Why I Come to Work Every Day
Inc. Magazine just named PhotoShelter one of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the United States. This is our first time appearing on the Inc. 5,000 list and we’re honored to be among some impressive companies who are fueling growth in jobs and certainly innovation.
To recognize the distinction, Inc. sent me a lovely package, which included a copy of the magazine (only the top 500 winners make the print edition – something to aspire toward) and a really nice note that my mom can hang on her fridge.
This nod comes after we were recently recognized as having the “Happiest Employees in NYC Tech” by Internet Week. These are bright moments for the company and the team of people who work here, which is why I’d like to share something very close to my heart and talk about those people.
Yeah, these guys:
To put it simply, the people who work here care. A lot. They pour a tremendous amount of pride into what they do individually, and what we do as a team. I’m not just talking about building products that impact people in positive ways. They research, design and publish an intense amount of content to help photographers learn and grow, and (most recently) even more content that helps businesses get smart about using visual media. They answer our clients’ questions on the phone day in and day out (yes, people still do this) without trying to force people off the phone or to buy more from PhotoShelter. They help from every angle they can find. They help you share your passion for making photos and they help you look rock-solid reliable when your clients need you most.
Caring is a quality you don’t put on a resume, but I’d venture to say it’s the most common trait you’ll discover across companies in the Inc. 5000, Internet Week’s list, and any other assembly of emerging companies finding success at what they do. One thing I’ve noticed here at PhotoShelter as we celebrate our 10th anniversary — caring is in fact a transferable job skill. It’s what’s driven a unique level of job leaping and morphing within our company, enabling people on my team to grow into new roles and help both the company and our customers in new ways. And, caring pours out into how they impact our culture as well — our people care about improving the environment around us, and making our office an amazing place to be, daytime and nighttime. Watching this unfold is one of the most rewarding aspects of working with this team.
Take Chris Owyoung, for example.
We found Chris at a photography trade show back in 2009. He was a rising pro music photographer looking for a solution to better showcase, manage, and deliver his images to clients. Not only did we sell him a PhotoShelter account, but shortly thereafter we brought him on board to share his great ideas and customer insights as a member of our marketing team. Chris bleeds photography. He loves to shoot (his work is exceptional), and because he continues to nurture his pro career alongside his PhotoShelter career, he directly understands the needs and pain points of professional photographers. Chris now leads product development on our core product (he made a very impressive leap from marketing to product development in 2014). Our new client proofing tool is Chris’ baby. He wants to make “his product” the world’s most useful business tool for professional photographers.
Or Ruby Ahn.
Ruby is incredible. She was originally a Client Services representative, working the phones and email to help our photographers set up their websites and use our tools. In this role, she developed an empathy for our customers and keen sense of the roadblocks they encounter when using PhotoShelter. As she matured, we promoted Ruby to our Product team, working with Chris to drive an impressive and consistent flow of product improvements. One of Ruby’s main projects has been the PhotoShelter member homepage. She’s been responsible for the innovation you’ve seen there over the last year, including the integration of account analytics, better presentation of business content, and tutorials for new members. Atop this, Ruby has driven the release of our mobile app. Every day, we’re learning more ways that the app is literally changing the way photographers work by giving them access to PhotoShelter’s tools and their entire archive on-the-go.
Or Spencer Ponte.
When I see how Spencer’s career has morphed and grown at PhotoShelter, I grin really wide and try my best to take credit for it, but can’t. Spencer joined us in late 2012 as a Client Services representative, like Ruby. We learned something interesting early on about Spencer — he’s a tinkerer. We’d find him digging in really deep with photographers, helping them customize their websites with tweaks to the underlying code, working with the PhotoShelter API on pet projects. So, we let him sit for a bit, continuing to gather insights about the product and our customers, until the time was right to move him over to our engineering team. (Show me another company where this career path exists.) We trained Spencer as a junior developer and he’s grown so incredibly fast to become an essential member of our team, with a razor sharp POV on how to improve the customer experience. Huge win. (The credit really goes to our engineering leadership.)
Chris, Ruby and Spencer are also key members of our Brewshelter team. Brewshelter gathers people from every corner of the business and we make beer together, multiple nights every month, for the team to enjoy (like, really good craft beer). When each batch is complete, we host a Photos & Beer night with a PhotoShelter photographer sharing their work and our whole team sharing the beer. This is a special, intimate event for our team and friends. I think magic happens when people come together in ways beyond their actual job functions, and when our whole team has the opportunity to connect with our photographers.
Or Martin Vloet.
Martin was a very welcome addition to our team in 2014. He was previously a photographer at the University of Michigan where he fueled major financial growth while running the Michigan Photo Store. Martin came on board with a singular mission — to bring the benefits of PhotoShelter visual asset management and e-commerce capabilities to more universities. Given his university insights, Martin felt strongly that this was a powerful fit and pushed hard to make it a reality. This unstoppable drive to serve universities was a key piece of our Libris story – the new visual asset management platform we’re offering to serve large organizations. We made Martin an enterprise solutions manager on Libris and watched him grow our exposure in the university space. He’s literally hopped in his car and driven hours from his home in Ann Arbor to help new schools implement Libris. Today, we’re serving over 110 top universities thanks to the care he pours into his role here.
The truth is I could write a mini ode to each of our employees, but I realize that would make for quite a long post, so I’ll resist (at least for the time being).
The great people who work here are not here by accident. Hiring is the part of my job I take most seriously. Those who end up here all share clear similarities. They are driven, they are smart, they are kind, they are creative, they are curious, they collaborate, and they test ideas. (They also love to eat.) But most of all, I look for “that spark” which tells me they’ll be an outstanding contributor here because they care.
The acknowledgements we’ve received are very much a recognition of this team. Without their ongoing drive, the products we deliver to you would not be possible. These people inspire me and they challenge me daily. And I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to come to work everyday.
P.S. By the way, we’re hiring!