That’s roughly the number of days I was a member of the team at Arc90. Five years, five months, and a couple weeks. Feb. 14th 2014 was my last day. Leaving was a difficult and emotional decision, but after months of mulling it over I decided it was the right one to make.
Summer 2008. I was living in St. Louis, MO and working as a freelance designer/developer. For months I’d had a nagging feeling that I couldn’t articulate. The best I can describe it was a “pull” that was originating from my gut. The feeling was telling me there was something out there and I needed to go. The feeling didn’t bother to let on what was out there, or where “there” was. It wanted somewhere big though. Somewhere completely different from where I was then or where I had been before. Los Angeles? Nah, too glossy. New York City? Rough, the opposite of glossy. I’d only been to New York once before for a few days years earlier. At the time I described it as “a cool place to visit, but I couldn’t imagine living there.” The fact that I didn’t see New York as a place for me became a reason to go. This move wasn’t about comfort, it was about changing my life. Once I knew where “there” was I decided quickly, almost cavalierly. When my lease was up, I’d pack everything I owned into my Dodge Durango and move to a new city half way across the country.
The freedom that comes with freelancing and working from home was great, but I needed something new. I needed to be around other designers and developers. I wanted to share the work I was doing every day and learn from people that loved the Web like I did.
In my job search for “NYC Web designer”, “Front-end Web NYC”, “NYC Web PHP”, etc I came across this job post. PHP was my language of choice in ‘08 and wow, what a great post. No long list of buzz word requirements, no arbitrary years of experience necessary. Just three lighthearted, pointed paragraphs. Who was this company? Who was behind it?
Time has claimed some of the styles, but the Arc90 jobs page from July ‘08 is still available via the Wayback Machine. Here's a small portion:
“...if you appreciate (and violently defend) standards-based technologies like XHTML and CSS...”
It's easy to take for granted in 2014, but in 2008 an agency saying they wanted people that cared about Web Standards was not the norm. That description was speaking to me. It was saying all the things I wanted a company to say. That sealed the deal. Arc90 was where I needed to be. I hadn’t applied to anywhere else, and I wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure that my PHP skills were good enough to get hired for the developer position, but I was going for it anyway. I wanted to work for this company. I had to work for this company.
When I got to New York on August 27th 2008 I sprinted to the Arc90 office. I didn’t start work for a few more days, but I couldn’t wait to see the place and meet the people I’d only seen in photos up to that point. I was here. This place was real. I was a part of it.
Five years didn’t just happen. Working for a company is a relationship. Relationships are hard and require work to maintain. Over the years there’ve been ups and downs, too much work and too little, I saw good people leave and great people join. There were times I thought I was ready to throw in the towel, but didn’t. I knew how special my relationship with Arc90 and the humans there was so I stuck with it.
I wore a lot of hats. I designed a boatload of interfaces for insurance software. Designed and built sites and an app for a failed education startup. Designed and helped build an app to experience conference talks in a novel way. I also made a couple brief design visits to an app that I saw grow from weekend project to successful business.
The best work I’ve ever done I did for Readability. On Readability I was able to stretch my abilities in ways that I never imagined I would. My design and development skills were challenged and strengthened like never before. As the Product Lead I had the opportunity to shape the vision and direction of a product that I used and continue to use every day. I was able to try my hand at leading a team of incredible people to build incredible software. Working to make the lives of the people I worked with more enjoyable has been by far the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career.
I’m forever grateful for Arc90, the people there today, and all the people that have come and gone. The opportunities it’s given me have altered my life for the better. At Arc I was able to be a designer, developer, writer, customer support, marketer, advocate, lobbyist, conflict mediator, and–when needed–ad hoc therapist.
So why am I leaving now? It’s back. That feeling. That pull from my gut that I felt back in St. Louis in ‘08. It’s telling me it’s time to go again. Telling me something is out there. Telling me I need to go find it. Like before, it’s not doing me any favors of being specific about what “it” is. It’s not looking for a new “there” this time. It’s just looking for a “what”. It wants change. It didn’t let me down last time, so I’m not inclined to ignore it this time around.
I’m not sure what’s next, and that feels OK. I don’t have a new job lined up. I don’t have any interviews or prospects. I’m on the hunt. I’m going to spend my next handful of a days looking for it. Meeting and talking with passionate people about what they’re working on and what’s out there. I’m going to spend my next few days searching for how I’ll spend my next 2000.
The world is bigger than ever right now. I can't wait to see what I find.
Thanks for reading