LGND and Me: Celebrating Five Years
August 8, 2022
It is funny how life can be. One day you can wake up and realize that you have fallen into the very thing you wanted to be a part of. For years, I dreamed of partnering with a talented team of Web professionals that I respected and deeply cared about the quality of work they produced.
I started crafting a vision of the type of team I wanted to work with as I listened to Paul Boag on the Boagworld podcast. Hearing Paul talk about the team at Headscape made me long to be part of a creative environment working alongside passionate people who cared about creating quality work for their clients and their audience.
I remember hearing or reading about Chris Coyier‘s excitement when he went to work for Wufoo. Years later, Dan Denney told me that he had found his “Wufoo.” Dan and I had a conversation late one night in a coffee shop in downtown Orlando. I remember sharing my desire to find a team that I really fit into.
Several years later, I was hopeful that I found it but was disappointed when it did not work out. After that, I spent about 4 years as a reluctant freelancer still hoping to find the team that I longed to be part of.
During that time, I got a taste of it with a small team that was very remote-friendly. I enjoyed collaborating with them but their primary stream of revenue dried up. After contracting with that agency for about two years, I freelanced with a lot of different teams that never panned out into a long-term working relationship.
During the summer of 2017, I was exploring and applied for many different opportunities. One of the positions I applied for was for an unnamed company as a remote front-end developer. After several email exchanges and some phone calls with their leadership team, we decided to start a contract relationship and see where it took us. The name of the company was LGND.
All new jobs have challenges that go with them. You have to learn how to function within the company culture; each is different. Added to that, I was a contractor, which is a very different experience from being a full-time member of the team.
I enjoyed the projects I had the chance to work on. But I also found myself frustrated at times with the level of communication and lack of structure. I did not know this at the time, but LGND was a fairly new company. They were still figuring a lot of things out. And that was a pain point at times.
A couple of months in, I was able to prove myself and my value. The other developer on their team was in the hospital and they needed me to step up to build a project over a weekend to meet a deadline. Then the next week, I stepped into another project and was able to move it forward. They really appreciated how I was able to come in and deliver for them. I think this was a significant step forward in my relationship with them.
At this point in our relationship, there was an opportunity for me to be brought in closer. But for some reason, that conversation didn’t happen. And I was hesitant to pursue it. My previous experience as a full-time employee had come to an abrupt and disappointing end. That experience left me reluctant to give up my independence even though I was really struggling to make it on my own. I think we (me and LGND) were both happy where the relationship was at and just left it at that.
I continued to contract with LGND and they continued to feed me a fairly steady stream of work. I also explored other opportunities that piqued my interest. And took on some freelance work with clients I had worked with before along with some new ones. LGND provided the stability of income that I had been lacking for several years. And I really enjoyed the projects I was working on, both from a creative standpoint and the clients and causes behind those projects.
But I also felt some angst. I felt on the outside of things. I had very few points of contact with the team and was not involved in any of the team meetings. I was lacking a strong sense of connection except with a few people on the team. I wanted to have skin in the game and be able to contribute more than what I was contributing as a contractor.
It is so easy to get comfortable with life even when it is not quite what you want it to be. It can seem hard to summon the energy to proactively seek change. Sometimes we need a push from an external source. My push came near the end of October 2018.
It was a Friday night and I was on my tablet checking my RSS feeds. And I came across a job listing on Authentic Jobs for a front-end developer. And the company that was hiring was LGND.
At first, I felt angry and disappointed. Why had they not talked to me about this? I also felt a bit threatened. I was not sure they were going to need a contractor if they were hiring someone to join their team full-time. It was not a fun way to end the week.
But instead of focusing on the negative feelings, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. I reached out to one of the founders telling him that I would like more out of our arrangement and would like to move into a full-time position.
Over the next few weeks, I had several different discussions with the leadership and we worked out an agreement that we were both happy with. During that time, I also found out that LGND were not planning to replace me but wanted to add more depth to their team. It was very affirming to hear that.
So on December 3, 2018, I transitioned from contractor to employee with LGND.
Being a full-time member of the team was a very different experience. I was now part of team meetings and client meetings that I had not been part of before. It was also a very exciting time for the team as several key people joined the team. Two of those teammates decided to leave behind their video business and brought that capability in-house to LGND.
Though there was a core group of people working together in DC, most of the production team was scattered about the country and one teammate was in Scotland. The leadership decided it was time to bring everyone together. So in March, everyone converged upon DC for the first LGND Summit: a week of work, mixed with team-building activities and just spending time together.
We ate meals together, both as a large group and in smaller groups. We hung out at a fire pit in one of the founder’s backyard. We did karaoke together. And managed to get some client work done though it was quite a distraction to actually be in the same room with teammates and avoid the urge to socialize the whole time.
It was during this week that I realized what a talented group of people I worked with was. Getting to know people and interacting with them in person was an incredible experience. I remember looking around the room at one point and realizing what an amazing collection this team was. And I felt like I belonged. And I was incredibly grateful. It was at that moment that I realized I had fallen into the very thing I had been longing for.
That was the surprising thing about it. I had a relationship with LGND for almost two years before I really grasped what I had fallen into. I think I had this idea that I would see a team from afar and want to be a part of it. But that is not how it happened to me. It was all very unassuming.
That summit was a defining moment for me in my relationship with LGND because of the personal interactions I had with my teammates. After the summit, I found myself participating a lot more in discussions in our weekly team meeting because I felt more connected. I was more confident and enjoyed the work even more as I had closer relationships with my teammates. The sense of belonging that I gained from that week helped me to take more risks relationally and professionally.
It has now been over three years since that moment. The makeup of our team has continued to change in that time. Many of the people I got the closest to at that retreat are no longer with the company. It has been hard to build close working relationships with people only to see them move on to other things. In just this past year, half of our team turned over. But the great thing is that we continue to attract very talented people who are committed to high-quality work. And I have been able to build high-quality relationships with many of these new teammates.
Over the past three years, we weathered through one of the most difficult challenges that any of us have faced in our lifetimes with the COVID pandemic. We were already a remote-first culture but the pandemic changed that to where we are all on the same playing field. And I think that helped improve our team.
One of the things that have impressed me the most about working for LGND is that the values are not just words on a piece of paper but they are central to the company DNA and have been embraced by each team member. I continue to feel valued as a team member, as time and again, LGND has acted on these values on both a personal level and through our professional relationships. I appreciate that the company culture places a lot of value on the people.
In mid-August, I will celebrate a milestone of 5 years in my relationship with LGND. It is the second longest working relationship of my career. I count it a privilege to be a part of this team. I value what the experience of working on this team has meant to my quality of life.
It is a great thing to be appreciated for the contribution you make both as an employee and a teammate. I am grateful for how the company has put people first by implementing an unlimited PTO policy this calendar year. It is empowering for a company to treat you like an adult and trust that you will take the personal responsibility necessary to fulfill the role that they have hired you for.
I really appreciate that I have been able to work alongside Ryan McCahan for the past five years. We are both committed to high-quality work and we have pushed each other over the years to be even better. It has been great to have someone to ask questions, bounce ideas off of, or just get help from when I hit a wall. I have also learned that I need to qualify some of my Slack messages to indicate that I am joking because Ryan takes me too seriously.
We work incredibly well together and it is something I don’t take for granted. It has only been in the past year, that the LGND development team has expanded beyond just the two of us. I am amazed at how much the two of us were able to accomplish together as a team of two. It helped develop a high level of camaraderie that I treasure.
And speaking of expansion, I am incredibly grateful for Josh and Andy and what they have brought to our dev team. I have leaned heavily on Josh’s extensive knowledge of WordPress and appreciated having another person to ask questions when Ryan is not available. And I appreciate the perspective and ideas that Andy brings to the table. I have enjoyed getting to work on a couple of different projects with her in recent months.
No team is perfect. And I don’t want to paint this picture that everything is perfect. Things are always changing and in motion. You have to work hard to build, maintain, and continue to grow team relationships. And as I have mentioned, people come and people go. It can be hard to have to start over from scratch with new teammates. And it can be difficult when you miss those who have moved on to other places. But I found a team that I am willing to do the hard work to be a part of. I appreciate the work Patrick, Mike, and others have done to build a company culture that I continue to want to be a part of.
Speaking of that, I highly recommend the book, The Long-Distance Teammate. It has challenged me to be a better teammate and given me a lot of great ideas on how to build relationships in a remote setting.
I hope that we will get a chance to gather together in person as a team in the near future. I would love to have the same type of bonding experiences with my current teammates, many of which I have never met IRL (in real life), as I had over three years ago.
This is a post that has taken me over a year to write. Some of the ideas for the post started as direct messages to share my experiences. I have wanted to write more of my LGND story since I returned from that Summit over three years ago. As I approach the fifth anniversary of my relationship with LGND, I felt like it was the appropriate time to finish my draft and tell my story.
- Weeknote 19:01 – My first weeknote was about the LGND Summit in March of 2019.
- Happy Birthday, LGND (5 years) – In this post, I celebrated this milestone with a reflection on my favorite projects while working with LGND.
- Bring a Growth Mindset – My reflection on one of our team values.
- Weeknotes – Almost every week, I blog about the week, focusing on my work with LGND, things I am learning, and some personal stuff as well.
I mentioned a conversation I had with Dan Denney at a coffee shop in Orlando in June of 2021. At one point in our conversation, he asked me, “Where do you want to go?”
It was hard to put it into words. I had some ideas but they still felt very abstract and hard to communicate. That conversation challenged me to take some time to make my desires more concrete.
So I picked up my journal days later and started making a list. I had made similar lists in the past but some of that had changed.
- Work on a small team of people I know, respect, and would really enjoy working with
- Continual challenge
- Working with clients
- Conference budget
- Freedom to use new techniques and processes
- A great workspace
- Passionate people who have a life outside of the office
- Professionals who pursue excellence