We’ve been on the hunt for a while. A hunt for a technical project manager. Because we needed one. We searched long and hard. We posted ads. We had a few serial killers try to murder us. Then we posted a job at the 37-Signals board, and we received countless spot-on candidates.
We got guys and gals from all over the place. Poland, Germany, Oklahoma, Chicago. Some copy ‘n’ pasted some generic cover letters and said they’d be a perfect fit. Others drafted, with great reason and effort, a more personal approach for why they fit the bill.
The guy we hired though, wrote this:
Hi. My name is Sam Bennett. I have a wife and a few kids and live out on the Fox River in St. Charles. I really like it out here. You should check it out some time.
I’m known to hunt Pylodictis Olivaris. Yeah, flathead catfish – and we catch some monsters out here. Like, 40 pounders that’ll whip a garden-variety fishing pole into a pile of metal shavings and splinters.
My favorite all-time band is Black Sabbath. Probably because I play bass and Geezer Butler is one of the rare ones. Nah, no Newer Sabbath, I’m talking anything pre-’75. Into the Void. Wicked World. You know. I like other bands, sure. I’ve seen Guided By Voices more than a few times.
What caught my attention was your post on 37Signals Job Board. I think we may have been looking for each other. I hope so, it sounds like you guys are doing good work and holding your own out there.
For the past 2 years I’ve been a Producer. That means that I’m in charge of solving all of the problems that pop up. Technology problems, client problems, budget problems, 3rd party vendor problems, UX problems, Board of Directors problems. I’ve seen a bunch in the past 2 years. Being a Producer also means that you have all the facts straight all the time. On a 2-year, $2M project clarity is essential.
Well, let me back up a bit. I’m a high school dropout and self-taught programmer. Driving a forklift for 6 months is great motivation to learn a non-boring, going-somewhere skill. I started programming in ’93. I was a decent programmer for 10 years. I was never going to be a great programmer. What I was really good at was helping people (often programmers + artists) Get Shit Done. And so that’s what I started to do. I’ll provide 3 quick examples that are more interesting than my resume.
I helped some of my buddies launch a product that automates the scanning of medical records and posts them up to the web (securely!) in a flash. They’re selling the stew out of it. I still hang around and give them input from time-to-time, but mostly it’s an excuse to expense a trip to Alabama. My mantra, “Make it easy to use, not easier to program.”
I helped another cat get his digital house in order. He had 3k Quicktime videos that dentists use to show people what they’re going to do. But it was a pain in the ass to update. He had 3k+ manual links to test each time he nudged a few pixels here or there. And his content wasn’t exactly secure. So I helped him hire the right people to build a CMS and parlay that into a shipped product. A product that wasn’t so expensive to maintain. That guy has pulled down some SERIOUS cash. Don’t take my word for it, I’ll give you his #.
And for the last 2 years I’ve been a Producer. Full CGI 3D Virtual World for 4-year-olds. I ran a dev team in Shanghai. I had a few vendors sprinkled around the US and Europe to fill in the gaps. It was a cool product, but unfortunately, 4-year-olds don’t care about virtual worlds. You live, you learn. Today I’m freelancing under the banner Beaker Industries, LLC. I get jobs and then parcel them out. I do all of the project defs, contract stuff, proposals, etc. Developers get paid, I take a cut and our customers ship product. It works, but it’s a precarious lifestyle. I need some insurance and a little more sanity.
For those who like bullet points:
• Clients feel better when I’m around
• I know where everything stands and I can prove it
• I help people understand problems, get past them, and get back to work
• I’m technical enough to be your Jr. Programmer
• I’m artsy enough to jump into Photoshop and whip some comps out
• I ship products
• I’m as good in the Board Room as I am in the trenches
I’ve attached my resume and hope you’ll give me a shot at some tusks. Those things are pretty wicked and I’m burly enough to make them look really good.
Sam joined us 2 weeks ago, and has been taking it all in. We’re no 40 lb catfish, we’re a big-damn Mammoth, so he’s got his hands full. But what set him apart from the bunch is his instinct, his hands-on approach to wrangling a project, and the fact that he knew that sending this cover letter was exactly the right thing to do at exactly the right time.
Oh, by the way, he was the very first to respond to the job posting.
His name, Sam Bennett. His job, kicking ass at We Are Mammoth.