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November 25, 2020

The Pets of Bitwise

Anyone who’s spent an afternoon sipping coffee in South Stadium’s cafe has probably heard the tip-tapping of paws on pavement, looked up and seen a familiar furry face making his rounds through the cafe. His floppy white ears and fluffy belly will greet you, if only for a moment to sniff whatever is on your plate or in your cup. His name is Bruce, and he’s one of the most recognizable parts of life at Bitwise – so much so that he’s earned the nickname and hashtag #BitwiseBruce!

Bruce’s human is Irma Olguin Jr., Bitwise Co-Founder and CEO. Their paths crossed unexpectedly, when Bruce and the rest of his litter were being adopted out by Irma’s friends. While having grown up with animals, Irma – and let’s be clear about this – did not want to adopt a pet. Her life was busy enough!  “At the time I was a high school teacher, it was the first and only year that I ever taught,” Irma remarked. “My life was extremely busy spending every daylight hour inside of the school building, learning what it meant to be a teacher, and  interacting with the students and their parents.” But this runt of his litter wiggled his way into Irma’s life, just like he did on the day they met, when he wiggled his way into the crook of her arm after she had fallen asleep on the living room rug.

Irma agreed to foster Bruce for a few weeks while her friend searched for a good home for him. Those weeks were not easy – as anyone with a new puppy can relate to. “Everything changed in the span of five minutes. First, nothing was safe because Bruce had super sharp teeth and he wanted to eat everything,” Irma remembered. “Second, he never slept. So all night long, he would walk up and down my body wanting to play, keeping me awake.” And after a particularly stressful day where Bruce literally tore apart the entire bathroom, Irma found herself cradling the pup, holding back tears, for what she calls their first “heart to heart.” She sat down on the floor and told him, “I’m sorry, Bruce, but my life is not set up for you. And if this is what I have to do, I have to take you back tomorrow.”

Maybe it was the kind words, or absolute desperation in Irma’s voice, that made Bruce perk up. Because after that conversation – their entire relationship changed.

“I can’t really explain it, but I feel he understood what I was saying,” Irma recalled. “And I swear, he never destroyed anything else after that. I let him have free rein in the house and he wouldn’t tear up my shoes, he wasn’t chewing on the furniture, he stopped destroying stuff. And he essentially potty trained himself overnight.”

The change in behavior was incredible, but something more significant was happening. Bruce was becoming a part of Irma’s life. “I’m convinced that he is, on some level, a soulmate of mine,” Irma stated. “But it wasn’t until we had that heart to heart when everything changed that we had an understanding about how we could make this work – and spend our lives together.”

Irma describes Bruce as his own person – with his own opinions and attitude. An unusually smart pup, who holds himself well and makes his own decisions. He’ll follow the rules, as long as you understand what he needs as well. He won’t run into the street – but don’t put a leash on him. And Bruce won’t make a mess in the house, but just make sure to take him out when he needs to go out.

“He’s extremely communicative. He tells you what he needs and wants, and so long as you can figure out that middle ground between what a human needs and what a dog needs, it’s no problem.”

– Irma Olguin Jr.

Bruce is now 13 and a half, grown into his adult years with Irma by his side. The runt of his litter, a wriggly little newborn pup, found his way into the home and heart of someone who once said she didn’t have the time or energy to care for a pet. “I like to think that he knows that most of what I do or buy or experience, is so that he can also do and buy and experience those things too,” Irma shared. “I think that he knows his life is not your typical runt of the litter, and I hope that that’s valuable to him. I believe that it is.”

And for Irma, Bruce has helped her as well. Their relationship has taught her a lot, but most importantly, helped her understand and relate to others. “I believe he humanizes me to other people,” Irma explained. “I tend to be really robotic to a lot of folks until they see me interact with Bruce, and then I become a human being. And that’s a really big deal especially in the work that I do, to be a human being.”

Having been Irma’s companion for so long, Bruce has also had the unique perspective of experiencing Bitwise Industries grow into what it is today. Since the Mural District days, Bruce has been a part of the Bitwise atmosphere, coming to work with Irma several (if not all) days of the week. “I think he legitimately feels like those are his buildings and his friends,” Irma said. “So when he gets to go there, it’s not just a dog exploring. He’s going to visit his people.” In South Stadium, Bruce has his own entrance into Irma’s office, a doggy door that even gets decorated for the holidays. There are a half dozen doggy beds in different offices, for when Bruce wants to go visit his friends. And the cafe, which doesn’t serve anything that requires whipped cream, keeps a few cans on hand so Bruce can have a small “puppachino” when he visits.

These things truly emphasize the fact that Bitwise is a pet-friendly workspace to the extreme. Irma originally knew Bitwise would be a place where Bruce could experience and enjoy all the things she did day-to-day, but also realized the benefits bringing pets into the office could have for others. “Back in the Mural District days, one of the people in our community was having a really difficult time in their personal lives, and that person asked if they could bring their pet to the office on a regular basis,” Irma recalled. “We said yes, obviously.  We came up with a pet policy about their habits and cleanliness. But that was more like a formality. We wanted to find a way to say ‘yes’ to this thing that was clearly helping this person get through a tough time in their life.”

Bitwise has always said that we are about humans. Those words are even written in big, bold letters across one of the walls in Bitwise HQ, on the top floor of Bitwise South Stadium. It’s part of our mission statement, that although we are recognized as a technology company, the core of what we do is about humans – the people in our classes, our employees in our offices, and the community that surrounds us. 

Being about humans also means being about what those humans care about, and for Bitwise, there’s a unique part of our culture one can’t help but notice – the Pets of Bitwise. You can’t walk more than 10 feet around a Bitwise building without running into a furry friend. It’s one of the perks of being a pet-friendly office space, and if you dig a little deeper, this unique relationship showcases some of the most important values of our company as a whole.

It was one small way Bitwise was starting to find ways to care about the things their people, and the greater community, cared about. Since then, Bitwise has also implemented optional pet insurance for employees, as well as the “Bitwise Bruce” Policy that financially supports employees who rescue and adopt stray animals.

The latter came about after a few Bitwise team members rescued a stray who was hit by a car near Bitwise | 41. Irma offered to cover the medical and adoption fees out of pocket, but realized this could be beneficial for the team as a whole. The Bitwise Bruce policy reimburses the cost of expenses related to helping out stray pets, from immediate medical expenses, to initial food, bedding, and accessories. “It’s a very small way to be supportive,” Irma shared. “People might see an animal on the street and think, ‘If I just had the money to get them washed and neutered, I would take them home.’ But they don’t, and that prevents people from participating in the world in that way. I’m making those decisions so that other people can make theirs and not be worried about that.”

“We want folks to feel supported in leaning all the way into their humanity. Maybe it’s something that starts with the dog you didn’t want – like my story. It’s just removing a barrier to being able to be your best self.”

– Irma Olguin Jr.

And for many of our team members, their pets help them be their best selves – which makes working for a pet-friendly company even more amazing. The Pets of Bitwise range from the small and cuddly to the large and in-charge – and all have found a home in our hearts, and occasionally next to the desk in our offices.

Celeste Barron, Content Development Manager for Shift3 Technology’s Marketing Department, cites having pets around the workplace as a way to manage the stress that comes with hefty workloads. After being with the company for over three years, she’s seen some tough workdays, but enjoys the break pets around the workplace provide. “Seeing our furry friends is an almost instant de-stresser,” she said. “Even normal fixtures around our buildings, who don’t normally talk to people, end up talking more to the pets that walk around.” Her rescue dog, Bella, absolutely loves the nonstop attention she gets from folks when she visits the Bitwise buildings.

Miaka Hardcastle, Project Manager at Shift3 Technologies, has also brought her pup, Opie, to the office on occasion. “Opie loves sitting in front of the door and watching friends pass by. She always slept longer and harder after a day at the office!” Miaka said. And if you pass by the Bitwise Brand office, you’ll probably see a small furry pup in the office window too. Zoey belongs to Tessa Williamson, Creative Director for Bitwise, who especially enjoys having animals in the workplace. Zoey particularly enjoys riding in the elevators, climbing the stairs, and of course – visits to the cafe!

“It’s amazingly therapeutic! The fact that we’re not so stuffy and rigid, that we can ‘break the mold’ of corporate America and include our furry supporters just shows the kind of company culture that is promoted.”

– Tessa Williamson, Creative Director for Bitwise

Perhaps no one other than Destiny Cedano, QA Lead for Shift3 Technologies, can attest to how much animals in the workplace mean to her. “Having animals in the office can brighten anyone’s day and should be considered therapy,” she stated. “Any pup and kitty that wants your attention is probably the closest you’ll ever feel to winning the lottery … and I’m here for it!” Destiny fosters rescue animals, and you can often see her bringing them into the Bitwise buildings to be adopted out by fellow team members. Many Bitwise employees have given forever homes to the foster animals Destiny works with.

When you work for a company that cares for it’s humans and it’s pets, it’s a pretty unique experience. But it’s more than just spotting a furry friend while heading to your next meeting or the adorable photos of Bruce wandering the halls of South Stadium. It’s talking the talk AND walking the walk. If we say we’re about humans, then we gotta be about what those humans care about.  Whether that’s charitable causes, lifelong goals, or hopes for our city and beyond, we need to be intentional about our decisions, actions, and words. We care about what our humans care about – and the Pets of Bitwise are a prime example of that.

So if you have a furry friend at home, give them an extra cuddle tonight. Maybe drop another treat in their bowl, or spend a few more hours playing fetch before the sun goes down. If you don’t – maybe consider fostering one or volunteering at your local animal shelter. And in the future, if you and your pet ever want to come by and visit, our doors at Bitwise are open.

After all, no one (including dogs, cats, fish, birds, and beyond) belongs here more than you.

Want more Pets of Bitwise? Check out their instagram, where you can see all the photos of our lovable furry friends!

Leah Sadoian is a writer for Bitwise Industries, digital content creator, and Central Valley native. She primarily writes marketing material, website content, and narratives for the Bitwise Stories series. In her free time, Leah enjoys a cold IPA, Law and Order SVU reruns, and spending time with her cat, Marge.