In April last year, I bade farewell to Focusrite, a company I had been part of for more than six years. It’s not easy to leave anything after six years, which perhaps is one reason why engineers have a reputation for itchy feet. Six years of sixty-mile round trips; of pouring some of the best years of my youth into an enterprise that is part company, part community; of building stuff that made a detectable impact on the small world of audio product design. It was a lot of fun, and a wrench to walk away. Consumer audio is uniquely challenging and compelling, and to practise the art in a supportive, well-managed, profitable company is an undertaking that less fortunate engineers might dream of.
Focusrite continues to be a great company: the Sunday Times thinks so too. The best companies do many things for their employees, but one of the most important is to foster an energising environment: innovation is encouraged; people know what they need to do, and have the support to grow; mistakes are sometimes made but never repeated; generally the quality of goods increases over time, but the cost and pain of doing so does not.
I made the modest steps in these endeavours that my talent afforded. My boss, Dave Hodder, proved himself one of the finest managers I’ve ever worked with: he had a natural flair for motivating people. He improved the ways that we organised and communicated work. It took some persuasion and some very charismatic people to pull me from this environment into the riskier world of ROLI, a VC-funded hardware company with less collective experience of delivering a viable product. But now I am navigating these turbulent waters, just like many of my former colleagues in Focusrite’s younger days, to produce a musical instrument of rare beauty and audacious complexity.
I took considerable notes for my own benefit as I was weighing up my choices. Over the next few postings, I will share a some reflections on old and new jobs because I hope they have a general appeal. Of course, where matters of corporate loyalty are concerned, there’ll be no finger-pointing and no secrets betrayed. I’m here to teach if I can, and learn if you’ll let me.
It’s good to reach a wonderful stage of my career when I am occasionally asked for my opinion: quite the most dizzying, gratifying, and responsible place to be. And finally I write because, when I left Focusrite, I was given a piece of advice by more than one of my colleagues: ‘Keep writing!’
Thousands of words have been written in the meantime, of course, all for my new employer, and with mixed success. Most of my energy is channelled in the same way it has always been: to make my adoptive community a better place to be. Meanwhile, though, I’ll find a little time to reach a wider world. I’m hoping that there’ll be enough people like me who are thinking about the worlds of hardware, software, management, and company strategy, to give this site an audience.
I’m also hoping I won’t make too much mess in this delicate task, but if I do, at least I’ll entertain. Bear with me!