Sheryl Sandberg has advised, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocketship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”
Ten years ago, I did just that.
In 2005, I responded to a colorful Craigslist post that sought someone who could “negotiate the autobahn of cyberspace at great speed, with dexterity, imagination and intuition” to “learn the ancient art of blog advertising.” It would be an auspicious calling.
Having made a few blogs and put AdSense on them, I was deemed qualified. Gawker Media offered me the job. Because I liked blogging and my risk tolerance as a recent college grad was extremely high, I didn’t think twice about taking the role. It is a decision I will never regret.
In 2005, there were a dozen of us. I didn’t know it yet, but it was a “startup.” There was no real office. There were no real job titles. My assignment was to “do whatever was needed to help out” and turns out that would mean more than I ever would have imagined. Thus began the adventure!
At the first makeshift office on Broadway, I joined Gawker Media’s team in building the sites into what would eventually become one of the 50 largest properties on the Internet. Over these 10 years, we have more than “10x’d” the company. Or put another way, we have grown it more than 1,000%! We’ve shepherded it from less than 10 million readers to more than 100 million readers and from less than $5 million in revenue to over $50 million (without the aid of bought traffic or investment capital). We’ve gone through four offices. We’ve staffed up to over 300 people. From static jpeg banner ads, we developed million dollar custom publishing programs. From a primitive affiliate link on Gizmodo, we facilitated over 10 million online purchases. From a hacked up Movable Type install, we built one of media’s most envied publishing tools. From local interest and near-trade blogs, we grew acclaimed international, consumer media properties. From very little, we made so much. And a job I thought I was taking for a few months ended up being a vocation that would change my life.
Over 10 years, I got to found, build, lead, or grow numerous teams — business development (building out our affiliate commerce, direct response, international, licensing, and other new monetization businesses), advertising (leading teams in all parts of sales, operations, marketing, products, services), technology (rebuilding product, engineering, analytics, design), and numerous other initiatives (hiring practices, culture definition, brand development among them). This might sound like a diverse and divergent resume to some, but to me it is a log of the many ways I have learned to grow a company. It is the best set of general management experiences I could have ever asked for — an experiential MBA and then some.
Yes, I learned how to build and manage a business and build a team by the book. But I also learned what it is to infuse everything you do with belief so fierce that it inspires. I got to hire and grow a few dozen people whose careers (and personal lives) I look forward to cheering on forever. I got to start as an intern and climb up to C-level with something like six titles in between. I experienced growth and success and failure and sadness, all the feelings to which a challenging career makes you vulnerable. And most fortuitously, I got to meet some of the industry’s most accomplished players and some of my personal role models: Sheryl Sandberg, Fred Wilson, Steve Wozniak, Arianna Huffington, Katie Couric, and more. This place took me places. I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky to have had all the highs, lows, and emotions in between and to have been given the autonomy, independence, and trust to develop professionally in all of these ways.
As others have said but few outside these walls will ever feel, it is the people who bring this company to life. I am grateful for the friendships, mentorships, and partnerships that I have had because of the people at this company. From raucous times throwing rooftop client parties together to launching industry-leading products and growing innovative business lines together, you have become my lifelong friends and colleagues.
Now, 10 years of career growth later, I am taking my next step! For seven years, I built our advertising business and then passed the torch. For two years, I built our commerce and other monetization businesses and then passed the torch. And for this last year, I rebuilt our technology team. After hiring a new CTO and setting the technology department up for success, it feels like the right moment to pass this last torch. It is finally time to turn to my own interests and assume a new vocation — one that is as challenging and vigorous as it has been here.
As people have begun to ask me precisely what’s next, to them I respond: exploring! I am eager to spend quality time with my ideas again. I am eager to take the time and perspective to see my future in a new way. I am eager to explore other potential rocketships traveling in our universe. The interesting inquiries I have gently declined over the years can become possible. The myriad “Ideas for the Future” documents I have sketched can become real. Gawker Media taught me that going to work is all about building something you believe in with people you believe in. For what I choose to do next, I won’t have it any other way.
So here is my hearty thank you to the company that changed my life. Gawker Media, you’ve let me do the most important thing a company ever can — grow. My gratitude for that will only ever increase.
There are many other individual thank you’s I will write, but the below are for the books:
to Chris — who hired me that very first day and is the progenitor of my “no bullshit” mantra
to Gabs — who reminds me that holding your own health, interests, and happiness above all else is most important at the end of the day
to Gaby — who is a model for strong female leaders and almost always ends up being prescient
to Lock — who continues to be a source of inspiration over the years from his parallel publishing universe
to Andrew - who gave me the opportunity and autonomy to build the commerce business
to Tom — who had faith in my technical intuition and gave me some amazing chances to build products along the way
to James — who taught me that work should be as personally rewarding as it is professionally challenging
to Lauren — whose career with its strong product and management intuitions I am so excited to watch develop
to Shane — who was a strong and trusting partner in pursuing a new, untested commerce business together
to Price — who is the coolest guy in the history of ops but also the guy who gave me the opportunity to grow in new directions around it
to Ryan — who is the only other person I have ever met who ‘gets’ business in the same way I do
to Sam — who has the most unusual and extraordinary combination of creativity, pragmatism, loyalty, and smarts I have ever seen
to Ian — whose journey here has just begun but who I’ll be so proud to watch succeed as a technology leader in the future
to Heather — who will be the boldest, most courageous, and hardest working defender this company needs as it goes forward
to Scott — who has been my colleague, confidante, and co-conspirator for over 10 years of growing this company; there isn’t anyone else I could imagine working beside for so long
and most of all to Nick — who built the free-thinking brands, ideas, and culture that gave me so many opportunities; You taught me to be resolute in my beliefs, swifter in my decision-making, unendingly curious about the world around me, and how to invite and appreciate change
Now! It has been an exhilarating ride on this, my rocketship. But it is time to go seek a new one! I am looking forward to keeping up, staying in touch, and watching everyone continue to flourish.