talk to as many people as you can.

Partner with one of your tenured senior employees who have seen the company evolve to identify the company values.

Take a step back and ask, "Who are we and who do we want to be?"

Be real about who you are today, and acknowledge who you want to be.

Your role as an HR leader

One of Julia's leadership philosophies as an HR leader is not making decisions for her people and their organization. Instead, she makes recommendations based on the surveys she has conducted.

She talks to people and gets input from lots of different sources. She makes recommendations, because it's not about what she wants but what their people want.

HR leaders are advocates for the people. Being an advocate for the people is having a voice for the people and amplifying their voice. If you take the data from the surveys and put it into action, the people feel heard.

People would prefer to take many surveys and have their voice heard, than be told these are the new benefits that we're doing.

If you're an executive leader and you're only thinking about your ideas and thinking that you know all the answers, you're going to fail because you almost never know the answer.

Being a good leader is somebody who knows their strengths, knows the areas that they have no clue about, knows the areas where they know a little and can get by, and is willing to be humble enough to admit it and say, I have no idea what I'm doing.

As a leader, you don't have to make the decisions. Talk to your people, survey extensively and get inputs from them to be able to make recommendations instead.

Decisions vs approvals

Decisions and approvals are two different things. You might make approvals, you might make announcements, but not the decisions.

What's the difference between the two within an organization?

It's making the recommendations to the team, says Julia.

Whether you're doing a global survey on your team or talking on your daily senior leadership team stand up, you're bringing the recommendations, and then decisions are made as a team. Approvals are then done by the CEO or the board. Decisions are not made by one person but by a group of people.

Once the approval is done, you then make the announcement. Announcements are Julia's favorite part. She tries to make them fun. Their monthly Scalers on deck meetings are always a riot.

How does Julia make their announcements fun?

They rebranded their monthly all-hands meeting. They shifted it to a "Scalers on deck" meeting to make it sound more fun.

They've also moved from the traditional one person who is delivering a lot of information, or you're hearing an announcement from every department to now, they change it up every time.

Julia asks each senior leader to think of something that's relevant within their department to share with the team, and then asks them to choose somebody on their team to present it. So they're having the Scalers present to the rest of the Scalers.

Peers learn better from peers, says Julia. You're going to listen way more when it's your friend talking than when it's HR talking.

Incorporating your brand into your meeting is one of the best ways to permeate the brand through everything, because it's not just the all-hands meeting, it's the Scalers on deck meeting.

Focus on opportunities

What does focus on opportunities mean in the context of leadership?

When their CEO does the "focus on opportunity" talk at the beginning of their Scalers on deck meeting, he shares his perspective about what opportunities they need to focus on.

Visibility is an important leadership characteristic. If you're a leader, don't assume that everybody else knows what you know.

Their CEO makes sure that everybody else knows what he knows. He verbally pushes it out into the organization, as opposed to assuming that everybody knows what opportunities they need to focus on.

Important leadership characteristics

What are some of the most important leadership characteristics that Julia looks for in a candidate?

Being supportive is Julia's number one guiding principle. As a leader, you should support your employees as they grow.

Another one is being curious or urgent curiosity as their CEO calls it. You have to be humble enough to know what you don't know and be willing to learn.

Have the interest to learn to get there and not the ego to think you're already there.

Julia's advice to herself

What advice would Julia give her younger self?

She would tell her younger self to just jump on everything in life, to go for it, and to trust herself.

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