The Annual Review

Sorry for the long silence, folks. I’ve been a very, very busy boy the last couple of months, and … well, writing hasn’t really been a high priority for me. Family, as always, comes first, with my job (which provides for said family) a very close second. Sanity has eeked its way into third place … and anyone who knows me also knows how much attention that’s getting as of late. Writing is in fourth, which is a very sad last in terms of actual attention.

So why now? Well, let’s go back to that second point. Today is my first anniversary of (full-time) work with Evans Hunt. While I had been kicking around here since January of last year, the full-time aspect is more recent, and in this case, also important…

…it’s Annual Review Day.

Unlike in my previous company, reviews here are very informal. Basically, you go to lunch with your department head (in my case, Allard) and one (or both) of the principals (Dan and Bill). You talk, you listen, you chat, you reminisce, and if it’s a particular bad review, I imagine you’d slink off to a bar following lunch and promptly get hammered…

After the requisite mock-disparaging comments, we engaged in what I would have (in my previous company) described as the single most glowing review I’ve ever received. And considering what I’ve done in the last 12 months, that is actually a point of note: I’ve gone from being a high-fallutin’ managerial-type who used to do real work and who spent most of his time in Outlook, to someone who was setting up web servers, writing XML parsing code, and pulling together disparate data feeds into a unified views. In short, getting shit done.

For the record, I highly value and appreciate Bill and Allard’s commentary and feedback. But I was suprised — if taken a bit aback — that there wasn’t much in the way of “constructive” feedback. In ye olde days, that was the list of things you should really “stop” doing, and start doing differently. The one that would stand out for most around here is my “passion” (I use the term loosely) towards the things I believe in. I tend to come across … well, kind of like Nicholas Cage in some of his more livid moments. But around here, it’s an asset.

There’s a point of comfort in that. I’m ancient in this business. I’m 39, and been doing this sort of work for nearly 17 years. If I haven’t done it myself, I’ve seen it and probably know someone who helped build it. I’ve gone from custom-build-everything to near-LEGOâ„¢ assembly of projects. I, like nearly everyone here at Evans Hunt, am a veteran. And veterans, as it happens, really have no time or patience for the crap that often occurs in our industry. Because we’ve dealt it. We’ve swam in it, in many cases, and somehow we’ve emerged, perhaps not smelling of flowers, but definitely not of the very effluence in which we felt we were drowning. So for a company to tolerate my idiosyncracities as a benefit (or at least tolerate it) is pretty significant in my books.

And yet, the lack of the kind of criticism I used to receive seemed … odd. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. I suppose, in part, it’s due to our size — we’re a small company, only about 36 people, so our fewer individualities tend to stand out better against the noise that comes from having many more personalities. We have to accept them, even encourage them, because that’s what makes things tick around here. Personalities go a long way to defining your working relationship with someone. Normally, I’d be getting input like “work better with project managers”, and “say ‘yes’ more often to designers” (that’s a paraphrase, by the way — the actual feedback was more along the lines of “constructive dialog”). Here? “Please, keep on being you.”

Chalk up another phrase to add to the “Ways To Make People Feel Awesome” list.

It’s been a long year here. We’ve done a lot, and there’s still a lot to do in the remaining two months. And that’s a good thing — better busy than bored, I say. And somewhere in all of that, maybe there’s room to push a bit more.

‘Cuz, really, I just don’t feel like I’m doing my job right until someone’s calling me names.