Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving in the United States. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each writer will speak candidly about their experience with GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. This month’s writer, Steve Rogers, demonstrates how life lessons sometimes imitate baseball.
Seven years ago, when I joined GlobalGiving, I had just finished my (unsuccessful) stint at a technology start up during the dot.com bubble and bust. I rode it out until I had nothing left to give, but the company had been acquired and taken over. I started looking for new employment, knowing now that stock options were not the key to success or happiness. I found GlobalGiving. They were a non-profit, but operating like a startup. They had a small team and needed some technology leadership. Sweet!
When I walked in my first day, I found two dedicated individuals keeping the site running: Neal and Sombit. They could write html, but knew very little of the inner workings of the site and infrastructure. I felt my heart sink a little. Turns out that I was an “emergency” hire. The previous leadership had left unexpectedly, as well as the Java coders responsible for the current state of the site. Sour!
I did not give in. I love a challenge. So, I opened my MacBook Pro (first one at GlobalGiving), and figured out where the code was (CVS), how it was deployed (OMG), and where a test server was, and how it got to production. I set up a local environment, since Mac OSX runs on Linux. I started learning. That first year was almost all learning – the hard way. I got a system (Project Entry) “working” – this was the site that was under reconstruction when the previous Java team left. But I learned to figure things out, ask for help where I could, and I started to find the pain points and sketch a path to making things better.
Over the years, as I have been in charge of systems, websites, Information Technology (IT) and phones, we have moved offices twice, changed Internet Service Providers, changed our phone system, and moved our remote data center. All this has been a challenge, but it was due to growth and improvement – and never settling. Along the way, our staff has tripled (at least), and I have had the privilege to work with (and be challenged by) many super smart and dedicated people. I would not trade it.
As many of us who have crossed from the private sector for-profit world to the non-profit technology sector, I love the mission and while often being under-funded, under-staffed, and over-achieving, any frustration dissipates at the end of the day when I think of all the great social entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations that benefit from what GlobalGiving provides.
I have learned (and live) these lessons:
- You can’t hit a grand slam if you don’t get some runners on base.
- You can still score (and win) with several well placed “bunts.”
- Incremental and iterative growth (a good leadoff) and change can lead to a “game changer” (stolen base).
- Always be open to new ideas – encourage discussion; be inclusive. Take a seventh inning stretch to reflect and listen!
- Never settle for, or give in to, the status quo. Don’t worry if that fly ball gets “lost in the lights”, track it, chase it down and make the play!