All Posts in TXI Life

April 26, 2013 - 1 comment.

11 Tables Drawing Game! The Answers

Behold, the entirety of our new piece of artwork, "11 Tables."

TXI 11 Tables Drawing scaled

And all the TXI references, moving clockwise from the upper left corner:

  1. Green roof, symbolizing our commitment to environmental causes
  2. Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka designer Jon Fernandez
  3. CEO Josh Golden shooting rubberbands
  4. Moran Home Brew, courtesy of Paul Moran
  5. Delivery Director Alicia Drucker and her pack of index cards
  6. Marketing Director Kate Garmey, aka the Disaster in Heels
  7. Finance Director and money whiz Tina Stump
  8. Our string logo
  9. Rails, of Ruby on Rails fame
  10. Steampunk devs, aka Mike Laurence + Jason Pearl, creators of Deepworld
  11. Copyeditor Kathryn Achenbach + an insane pair of shoes
  12. Designer Daniel Strabley putting random labels on things
  13. Sunset view from our office
  14. Clients Zocalo and Dickson graffitied on the wall
  15. Bertrude, the Costa Rican parrot and unofficial company mascot
  16. Fishtank from the old office
  17. Pythons, like the language
  18. Developer Byron Galbraith in his kilt
  19. The Motherboard
  20. Client YMCA
  21. Nerf Armory
  22. Cheese Dispenser + Meat Faucet Conference Rooms
  23. Our friendly neighborhood Starbucks
  24. Client Services Director Greg Baugues has been known to ride a cow when necessary
  25. Developer + partner Erik Schwartz and his transformer bike/nerf gun
  26. Motorcycle enthusiast and finance guru David Hartmann
  27. Bowling Alley Conference Room, complete with tables made from bowling alley wood
  28. Developer and modern dancer Annie Wang
  29. Developer and percussionist Jason Hanggi
  30. Developer and sombrero-wearer Jon Buda, fresh back from Mexico
  31. Developer and Dr. Seuss lover Andrew Horner
  32. Georgia Tech grad and Agile Lead Noel Rappin
  33. Developer Bradley Schaefer, formerly of StubHub
  34. The corner of Jefferson and Van Buren, home sweet home
  35. Client Strange Cargo, selling tees
  36. Macs growing on an Apple tree
  37. Developer Chris Stump, sitting on a stump
  38. Developer and resident Dr. Dolittle Gabrielle Dewitt
  39. Barefoot developer Micah Gates
  40. Client The Spice House, dishing spices
  41. Artist Ethan Orbach as the Bespectacled Guy on the Street
  42. Bowling Night!
  43. CTO Matt Lineen takes aim with his death stare
  44. Delivery Principle Subha Sriram, mother of triplets
  45. Developer and standup comic Dan Rench and his family
  46. Star Wars Movie Night!
  47. Business Analyst and popcorn aficionada Melissa Enguidanos
  48. Technology Practice Lead Doctor John Gore
  49. Intern and Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman Peter Park
  50. Intern and Weasley brother Nate Hartmann
  51. COO and flaming ginger Mark Rickmeier
  52. Developer Woody Torres, aka Woody Woodpecker
  53. The Table XI kitchen
  54. Technology Practice Lead Rich Wu, watering the plants and getting the coffee
  55. Partner Emeritus Jordan Ho, taking photos of food
  56. A lobster, the obsession of Mainer Kate Garmey
  57. Rockstar Chef Aram Reed
  58. Mobile developer Ed LaFoy, who's never been on a plane
  59. Office Manager Ellen Brast, handing out $5 hour bounties
  60. The Rozelle painting above Ellen's desk
  61. 11 tables scattered throughout

Congrats to Kentaro Ebersole, who guessed the most correctly!

For close-up sections of the drawing, check out parts one, two, three, and four of our game. Thanks for playing!

April 24, 2013 - No Comments!

Fun with Our New 3D Printer

3D printing (otherwise known as "additive manufacturing") is a subset of the growing field of rapid replication. It's the process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model, and it promises to shape the future of manufacturing. Eventually 3D printers will create customized objects and parts-- whatever you can imagine-- with the ease with which you can print a document on your laser printer. While the technology isn’t quite there yet, it’s getting very close.

Table XI jumped on the 3D bandwagon this month and picked up the Up! Mini from our neighbors at Inventables. Having a 3D printer in the office gives us  a chance to experiment with this growing technology and stretch a part of our brain often neglected while coding. Developers are always creating, but rarely have tangible output. Our Up! Mini creates a tangible, real object—a uniquely satisfying feeling.

So far we've been hosting a series of "3D tours" for anyone who wants to take our new machine for a test drive. Interested in swinging by for a visit? Let us know.

[portfolio_slideshow exclude="13969"]

April 18, 2013 - 1 comment.

Iterating to Excellence: A Look Back on 11 Years

perksTable XI recently celebrated its 11th anniversary, which has been the source of both celebration and reflection. We certainly couldn't have made it here without the help of some of our first clients, like The Spice House, Dickson Data, and Chicago Dryer. But we also couldn't have accomplished what we set out to achieve without the team, many of whom have been with us since our early days.

Last month's Table Talks centered around the theme of "Innovation." I used the opportunity to deliver a presentation on business hacks using company perks. Sure, some things like company retreats to Costa Rica and freshly prepared lunches make Table XI a great place to work, but what many people don’t understand is that they also help solve real business problems.

But it’s taken a lot of tinkering to get where we are today. We’ve tried a lot of things that didn’t work—ask anyone here about the noisy ping pong table we once introduced—but we expect some things to fail and some to stick. When we build software, we never presume we'll deliver the final product on the first go. Rather, we deliver in increments, get feedback, and continue to iterate. Why should building a business be any different? We’ve just applied these same agile methodologies to management.

If you’re curious to know what did stick, take a look at my presentation below (and check out the rest of the Table Talks on Innovation on our PechaKucha channel).

April 06, 2013 - No Comments!

Embed Your Vine: The 6-Second Guide to Tomfoolery

ErikVine

 

We've gone all kinds of Vine happy at the office, and now, with the recent announcement that you can embed your 6-second movies, we thought we'd give it a try. Here's what's been going on at Table XI, six seconds at a time.

 
 

The sun rises on a Code Retreat:

With a brain food breakfast courtesy of our new 3-D printer:

But then Corey Haines makes us delete our code!

So we turn to Jason Hanggi for some soothing beats:

But John Gore is not amused.

Check out more photos from Code Retreat!

April 03, 2013 - No Comments!

Josh Talks to WGN’s Bill Moller

This past weekend Bill Moller of WGN Radio interviewed our fearless leader (and fast talker) Josh Golden about entrepreneurship and what makes Table XI a different kind of tech company. Give it a listen:

We've transcribed some of the highlights below:

Bill Moller: See if you think these numbers indicate somebody’s got a good idea: In 2009 the annual revenues for this particular business were $1.25M. Now, three years later, nearly $3.5M, and the number of full-time employees more than doubled in that same time. Table XI [is] a digital service provider. What does that mean? Technology, software, hardware—it’s a headache for a company, and Table XI is hired to run it. Is that about right, Josh Golden, founder and CEO?

Josh Golden: That’s very much right, we are a provider of digital solutions for mid-market companies. We focus on the strategic context, so what is the business trying to achieve...and how can we help them use the new tools—Internet, mobile, etc.—to achieve those goals.

BM: To me, that’s almost boilerplate, for companies like you. We all are hearing "companies that do digital solutions for mid-market companies." So what’s different about you?

JG: Well, what’s different about us is that we really focus on partnering with the customers in long-term relationships. We’re still working with our oldest customer that we started serving eleven years ago, and as they’ve grown and developed their digital presence, so have we. We’ve helped them now start building digital products, marketing those products more effectively, and we’re really in it for the long haul. It’s not just come in, do a project, then hand it back to your team. It’s come in and partner with you and stay with you through the thick and the thin of this crazy digital revolution we’re in the middle of.

BM: So you have a pretty high retention rate then?

JG: A very high retention rate...The first two customers we started working with, both Chicago-area customers—Dickson, monitoring solutions in Addison, IL, still with us; and The Spice House, in Old Town, Evanston, Milwaukee, and Geneva. They sell gourmet spices and they’re still with us, too. We’re pretty happy with the long-term relationships we’ve built with those people.

BM: Other clients include a bunch of charter schools, YMCAs in Chicago and in New York, Northwestern, U of I, and Roger Ebert?! 

JG: We’ve been working with [Roger Ebert] since we helped to reboot the show when they brought it back to WTTW, and since then we’ve been helping with some other digital strategy issues that you may hear about in the coming weeks. But we’ve been working closely with them and are really excited about that partnership. He’s a digital innovator.

[ . . . ]

BM: You’ve clearly found a need in the marketplace, you’re exploiting it, you’re very successful in doing it, but it took...about half a decade to really reach critical mass. What was going on during the first few years? There were these nice loyal customers that you had, but was there doubt and turmoil and upheaval and change?

JG: I’ll be perfectly candid with you. For a number of the years we spent looking out the window—it’s difficult to drive a car when you’re looking out the right or out the left, and we were always seeing these product opportunities—what are the things we could do? How could we pivot into something besides a digital services provider? And then, about halfway through the timespan we’ve been around, we said, you know what? Digital solutions are a huge opportunity in and of themselves. Let’s focus on what we know how to do and continue to improve and build on what we have and really make it something special in our core competency, instead of looking to pivot into something different.

[ . . . ]

BM: [It’s] one of the defining characteristics of being an entrepreneur...you’re always looking for new ideas out there...But let me ask you, you’ve got a couple employees here in the room with you—they want to think that you’re going to be around for a long time.

JG: Right, and at the core of what we’re doing, we are going to be around for a long time...I’m not going anywhere. My heart is with this thing. This thing is very much built, and the value set that we’ve helped to develop over the years, focusing around our people, building long-term relationships not only with our clients but also with our people. We have almost no turnover, we’re super good friends, people go to each other’s weddings—it’s a really tight-knit group of people.

BM: So you’re not going to look back and say, ‘Table XI did that, it’s going on its own, it’s a huge success, now what can I look at’?

JG: For me, it’s a launchpad for other things.

BM: So you build on the existing platform?

JG: Exactly. The platform is growing, it’s successful, and we have people who are potentially interested in joining an entrepreneurial venture...It provides upward mobility for our staff as well, and it gives them new opportunities. So it’s sort of like an entrepreneurial nexus of sorts that we’ve tried to create, and we’re doing our best to make it special.

BM: What is PechaKucha?

JG: In Japan 10 years ago, some smart architects tried to figure out a way to teach digital creatives or architects more effective ways to present concisely—they tended to talk too much. So it’s 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide—400-second-long presentations. It’s become a global phenomenon...There’s 620 cities that hold PechaKucha Nights where people gather—in Chicago they’re usually up at Martyr’s...We worked with the global leadership team out of Tokyo who organizes the whole thing, and built a new web-based platform to be the home of where all the presentations that are recorded and archived are held. So you can go to PechaKucha.org and browse presentations about incredible numbers of topics. Our office chef, who’s a bit of a celebrity in his own right—

BM: You have an office chef?!

JG: We have an office chef. I always have a little bit of trouble talking to people in the media business about this, but yeah, there are some pretty nice perks about being in tech.

April 02, 2013 - No Comments!

Developers and Depression: End The Shame

At Eternity's Gate by Vincent Van Gogh

This week I'm flying out to Salt Lake City to speak at MountainWest Ruby about depression in the software development community.

The first time I presented on this topic was three weeks after we lost our co-worker, Caleb Cornman, to an accidental drug overdose. Caleb and I had several conversations about depression. I had shared with him my story of how I struggled with intermittent depression for a number of years before being diagnosed with Type II bipolar and ADHD. He opened up and said that he had wondered for a few years if he had something similar. He went so far as to set up an appointment with a psychiatrist, but when that day came, he was out of money, so he rescheduled. He died the next day, overdosing on the same meds prescribed to me by my doctor to treat my ADHD. Caleb died self-medicating an untreated mental illness.

In one of his last emails to me, Caleb said "I just need someone to talk to about this." It's a tragedy that he didn't have that already.

I have a theory that if you are a young adult struggling with the symptoms of bipolar, finding software development might feel a little like coming home. The software world accepts the socially isolated. It accommodates irregular sleep patterns and inconsistent bursts of productivity. It seeks those with the grandiosity to believe that they can solve problems others can't, and exalts those crazy enough to believe that they can change the world.

I know of no formal study, but I wouldn't be surprised if the rates of bipolar and depression amongst software developers are double that of the general population. Unfortunately, we may be even more reluctant to talk about it because we've spent much of our life being praised for how well our brain works, and the idea that it might be malfunctioning threatens the foundation of our identity.

Earlier this year, the community lost Aaron Swartz to suicide. He wrote this back in 2007:

I have a lot of illnesses. I don’t talk about it much, for a variety of reasons. I feel ashamed to have an illness. (It sounds absurd, but there still is an enormous stigma around being sick.) I don’t want to use being ill as an excuse.

Sadly, depression (like other mental illnesses, especially addiction) is not seen as “real” enough to deserve the investment and awareness of conditions like breast cancer (1 in 8) or AIDS (1 in 150). And there is, of course, the shame.

The shame. The shame is why we don't talk about it. It's why Caleb could struggle for a decade in this industry, surrounded by peers suffering the same affliction, and still feel alone.

If I stood up in front of a crowd of 300 people and told them that I have cancer, I wouldn't be afraid that they might think it's "all in my head." If I took insulin for diabetes, no one would say, "Aren't you concerned that you'll become dependent on that?" If I broke my ankle and couldn't walk, no one would tell me to "try harder"— they'd tell me to see a doctor.

But we have different rules for how we perceive illnesses that affect the brain. And because of this, our colleagues are suffering, and, far too often, dying.

We can fix that. We don't even need to invent new drugs or new methods of therapy. We've got that already. We need to talk about it, and stop feeling threatened and ashamed.

It can be overwhelming to try and find a professional to talk to. Caleb said, "I'm not going to cold call psychiatrists from the Yellow Pages." For a psychiatrist in Chicago, I see Dr. David Kaiser. You can reach him at kaiser_david@sbcglobal.net, or (773) 791-3144. For a therapist, I see John Harris. He’s a therapist, not a psych, so he can’t write you a prescription. But, if you want to sit down and talk, you won’t find anyone better.

Setting the first appointment is hard. It’s the toughest hurdle to clear on the road to getting better. If you’re not there yet, and don’t have anyone else to talk to, email me.

Ed. Update: Below, watch Greg give a presentation on this topic at MountainWest RubyConf. His talk begins at 8:12:00. Greg will also be speaking at LessConf in Panama City, FL, on Apr 11-13.


Watch live video from Confreaks - Live Streaming on Justin.tv

Image: At Eternity's Gate by Vincent Van Gogh

March 25, 2013 - No Comments!

11 Tables Drawing Game! The Final Round

It's your last chance to play our drawing game! This is the final section of "Eleven Tables," which we commissioned from artist Ethan Orbach in honor of our 11th "golden" birthday this month. Find the TXI references (including employees, clients, and other office jokes) and leave your guesses in the comments. After this week, whoever has the most correct answers will win a free chef-cooked lunch at our office, so make sure to check out parts onetwo, and three if you haven't yet. Next week we'll reveal all 65+ answers!

Your weekly hint: One of our staffers spent this summer getting nerducated.

Good luck!

TXI 11 Tables Drawing 4th Quadrant scaled

March 18, 2013 - No Comments!

11 Tables Drawing Game! Part 3

It's Monday, and that means it's time to reveal another clip of "11 Tables," the drawing we commissioned from artist Ethan Orbach in honor of our 11th birthday this month. See if you can spot the TXI references in the scene below and leave your answers in the comments (and check out parts onetwo, and four if you haven't yet). There's just one section left after this, and then we'll reveal all the answers. Whoever finds the most references gets a free chef-cooked lunch at our office!

Your weekly hint: Can you find the allusions to our conference rooms?

Good luck!

TXI 11 Tables Drawing 3rd Quadrant scaled

March 11, 2013 - No Comments!

11 Tables Drawing Game! Part 2

In case you missed our announcement  last week, Table XI turns 11 this March! This is a big birthday for us, and to celebrate it we've  commissioned a new piece of art for the office from artist Ethan Orbach. Each Monday this month we'll be revealing a snippet of Ethan's "11 Tables" on our blog. You'll find the second piece of the puzzle below. Here's your weekly hint: All Table XI employees, including contractors, are represented in the complete version.

Update: Here are parts three and four.

TXI 11 Tables Drawing 2nd Quadrant scaled

And as an added incentive, the person who gets the most answers right over the course of the month gets a free chef-cooked lunch at our office. We may even let you pick the menu. Yum.

Good luck!

March 04, 2013 - No Comments!

11 Tables Drawing Game! Part 1

Table XI turns 11 this month! In honor of our "Golden Birthday" (get it?) we commissioned a new piece of art for the office from artist Ethan Orbach. At our recent retreat to Lake Geneva, we broke into teams and had a contest to see who could find the most company references in the drawing—all told there are more than 65, including creative depictions of employees, clients, and other office jokes. (Artistic license was very much encouraged.)

We had so much fun, we wanted to give our friends a chance to play. Each Monday in March we'll post a section of the drawing. See if you can spot the TXI references, Where's Waldo-style, then leave your answers in the comments. At the end of the month we'll reveal all and unveil the entire drawing.

The contestant* who gets the most answers right over the course of the month gets a free chef-cooked lunch at our office. We may even let you pick the menu. Yum.

Good luck! (And don't forget to check out parts twothree and four.)

TXI 11 Tables Drawing 1st Quadrant scaled

*Sorry, TXI employees, you're not eligible to play. Quit your griping, you get free lunch everyday.