Thankful For My Team

I was able to make a perfectly-timed engineering joke during a client conference call this week and everyone laughed. This was not out of character for me because I like to goof around. What made it memorable was that I’m not an engineer.

I am RightBrain’s communications manager. I provide the narrative for our technology-driven story. Much of our story is about the cloud, data centers, application development, infrastructure and security. It’s fair to say that even among technologists, this is very technical stuff.

Crafting our story has at times been a challenge for me. Since starting here six months ago I have told many friends: “I’ve had to learn to speak another language.”  

And while this space is typically reserved for our engineers to wax about ElastiCache and nested stacks, I’m commandeering the blog to announce that Crains Detroit Business named us to their 2014 list of Cool Places to Work in Michigan.

Our winning profile mentions some obvious things like the open, sunlit workspace and child-friendly office policy. And while it’s pretty cute to see kids’ doodles of kittens on the whiteboard next to a diagram of autoscaling lifecycle hooks, there’s more to our story.

If you ask our engineers they would say that RightBrain is cool because they get to tackle projects that they wouldn’t get to touch anywhere else. They’re teaching legacy IT departments how to prepare for the future and building infrastructure and applications for non-profits, professional sports organizations and top universities around the country.

My reason is different.

When our CEO Jamie Begin offered me the position there was only one other woman at RightBrain and she was brand new. I asked Jamie: “As a female, non-technical team member, how will I be received by your already-established, young, all-male, engineering team?”  Looking back this question seems silly because those guys are my “work brothers” now.

RightBrain is a cool place to work because I am valued by my teammates. While our backgrounds are very different, we share a common trait: creativity. That idea is at the heart of what our young company is about.

The engineers ask my opinion when they’re writing. They help me understand the technical aspects of the projects we work on. They use my office to vent. They laugh at my bad engineering jokes. They include me without hesitation.

It’s not uncommon for the core group of a small start-up to forge a deep bond. My hope is that long after our first Coolest Places win we continue traditions like chicken wing lunches, kegerator Fridays, and Thanksgiving potlucks. After all, our company culture is the glue that binds us together. And nothing is cooler than knowing you helped start something great.