Wall of Fame
Before WeWork popularized the idea of a co-working space, small businesses just getting their feet off the ground would rent space from “Shared Office Spaces.” These are cube-farms with unpleasant lighting, bad internet, and coffee served from vending machines. A far cry from the cold brew on tap and comfortable couches startups are used to working out of.
I was notorious for never decorating my office or work area. I would not even put down a picture of family or friends. I guess I had always felt the office was for function — it needed to provide space for whatever the mission at hand was. I never considered it my office, rather just an office I was working out of.
The nice office was never a point of contention for Tim or me. We both always felt it was about function — who needs the most space; or the most quiet. Based on that and that alone, determined how the offices were split up. For many years, it meant neither Tim nor I would get the nicest spot to work out of. It also meant as functions changed we would move around.
I found some pictures of our first offices. You can see our amazing white board decoration along with the blank wall.
When we moved into our Arlington location, we finally signed a long term lease (7 years), for office that had more space than we would need for the foreseeable future. I realized that wherever I sat, it would be the place where memories would grow out of. I finally felt like it was time to make the quarters I worked out of into my office.
At first I thought I would dig up old screenshots of the software over the years — but as I uncovered them, I found much more. I found the history of our story unfold photo by photo.
Behind me is the pre-history wall. It was the origins of vOfficeware, just as I left my job at the government and Tim left his job at KPMG. I had just finished my last assignment with the Department of Defense, and I received an award from NATO. I thought it was apt that we started awards management software. I also have the newspaper from Obama’s inauguration. The rest of the wall I call The Obama Years.
For Christmas that year, Rebecca had gifted me this Thomas Edison Quote: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Throughout all of the successes there were tons of experiments that didn’t go the way we planned. I tried starting a manufactured food company with my dad, Bollywood Chutneys. I really liked this quote and I wanted to honor all of the people who have been with us on this journey. Especially in the earlier days, we let go of people in unprofessional ways, other people left us in disgust with the way we were mismanaging things. Each of these people shaped us for the better. Alongside these memories is also screenshots of how our software looked at different phases.
The final wall is reserved for the future. With our 7 year lease, I anticipate being able to add around 25–30 pictures in total, so each year I decided I would find a photos to memorialize the previous year.
Here is what I picked for the end of 2018.
Photo 1: Friends
I can’t underestimate the support I have received from my friends over the years. In some of the higher stress years, I acted in ways that most people would just want to walk away. The emotional swings, the sleep deprivation, the famous holiday party where I acted like an outright fool. Through all of it, I could count on them to show up and support me. I think that in 2018 we finally turned the corner of stability as a company, and I can’t be more proud to stand with him here.
Photo 2: Victory Meal
2017 was one of our toughest years. We faced a legal action, 2 of our strongest team members quit out of disgust for the way things were going. The staff that remained had this sense that we were stagnating. What kept me chugging along and staying positive was knowing that we had a verbal agreement from Oracle Corporation. They promised us in April of 2017 that their security review process was immensely painful, but if we stuck with them, they would stick with us. Jordan, one of our rising stars at the time, and as of 2019, one of our leaders, kept on the deal. We had to do demos across 12 time-zones, we had to repeat ourselves countless times, but he did the needed work. April of 2018, the deal was inked, and we took a rare moment to celebrate. Besides being one of the 100 largest companies in the world, Oracle confirmed our beliefs that we could make it.
Photo 3: Remote Staff Retreat to Washington
Our customer support is insane for a software company. Our median time to respond to someone during business hours is 12 minutes and we do well over 2,000 conversations per month. This engine works because of our network of work-from-home staff. More than half of our team operates from around the United States and Canada. It is because of these team members toiling away that our in-office staff can go out for a group lunch or to a happy hour. In 2018 we could start to budget for a new tradition: a retreat for the remote staff to come visit the DC based staff. In good times and in bad times, I want to always pack away some budget to keep this tradition going. I hope this picture keeps me accountable to that goal.
Photo 4: First time at a Trade show
Having an exhibit booth at trade show is expensive. A lot of money for 2 to 3 days. We always felt the money was a waste and really risky. After closing the Oracle deal, Jordan really pushed for OpenWater to pursue the trade show strategy. His mentors advanced their careers by pushing their respective companies on this path, so he felt it was the right path for us. This picture is of Tim and me, for the first time together exhibiting our software. I chose this picture because it reminds me of the rinky-dink cubicle we started from, this is known as the poor man’s booth. But like Tim’s dilapidated desk, this booth will go on to be the start of our next amazing journey.