Article  |  Leadership

How a photo of Doug Bowman's office view in 2005 inspired me

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A decade ago, you could find me working out of a home office doing freelance development work. There were a handful of people that I often looked up to. One such person was Doug Bowman who was doing awesome design work down in San Francisco as Stopdesign. I remember when he found a new office to move into (as he was sharing some space with Adaptive Path back then).

As I browsed through his photo gallery, I caught myself feeling envious. While working out of my house had it’s perks… it also came with annoyances. One being, that it was awkward to always have a client meeting in a random coffee shop. It’s hard to control noise and/or to organize a collaborative white boarding session with them. Another was that I just felt like it was an interim career decision to be a freelancer. (not suggesting that all freelancers feel this way, but as I was in my early 20s… it felt like I was in between things when working from home)

In hindsight, it wasn’t so much that Doug had a shiny new office in downtown San Francisco… it was that he was able to budget and afford a separate space entirely. A space that he could go and focus at great lengths. To be able to stay in a zone for several hours. If I left my home office room, I would be in a kitchen, the living room, down in the basement playing my guitar, the backyard, etc. These were comfortable spaces… that I could definitely work in, but I began to worry that I’d become a hermit in my comfort zone. Ten years later, would I still be working out of my attic… and occasionally meeting up with someone at a coffee shop to get some real-life collaboration? I felt isolated.

It also felt extremely temporary.

In late 2004, I met with Derek Sivers from CDBaby about a job opening he had to lead their PHP development efforts. I was a musician… and the thought of getting to work around people who loved (and sold) music from independent musicians sounded like a dream job. I was so close to ditching the Planet Argon idea. (it was during these conversations with Derek that I was introduced to Ruby on Rails… which is a story for another day)

We sat in my dining room, he ate a huge container of pineapple in front of me and we talked about programming (it was one of a few interviews).

Derek ended up deciding to kill his PHP plans and go down the Ruby n Rails path, which I had just begun to dabble with.

So… I found myself still doing “the Planet Argon thing” in early 2005.

Not long later, Doug posted photos of his new office… and I must have read something about putting things up that inspire you. So, I printed out the photo above and stuck in on the wall next to my desk as you can see in the picture below.

Each day, I would look at that and dream a little.

A goal was set. I wanted Planet Argon to feel permanent.

2005 was the year that Allison Beckwith and I busted our asses off. That spring I:

  • Started diving more into this Ruby on Rails framework.
  • Began blogging on Robby on Rails. (I was the most prolific Ruby on Rails blogger in 2005… proof )
  • Started providing hosting for the Ruby on Rails community
  • Starting writing a book for O’Reilly
  • Worked on a bunch of Ruby on Rails projects

The phone started ringing a lot more. People started offering me high paying jobs. Planet Argon was becoming something more than a freelancer thing. Something was different. It no longer felt temporary.

By the Fall of 2005, Allison and I decided to step things up… and we…

At the start of 2006, we began an LLC. We hired a few more developers.

(working in the attic!)

We moved the team into an office in downtown Portland in February of 2006… less than a year after I stuck that photo on my wall.

..and then I was able to share my own photos.

Thanks Doug.

Doug doesn’t know who I am nor have I ever met him, but I owe him a huge thanks for being someone I would look up to. He’s currently the Creative Director for Twitter.

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