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Five Burning Questions about People Ops with Hometap’s Drea Garvey

Updated: 2 days ago

Andrea “Drea” Garvey has led People Operations at Boston-based startup, Hometap, for over four years. She considers herself a “partner for people,” focusing on finding great people to join Hometap and creating a culture that makes it one of the best places to work in Boston (and beyond). She has a background in marketing, but has been focused on people operations for over a decade. 

I asked Drea five questions about running a people function at a startup and her advice for DEI and maintaining company culture in a distributed workforce.

SB: What do you think is different about recruiting people to work at a startup versus a publicly-traded, larger organization?

Garvey: About ten years ago, at my prior company, I shifted from the marketing team to accepting a role in recruiting. I developed an apprenticeship program to recruit and train junior mobile engineers and designers. My interest in people operations grew out of my experience operationalizing that program (before the company for which I worked was sold to Accenture). 

At smaller companies and start-ups, you have the flexibility to focus on job readiness more so than formal educational requirements. We’ve been able to eliminate a particular educational requirement if it is not essential to performing the job, which can make recruiting more equitable. Also, it allows you to hire highly qualified, highly-motivated candidates who are pursuing career switching at many boot-camp style training programs.  

SB: What has been one of the biggest challenges you've experienced at Hometap? 

Garvey: Obviously, the abrupt change from being an ‘in-office’ culture pre-pandemic was a turning point in the organization. We were able to make required operational changes to our business (think pivoting from in-person home appraisals) while we continued to offer our product to homeowners.

From there, we have grown more distributed - with Hometappers in 33 states, with pockets of Hometappers in North Carolina, the tri-state area and Boston. This has led to us thinking critically and creatively about communications, connectivity and clarity of functions and roles. 

SB: What are the ways in which you still try to maintain your culture when you're so distributed?

Garvey: Culture obviously evolves with every new hire that you bring on and every person who leaves the company. There are a few things we do consciously to cultivate our values-based culture: 

We bring our mission and our values to life - we focus on being good neighbors and owners in our work - creating solutions, communicating directly, putting the team and homeowners first, rolling up our sleeves, and collaborating with trust. 

We have built this “ways of working document,” a book if you will, that sort of helps to lay the groundwork of like, how do we think about things? What are operating principles? What are our goals?

We have a very robust planning process with regard to our operating initiatives. This clarity around our key goals allows us to be metrics-driven and ensure we are delivering growth and value to the business throughout the whole organization. 

We get together both virtually and in person: We have 2 virtual touch points a week: on Monday, we have a quick team call to see come together and prepare for the week. On Fridays, we send an email recap which is more social - we share announcements, key milestones. We welcome new Hometappers, and say farewell to folks who are leaving. We really love our pets. 

We have a monthly All Hands where we cover all of our operating initiatives and progress against our goals. In that meeting, we always share a homeowner story. Once a year, we are fortunate to do our All Hands meeting in person.  

We are part of our communities: Some of the organizations we work with include Heading Home, Hack Diversity, BUILD, Cradles to Crayons, The Home for Little Wanderers and Tech Ladies

SB: What DEI initiatives have you prioritized?

Garvey: Formally, diversity, equity and inclusion is one of the 3 pillars of our CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility], along with financial literacy and community events. This means there’s a focus on DE&I and how we bring our full selves to work and how we give back. The committee has held events ranging from bringing speakers for Lunch & Learn sessions to hosting potlucks to honor our various cultures and learn about one another more deeply.

We also work to open paths to join Hometap as employees. For example, we partner with Hack.Diversity, acting as mentors and a hiring partner for their interns.  

SB: What advice can you give to the Startup Boston community, which includes many founders and early-stage startups, on how to get educated on people ops and best practices if they’re managing those things themselves?

Garvey: There are really helpful Slack communities out there to join with people who are leading different communities, at different organizations of various sizes. Larger companies also put out a lot of content which you can use as inspiration, and help you to crystallize how you might take your vision and your values and translate them into practical day-to-day applications that are right for you. 

I also recently heard Claire Hughes Johnson speak and she wrote a book that I recommend, “Scaling People: Tactics for Management and Company Building.”


Learn more about Hometap’s CSR here. Good news for job seekers, Hometap is hiring! View open roles here


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