The Good Old Times Just Keep Getting Better
Looking back on a relatively long period of time always makes me nostalgic. I can’t help but turn into a wistful old man, preaching the value of the “good old times”. In Magnolia’s case, fortunately, this is slightly different - there are plenty of things that are still great, and on an even more positive note - they are constantly getting better!
However, I’d still love give in to my penchant for nostalgia a little bit and look back on our past. As I’m not much of a coherent blog post writer, I’ll organize this post into 5 top-5 lists. The number 5 is quite meaningful in mine as well as Magnolia’s context:
- I have been at Magnolia for 5 years.
- When I joined, Magnolia had just turned 5 years old.
- I am the 5th oldest employee.
- Magnolia 5, our biggest release yet, came out this year.
- I started writing this post 5 times before I finished it.
Let’s start with what I think changed dramatically over the course of the last 5-10 years...
- Our code base grew up (check for yourself at https://www.ohloh.net/p/magnolia).
- Agreeing on new features for the product and on how to implement them now takes at least 5 times longer.
- We are not hosting any Magnolia based projects ourselves anymore. Instead, we have a number of partners who have an extensive infrastructure to do so and offer such services to the clients (and/or community users).
- People started to voluntarily edit my blog posts (probably because they got tired of my silly jokes, because there’s nothing wrong with my use of language, right?).
- From a little garage office we have moved to a much bigger place, as well as all expanded all over the world.
...and continue with what I think has stayed exactly the same:
- Magnolians in the office get very serious and focus heavily on their work … Don't even try to break their bubble! (the resulting burst might hurt you.)
- However, the atmosphere in our offices is incredibly positive. There’s a lot of laughter and jokes to break up the heavy working. The foosball table is also still used on a daily basis (see below).
- Connected to that point is the fact that we also like to play hard. We still know how to have fun and have great parties (and I just missed the best one - a trip to the Swiss mountains).
- Surprisingly enough, we still need same amount of resources for support as we did in the good ol’ days. That is mind blowing. There are two possible explanations: either our product is getting much better and thus requires much less support or our customer/user code base is growing smarter every year doesn’t require so much help anymore… or both.
- No matter how many times we’ve seen the opposite happen, people are still incredibly optimistic and don’t expect their changes to the codebase to have any, let alone not so positive performance implications.
These were my most memorable moments in my time here:
- Starting at Magnolia was not something I had planned. I wasn’t even looking for a job at the time. However, by way of being introduced to the company by a good friend, I eventually met the other staff. This is when my interest was sparked: I instantly felt at ease with Boris, Philipp and Gregory, the Magnolians I met first. The way we clicked together, discussed opinions, foresaw future development or simply shared drinks and jokes was totally unexpected.
- One week after I started, I was plunged in at the deep end: Magnolia asked me to go on a trip for 5 weeks to provide subject matter to customers. I had to learn Magnolia, JackRabbit and a number of other things on the fly. I’d compare this experience to a very, very long bungee jump. But luckily, it all went well in the end.
- One Sunday night, I was staying late at the Basel office and ran into Pascal (our CEO) at 2am. He was coming to restart a mail server because he could not wait until Monday morning to send an email to a customer. This dedication to customers, success, the company, simply everything, continues to impress me. Pascal (and all other Magnolians) are still like that today - passionate about what they are doing, and willing to go that extra mile.
- Magnolia is still like a force of nature. You can’t stop it, you can try, but in the end you just have to learn to live with it. I still remember several of our parties that appeared to be too party-like for certain other parties. And while they attempted to shut down the event, all they could achieve was curb the sound a little, but not stop the show. Similar tenacity applies to meeting obstacles in the product development: it might slow us down for while, but in the end the team will prevail one way or another.
- Another highlight I’m happy to remember: I was visiting a client for a few weeks, and had to walk around their offices with a name tag on my shirt that said “Magnolia Inc”. Due to the location and the nature of the client’s business, several people stopped by every day to ask me which movie I was location scouting for. Apparently they all thought I was from Magnolia Pictures Inc. and were overly friendly on an off chance to get involved with the filming!
...and to conclude, these are the things that are most typically “Magnolia” for me:
- Rather than trying to innovating with big bangs, Magnolia always chose to grow organically- in terms of the product as well as its people. While growth be challenging as well (changing release patterns, moving offices, growing infrastructure), this incremental growth is what has allowed us to evolve into the company we are today.
- Each start-up I’ve come to known is unique, with its own culture and feel. The key to success for all of them, I find, is passionate people. Magnolia has an extraordinary density of passionate people per square metre. This passion doesn’t stop at our office doors: our community, partners and clients are equally passionate about the company and its product.
- Foosball breaks. We really work hard to be able to save a few minutes every day to work this ancient table to its limits. I remember days where Pascal would walk around in a handstand because he was so happy to have won a particularly challenging game.
- Willingness to take a big leap into the unknown - regarding the technology, focus area, scaling the product, choosing the office location, simply anything. For me, Magnolia really is this bunch of people being able to see the opportunity where others see just problems or the unknown.
- And reactivity, which is connected to the previous point. At Magnolia, people don’t only see the opportunity, they are able to act on it, and act on it quickly. Sometimes, this happens even too quickly, as if we are afraid of not reacting fast enough. Magnolians are certainly on the ball at all times :)
With that, I hope that I’ll be able to come up with 10 top 10-lists in 5 years, when Magnolia will turn 15 and I’ll celebrate my very own 10-year anniversary!