Lessons and insights from 8 years of Pixelgrade

The Pixelgrade crew talks about their journey

We’re eight! Our design studio, where we create simple WordPress themes used by creative people from all over the world, got eight years old. This means we’re quite rebellious in everything we do, but we’re also able to settle for the right reasons. In other words, we’re still enjoying this adventure.

I asked everyone from the squad what are the main lessons learned during their time here and how would each of them describe Pixelgrade to a friend. I am beyond grateful for their authentic answers. I hope you are going to find them inspiring as well.

Usually, people make quite a lot of fuss when it comes to celebrating the years of activity. We did that too, and we gladly welcome moments of joy and gratitude.

We’re also true to ourselves, and we genuinely care to be in touch with both our core values and the reality we’re part of.


The blunt truth is that this year was hard, intense, dramatic, challenging, draining, but also beautiful and rewarding. As life usually is, right? With all kinds of nuances. The thing is that we learned to be careful about noticing them.

We’ve landed in December after a long road full of ups and downs. It’s been a marathon, not a sprint. We’re grateful, but also exhausted, we’re optimistic, but also a bit anxious, we’re living in the present as much as we can, but we also allow ourselves to dream about what’s next.

Therefore, we did not feel the need to throw a party, shout out on social media, generate PR content or eye-candy press releases because our inner why is not resonating with such an approach. This would be in misalignment with who we are, and we try to avoid such gaps.

Next, I leave you with the thoughtful answers given by everyone from Pixelgrade’s crew about how they felt the journey so far. A bonus is that I challenged them to try to describe our company to a close friend. Consider it a gift from our side.


1. What’s the main lesson you learned at Pixelgrade?

Vlad on letting go of being the master of his destiny

↳ 8 years, Chief Technology Officer and Back-end Developer

Life is very generous with founders and entrepreneurs when it comes to lessons — annoyingly so. One of the more profound takeaways I gained from the past eight years is the futility of my arrogance in setting goals and the benefits that come with more humbleness about what I set out to achieve. 

It’s a work in progress, but letting go of my need to be the master of my destiny, and instead, accept that none of us truly are, has brought a much-needed breeze of calm in my life, both professional and personal. 

In the past, I would have stamped this with being complacent, even mediocre, but I now see that it is anything but that. I find myself more resilient to things outside of my control, more strategic in placing my bets, happier to invest my energy in areas I feel under my control. 


Oana on embracing generosity and kind communication

↳ 4 years, Chief People Officer and Storyteller

Wow, that’s a tough one. Quite soon, I’ll give a cheer for celebrating four years at Pixelgrade (half of this company’s time), so choosing one single lesson is quite challenging.

However, if I would be needed to sum everything up, I would say that nothing beats the power of authentic and vulnerable communication. When it lacks, scenarios pop-up. Relationships damage. Products fail. Motivation dilutes. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, every time I’m entering an arena where kind and open-minded dialogue stays at the core, I not only feel I have superpowers, but I also see how I become the best version of myself. 


George on having an impact beyond economic growth

↳ 8 years, Chief Executive Officer and Designer

During the 8th year of running Pixelgrade, I started to learn more about the actual value created by a good company. How its outcome and purpose should not be absorbed solely around money and economic growth while losing sight of the opportunities that arise to make the world a little bit better. 

This could mean to spend a bit more time trying to understand and help a fellow customer, writing an article that’s relevant for people and not for search engines, or extra-polishing a product feature just for the sake of providing a beautiful experience to someone that notices. 

Even though this sounds like reasonable things to do, all this digital pioneering comes at a cost – not being able to sit comfortably in your chair while the business is running low on cash. 

Next, I’m looking forward to finding a balance in doing the right things the right way while keeping the company running well. 


Răzvan on being consistent and sticking together

↳ 7+ years, Front-end Developer

Working at Pixelgrade for the past seven years has definitely felt like an emotional rollercoaster many times. Many myths I held true have been gloriously busted, often shaking my belief system and making me question my activity. 

This opened up opportunities for quite a few lessons to be learned, even though I probably haven’t properly assimilated every one of them. From understanding that everyone is here to give a helping hand if they can, and also being able to ask for help when in need, to learn to say no and prioritize the thing I have to do, these were all things that I’m still trying to grasp. 

However, the main lesson I learned at Pixelgrade is that consistency is a key factor for such a small business embarked on a long and adventurous journey

You won’t always be able to deliver your best work, and there will be many times when you don’t feel like having the energy to do maintenance tasks. 
Finding the balance between the fun of exploring innovative solutions or experimenting with new technologies and doing the tedious tasks that must be done will do a great deal of good both to you and the business you work for.

I would never take for granted the echo that healthy and kind communication makes among people who share the same values and work together towards the same goals.


Alin on doing your best every single day

↳ 6 years, Customer Support Agent

Be committed. Do it with your full commitment. Otherwise, what’s the point?

From all the things I have learned in all these almost six years since I worked with these amazing people, maybe the most important one is to be committed

I learned that If you’re committed to your job, you already know that satisfaction is going beyond the minimum expectations of making customers happy. You understand the importance of customer loyalty and make them feel like they’re partners to your success.

Give before you get was the first thing I’ve learned here and the one that taught me to be devoted. 

I have said it on several occasions, and I say it as many times I have the chance — the trust that was granted to me from the beginning allowed me to be truly attached to what I am doing. 


Andrei on the power of putting values at the core

↳ Almost 2 years, Digital Marketing Executive

I believe the biggest lesson and eye-opener for me were to see how important it is for any company to create a set of values in which the people behind the company truly believe in and that guide those who work there in everything they do. 

I know a lot of companies have values and missions written on the walls, but when it comes actually to live by them, things start to fall apart. I have experienced it in other workplaces, but here is the first time where, no matter the highs or the lows, values stay at the core.

This means that even if we had a great month or quarter, or if things started to slip between our fingers, we always guide our decisions regarding the products we create and the way we market them around our core values: excellence, gratitude, and care. And each time we managed to pull it off.

Having a great set of values not only ensures we deliver the products and support our customers want, but also helps us work better together, hire the right people, and make Pixelgrade a company where everyone involved is proud to be there. And that’s something rare to find.


Mădălin on stepping outside the comfort zone

↳ 1+ years, Front-end Developer

This is my first year at Pixelgrade, and since the very beginning and ever since, I’m learning a lot of new things, evolving as a developer, but most importantly, as a human being. 

If one year ago, I was proud of creating a blogging WordPress theme, these days, I am beyond pleased that I have contributed to Rosa 2, the sequel of the best selling restaurant WordPress theme. 

During this time I learned to be more organized, more connected to the community, and lastly, I realized that it’s ok to make mistakes along the way.

However, there’s one thing that continues to happen consistently, and that’s getting out of my comfort zone. I’ve realized that this is the only way to evolve and get better at what you are doing.


Alex on the power of being guided after healthy principles

↳ 1+ years, Customer Support Agent

Since I am part of the Pixelgrade team, I can say that I have learned so much more than just one single “lesson.”

I learned that it is essential to guide yourself both personally and especially professionally, according to some very well established principles.

Also, I learned that going “the extra mile” is the step towards achieving excellence (one of the Pixelgrade’s core values, next to care and gratitude). If we strive and make constant efforts to evolve daily, we will get the best results, which will keep our wheels spinning in the long run.


2. How would you describe us to a close friend?

Vlad on the nuances that make us, us

↳ 8 years, Chief Technology Officer and Back-end Developer

We are dreamers yet pragmatic, humble yet ambitious, generous yet naive. 
We are quirky yet approachable, forgiving yet demanding. 
We learn and explore, yet we understand very little. 
We strive for excellence, yet never come near it. 
We are a failure, yet successful beyond expectations
We are like anyone else in this world, yet different from all others. 
We are full of contradictions, yet not hypocrites. 
We are just how we should be. We are alive.


Oana on being authentic and honest

↳ 4 years, Chief People Officer and Storyteller

I had my fair share of ups-and-downs at Pixelgrade, so the way I’ve been describing it varies. If I should tell a short story to a close friend, here it is.

You know, we all choose our battles. I am quite proud I’ve been investing in this one. I have evolved dramatically during the last couple of years. The challenges I’ve been facing as a marketer and leader made me push my inner boundaries. The spectrum of emotions I lived here is now part of me and my identity, so I’m beyond grateful and excited about that. 

Pixelgrade is not a place for everyone, and I’m not stating it governed by my ego. I’m saying it from a place of humbleness and care. You need to be in a particular moment in life to fully embrace this adventure and make the most out of it. In the end, it genuinely shapes who you are.


George on exploring the creative freedom

↳ 8 years, Chief Executive Officer and Designer

Pixelgrade is a place where I feel that I have the freedom to put my interests and passions at stake with a handful of driven folks and, together, have a higher impact than on my own.

Its self-improvement culture, and focus on creating a superior experience, challenged me constantly to push the limits and make most out of each situation. 

While stressful at times, this helped me develop new skills and reach higher ground. I’m very grateful for the team that I’m part of and for the culture and environment that we’ve created around it – I couldn’t ask for better at this point in life.


Răzvan on the complementary skills we have

↳ 7+ years, Front-end Developer

When it comes to describing Pixelgrade to a friend, things get a bit tricky because I would want to give an accurate description of who we are and what we do at Pixelgrade while also adding some sparkle on top of it because that’s who we are.

So my best shot at this would be that we are a bunch of talented and dedicated people doing their best to find creative, innovative, but most important, efficient solutions to complicated problems who also try to have fun while doing it.


Alin on accepting all kinds of challenges

↳ 6 years, Customer Support Agent

It might sound like an election campaign slogan, but this is how I would describe the Pixelgrade team using these three letters — CAN (Challenging, Autonomous and Nurturing). 

From day one, I was challenged to go beyond my limits and grow. I had the freedom to play, experiment, and focus on results. I was given the opportunity to work in a team, but also autonomous, on personal goals. 

These are just small pieces of what Pixelgrade means to me, but for which I am grateful and motivate me to become the best version of myself. 


Andrei on pushing the boundaries

↳ Almost 2 years, Digital Marketing Executive

Pixelgrade is the company where a handful of people are doing their best to make things better for you, no matter the cost for us. This is where you’ll find honesty, no matter how hard is the truth.

So expect honest answers, help that goes the extra mile every time, and products created with your needs in mind. 


Mădălin on improving skills and attitudes

↳ 1+ year, Front-end Developer

Pixelgrade is the place where you can level up your skills and be appreciated for your work, the place where you can work at products used by thousands of customers across the globe.

The most important thing is that you will be part of a team that is respecting their values and, based on that, continually pushing the boundaries. 


Alex on the opportunity of working remotely

↳ 1+ years, Customer Support Agent

The fact that I work at Pixelgrade is something I can brag about. I think everyone would like to be part of a dynamic team with colleagues from whom you can learn a lot of useful things that can help you grow

Pixelgrade is a place that offers you a working environment with open people, a place where everyone is harnessed and where innovation and bold ideas take shape. Another bonus for me is that I can work remotely, which many companies do not agree with.


This is who we are today, and we’re quite proud of how far we’ve come, especially after this year. As you noticed, we all have our rhythm and way of understanding what’s happening at Pixelgrade, what we can take from this adventure, how we are shaped by this path. As always, these differences are amazing and show where the beauty lies.

Happy birthday, mates! 🍻

Oana

Oana is a storyteller at Pixelgrade and community builder for creative industries. A true believer in the power of making the world a better place one story at a time.