Road to Chattanooga

I’m Jeff Bridgforth and this is my story

My name is Jeff. I am a front end developer. This is the story of how I got a dream job with Easy Designs in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I highly recommend the book, Quitter. It helped me to keep a right perspective and equipped me to go after my dream.


June 8

Bought Adaptive Web Design

I bought the book Adaptive Web Design based on a recommendation by Cameron Moll. I had also learned about it through Veerle Pieters, who did the artwork for the front cover.

I had just finished reading Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design book and thought it would be great to continue reading and thinking in this space.


Front End Developer

With the new year came a new focus for me in the job search. I had been going after jobs that were more design focused. But I really began to embrace the identity of “front end developer.” I recognized that the part of the process that I liked the most is building the site.

In my role in Bonnier, I began to realize that I can get very excited about implementing someone else’s design. I enjoyed being able to bring someone else’s concept into reality and add value to it through my design sensibilities. I believe my background in design makes me more empathetic to the designer’s vision. I became more comfortable with that role.

June 21

“Where do you want to go?”

A couple of days before, I had met up with my friend, Dan Denney. 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
  • Freedom/Flexibility
  • Working with clients
  • Conference budget
  • Freedom to use new techniques and processes
  • A great workspace
  • Passionate people who have life outside of the office
  • Professionals who pursue excellence

Aug 13

It Began with a Tweet

I saw this tweet from @vpieters while in a meeting. I favorited it so that I could take a look at it later. I had read Aaron’s book and was interested in exploring this opportunity.

Aug 21

Applied for the Job

I spent most of Monday evening crafting an email to express my interest in the job. I am always nervous before hitting “send.” Did I say that right things? Will what I said get my foot in the door? Those are the questions that always come after putting myself out there by hitting “send.”

In the email, I mentioned who I was and talked a little bit about my current role. I talked about my commitment to quality in my craft. I shared my enthusiasm to learn new things. I also shared my excitement about the prospect of being mentored by Aaron. Finally, I discussed that I am a ‘resource matchmaker.” I love to empower others with the knowledge I have acquired.

When applying for positions, I always try to tailor my cover email to connect with points that were in the job listing. I knew that Aaron was committed to doing quality work. And I knew that part of what he does is to train and equip other people. I wanted to somehow get across that I shared a lot of his values and that I thought I would be an exceptional fit for what they were looking for.

Aug 24

Easy Designs is Interested!

I get an email back from Kelly McCarthy. They think I might be a great fit and they would like to talk. Due to their travel schedule, they were not available to talk until October.

I was really excited. It is always great to get your foot in the door and get a serious look. I decided to re-read Adaptive Web Design in the interim to prepare for our next conversation.

Oct 9

First Phone Interview

After waiting 6 weeks, the day finally arrives for my first conversation with Aaron and Kelly. They told me more about the company and what they were expecting from the person who filled this role. I had prepared a list of several questions that I wanted to ask them. But they covered a lot of it when they gave me their overview.

Here are some of the things I came away with.

  • They were a small team that did not want to grow bigger than 10.
  • 60-70% of the work was client work
  • They believed in doing projects that were at least 3 months or more that they could sink their teeth into.
  • They were committed to doing quality work.
  • They believed in having a very collaborative team that would be involved in all aspects of the project.
  • They treated their people well

I was really impressed. They had a solid business and were making some very thoughtful decisions about the future of their agency. I felt a solid connection as we talked and started getting more excited about the prospect of working with them.

Oct 19

Email from Kelly

Kelly emailed me to let me know that they were interested in taking the next step. So we scheduled a technical interview with Aaron for the following week.

Yes! I am still in the running.

When Kelly let me know that they wanted to move on to round 2, she jokingly referred to it as the Thunder Dome. I knew from these little bits of humor that I was going to get along with them. It really put me at ease as we took the next step.

Oct 26

Technical Interview (The Thunder Dome)

I confess, I was a little bit nervous about the technical interview. I was not sure how deep of JavaScript skills they were looking for. Given that I am closer to the creative end than the logic end, JavaScript was my weakest area. I respected Aaron’s knowledge that he had displayed in his book. So I was not sure what to except.

I felt really confident as we talked about process, HTML, and CSS. We had a really good conversation as I we walked through it.

We established pretty early in the conversation that my skills in JavaScript were primarily using the jQuery framework. Aaron encouraged me to be honest in my answers and to let him know if I did not know how to answer his question.

That part of the interview went pretty well. I was really encouraged with how much my understanding of JavaScript/jQuery had grown since the beginning of the year. I also appreciated how Aaron took the opportunity to teach me and talk through things that I did not know or quite understand. It put me at ease and I came away encouraged by our conversation.

The interview helped me just as much as him as I got a picture of the kind of teacher/mentor that Aaron could be. I was interested but my interest went to a whole new level because of our conversation.

Nov 7

Email from Easy Designs

I get an email from Kelly that says, “We have great news and not so good news. The not so good news is that we're having a difficult time choosing between three very talented applicants. The great news is that you are one of those individuals! ”

Relief. Excitement. I am glad that I am still in the running.

They want to bring me up to Chattanooga to meet in person. Besides seeing how our personalities will mesh, they want us to see the city. It is important to them that we love our new how and would feel confident in relocating.

I am thrilled at the opportunity. We decide to bring the whole family up to Chattanooga. We felt it was important to involve our kids and have them get a chance to weight in after seeing what could be their potential new home.

Nov 16

Call with Kelly and Aaron

I called Aaron and Kelly to discuss scheduling our visit to Chattanooga and talk through their expectations about transitioning to the job if they offered it to me. I was relieved when they shared that they understood the needs of our family and would allow me to work remotely for the first five to six months.

One of the factors in their flexibility with transition is that they were looking for a new office space. I asked them what kind of space they would like to have. What they described made my heart skip a beat.

Here is was their wishlist:

  • a green building
  • reclaimed wood beams and brick
  • big windows with lots of natural light
  • open space
  • an outdoor component where they could host open house events for the Web community in Chattanooga

What they described really appealed to me. I was especially drawn to their idea of natural light because I am a big fan of spaces that includes lot of it. My work environment for the past 2 years has been very dark. The space that they described sounded creatively inspiring and would fit me like a glove.

We had now talked on the phone on three separate occasions. Each time we had talked, I had felt chemistry. I sensed we shared a lot of the same values. I was becoming more convinced that I was the right person for Easy Designs. I was just hoping that they agreed.

Dec 8

Chattanooga Trip

We wanted our kids to be part of the process and Aaron and Kelly were more than happy to accommodate. Everyone was excited for this was the first road trip we had taken for many years. It was quite an adventure as we drove 572 miles from Orlando.

Fog covered most of Central Florida as we started out. We were glad that it cleared by lunch time. Overall it was a really good trip. We met some more fog in the mountains of Georgia.

Our hotel was on the river on the western edge of downtown. It gave us a great vantage point to enjoy the fireworks that were the finale of the Holiday Starlight Parade. What an awesome welcome.

Dec 9

Dinner with Kelly and Aaron

After spending the day driving around Chatt and hanging out at the Hunter Museum, we met up with Aaron and Kelly for dinner at The Blue Plate.

It was great to finally meet them in person. The whole family enjoyed getting to know Aaron and Kelly. It was great to see how they interacted with the kids.

After dinner, we headed over to Ben and Jerry’s to enjoy some ice cream. We enjoyed continuing to get to know them in a very casual setting.

Dec 10

Meet with Kelly and Aaron for the day

I had been looking forward to this day for a long day. While I had enjoyed talking on the phone and getting to them from a distance, I value being able to sit down face-to-face with people. I was looking forward to the kind of interaction that you cannot experience on the phone.

Right away, I felt at home in their basement studio. The Star Wars and Lord of the Rings LEGO sets, the books, and the variety of different things they had in the space to make it personal was something I connected with.

I enjoyed spending the morning talking about their business and their processes. It helped me to get a picture of what it would be like to work with them. I was impressed by how connected they were with the movers and shakers of this industry. What an incredible opportunity it would be to work with people of this calibur.

The most important part of the conversation is when they shared about a challenging project that were engaged in. I was able to see their professionalism, integrity, and commitment to quality and excellence. Many would have been tempted to pull out under similar circumstances. But they persevered and were able to lead the project forward to success. It was very telling episode to me.

We enjoyed eating lunch at The Brewery in North Chatt. The atmosphere made me think abou the time I spent in Hungary. We enjoyed sharing our experiences in Europe . It was fun to hang out and talk about something other than the work.

We stopped at a coffee house before they showed me one of the buildings that they had been looking at for office space. It was great to see the neighborhood and envision what it would be like to work there.

As I walked to my van to go back to the hotel, I was so excited. I really wanted them to offer me the job. I knew that I would say “yes” if they did.

I knew it was going to be really hard to wait for a week to find out their decision.I wanted it so bad. I had risked my heart and I was all in.

Dec 19

Job Offer!

For several years, my oldest daughter had asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I had told her that I wanted a new job, I wanted a dream job. This year I got my wish. Just two days after my birthday, Aaron and Kelly offered me the job!

After four months, I got what I had wished for. The work excited does not seem capture what I felt. Relief that I had made it to the end. They believed that I was the right person to join them. What was an incredible feeling.

Dec 21

Accepted the job

What an exciting day. I called Aaron and Kelly to share the good news. We had decided to accept the job. It came four months to the day after my first email to apply for the position.


Jan 14

First day with Easy Designs

I started working remotely from Orlando. The plan was for us to move up to Chattanooga by July.

Jan 16

June 13

Relocating to Chattanooga

We sold our house. Said goodbye to friends. And rolled into Chattanooga on June 13. We bought a beautiful house in Hixson. And I began working with Easy Designs on location. We moved into an office on the SouthSide in October.