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Making Moves

I’m not generally into big declarations about career moves (or declarations of any kind on this blog, as my extended absence from posting would prove) but I think a short note is in order here.

This week I joined The Tie Bar as VP eCommerce. It’s a big move, and an exciting one on many levels. I’m as pumped for this as anything I’ve ever done. Since this announcement is more for the 5 people who care enough to read this post, I figure I’d just cut right to some of the questions folks might have.

Why The Tie Bar?

Three key reasons: the team, the business opportunity & the personal/professional growth opportunity.

TBPopUp

The Tie Bar pop-up shop on Armitage – just one small step in the plan for world domination. Giddy up!

I spent a fair amount of time with the team here both in professional & social contexts before joining and I quickly found some pretty meaningful connections with everyone, especially Michael and Allyson. These were the people I wanted to go on my next adventure with.

While the business is 10 years old (ancient in eComm), it’s still very much early innings in terms of the opportunity to grow & disrupt the men’s accessories market. The team is small and entrepreneurial and parallels the best of the young companies I’ve been a part of. We have a strong vision for how buying men’s accessories should look and are going to reshape the current (highly successful, and profitable) business in that image. The opportunity to join a market leader who is also deeply committed to shaking things up is rare and I couldn’t pass it up.

This role is also one that allows me room to challenge myself in exciting – and scary – ways. I’ll be responsible for the breadth of our digital business, from technology, customer experience and acquisition/retention marketing. While I’ve touched each of these areas meaningfully in my career, this is the first time I’ll have full authorship of a company’s strategy across all of them. I can’t wait to learn more about myself & my skills by taking this on.

Why Leave Trunk Club?

I had an incredible 2.5 year run at Trunk Club. Best job I’ve ever had. Best people I’ve ever worked with. We achieved everything we set out to accomplish and more. Being a part of that journey is something I’ll always treasure. It’s entirely possible that experience is my career Everest.

That said, it was increasingly clear near the end of my tenure that my skills & contributions were no longer what TC needed in the next stage of their growth. I built an incredible team whose talent far outweighed my own. Some relationships became more strained after such extended time in the trenches together. Much of that was my fault. While I kept telling myself I could re-capture the magic, Rob (our COO and TC’s preeminent voice of reason) saw past the hope and helped me recognize the reality that it was time to move on.

PM Team

The best PM team ever – thanks for everything Matt, Nick, Justin, Drishay and Brandon

There is no better feeling than to start a new journey. It’s my Opening Day. Time to go to work.

The Signal Experience – 3 Month Mark

Achoo!

Man, there is so much dust on this blog it's stirring up all kinds of allergic reactions.  The cobwebs are pretty nasty too…

Anyway, figured it was high time to offer an update on my life here at Signal, three months post-CV.  There is no question – it's been quite the roller coaster ride.  Perhaps even more than anticipated, and I certainly expected to have my world rocked.  Here are some notable observations and experiences:

  • I work with some amazing people.  I'll be honest – I'm pretty used to being just about the smartest person in most every room I've been in throughout my career.  Even when I wasn't even remotely the most experienced mind, I was probably the sharpest, and that has perhaps been my saving grace (no pun intended) in many, many situations.  At Signal, I rarely have this experience.  I'm in school, and team Signal are my teachers.  While I certainly bring my expertise to the table and have found many ways to add value to the business in these short three months, I have learned more than I've added.  I love that.
  • Building a business is insanely hard.  There's really no roadmap.  Jeff & Chris have done an amazing job taking this company to it's current state (strong YOY revenue growth, terrific product & team), but they've lost a few pounds of flesh in the process.  Now that the leadership has grown beyond the co-founders, we all take on the burden of ensuring our decisions regarding product focus, sales strategies, expenses and talent keep the momentum going.  And that takes it's toll.  I know we're right more often than we're wrong, but that's of little solace.  You question yourself at every turn.  The health of the business, and people's livelihoods, are on the line.  It's exhilarating and exhausting.  Sure, I made countless decisions in other gigs that certainly impacted those businesses bottom line, but the sense of urgency was never so acute.  Everyone should have this experience.  It will fundamentally change how you approach every job you'll ever have, whether it be starting your own company or working at Humungo-soft.
  • Great leadership is the difference between success and failure – period.  And it's all too rare.  The lack of great leadership is masked in so many organizations that have 1) gotten lucky or 2) have engaged in herculean efforts to survive without it.  Even rarer than being a great leader – the ability to recognize that you aren't one.  Too little of one and too much of the other will kill your business.  This seems like common sense, and it is when you think about it in the abstract, but the real trick is understand where you stand in real time and take the action needed to ensure you don't have a leadership vacuum.
  • Work takes on a new form when it is bullshit free.  Every job I've ever had carried with it a healthy amount of bullshit related to areas such as HR, internal politics and dead weight (you know, those people).  This is the cost of doing business at Humungo-soft and NotSoHumungoButPrettyBig-soft.  I can honestly say those issues just don't exist at Signal.  We certainly have our own drama (see bullet #2), but none of it is a bullshit waste of time like these other issues that plague larger companies.  The real benefit here is that we all get to be ourselves, no "work persona" you put on every day when settle into your cubicle.  It's a breath of fresh air.
  • I know myself much better now.  Stepping out of my comfort zone has revealed a lot about both my character and my professional goals.  I know what products I want to build and how I want them to impact the world.  I've been humbled (in areas I really needed to be).  I have a better sense for the sorts of people I want to go to war with and that ones I want on the other side of my bayonet.  That's a pretty productive 3 months.
So, did I make the right call?  So far, my magic 8 ball is saying "Outlook Is Good."  I still miss my CV friends and sometimes have the itch to finish what I started there, but I know that's only nostalgia taking over.  

My place is here, in the bullshit-free zone, with the collective geekery that is Team Signal.  Now excuse me while I breathe into this bag – the next panic attack re: the latest earth-moving decision we're making is coming on 🙂

TG

Farewell Apartments.com/CV, Hello Signal

Your heart rate quickens.  You notice your arm in your peripheral vision and very hair is standing on end.  Every sense is heightened.

 

What do these have in common?  All physiological responses to fear and excitement.  If you were to perform a physical exam on me at any random moment in the past few weeks (or the past year for that matter!), you’d be likely to find that I’m either terrified or exhilarated.  The reality is that I’m both.

 

Next week will be my last week at Apartments.com and Classified Ventures.  It’s hard to express how conflicted I feel over this.  For nearly 5 years, CV has been home to some of my greatest achievements, produced amazing friends and, most importantly, led me to the love of my life who I married earlier this year.  As someone who defines themselves greatly through their work, every job I’ve had has significantly shaped the fabric of who I am.  The past 4.5 years at CV have been the most rewarding in my professional life, and they have taught me that when surrounded by talented, driven and high character people, my growth (and that of the organization) is nearly limitless.

 

So – why the change?  Simply put, the team and opportunity at Signal (www.signalhq.com) is impossible to turn down.  Uber-talented team filled with genuine and likable people – check.  I’ve walked away from every discussion with this team insanely fired up to do great work.  The fact that Signal CEO Jeff Judge and I have known each for nearly 2 years played no small role in validating quality of the team.  That also helped coax me away from a terrific boss & mentor (Chris Brown) – I knew Jeff could capably carry that torch.  Finally, as employee # 14 (and hiring for more! http://www.signalhq.com/about-us/careers/) at a relatively mature start-up, I know my impact will be felt in a way that I, frankly, could never make happen at CV given it’s size and structure.  It was time to give start-up life a whirl and I couldn’t have found a better place to do that.

 

The above says nothing for the quality of the product, which is terrific and has truly special in it’s sights.  Any marketer looking to engage with their customers across multiple platforms (mobile, email, social) and appreciate the ability to manage that engagement through one, intuitive solution would do well to check it out (http://www.signalhq.com/cross-channel-marketing/).  As Product Director, I’m confident my leadership will help drive the Signal platform even further to the top of the marketer’s toolkit.

 

As I say farewell to my CV family, whom I love, I’m going to refrain from making special mention of every wonderful person I’ve had the privilege of working with.  While there have been a few forgettable faces along the way, nearly every colleague has been a joy and has had a strong hand in my professional growth.  That said, there are 4 people I simply have to acknowledge, starting with my team:

 

– Andrea, Ken and Catelyn (honorary mention – Mango): Everything I, and our team, has achieved in the past 3 years is due to your passion, talent and drive.  I merely steered the ship.  Thank you for giving me your all and, most importantly, for your friendship.

 

– Chris Brown: You are the leader everyone hopes to have but rarely gets.  Thanks for living up to that standard every day for 3 years…and for being a great friend along the way.

 

Finally, to the amazing multifamily community I’ve become a part of, thanks for allowing me to join in the conversation.  What I’ve learned from all of you will continue to be pivotal in my work at Signal.  I hope the great relationships I’ve established will continue to grow, regardless of my employer.  I’m looking at you Mike, Mark, Eric, Lisa, Jonathan, Tami, Erica, Justin, Kim, Duncan, etc etc.

 

Jeff, Chris, Gib, Julian, Mark, Dave, Doug, Ray, Amanda, Mahesh, Drew and John – can’t wait to get started guys.  See you on Monday 😉

 

TG