After the acquisition of Gumiyo, the company I co-founded in 2006, I took some time off to play my guitar, build a fence in my backyard, and figure out my next move. At the time, I had no idea what that would be. The acquisition was at once mind-numbing and intense, and I was vibrating from the experience for weeks afterward.
While Gumiyo’s exit was positive, I still needed to earn a living. I dutifully went on a few interviews, but I couldn’t quite articulate what kind of job I wanted. For some positions I was ridiculously over-qualified, and for others there would invariably be something about the job description that didn’t fit. During my stints at Beachbody and Internet Outfitters, my respective bosses afforded me a great deal of freedom, and they encouraged my internal drive, creativity, and innate entrepreneurial attitude. I had been very fortunate in that regard, and they often made me feel like one of the founders. Further influencing my thoughts was the fact that I’d tasted some entrepreneurial success, and I knew that I couldn’t work just anywhere simply to fill my new found free-time—never mind the fact that I didn’t have any compelling start-up ideas to pursue. I was feeling a bit stuck.
Then, one day, I was interviewing with the CEO of a development shop in El Segundo. They were spinning out a start-up from their offices, and we were discussing a potential marketing role for me. I thought the start-up was amazing, but I knew I couldn’t focus solely on marketing, and it really wasn’t my forté. Rather, I enjoy the challenge of a digital project from multiple perspectives—of which marketing is but one—and I wouldn’t want to not be engaged in design and production as well. I like to get in deep.
Then, this CEO and I started talking about the product design and the user-experience of his venture. Where I had at first been sitting and conversing quietly about the marketing, I was now standing up at the whiteboard drawing and gesturing animatedly. Mr. CEO noticed this sudden transition in my demeanor, and he said something to this effect: “A moment ago you didn’t seem too excited when we were talking about the marketing stuff, but you certainly got excited when we started talking product and UX.”
We decided then and there that I would help the new online media company rethink and redesign the entire user-experience for mobile, tablet and desktop audiences.
DUH! Of course!
When I got right down to it, at heart I was a Web Designer – at least that’s what it was called in the ‘90s—who, by background and experience, had greatly expanded that job description. I realized that I had become an expert at designing web and mobile applications—especially within the context of an early stage or start-up environment—and my experience encompassed pretty much everything needed for an e-commerce environment. On top of that, I understood the various operational, marketing, financial, and business development issues that accompany the development of an Internet service or business. Perfect!
With this, I realized that I had a new approach to consulting, and I began to put the word out to early-stage businesses and start-up entrepreneurs that I was available to help them develop their ideas—a role I’ve loosely come to call a VP of Product-for-Hire. With my added e-commerce experience I was well-positioned to offer similar help to early-stage online retailers. Basically, I could enjoy the independence of being my own boss, get knee-deep in the challenges of varying projects, and engage with interesting, motivated entrepreneurs.
Does that mean I wouldn’t want to work for a great start-up, established company, or digital agency? Not at all. There are a great number of options for a professional such as myself, and working in a team environment—as an independent consultant or a full-employee—is a great deal of fun. I look forward to working with clients and entrepreneurs who are serious and willing to use quality professionals like me who understand their goals. I’m excited to see what comes next!