Graham McCarthy

Get to know the SoapBox CTO and his dog-friendly office

By the Get Leashed Doggy Style team

Doug McCarthy-Get Leashed Magazine

There are a lot of benefits to dog-friendly offices, none of which elude Toronto based startup, SoapBox. Being a dog person himself, Graham McCarthy, CTO, has happily made his office space open to four-legged family members. Dogs fit right into the atmosphere, too, because even if there weren’t bags of treats and water bowls in plain view, the staff at SoapBox are as relaxed, focused and happy as anyone could be during a workday.

Charlie the Wheaton Terrier seems like the perfect office dog. Just as quickly as he excitedly greets new guests, he moves back to his spot at the foot of Graham’s desk and appears to simply take in the office happenings and work buzz. From what we could tell, other dogs in the office take their cue from Charlie and for the most part, they’re happy to stick to their person’s area.

There’s no doubt that dogs must somehow understand a dog-friendly office is a wonderful privilege that hugely beats the alternative of a day at home alone. We applaud Graham and his team for making SoapBox’s acceptance of dogs a priority.

Here’s Graham to tell you a bit more about SoapBox and Charlie…

The SoapBox team - Get Leashed Mag

Please tell us about yourself:

I’m the co-founder and CTO of SoapBox, a Toronto-based startup that develops software solutions for large organizations to collect, manage and implement employee ideas. So many big companies today work in silos, or with layers of management in between frontline staff and the executive leadership. SoapBox is like a suggestion box for the digital age. It crowd-sources and ranks ideas from frontline staff to help improve the business, and then packages them up for decision-makers, who review the ideas and respond back to the employees.

I’m responsible for product and engineering, so a lot of my time is spent meeting with the product and engineering teams to review user experience and determine what features we should build into the platform, as well as ways to improve speed. And then we code.

Charlie likes to pop into my meetings to make sure we are on task, and then finds a spot to take a nap.

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A bit about your pet:

Charlie is a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. His full name is Cormac McCarthy, after the Irish writer (since he’s an Irish breed—and since my wife is a writer). But he’ll respond to “Charles” or “Chuckie.” He also goes by the name “Chuckles” in the office, on account of his good-humored nature.

My wife and I have a friend who worked at Dogs in Canada magazine. While we were looking to get a dog and deciding on a breed, our friend did a photoshoot with a litter of Wheaten Terrier puppies. She sent us a few photos—you can’t look at a Wheaten Terrier puppy and not want one. It’s impossible. Seriously, I dare you to try.

We read that they are friendly, hypoallergenic, made great pets for small apartments and are relatively low-energy. We didn’t realize that Terrier-energy is measured on an entirely different scale, but we manage to keep up with him.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

My wife and I like to take Charlie on long walks to the St. Lawrence Market, along the Waterfront boardwalk, past the Music Gardens ending at Ireland Park to take in the great views of the Toronto skyline. Charlie also likes to spend time with some canine friends at St. James Park, an unofficial dog park outside of the famous church of the same name.

Graham McCarthy and Charlie the dog at SoapBox - SoapBox

Describe your personal style:

My style is what I like to call Startup Chic—plaid button-up shirts, dark jeans and Adidas kicks. It’s one step up from the stereotypical tech startup uniform of a hoodie and jeans, because I can add a blazer and BAM!, I’m a business guy.

What inspires you?

My inspiration comes from many places, but one person does stand out when it comes to my drive to take a risk on starting SoapBox: my brother, Ciarán. Instead of settling for a boring nine-to-five that would pay the bills, he’s pursuing his love of theatre, music and acting, living like a nomad in between gigs in LA, Vegas, NYC and Toronto. He inspired me to leave my steady job to follow my start-up passion.

How would you describe the look and feel of your office?

Our office is a brick and beam heritage space, painted white and SoapBox’s signature blue. It’s totally open-concept with a few meeting rooms and a big common space with picnic tables for team lunches. We’ve hooked up speakers to work alongside Songza playlists. We have to rotate the job of DJ.

The space feels very laid back and comfortable, in keeping with our work culture. But it’s also very conducive to our kind of collaborative productivity. No one is cordoned off. We want to make it so people enjoy coming to work, and part of that means accommodating their lifestyles. A few of our team members are cyclists, so we installed a bike rack. And a bunch of us are pet parents, so we allow dogs in the space. Things like that make it easy to stay engaged at work.

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A story about Charlie:

Once we left Charlie at home and somehow he escaped from his crate. This is not unusual, and we’re not even sure how he does it, so we’ve taken to calling him Doggie Houdini.

The odd part was that he’d pulled down a package of pita bread from the kitchen counter. Instead of eating all of the pitas, or eating a few of them, he ate exactly half of every single pita, like he was prepping them for falafels.

The sneaky escape combined with the totally random act of quirkiness sums up Charlie.