The Night is Darkest Just Before the Don | by Stevie Vines

The Night is Darkest Just Before the Don

Posted on February 18, 2015

There's one thing every startup needs. It's not a certain angel investor, or rock star marketer, or even a team of programming wizards.

Every startup needs a beating heart.

Working at Kevy had become a burden. Not an intellectual burden, mind you, a spiritual one. I felt stuck; my learning pace slowed to a crawl, I was no longer consistently pairing with more experienced developers on new challenges, and each week brought with it a tireless army of frustrated customers demanding immediate solutions. I started wondering whether I was staying because I was loyal, or because I was a green schoolboy too afraid to find something new.

Before I slide too deep into my Holden Caulfieldian melodrama, it deserves mentioning that Kevy is my first "real" job, and I have no reference point for how bad a job can get. All I have is the knowledge of how great one can be, and for me, Kevy had fallen quite a ways in my 18-month tenure. The Ghosts of colleagues past still float in GitHub, haunting reminders of a simpler Kevy, filled with carcassonne and pike-ups.

But as they say, the night is darkest just before the Don, and in November of 2014, we hired Don Pottinger (of fame!). I hesitate to claim prophecy lest I be put to the test, but I knew the minute we interviewed Don that he'd be a game changer. Because he is the one who inspired me to start this blog, it seems right that my inaugural post be an homage to Don.

In just a few, short months, Don has transformed my daily work experience in a powerful way. There is much that I admire about Don, but three of his gifts, in particular, have made Kevy a great place to work again:

  • Don is inspired. Don is more than a talented software engineer. He's a writer, a soccer player, a father, he even donned his sales hat and closed a deal, in spanish, within his first three months on the job. His pursues his passions wholeheartedly, and in doing so he inspires me to be my best, both at work and outside of it.

  • Don is steady. Working at a startup can be hectic. You often live under a barrage of competing demands, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. But since day one, Don has approached his work (and his colleagues) with a measured grace that is comforting and refreshing. He never lets the stress of an overwhelming workload prevent him from loving his coworkers well.

  • Don is a natural mentor. Building others up is effortless for Don. He is someone who wants to share what he knows, and is quick to lend a hand when he sees a colleague struggling. "Paired with Stevie" has become a staple of Don's daily check-in, and I'm grateful for every opportunity I get to collaborate on a problem with him. He is patient, and is always looking for chances to improve our codebase, challenging me to approach my craft in new and insightful ways.

Don at the beach?
Lots of situps
  • BONUS: Don is a (Body)Boss. Don is a total boss. If writing is an exercise, is going to be a lot of mental situps before I look that that guy. Even so, I hope this brief post helped capture a shade of Don's baller-ness, because Kevy is very lucky to have him.

In my (admittedly brief) time in the professional world, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: it's the people, not the work, that make the job worth doing. We're all doing life together, drifting around the sun, and work (like everything else) is what we make it. It hurt when I realized that part of the reason working at Kevy became a burden was me. I stopped responding to the call to bring light and life to work when everyone else felt discouraged and defeated, and in doing so brought Kevy down rather than building it up.

It's the people, not the work, that make the job worth doing.

Then Don came along and reminded me of the challenge and privilege it is to make your office a great place to work. He brought Kevy back to life during a critical time, and I'm thankful he decided to join our team. The Dons of the world may not be so rare as the cynics would have you believe, but when one comes along, better hire him, just to be safe.

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