01.14.2016 Culture, Community, and Business

The End of the Beginning

Winston Churchill

While I fully realize it’s not fair to compare a major turning point at an organization to one in an existential battle over the future of the civilized world, Winston Churchill was clearly onto something. At this point, the news is out that Sean is leaving ThinkShout. I still wince when I see those words, although we’re all getting used to the idea.

In my mind, the “beginning” in this case is the early stages of a company started by a couple of guys with a vague notion of wanting to do well by doing good. At this point, ThinkShout is so much more. It is 22 intelligent, compassionate, talented, and dedicated professionals. It is a collection of accumulated knowledge and processes that allow us to partner with organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that we look upon with awe and respect. It is the combined innovation of 60,000 websites running on our contributions. It is the experience and insights we can offer on how to best use those tools.

As we built this company, Sean and I were often challenged by mentors and our leadership team on what our goals were for ThinkShout. The answers varied over the years, but one key point was consistent: we both dreamed of building an organization that was much more than either of us, that could live on when we inevitably moved on.

For Sean, that time is now. And, even though he’s incredibly humble and won’t say it himself, he’s leaving with his head held high, incredibly proud of having accomplished what he set out to do.

I can’t thank him enough for going on this journey with me these past 6 years. I don’t want to sugarcoat things. There have been plenty of challenges, as there are in any relationship, but Sean’s been a wonderful business partner. He’s challenged me in countless ways, supported me when I’ve been down, and done the dirty work to make the business run when I’ve played the prima donna engineer role. In short, he’s set ThinkShout up for amazing success as he moves on. And for that, we’re all grateful.

Alright, so that’s the beginning. What’s next?

As part of Sean’s transition, we’ve made a number of promotions that were already under consideration that I’m incredibly proud to announce here.

Brett Meyer, Chief Strategy Officer

Brett will run point on our business development efforts, as well as continue to lead our strategy and UX teams. He will work closely with Stephanie Gutowski, who was recently promoted to Marketing Manager. He will also support Natania LeClerc, who will lead ThinkShout’s new digital fundraising practice area. We’re also growing our strategy team, with an immediate opening for a Senior UX Designer and more to come. Brett has been pivotal in getting ThinkShout to where it is today and his ascension to this leadership position is well deserved. He crafts our solutions in the sales process and during discovery, leads our UX and IA practice, and is a well-recognized thought leader in the nonprofit technology community. Just try getting a seat during one of his talks at the Nonprofit Technology Conference.

Alex MacMillan, Chief Operating Officer

In her role as Director of Project Management, Alex has led our PM team, defined our project delivery process, and managed resource allocation. In her 2 years with us, she has become the heartbeat of our projects, drastically increasing client satisfaction and project success rates. As COO, she’ll also take on oversight over the financial health of individual projects and the company as a whole. We’re also growing our project management team, looking for another senior project manager to partner with our clients to help them have a positive impact.

With Alex’s new role, Krista Van Veen, who has been our Operations Manager, has a new title: Manager of Culture and People. This represents her focus on HR, recruiting, and community engagement, although she’ll continue to play a critical role in managing ThinkShout’s finances. Krista has worked hard to convert our vision and values into actual cultural changes, as demonstrated by her leadership in attaining our recent B Corp certification.

Tauno Hogue, Chief Technology Officer

Tauno is ThinkShout’s most senior employee, having been with us, quite literally, since the beginning. In that time, he’s grown from a talented developer into the leader of our engineering team. He takes on some of our most complex technical challenges, provides mentorship, and helps define our development workflow. In his new role as CTO, he’ll continuing doing more of the same, along with ensuring that we continue to offer innovative open source solutions for our forward-thinking clients. And, you guessed it, we’re also hiring on the engineering side of things.

Given that I had the title of CTO, clearly something else has to change. I am assuming Chief Executive Officer (CEO) responsibilities. This will entail setting the strategic direction of the company in partnership with the leadership team, along with being an external representative of ThinkShout. Most importantly to me, I will remain very actively involved in crafting innovative technical solutions for the challenges facing our clients. But, really, my biggest job will be to stay out of the way of the amazing leadership that we now have in place.

"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often."

- Winston Churchill

Sticking with the Churchill theme, it’s important to note that this is far from the end of the changes that we expect to see at ThinkShout in the coming months.

First, and I mean this sincerely, there is absolutely nothing that we are doing perfectly. Far from it. We’ll continue to iterate on everything, including our organizational structure. We’re going to get some stuff wrong, and we’ll adjust accordingly.

But, on the whole, I have never been more confident in, and excited for, the future. We’re due to kick off our largest project yet with an organization that we’ve all dreamed of working with. We have four Drupal 8 projects lined up to kick off in Q1. We’re launching a new Digital Fundraising practice area. We’re welcoming five new team members over the next few months.

None of this would be possible without everything that Sean has put into ThinkShout up to this point. For that, we thank him. And we wish him luck on his next grand adventure – which, rumor has it, might involve pickling or waxed canvas accessories… Stay tuned, I know it will be great.

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