Six years at Pixelgrade: the adventure comes to an end

I’ve been documenting my becoming at Pixelgrade since the beginning. I’ve always been a believer in the power of introspection and mirroring. Often, this particular exercise is what gave me the fuel to keep going. My journey here is over, but I like to believe the ripples I’ve made will have an echo in the long haul.

Oana
March 23, 2022
Reading time 8 – 12 minutes

I write this article from a place of care and gratitude. It’s a bit funny because these are two of Pixelgrade’s core values. They’re embedded in my core system, too. I guess that’s why it felt so natural to express them consistently. 

While I get the urgency of knowing what happened (our culture loves to name the culprits and punish them), truth is that such an approach does not strike a chord. Nor is it aligned with who I am or what Pixelgrade stands for.

I’m sorry to leave you hanging, but you can skip these lines if you’re looking for gossip. Make yourself a favor and do something better with your time. What follows is not about who-did-what

I’m a gal who values going in-depth and providing context. I feel no joy in sharing blames and rushing to conclusions. It doesn’t honor me.

Therefore, what follows is not a big reveal of a juicy conflict or a soap opera that usually kicks off when people split ways. It’s the outcome of a long labor of deconstruction, understanding, digesting to put the pieces back together. And yet another way to express my gratitude for everything that I experienced here over the years.

If you want to have a broader image of how it felt to work at Pixelgrade for the last six+ years, check out the previous articles:

It’s not the first time

I would lie if I said this is the first time I seriously consider quitting Pixelgrade. It’s, from what I remember, the third or fourth. And guess what? That’s totally reasonable, even common. When you work so intently years in a row and you care far beyond your job description, you will definitely face such moments of doubts and what-ifs

I think we need to start normalizing the idea of questioning if the current workplace still suits the right needs and ambitions. 

What convinced me to stick to the team instead of leaving was my internal conviction and stubbornness that I could make it here.

We have outdated perspectives on hiring and firing, and we treat them as set-in-stone recipes. All the movies we’ve been watching imprinted a particular image on our brains. This is the supreme BS we got from Corporate America.

  • Hiring means you proved yourself; firing means you grab your things and leave.
  • Hiring means you are good enough; firing means you no longer know how to serve us.
  • Hiring means you are in; firing means you are out. 

What if hiring would imply that you can reinvent yourself multiple times and firing could equal closing a particular circle, not an entire relationship?

At Pixelgrade, I hit rock bottom a couple of times. Almost on every occasion, I thought okay, this is the end for me, maybe this is the line in the sand. Somehow, I stayed and looked for solutions or alternatives.

I am beyond happy for having the patience and grit to keep walking and grasping such moments. Those who haven’t been in a job for more years and surpassed the standard tasks can’t imagine how it feels. Only by digging deeper can you access more profound layers. If you just scratched the surface, your experience will ultimately be very different from mine.

What convinced me to stick to the team instead of leaving was my internal conviction and stubbornness that I could make it here. And I did it a few times.

When I translated the culture into specific behaviors, or when I raised the question of media coverage within WordPress are just two examples. I like to believe I succeeded in switching the narrative here and there and stayed away from cookie-cutter strategies and other gimmicks.

It was demanding, fulfilling, and sometimes fun

During the conversation regarding my resignation, I said loud and clear that I can’t blame Pixelgrade for anything. We both grew together. Sometimes, we got along really well and accomplished spectacular results. Other times, our ways of approaching things collided and raised painful consequences that took me off the rails. 

Life was generous with us, yet we did not always know what to do with all the good on our table. I guess it’s damn true that we take the form of the vessel we live in.

Pixelgrade is ten+ years old, and I’ve been here more than half of the company’s time. It was super intense and passionate. In the early days, I thought people at the helm always knew their s**t. This is what makes them entrepreneurs, right? Oh well, not necessarily. I felt on my skin that dynamics are complex and full of intricacies. This learning curve made me more humble and sympathetic.

  • Creating products is one thing; selling them is another thing.
  • Owning a company is one thing; running a team is another thing.
  • Doing your job is one thing; having a lasting impact is another thing.
  • Having a fantastic office is one thing; building bonds is another thing.
  • Talking openly about work is one thing; being vulnerable is another thing.

Results and clarity do not happen de facto. They are not implicit. Neither they come with the founder, co-founder, or business partner title. It’s something you foster one day after the other. And hell, it takes a lot of resources to navigate in the long run.

I had the chance to wore a wide range of hats, so I’ll be forever appreciative of this flexibility. I joined Pixelgrade as a communicator, transitioned into people-person, then Chief People Officer, then business partner. In the last two years, I have been in the front line of nurturing our first online community

Meanwhile, I filled dozens of cracks: helping my customer support fellows communicate better; playing the OKRs champ role; creating the recruitment and onboarding processes; running 1:1s; leading the partners’ meetings; organizing anniversaries, and way too many to remember. 

Having so much room to experiment was one of the most exciting perks someone could have offered me. I had the opportunity to learn, evolve, and fail in a safe environment where I could be true to myself. The freedom I had was priceless, and it suited my character and style of working.

Life was generous with us, yet we did not always know what to do with all the good on our table. I guess it’s damn true that we take the form of the vessel we live in.

I lost my playful version along the way, and I immersed myself in serious conversations, projects, and decisions. While running a company is weighty, I regret I did not make more room for fun, chill moments, a slower pace, and taps on the shoulders.

Today, I’m restless to find the bits and pieces that I mislaid. I miss that spirit of mine sooo much! It’s a combo of a sense of fooling around, a more daring attitude (cojones, as Răzvan would often say to me), and allowing myself to act more childish from time to time. I genuinely believe there’s beauty in that.

I’m hungry to reach my potential

I’ve been a gal working in the tranches of creative industries and putting together flagship projects since 2010. I’m only 33, and I’ve always had a high energy level in doing stuff I love, which is a mix of communication, storytelling, and community building. 

This specific type of drive, next to George and Vlad’s openness and support, especially at the beginning of our journey together, allowed me to spread my wings and make a difference at Pixelgrade and beyond. I learned massively from both of them, and I will always treasure what we have. Thank you!

I remember that during the first three years, I was on top of things. I couldn’t care less about a lot of stuff that today feels more like an emotional burden that clouds my thoughts and leaves me dry. 

Maybe it’s the youth, the moment in life, but I do not want to settle yet. It’s too early.

I was in love with what I was doing, how I was doing it, with whom I was turning all the ideas into reality. I felt like nothing could stop me. It was one of the most amazing feelings I ever experienced at work. A mix of adrenaline and enthusiasm kept my tanks fuelled. 

Since the pandemic kicked off, I slowly lost it. On the one hand, many shitty things happen externally (within the WordPress ecosystem, COVID, now the war) and internally (people leaving, misalignment on a leadership level, lack of communication across the team). On the other hand, we’ve been fighting a beast, a massive project that I really hope will see the light of day. 

Waiting and acting like a spectator is a behavior I don’t want to embrace at the moment. Maybe it’s the youth, the moment in life, but I do not want to settle yet. It’s too early. Moreover, one of my values is contribution. Being unable to put my skills on the table for so long drained me. It made me feel like living in a drifting boat with no concrete anchors or perspectives. 

I genuinely believe I have valuable skills and expertise to offer, and here it’s not the right time nor context to capitalize on them. It’s nobody’s fault per se, nor someone must make sure my skillset is always in motion. It’s pretty standard for companies to experience this roller-coaster of ups and downs. Just because CEOs don’t share them, it does not mean they don’t go through such endeavors. 

From this place of awareness and acceptance, I decided to let Pixelgrade go.

I will cherish this experience forever

I arrived here today after months of introspection, dozens of therapy and coaching sessions, and tens of hours of debating with my friends. The Stoic Prize for limitless patience goes to my best buddy and partner in crime — Alexandra from A+noima

I’m pretty nostalgic and thoughtful about the ending of this era, but deep down, I feel a sense of fulfillment and pride. As naive and cheesy as it may sound, I’m pleased with what I accomplished. While I’m well aware of my glorious wins and painful failures, I’ll carry this experience in the vest pocket for the rest of my life. 

I thank everyone I had the chance to work with at Pixelgrade, and I love that I’m in touch with most of my ex-teammates. I will miss so badly Răzvan’s jokes and songs recommendations from emergent Romanian rappers, and Andrei’s endless curiosities about all kinds of stuff, work and non-work related.

Ultimately, I will cherish forever the fact that George and Vlad took me on board and let me fly to the moon and back, even though I wasn’t the profile they were looking for back then. I hope that they are at peace with the move and proud of themselves six years later. I surely am. What we did together it’s one of the most significant legacies that I will leave behind.

Thank you all! 💜

P.S. Starting with the 1st of April, I’ll be on a break for a while. It feels incredibly liberating and breathtaking. I’m curious to see what adventure awaits me around the corner and how I will tackle it in the upcoming years. You can send my way a few points of good karma (oanafilip at hey dot com). Cheers!

Photo credits: Iulian Corbu

Oana
A kind request from Oana, Pixelgrade's believer:
Feel free to share your thoughts or curiosities and I'll gladly follow up.

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