Five years at Pixelgrade is not that much

I’ve been documenting my becoming at Pixelgrade quite from the early days. You can read the story I put together last year or one that compresses three in a row to get more context. I’m not sure if this need comes from my hunger for stories per se or my strong (and biased) belief that only by looking back, I can go further.

January 12, 2021
Reading time 7 – 11 minutes

Even though it’s not easy to leave the new reality aside from any discussion these days, I will give my best to talk more about me and less about the virus. Call it selfishness if you want, but I feel it’s time to make some room for other conversations to keep us sane and lucid. Otherwise, I’m afraid we’ll keep floating in the same ocean that already emptied our tanks, which brings no good in return.

COVID-19 will stick with us in a way or another, consequences of all kinds will follow, but I strongly want to give my best to declutter myself a bit. Maybe I’m oblivious, but I prefer choosing to look at the world through various lenses because life is more than the virus. And will always be.

So, leaving the coincidence of the overlapping events, in the next lines I will be sharing how invisible forces shaped my path and brought me to a place where I can confidently say that five years at the same company is not that much.

I hope you have some energy to invest in reading my story, with all the nitty-gritty that makes it mine.

Practicing in-depth thinking took me time

We live in a world where the dynamic of changing jobs is overwhelming. Regardless of the reasons for switching companies, at least in the local community, most of these ripples are coming from the playground run by IT organizations. I’ll not debate here why I think this is happening and how it affects us all, even though we might not notice, but let me say just that: it’s a fiasco, don’t fool yourself.

Let me shed some light.

As a community builder for creative industries (read a few of my learnings while building the Upstairs tribe), I’m familiar with the concept of planting seeds, taking care of them, and waiting, sometimes even ten years as Brad Feld wisely preaches in his book—Startup Communities, to celebrate results.

Tribes take time, and I’m beyond happy I understood this truth when I was 23 years old. My mentor used to keep saying it over and over again, and at that moment, I could not understand why (I thought she’s pessimistic), but now I know. And hey, she was right!

The reason is simple: communities rely on trust and belonging, and both require to pass the test of time. You can’t force building habits. You can’t change behaviors overnight. You can’t shortcut relationships.

It’s that simple yet so hard.

Taking this analogy in the professional area of my life, I can loudly confirm that nothing is more accurate than that. I couldn’t achieve all the results, I couldn’t go through different stages of growth (from marketer to storyteller to Chief People Officer and business partner), I couldn’t contribute to nurturing a culture on solid values that are manifested daily, I couldn’t be so clear in my intentions regarding what kind of company I want Pixelgrade to keep becoming to match my beliefs and dreams. 

Of course, it’s not a solo kind of challenge. I’m appreciative that George and Vlad, the Co-founders of Pixelgrade, are entrepreneurs who see potential in people and welcome complementary skills.

Regardless, they did not allow me to do stuff, neither did I ask for permission. I just did whatever I thought makes this company and its team better.

The reality shows that you don’t even get the chance to consider these alternatives or ask different questions while you mingle from one organization to another, nor while you do plenty of side-projects outside the job, or you push your boss to bring a bit more cash on the table not to lose you.

If you’re in one of these particular scenarios, then you’re looking at the problem from the wrong place with the wrong attitude. These cookie-cutter strategies will not lead you far.

Let me tell you why.

I barely gained some mental space, knowledge, expertise, you name it, to reinforce our values in the fifth year at Pixelgrade. Not in the first, not in the third, but in the fifth. For some folks reading these lines might be too soon and for others might look like I came too late to the party. It depends on where you come from, what’s your background, and such. For me, it feels just right.

It took us a lot of time, energy, and money to get to this clarity and find ways to put our values at the forefront of everything we do. We worked with other business entrepreneurs we admire, with consultants we trust, with skilled psychologists. They all lent a hand, gave their best, but the raw reality is that only when we, especially George, Vlad, and I, surrendered in this ocean full of uncertainties, we succeeded to reach deeper levels of comprehension. And that was just the beginning. The hard work started afterward, and the entire team is contributing ever since.

Today, the values and the mission guide all decisions, however big or small. It’s still knotty and complex to manage them in certain scenarios (e.g. excellence is one of them, but what happens when it brings us close to burnout?), but it’s also liberating to see how everything becomes more straightforward (e.g gratitude allows us to live in the present and be appreciative with what we already have). It’s a lot.

Investing time helped me earn more time

Work (in general) never stops, neither with reinforcing values nor with crafting projects, but I feel I’m far more driven now than I ever was during these years at Pixelgrade.

The fact that the last year was the first one when nobody left (or joined) the crew, that we did an amazing job as a squad, that we kept pushing the boundaries, that we kicked-off new endeavors such as the Upstairs Community, and that we navigated the pandemic in quite privileged conditions, means the world to me. It could not have been possible, not in these terms and with these consequences, without putting skin and soul in the game.

It became crystal clear how all the extra hours spent in the first years at Pixelgrade are paying off in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’m beyond grateful.

Five years at the same company, if it’s the right fit, it’s really not that much if you aim to have a profound impact.

It took me time to create healthy relationships with my teammates. It took me time to twist my skills to match the company’s goals and personal objectives. It took me time to deconstruct behaviors and learn new ones (delegation is the first example that comes to my mind). It took me time to help others achieve their creative potential by encouraging them to write. It took me time to acknowledge that my job switched, I changed, things are different now. It took me time and a fair share of bravery to learn to slow down.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep this mantra of changing the pace when big tech companies (from Netflix to Facebook) invest heavily in getting the opposite result. Thankfully, we started to understand how this harms us on a wide range of levels: emotionally, intellectually, morally. It not only makes us behave like we’re constantly behind with everything (news, debates, trends, shows, movies, concerts, gadgets, you-name-it), but this marathon often ends with a strong sense of guilt and helplessness.

It’s in huge contrast with human nature and the way we evolved so far. Just consider being a kid eager to become an adult to have the freedom of choice alongside all the perks. Could have you accelerated your growth, speed up your body to grow, push puberty? No.

I often see people who have little patience to achieve their dreams, and I wonder why they are running so fast while being blind to what they’re already having and changing the strategy. What’s the gain? Why this hurry? Why trying to obtain other results with the same tactics?

It beats me.

Life showed me that it is long enough to accomplish most of the things that seemed ludicrous at some point in the past.

At Pixelgrade, I learned to fine-tuned my strategy to achieve different results. Now, I can notice how all the extra hours spent in the first years are paying off in ways I couldn’t have imagined. In so many ways, I feel I earned time and now I’m more aware of how I want to spend it.

Here’s something that you don’t hear too often, but I feel it’s crucial to start accommodating this thought: you have time to get better at your job and earn more, to progress on the career ladder, to buy that house, to visit that country, to raise that kid, to start that business, to enter a new relationship, to whatever you want to accomplish during your life. The way you spend it will bring you closer or farther.

So, if I would make the exercise of summing the fifth year at Pixelgrade into just a few words, then here I go: give time and allow yourself to do things in a sustainable rhythm. To understand a company’s culture, values, and mission, create stronger bonds with your teammates, grasp the organization’s history, improve your skillset, experiment, learn and unlearn, write and rewrite.

In 2019, I wrote an article about the importance of choosing the right organization for your particular needs, and I’m confident it’s still valid today, so feel free to take a look. I offer plenty of context about recruitment practices and why it takes two to tango to find the best match for your particular moment in life.

My belief (call me a naive) is that this is one of the healthiest and most authentic way to walk through life.

Pixelgrade turns 10 in 2021, so I’ve been here for half of the team’s existence of creating digital products that help creatives make an impact in their communities. It’s a bold mission, but I could not imagine working with people who don’t dare to dream and become a better version of themselves.

I’m grateful and honored that now, more than ever in my 32 years, I feel the opportunities to impact creatives are endless. So far, that’s my most significant victory that comes with a feeling that’s hard to describe in words, but it fills my chest with delight.

Thank you and cheers! 🥂

The featured photo belongs to Katerina Nedelcu, and it’s taken at our office.

A question from Oana, the author of this article:
What's your experience of spending more time at the same company? How do you think it impacts your becoming?

Conversations 6 comments

Let's start a personal, meaningful conversation.

Example: Practical philosopher, therapist and writer.

I was never the guy ready to jump ship easily, but life had different plans — in less than two years I changed two jobs. It was never my goal, and I always went to a new job thinking that I will be there a while—I thought there will be a lot of opportunities to grow, learn, and help push the boundaries. Now, looking back, I don’t regret leaving sooner than expected. I am grateful that I was able to figure out early that those places were not what I thought and that staying there will bring more harm. I am happy to be where I am, and I am happy that you managed to find a place worthy of investing your time, energy, and soul into shaping it, making it your own.

I don’t like the current way people are changing jobs, but I do hope that more will realize that the reasons behind those changes should be to find the place that lets them become who they want, and not for a boost in monthly pay.

From my experience, spending more time at the same company meant creating deeper bonds with my teammates (and in some cases, life-long friendships), understanding the culture and values better so I know instantly how we do things and what actions feel right, learning more about how a business evolves and changes over time which in turn can become career opportunities.

I hope this piece makes people think deeper before jumping ship and helps them understand that you can’t get where you want by using all sorts of shortcuts. And I wish more people are fortunate enough to find a place where the investment feels right. I think those two go hand in hand.

Relevant commenter background or experience:Storyteller, Chief People Officer
Thanks a bunch for sharing your thoughts on this one! I can resonate with the fact that, sometimes, life has different plans. For instance, I genuinely wanted to continue working in a design agency because I loved the team and the work we were crafting for our customers (branding services and building websites). However, things went nasty on a financial level, and while I hoped that we would turn the ship around, I resigned and continued my freelancing career.

That particular experience was highly valuable, and I’m grateful I had the chance to learn so much. Many of the takeaways proved to be worthy along the way, such as learning to say “No” to those cutomers who don’t share similar values.

Spending more time at the same company can bring plenty of good stuff, but it can also make us blind to our own pitfalls and loose arguments. The challenge is to make sure you overcome them and keep a sharp mind in the very long haul.

Regardless of the lenses you look through, both scenarios require time. Quite ironic, right?

Congratulations for getting so far onto this journey, both in terms of time and, above all, the level of understanding of how an organization and its individuals could evolve in a healthy way.

I’m grateful for your trust, effort, and dedication in shaping Pixelgrade to lessen the gap between humans and technology. I know by myself that the fast-paced evolution of technology mixed with a youthful interest in it makes it very easy and imperceptible to skip the humans out of the equation.

Well, I’m prone to this sort of bias but I’m (very) proud of myself for being open and made room for you to come on board and let you do what you know best: holding the right people together.

You have contributed remarkably in switching our pace as a team, reducing the rhythm while finding more meaning in anything but numbers. Thanks!

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  • Oana
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Relevant commenter background or experience:Storyteller, Chief People Officer
Awww, many thanks, George! I like to believe that we shaped the journey together and changed the narrative to match our values system. While it’s nothing terrible in technology nor people per se, taking humans out of discussion can skyrocket us in a drama movie. 

I’m confident that today, more than ever, we know how to amplify creatives’ goals through technology to achieve their potential and have an impact within their communities. It took us some years to get here, but nothing good comes overnight when the ambitions are high.

Be bias and proud because even though I shook plenty of your convictions and arguments, I’m well aware I could not have got here without your openness and curiosity.

Let’s continue to keep the pace that resonates most with who we are and continue pushing the boundaries on our terms. Cheers! 🤗

Relevant commenter background or experience:Freelance translator

I totally resonate with the part of the article where you talk about slowing down.

I’ve been a freelance translator for the last 14 years, and in the past couple of years, I really started feeling the heaviness of being (sort of) “blackmailed” by my clients – being a freelance, if you don’t take the job someone else will and you lose the money. And if you say “no” to the same client for more than a couple of times in a row, you risk losing the business relationship (it’s not always the case, but this is how I live it).

Especially during the past year, where we were forced to slow down, I started thinking about how our modern (Western) culture has taught us to always be in a hurry, that we have to accomplish things fast and possibly with no errors (another big subject: how errors/failures are perceived in our society). And even more, we are supposed to achieve more goals, possibly at the same time. So, in the end, we are forced to go through things very fast, but with too little depth, and I (almost always) end up feeling like I’m achieving nothing.

About 3.5 years ago, I moved to a small village of 300 people embedded in a valley with a total of 2000 inhabitants. So, totally unconsciously, I started a journey that helped me reshape and rethink my idea of time. I must say that living here is helping me a lot. When I feel too stressed, I just go out for a short walk in the woods, and my body starts to relax and regenerate.

I still have a lot to do in terms of slowing down, but I must say your words have been of great inspiration: from now on I will INVEST time to simply re-think about my past achievements and see what happens. And so, for once, this 2021 will have no New Year’s resolutions since I will simply carry on the projects, dreams, plans, ideas I already have in motion and, for at least this one time, they will be more than enough.

Thank you, Oana, for always being of such inspiration. With gratitude from Switzerland

Relevant commenter background or experience:Storyteller, Chief People Officer
Hi Marta! I genuinely resonate with your thoughts, too. Thank you so much for taking the time to share them here. 

We indeed live in a global society where the pressure of speeding up, achieving various goals, doing more, fulfilling dreams in just a couple of years seems to be the norm. However, I’m afraid that’s not sustainable nor healthy. For people, for our communities, for the planet Earth.

Your living environment sounds like a dream. I love small towns and villages, and I hope to get back to them at some point in the future. They have the force of slowing us down and showing what’s truly important at the end of the day. That’s way harder to achieve in a big city, and I must confess I often wonder why not aiming for a more serene lifestyle.

I wish you all the best, and keep being true to yourself. It’s the most authentic way to navigate in the very long run. Waving from Romania!

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