Two Emma developers reflect on last weekend's hackathon
This past weekend, while Nashville's Germantown neighborhood hosted Oktoberfest, Emma hosted Hacktoberfest, a weekend-long hackathon (yep, there were sleeping bags involved) for Nashville's tech community. Emma developers Josh Mock and Matt Perkins attended, and here they share a few thoughts on the event.
Hacktoberfest is a perfect example of where technology in Nashville is headed: developers – both experienced and novice – getting excited about building great things together. We gathered at Emma Friday evening and quickly broke into teams, shared some ideas and got to coding projects that we were passionate about.
Ben Stucki, founder and CEO of DAIO, attempts to nap
Several hours into the hackathon, exhaustion set in. People were attempting to nap in sleeping bags. Three groups of developers were arguing about whether they were going to do business with each other. Others were looking for ping-pong opponents.
It felt a little chaotic, and yet, there was something inspiring about the scene. Maybe it was the feeling of accomplishment after cobbling together a crazy hack with something I barely understood, or maybe it was just the junk food high, but I kept feeling that something important might be getting started in that very room.
The underlying premise of the hackathon is that it's a contest, but when the ball started rolling it was immediately apparent that everyone was far more interested in helping each other learn, grow and build regardless of who might win. There's certainly a competitive nature to the event, but there's a mentality that everyone's in it together.
As Hacktoberfest was wrapping up Sunday afternoon, it was oddly coincidental that while some of the teams were finishing up some really impressive stuff, the whole room was buzzing about Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking leap from almost-space.
Watching that event live with a group of like-minded people intensified the moment. Sure, Felix was the only one free-falling to the earth, but we were all taking chances, and most of us were experimenting with code simply because it hadn't been done before. The end-product may not make sense, or it might be history-making.
Hacktoberfesters watch presentations at closing ceremonies
That collaborative, encouraging spirit is what makes it a worthwhile way to spend a weekend. Well, that and the free beer and pizza. In the end, a team of four developers that built GLu – a glucose-tracking solution that works via website or text message and sends reminders to your phone when it's time to test your blood sugar level – won a trophy for getting the popular vote from all hackathon attendees.
Want to learn more about the Nashville tech community?
Here are a few events to check out this weekend. We'll be there, so be sure to come say hi!
You might have heard that Emma’s Nashville office recently moved into a new space in the refurbished trolley barns on Rolling Mill Hill in downtown Nashville. Now that we've settled into our new home, I'd like to update you with some of the exciting details and, most importantly, share some pictures!
A little history
Our new space consists of two buildings totaling over 30,000 square feet – that's more than double the space from our old location on 8th Avenue South.
When we speak about the size of the new buildings, folks automatically think that we had to move due to growth and space needs. And while space is important, it's not the only reason we moved.
We also moved because we had the chance to become part of a new, developing community in downtown Nashville. We welcome the opportunity to invest in a neighborhood that we see as our forever home.
Our new community is called South Broadway or SoBro. It sits just a few blocks from the famous Honky Tonk Row and has great views of the Cumberland River, LP Field (where the Tennessee Titans play) and the Nashville skyline.
How about a peek?
Collaboration is at the heart of Emma, and our new space embraces the spirit of shared work. The open workspaces, limited walls and ceiling-to-floor glass panels allow for an open work environment.
I love that our support team can listen in on our design team’s music, while our labs folks are brainstorming Emma’s next move and our developers are squashing app bugs. We're able to keep up with our colleagues' work in ways we couldn't do before.
While we love the larger space, it also means Emma feels a lot bigger, and it's important to us to maintain our camaraderie. We're balancing how to retain a small-company feel while also welcoming our growth. It's a culture shift that we're consciously managing, and we're learning as we go.
As you've probably guessed, we're continuing to look for stellar people to join our team. If you like challenging work, a fast-paced environment and an open work space, Emma just might be the right fit. Take a glance at our jobs page, where we're posting new openings often. And give us a shout if you have any questions – we'd love to hear from you!
Emma's hiring a Business Development Specialist to join our office in Austin, TX, and that means we're looking for someone who will be deeply involved in the local community of businesses, nonprofits and agencies in Austin, and who is ready to help bring Emma to Dallas and Houston, too.
So what does a Business Development Specialist do, you ask? I think it's best described as part marketing, part networking and part selling key accounts. You'll also spend time building solid relationships with some existing local accounts. However you describe it, it means this person has his or her finger on the pulse of what's happening in each of those business communities. You may spend an afternoon interacting with great local brands like Tomlinson's Pet Store, Alamo Drafthouse, Sweet Leaf Tea, City of Austin, REDROC Advertising, Caritas Austin and dozens more. You'll also develop partnerships with associations such as Greenlights, the Austin Chapter of AMA, Austin Young Chamber and Ad Fed Austin. And work with our marketing team to develop marketing sponsorships with great local events like SXSWi and Innotech Austin.
Sweet gig, right? A day in the life of an Emma Business Developer is fast-paced, and it's challenging, rewarding and engaging. Since Emma brings a stylish, branded solution to customers who understand and value that approach to email marketing, the position lends itself to working with some of the coolest companies around the country.
While based in Austin and focused on our own community, you'll begin efforts to introduce Emma to Houston and Dallas, and will spend time on the road in each of those markets monthly. You'll be on a team with other business developers around the country in cities like Nashville, Portland, New York and Chicago.
You'll need to bring experience from past sales, marketing or business development roles — but it's a learn-as-you-go environment, where you'll be part of Emma's entrepreneurial culture. You'll be able to test the waters on marketing and business development programs and ideas that you dream up. You'll be measured on success both as an individual and as part of a team.
Ready? For more details on the Austin Business Development Specialist role, and to apply, click here.
Attention, customer service gurus with a love for design and branding: Work with us!
We're looking for a design consultant in Nashville to round out our team of advisors who help our clients discover and articulate what they want from their custom designs.
As a design consultant, you will often be the first and most enduring face of the design team for many of our customers. Because of that, it's essential that you possess the perfect blend of solid design knowledge, project management chops and customer service skills. The person we're looking for could confidently explain why layered files make for easier revisions, translate those revisions into design-speak for the designer and then coordinate the completion of the project itself — all with the warmth and genuine enthusiasm that our clients deserve.
Experience in marketing coordination, ad trafficking or similar fields would definitely be a plus, as these jobs often require the same basic strengths and skills as the design consultant position. Our team turns out high volume on a quick turnaround with style, and we also enjoy a good afternoon snack to celebrate our efforts. (Especially if said snack involves Taylor's tandy cake. Yum.) Other things we like include Razor scooters, nicknames, office visits from co-workers' puppies and making new Pandora stations.
So what do you say, dear reader? Would you like to advise our fabulous clients on email form and function? For more information or to apply, please click here.
If you're a graphic designer, we're looking for that as well! Check out that position over here.
The Emma team has been growing, especially in the tech-related departments. I was among several of the new hires this past year that have, apparently, led folks to wonder exactly how many employees we have. After hours of intensive research (probably just someone skimming the employee directory) we found we'd recently crossed the 100-employee mark. Nice! And who was that 100th employee, you ask? (Cue another quick skim of the directory.) Hey, it's me! Double nice!
I began to wonder: What privileges might I, the first Emma hire with a three-digit employee number, be given? Extra vacation time? A key to the executive washroom? Final say on what music is played on the first floor? No, friends. The honor bestowed upon me is the chance to ask Clint Smith, co-founder and CEO of Emma, any questions I like. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it really is. See, Clint usually doesn't let us ask questions; mostly we just get him sandwiches when he's hungry, as you'll see.
Read on to find out how this cool work environment came to be, where we're headed, whether any of it involves using mind control and how you could be the prestigious Emma employee #104. (Trust me, 104 is just as prestigious as 100.)
It was clear to me right away how much effort Emma puts into giving both employees and customers a memorable, fun experience. Was it a goal from the start to have a workplace culture like that? How did it come about?
Really, it was the very simple notion of creating the kind of place *we'd* like to hang out every day. Nothing more. I guess if we'd wanted to hang out in a place that was stale and corporate and believed inspiration could be found in a handful of framed "Successories" posters (sorry, whale soaring through the air), things could have turned out very differently. Will and I also came to Emma with a lot of inspiration in hand – we'd worked in very open, creative, collegial environments at companies like Citysearch.com and Smallbusiness.com. So we didn't have to invent a workplace culture — we simply had to take some of the great things we'd already experienced and adapt them to our own style. And we felt the same way about the customer experience. Shouldn't it be the kind of experience we'd want as customers? (The answer was yes, by the way.)
I feel like that culture puts a lot of emphasis on a democratic way of doing things rather than a small handful of people dictating direction and goals. How do you "guide the ship," so to speak, while giving us so much freedom? Is mind control involved?
The fact that you're feeling a sudden urge to walk over to the kitchen and grab me a sandwich (roast beef and provolone, Josh, roast beef and provolone) should in no way concern you that mind control might be at work here (also, chips, Josh, chips – and not those stale baked ones you brought me last time, thank you). First off, there are too many smart people here for any handful of us to feel like we can figure this all out alone. Our job is to try and set a clear and compelling direction that gets everyone nodding and smiling and possibly jumping up and down, and to empower folks to help fill in the blanks, and even uncover new and interesting directions, along the way. Last year, for example, we pulled our values, vision and strategy off the wall and revisited the entire thing, and in the course of the roughly six-week project, we involved *every single staffer* at Emma. That's how much we believe in an open, collaborative approach. That, and the powerful combination of roast beef and cheese. This Q&A really is making me hungry, Josh.
Sorry. So talking about free lunches and beer we get probably isn't a good idea right now? Moving on then…
Okay, so you hired a few web developers recently, myself included, and there's talk of hiring more. What's in the works that we need to expand our team so much?
There's a ton of work ahead as we enhance and expand our core email product — new features to add, more data and insights to provide, new ways to integrate with other services and so on. And there are opportunities to expand beyond that core product, all within the umbrella category informally known as Helping Companies Engage Their Audiences in Cool, Stylish, Effective Ways. Emma is ultimately a digital communications and engagement service, which means the doors to things like Surveys, Social, Mobile, Analytics and more are wide open for us. And that means people, particularly people who are really talented at product design and development. If they're also talented at juggling or knife throwing, that's cool, too. We'll be looking for those talented designers, developers and jugglers in Nashville and in Portland, and potentially in our other satellites cities – Austin, Denver and New York – and beyond. So, Josh, if you happen to be throwing a party for say, 20 of your closest, most talented technology pals this weekend, we'll supply the fruit punch and disco ball. It's just one of the many awesome recruiting ideas we have.
And we all know that free fruit punch is the best fruit punch.
When we have all these new developers and designers, what is life at Emma going to look like for us? Other than the knife throwing, that is.
Marc, Kevin, Alex and the rest of our senior technology leaders have big plans not just for the kind of work we'll be doing, but how we'll go about doing it. We love the idea of moving forward in really nimble, collaborative, creative ways, using the latest platforms and approaches, all with a bit of Emma flair thrown in for good measure. We love the idea of small teams moving quickly on interesting projects and challenges. And we love the idea of folks being able to raise their hands with a good idea worth exploring, and to then be set free to do said exploring. Not like mountaintop exploring, Josh, but more like awesomely-cool-new-product-concept exploring. It requires less outdoor gear. So the idea is that, as a designer or developer at Emma, you get the chance to work with a variety of great people on a variety of really interesting projects, all aimed at expanding Emma's horizons in ways we probably can't even imagine.
Speaking of great people making great things, a huge part of what got me excited about working at Emma was all the awesome folks I met during my interview process. How does the hiring process work and why is it done that way?
We know that so much of a company's culture and, well, success, starts at the hiring table. (The table is made of mahogany, by the way.) So we put a big emphasis on making sure we're finding people who aren't just extremely talented, but who also *really* want to be a part of this thing called Emma. We're looking for that unique combination of capability and commitment. So we make it a bit of an elaborate process, from an initial set of 10 questions you might be asked to answer, to coffee chats with a couple of senior staffers, and a series of visits to the office eventually ending in what we call an "All Hands" interview, in which folks from a variety of teams come together for a candidate's final conversation. We know that every single person who joins the Emma cause will help shape the company and the culture in his or her unique way, so we're picky, and we're intentional, and we don't make this an easy job to get. In fact, Josh, you might be interested to know that people who inquired about work at Emma last year had just a 2% chance of actually landing a job. So you're in select company, my friend.
Select company indeed. Between that and being Emma's 100th employee, it feels pretty good.
Got any other food-related analogies or anecdotes about employees juggling on mountaintops for the big finish?
Given the amount of food that makes its way into and out of the Emma offices on a daily basis (there are, by my count, roughly *12* groups and clubs devoted to baked goods alone), I'm sure I could regale you with a week's worth of food-related analogies. But I'll just end by saying that I'm thrilled you're #100, Josh, and I hope you get some sort of plaque, or cheesecake, for cracking the three-digit ranks for us. Onward and upward, Mr. Mock. Also, there's Nutella cake on the second floor. It sounds even better than roast beef.