Note: this is a copy of an email that I sent to my team at the Wikimedia Foundation today. ~pb
July 15, 2009, Kyle Shaw (17) was arrested for blowing up a Starbucks in New York City. He reportedly wanted to let out his own “Project Mayhem” on the citizens of NYC. He later pled guilty, and served 3 and a half years in prison.*
Also on July 15, 2009, I started full-time work at the Wikimedia Foundation, as Facilitator for the Strategy project.
I tell you about Kyle Shaw for one reason: to demonstrate that if I had chosen that career path instead of this one… I’d be a free man by now. But instead, you’re stuck with me and I with you.
And there’s no doubt that I’ve created some mayhem.
When I started, we were a couple of dozen people crammed into a tiny little space on Stillman Street. Five years later, I’m the longest serving member of staff (outside the engineering team) and we’re at 208 staff members. They haven’t voted me off the island yet, and I’ve almost reached “grey-beard” status, I think, so that enables me to write random letters pontificating on subjects, and requires that you at least humor me in this while thinking in your head about the crazy old guy and “get offa my lawn.”
When I started this job, I thought I was hot shit. But I didn’t know crap. And if there’s one thing I’m more certain of than ever, it’s that I don’t know crap. Every time I think I’ve got things “figured out”, the ground shifts. And I no longer hate that – I actually welcome it. Because it means we’re doing new and important things. We continue to be groundbreaking. I’ve worked for a series of fantastic people – First Eugene, then Zack, then Geoff, and each of them has taught me a lot. I owe them all a debt of appreciation. And Sue took massive chances with me, over and over again. It’s my deepest wish that I never let them down.
So, <shrug>, I guess this is the part where I should say something inspiring (or cheesy) and point toward the next five years. I’ve been trying to figure out what that should be. But I just don’t know, because I don’t know what the future brings. I know this: the next five years will be full of excitement. I don’t know what this organization will look like five years from now – but I know this much: it’ll be one hell of a ride.
* Thanks to Patrick Earley for this totally useless but awesome factoid.