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/ log / 21st Dec, 2008 /

Growing OmniTI

Grow Collective and OmniTI logomarks, merged.

’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!


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  1. 1. By Pete B on 21st Dec ’08 at 09:08am

    Well done Jon!

    Does this mean OmniTI are opening an office in Bristol?

  2. 2. By Chris Shiflett on 21st Dec ’08 at 09:10am

    Very nice post, Jon. It’s a real pleasure and honor to be working with you.

    Here’s to 2009 and beyond!

  3. 3. By Andy on 21st Dec ’08 at 09:20am

    Congratulations Jon – very well deserved, it’ll be interesting to hear more throughout the New Year and see some of the new work you’ll be involved with!

  4. 4. By Jordan on 21st Dec ’08 at 09:28am

    Congrats, Jon!

    Will you be coming stateside for this new position?

  5. 5. By inspirationbit on 21st Dec ’08 at 09:31am

    Congratulations, Jon. I hope you’ll still be able to find time for occasional insightful articles on this blog, and perhaps would share with us some of the creative processes you’re going through at OmniTI.

    OmniTI indeed sounds like a dream company to work for. Glad to see that it became a reality for you. Wishing you and your family a wonderful and Happy New Year in 2009.

  6. 6. By Eren Emre Kanal on 21st Dec ’08 at 09:55am

    Congrats Jon.

    Hope everything will go perfect for you.

  7. Jon 陳’s profile 7. By Jon 陳 on 21st Dec ’08 at 12:26pm

    Thanks, Pete. Anything’s possible. :)

    Here’s to 2009, indeed, Chris. See you tomorrow!

    Cheers, Andy and Vivien. I’ll definitely be talking about what we’re up to, and still write the inevitable essay when I have something useful to say.

    It’s always possible, Jordan. I’ll definitely be across on a regular basis for work and hopefully the occasional conference. Looking forward to meeting more people across there.

    Thanks, Eren!

  8. 8. By Rick Hurst on 21st Dec ’08 at 12:50pm

    Congratulations to both Jons! Exciting times ahead for you both :)

  9. 9. By Lachlan Hardy on 21st Dec ’08 at 13:00pm

    Congratulations, Jon! All the best with OmniTI. They’re lucky to have you.

  10. 10. By David Guyon on 21st Dec ’08 at 13:14pm

    Congratulations Jon, you’ve just reached a new level in your career: OmniTi is the place for you !

  11. 11. By Steve Avery on 21st Dec ’08 at 13:19pm


    Congratulations on your new position. OmniTI have gained a great assest. I look forward to following you and your fine work into the future.

    All the best mate. Wishing you, Mrs T & the younglings a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year.

  12. 12. By Chris Coyier on 21st Dec ’08 at 15:26pm

    Congrats! Nice to see highly talented people get the jobs they deserve.

  13. 13. By Elliot Jay Stocks on 22nd Dec ’08 at 00:33am

    Although I’ve already told you so in 'real life', for the sake of leaving an official stamp of my well-wishes to you on the (slightly) permanent medium of the interwebs… congratulations, mate! :D

  14. Jon 陳’s profile 14. By Jon 陳 on 22nd Dec ’08 at 01:32am

    Thanks Rick, David, Steve, Chris and Elliot — ’appreciate your wishes, guys! Cheers, Lachlan, we’re both lucky for sure. I hope I make it back to Auz, sometime.

  15. 15. By Min Tran on 22nd Dec ’08 at 02:35am

    Congratulations, Jon! I wish you all the best for the new journey :)

  16. 16. By Jon Gibbins on 22nd Dec ’08 at 04:49am

    To echo previous sentiments, congratulations on the new job, Jon! And thank you for the well-wishes in comments here too. I’m really stoked that I’m going to be working at OmniTI as well. I’d best go update my blog!

  17. 17. By Miguel Montanez on 22nd Dec ’08 at 19:08pm

    Congrats "Jons"!!! I to am stoked about our new design team. I Honestly can’t wait see what 2009 brings for us…Beers shall be had by all during your next visit stateside. :)

  18. Jon 陳’s profile 18. By Jon 陳 on 23rd Dec ’08 at 04:29am

    Thanks, Min! Jon, Miguel, see you in our vitual office. :)

  19. 19. By Greg on 28th Dec ’08 at 20:01pm

    This is pretty awesome news right here.

  20. 20. By joe on 30th Dec ’08 at 01:53am

    Hey Jon,

    That’s great news. I’m dead happy for you matey.


  21. 21. By Piotr on 1st Jan ’09 at 17:40pm

    So I guess this was the big news you’ve twittered about the other day! OmniTI, indeed, seems to be one of the most important web companies I’ve never heard of!

    Looking forward to reading about your adventures with the new team, Jon.

    Congrats and all the best in 2009.

  22. 22. By Alan Colville on 23rd Jan ’09 at 07:10am

    Mate, so happy for you. I am certain it’s the start of another amazing time in your life and career. I wish you every success my friend and only hope I get to work with you again soon.

  23. 23. By oto kiralama on 17th May ’09 at 15:36pm

    This is pretty awesome news right here….

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