’Twas the week before Christmas, and all was hectic in the house. Or, at least, that’s how it seems! The last few weeks have been a little wild, culminating in one big event: I’m excited to announce that I’m the new Creative Director at OmniTI.
One reason it’s such big news for me is because this is the first time I’ve been employed for many years. I’ve spent a long time in the fertile fields of freedom, or so it seems looking back. Before the turn of the new millennium, I spent most of my time skipping around the country and the world trying life on for size — finding amazing moments to punctuate the scrapes and mischief. Since then I’ve spent most of my time working with like-minded people from within Grow Collective. So, this event was a long time coming — over a year in fact — and all the better for it!
The truth be told, I doubted if I would ever take a ‘proper job’ again. It may sound dramatic, but it was true! The ability to measure my actions by my own standards, decide what jobs I took, and report only to myself was too precious to me; I thought I’d be unemployable. It had to be something extraordinary to turn my head, and OmniTI is. In my view, it is the most important web company you’ve never heard of (especially if you’re a designer). If you’re a sysadmin, developer, or involved with the open source community, you’ll probably know that there’s hardly a single significant technology deployed on the Web today that someone at OmniTI hasn’t contributed to. If you use Apache, PHP, Perl, PostgreSQL (to name but a few), or frameworks like Cake and Solar, you’re probably reading books, using code or documentation that people at OmniTI have written, or helped create. They also have an awesome client list, featuring the likes of National Geographic, Digg, Facebook, Friendster and Ning. All that is exceptional, but not enough to pry me away from Grow Collective. The thing that tipped the balance was the culture.
How I work is equally as important to me as what I work on, as anyone familiar with Grow will know. OmniTI started life as a family-run Internet and web operations company. It was founded by Theo, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Internet architectures, scalability and performance. Also there from the start were Theo’s equally talented brother, George, and mother Sherry. Since 1997, a lot of people I admire — like Chris — have found a home at OmniTI. They’ve grown in almost the exact opposite direction to most other companies: from operations, to data management, to web application development, and now to interface design and user experience. It means OmniTI can create and build complex web applications, but also deploy the infrastructure to support the hundreds of millions of people who might use them. They have a special approach to their work with an engineering rigor to what they create and manage. They’re a family-orientated and collaborative culture, with one of the lowest staff turnaround rates in the industry. I think it’s exceptional.
So, when my equally exceptional friend, Chris, asked me if I’d consider joining them, I had to give it serious thought. A year or so later, and here we are. I’m stoked! Chris has also shared his generous thoughts on behalf of the company in the official article.
A few people have asked about Grow. Up ’til now I’ve been unable to talk about it, but now I’m happy to also announce that Jon Gibbins is joining me at OmniTI! He’ll be a core component of the interface design team. Officially, he’ll be an accessibility engineer. A posh-sounding title that basically means he’ll be doing what he does best: accessibility consulting and training, interface development and quality assurance. So, that effectively means that we’ve ported ourselves to OmniTI; the core of our small interface design team at Grow has been acquired!
Our ambition, for a long time, was to expand the co-op to take on larger, more meaty projects, and work with more amazing people. However, being so busy with client work always made managing that problematic. We had some notable successes like Alan, who’s going to continue to practice his outstanding user experience design skills from Ezyas. However, there were a couple of disappointing experiences. It became obvious that some people were not suited to working within a co-op. Especially one with such a rigorous ethical and qualitative bias. The ambitions remained, though. As the deal with OmniTI was being fleshed out, it also became obvious that we could skip the pain of growing organically, and jump straight into an organisation that already had exactly the kind of people we wanted to work with, and the kind of projects we love to work on. Not only that, but the culture had strong similarities to the one we wished to create. So, effective from now, Grow is no more. The domain and the organisation is in stasis from this point. My emotions are mixed. Looking back, I’m proud of what was accomplished over the last six or seven years, and a little sad to see Grow Collective retire. Looking forward, I’m already engaged with fantastic projects, and thrilled to be working with such great people. I have a feeling that we’ll be working with Alan again soon, as well. The best is definitely yet to come, and I’m excited to be part of OmniTI — 2009 is going to be a great year!