Saying Goodbye To Bottle Rocket

Great things start, and then they end. Today, I start my last day at Bottle Rocket Studios. My time at this amazing place has come to and end.

It started with reading blog posts, a stroll around Glassdoor, and some exploratory emails to recruiting. Julian was the best in guiding me through the process, but the role was not best suited for me at the time. Later that year, the right spot came my way via a call from Monte.

Amazing companies are hard to find, and even harder to stay at for a long time. That’s why I told recruiters to go away for three years. At some point, though, a new role is needed for you personally. As hard as it is to think of myself before these amazing people, you pull the trigger.

That’s why I’m saying goodbye today, but not before I tell you some amazing things that this company taught me.

Passion matters a ton.

One of the first things any new Rocketeer gets to hear is Calvin’s speech on passion. It’s a presentation he’s done so many times, he must have lost count. I know I’ve lost count of the times I’ve witnessed him giving it to newcomers, and it gets me every time.

Passion is more than a feeling, or an emotion. It’s a driving force that keeps you going during late nights, weekends, and times of doubt.

When you care so deeply about making beautiful things, you need that fuel. Bringing your A-game is hard to do consistently on a daily basis. At Bottle Rocket, we managed to bring together an entire group of passionate people that fuels each other.

That’s why we create mission statements, and why you should have one of your own.

People matter more than the work.

This week I was asked a few times what I was most proud about during my time at BR. The first time, it was tough for me because I was a part of so many awesome projects. I helped make ordering chicken sandwiches easier, create apps for devices that hadn’t been released yet, and made watching the Super Bowl on a mobile device possible.

To be honest, none of those projects came out of my mouth.

The big stuff you ship can to stick with you for a while. Those apps I mentioned above, as well as many others, feel like huge mountains moved at the time. Afterward, you move on to the next mountain and they tend to all blend together after a while. It’s the people that you remember the most.

Long days where you are pushing for a release, and you just need a break by laughing at a YouTube clip. The team lunches where you crack jokes. The launch parties, oh the launch parties. Never underestimate the value of taking a tired team paintballing. I’ll always remember the sound Stefani made when she got shot.

People matter most in what we make, never forget that.

Building consensus is important.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of several experiments we made in improving how we work, and that was when I truly started learning about organizational change. People were asking for it, and yet we all know it can be difficult to put in place. When I first started writing and presenting them, I had all of the support I needed from leadership.

And yet, much of what I tried to instill at first fell flat on it’s face.

These experiments weren’t wasted, mind you. When a challenge was presented, I merely made the best educated guess I could at the time and pilot tested it. It was based upon research, similar experiments friends of mine had ran, and the thumbs up from my boss. Thought that was all I needed.

Getting everyone on board can be a challenge. It takes time, patience, and a few willing early adopters. I learned to start there and let others follow without my need for rapid change. There’s no such thing as a quick win, other than superficial back-slapping.

Great work takes great conversation.

One of my friends, who is a coach for another organization, came to visit one day and watch us work. The thing that stood out to me more than anything was this comment:

“You’re a conversation company. Just remember that conversation can’t end with words.”

After that, I started calling Bottle Rocket the Conversation Company. Walking the halls, you hear so many amazing conversations about new technologies, UX strategies, information architecture nuance, development practices, and something we call “effing magic”.

It’s impossible to build something amazing on the first pass. Many of our greatest apps didn’t have stellar first pass demos (or app store releases). We had to continue to challenge ourselves, ask tough questions, and work publicly as we polish the underside of the table.

I’m so thankful for learning how to have powerful conversations with my co-workers. It also helps when you have them with amazing people.

You’re always a Rocketeer.

So many of my former colleagues have moved on over the years, and I’ve been thankful to get to keep in touch with them as we continue to grow. Many of them coached me through this transition, and helped me understand something powerful about leaving a company as great as this.

I may not be helping build amazing technology products anymore after today, but I will never stop being a Rocketeer at heart.

It takes a lot to get in the door here. I didn’t get in the first try. When I did finally have my first day at BR (which is an amazing story, be sure to ask me about it if you haven’t heard it), our VP of Business Development at the time said something cool to me:

“Once you’re here, you’re just as much of an expert as we are. Remember that.”

That stuck with me, as it does with many of us. Calvin’s passion speech, conversations with awesome people, company meetings, project share, Rocket Science, QA exploratory sessions, launch parties, one-on-ones with Monte and Adam, getting locked in a room with Calvin when he has an idea, Kirby’s impression of me, LIFT meetings, lunch-n-learns, and a million other things I will miss.

I became more awesome here, and I’m going to take it with me wherever I go. For now, however, I’m taking a week off to rest and spend time with some family. Where am I going? You’ll have to come back next week to find out, because I managed to find a new spot and role that has some amazing potential.

Thanks for three years everyone. Continue reaching for the stars; I’ll be watching and marveling from afar.

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