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.
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 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.