Back in 1998 I ran product and engineering for IGN.com. It was an awesome gig and I had a fantastic team — John Windberg (database), Scott Allen (design) and Ilen Zazueta-Hall and Genevieve Buckley (developers). My peers were top-notch as well — Simon Whitcombe ran business and sales and Julian Rignall ran editorial. Simon, Jaz and I all reported to Jonathan Simpson-Bint.
Jonny had just had a great experience with the Stephen Covey “Seven Habits” seminar and sent all his senior managers. This involved what’s known as a “360-Degree Review” — Jonny, Simon, Jaz, and my whole team filled out long likert-scale-based surveys, rating every aspect of my professional person. At the end of the first day of the seminar, we got the results of our review to take home and digest before the following morning.
My results were devastating. I don’t know that anyone else has since received a score that low. Stephen probably has a picture of me at Covey HQ labeled “Don’t be this guy!” And as a special sort of torture, my self-evaluation scores were side-by-side with everyone else’s, showing just how little I had picked up on their discontent. I scored high on vision, but anything related to actual management was baaaad. Thirteen years later, it still makes me want to crawl under a desk.
So, I did what just about any 25-year-old would do; I set out to learn everything I could about project management and fix all my management deficiencies. I bought the PMBOK (the Project Management Institute’s “Project Management Body of Knowledge”) and learned all about “waterfall” and “Monte Carlo simulations”. I took classes. I read books. In the end I became a certified PMP (that’s “Project Management Professional”, not “pimp” for those playing at home).
What followed was four years of professional misery. I got a job as a project manager (producer) at a videogame company called Cyberlore. The company itself was great and I made some of my best friends I’ve ever had. I even did a decent-enough job; all my games shipped. But, good god, managing projects was so unfulfilling. I used to joke that project management was controlled failure — you were always going to blow your budget, schedule and quality, it was only a question of how badly. I spent four years desperately trying to prove that I could be a good middle manager.
Cyberlore eventually folded, as almost all independent game developers eventually do, and I put a second mortgage on my house and launched MyBlogLog with my great friend Todd Sampson. Since then, life has been a happy blur. After MyBlogLog there was also Gnip and OneTrueFan and a few others that I’ve been involved with. Truth be told, I imagine that if you polled my teams they would still say that I’m better at vision than anything else. While I’d like to think that the wisdom of 13 additional years has made me a better manager, I’m not going to win any awards. But I truly love the process of conceiving product ideas and working with great teams to turn ideas into a reality. It’s what I live for.
So as I sit here typing this up at 2am after another great week spent with Todd and Steve and the BigDoor crew, working on some great products, I just wanted to throw some unsolicited advice out to the universe:
Figure out what you love to do and do it a lot. Do it all the time. Do the ever-loving shit out of it. Because you may not always find massive success, but you’ll always find happiness.