One year ago today, I started working at Font Awesome. I’d already been planning on writing a bit about the experience and how it’s been different; but last month, Lynn Fisher posted an excellent list of things she wants from a job. The earnestness of her words helped clarify my own thoughts and put some things in perspective.
But first, a little background. I used to work remote at a Canadian design agency. In the last couple years out of my 7 working there, I regularly kept an ear to the ground about new opportunities. Judging by LinkedIn and read.cv profiles, 7 years is an eternity in tech — so I suppose it makes sense that things started to stagnate. I had a terrific manager, but the company didn’t really know what to do with me as one of the only design specialists. Very much a “the clients love you and we value what you do” but also a “we forgot to promote you for the things you were already doing” situation. Anyway, I was tired of it. And thanks to Lynn’s list, it’s much easier now to identify some key things I felt were missing:
Work that benefits the people who receive it.Benefit is hard to gauge with super quick, 2-week engagements. You do your best, explain your work’s worth and how it fits into the larger project, and cross your fingers and toes that it’ll get used correctly (or at all). A team small enough to know everyone personally.By the time I left, we were well over 100 spread across multiple departments and countries around the world. Upside: lots of diverse clientele & coworker experiences. Downside: it was impossible to know everyone, much less work with them. Kind of a rough deal in terms of remote working relationships. Plus, the specialist “team” was so siloed and haggard we couldn’t actually get together and plan how to address issues we all faced. The autonomy to make small and big decisions about my work. The ability and opportunity to share my work publicly.NDAs blow. Very few meetings, used effectively. Work that makes me come alive.Aside from all the rest, one of the final nails in the coffin was the company’s growing involvement in web3 and crypto client projects. I voiced my concerns about that whole disaster multiple times but was still assigned to them anyway.
So one year in, has Font Awesome been different?
We follow the tenets of Shape Up, writing pitches and breaking work into digestible, 6-week chunks called “splits.” And in between these splits, we have 2-week cooldowns to work on fun things, fix random bugs, or learn new skills! A far cry from the blistering pace of agency client work. Let’s revisit some of that list:
- Work that benefits the people who receive it. Everything at FA is based around icons, their implementation, and what our users and subscribers need — so I don’t need to constantly “sell” my skills or convince stakeholders that I belong at the table. Refreshing! Also being able to really dig in on something and tinker and revise until it works beats the heck out of fortnightly context whiplash.
- A team small enough to know everyone personally. As of this writing, there are 18 of us. Even with everyone working remote, it's soooo much easier to build relationships when you can remember everyone's name. Plus we all hang out twice a year to noodle on new ideas, play D&D, and eat cookies.
- The autonomy to make small and big decisions about my work. Everybody gets to have a say in what they work on. Pitches are written prior to each split outlining the planned work ahead and any foreseen potential pitfalls, and folks are welcome to help shape that direction and help hammer the scope down into something manageable.
- The ability and opportunity to share my work publicly. I love talking about icons! I’ve done a fair share of written and video content about them in the past, and now I get to keep doing it.
- Very few meetings, used effectively. I have about one meeting a week — that’s it. And it’s a pretty chill roundup of how everyone’s week has been.
- Work that makes me come alive. I won’t go all Dani Rojas and say that “icons are life,” but I will say that working at Font Awesome has allowed all the parts of myself outside the 9–5 to more fully come alive. I haven’t had the Sunday Scaries once this past year. I’ve had spare creativity to use for freelance and side projects (like this blog!). Lower anxiety levels means better quality time with my family.
Something our CEO Dave likes to talk a lot about is “work as a means to an end.” While it’s great to enjoy what you do for a living (and I’m incredibly blessed that I do), it should be just that: for living. Jobs should be tools to enable you to live the life you want when you’re not on the clock. (P.S. We’re hiring!)
Cheers to one year and here’s to many awesome more ⚑