September 2018 marks ten years with SparkPost. It’s my “Tin Anniversary”; I’m officially a Decennial.
In the technology industry, and for me personally, I think that is kind of a big deal, and I have been doing some reflecting lately on exactly why that is. Before joining this company, like many people, I had a long history of spending 2 to 5 years at a company before moving on. Even my own consulting business got boring after about five years. So why is this place different? Is there something in the water? How did this company keep me from moving on to the next adventure?
Well, for the sake of conversation, they did not. The company I signed up for a decade ago was actually Message Systems – a small start-up with big dreams of changing the way the world communicated. I was employee #17, and we worked from a location in Columbia about the size of a triple car garage and another in Seattle that was about half that size. The company was too small to have “departments”, so everyone filled in wherever some task needed doing. My business card may have said “Sales Engineer,” but the actual job reality included marketing, training, sales, documentation, QA, and whatever else needed attention at the time. It was the wild west. Make your own rules, get the job done, put cash in the bank, and take care of customers. A simpler time perhaps, but more complicated in some ways too. We operated on a platform of trust and a shared vision that we were doing what was in the best interest of our customers and the company. That philosophy is still core to our current principals and has shaped our corporate culture.
Then we grew. And we grew. And we grew.
Now almost 200 employees later, I can look back over an exciting and productive career arc that included hiring and managing a larger Pre-Sales Engineering team spanning the globe from Beijing to Maryland with London and San Francisco in between. I took a detour for a couple of years to build up our Professional Services group that eventually spawned our Customer Success Team. Somewhere in there, I worked with Product and Engineering to help define and develop our first campaign and API toolset. Back in 2014 when we transformed from Message Systems to SparkPost and launched the SparkPost cloud product, I moved back to lead the Pre-Sales team again. Each of these roles was like taking on a whole new job with different goals, processes, and reports.
I suppose the secret to my longevity here is that I’m always willing and able to take on whatever role is needed and my career here has been a collection of 2 or 3-year stints in different teams. To paraphrase a line from the Avengers movie, “That’s my secret to staying. I’m always going”.
One of the worst possible things to happen to any creative person is to get pigeon-holed or type-cast into a role where you can happily stagnate until boredom finally wears your creativity away. The SparkPost culture does not have any room for that. In the past decade, I have had the opportunity to help several coworkers grow and develop their careers, often moving to other teams or contributing to cross-discipline projects. There is never a dull moment in this place.
When people ask about my job, my standard answer is that “its a new adventure every day.” Together with the fantastic group of individuals who make up our Sparky family, we have built a set of tools that are responsible for delivering nearly a third of entire world legitimate email. We have helped to foster development in anti-phishing and anti-spam technologies. We have forged significant partnerships with security and privacy groups, and we have championed the movement toward open developer tools in the email space.
I could not be more proud of the company we have built together as a team, and I am looking forward to jumping around between roles for another ten years.