Five years ago yesterday, to be precise, I made a flight up to Bellevue, Washington and took a deep dive into a much larger world of programming, consulting, and all things in-between at Fresh Consulting...
Coming from a government (and before that University) background, I was a little intimidated by things at first, especially since my first day on the job consisted of helping host a social media conference that we were putting on. I met a lot of important people in the a realm I was just getting used to (I got my job through Twitter after all 8^D) and experienced my first "live tweet sessions" while speakers were giving their talks, which had an impressive amount of meta discussions going on in real time. Let's not forget we had custom soda for this event too...
From there things moved fast! My first assignment was to build an extension that provided an RSS feed for a site using a PHP MVC framework. I had worked a bit with PHP, but some of this was new territory. I missed my first deadline by a couple of days, but we were learning along the way and the client was still content with our progress.
From there things start to blur in a lot of ways. There have been clients small and large (large communications agencies, national impact foster care organizations). There have been projects small and large (WordPress setups, internal user portals, intense dashboards mapping data at the state and county level, platforms for having users find odd jobs near them on both mobile and web) too. Some of these clients have been "one off" clients that you work with and move one. A few others, are long standing, or returning customers. Currently I'm working with a client that I worked with three years ago, and it's exciting to see the same code I wrote still active and healthy, with the chance to improve upon it more.
One of the things I've appreciated most about my job is the ability to explore and work with new libraries and frameworks. Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, .Net MVC, Laravel, AngularJS, D3, and HighCharts are just a drop in the bucket of things I've worked with. My front-end development skills have improved significantly because of this. While I'm no front end designer (we have AMAZING people that handle that), I know that in a pinch I can jump in and help put things together, giving myself legitimate "full stack" status.
Admittedly working in this environment can be rather frantic at times if you're not careful. There have been times where I've been active in 3 or 4 projects simultaneously, and at one point 2 of them I would consider major projects that demanded a lot of attention and detail. Those projects are jumping across different languages, which adds a little bit of "shifting gears" to it. Keeping a good balance and track of your time is extremely important for this, as well as a bit of patience with yourself. Admittedly my Personal Kanban / Pomodoro efforts along those lines has not been the best, but it has been helpful.
Through it all it's the team I work with that has been the best part. We've had a bit of turnover since I first started. Based on active employees, I'm employee #4 behind the two founders and our Front-End Dev Lead. There were 4 other part time folks that were there when I started and have moved on to other things. We're now up to 55 employees (and I think we're hiring another one next week), which includes full blown offices in Thailand and the UK. It's amazing how we've grown!
While most firms can be rather focused on "work only colleagues", I've come to view the people I work with more as friends and family, even while working remotely. We've run RAGNARs together, we've gone on hikes together, we've setup game nights that extend to our families to enjoy at the office, and a lot more. This creates a collaborative environment that helps out during our projects because each person is more than just that dev person, or that graphics person, they have names and faces and stories behind them. We share in things together and encourage each other along.
Through it all, Fresh has treated me immensely well. Since I'm the "remote guy" it is easy to be on the back burner of the comings and goings of things, but I've been well kept in the loop with new hires, status updates, and our monthly meeting is done live online so everybody (including me) can participate. When new tools or software has been needed, there hasn't been any hesitation in acquiring it for me. Fresh has been respectful and flexible with my time, especially during the years when my wife had cancer and we had a lot of doctors visits (and time off) to work with. I've been able to contribute my thoughts and have them heard, and considered, even though I'm not "in the office" on a day to day basis.
Put succinctly, Fresh Consulting has great people, they do amazing work, and I'm proud to be a part of all of this. This is the longest I've spent at any one job in my career and I don't see myself going anywhere else anytime soon.
Thanks Fresh! Here's to another 5+ years!