Zach Briggs of Table XI looking at his watch.

The following is unfiltered Zach, as close to my thought process as anything I've ever put to pen and it comes with my potty mouth. As such, it is unlikely to reflect the views of Table XI.

I work at Table XI and that wasn't part of my plan. I had a system and Table XI fucked it all up.

You see, before becoming an obsessive frontend JavaScript specialist, I made my living milking cows, sorting mail third shift, maintaining industrial equipment and producing direct mail analytic models. My accidental careers consumed my 20s, because I didn’t have the leverage to generate traction for myself. Those careers didn’t feel accidental at the time, they felt like enough income to cover rent. When I stumbled into programming though — after having so much data modeling work that I was forced into automating some of it — it felt like a calling, something more than a rent check. A passion that I’m lucky to get paid to engage in because I’d be doing it anyway. When I figured out what I wanted to do, planning my career suddenly became incredibly important to me. I curate my speaking engagements, hone the workshops I teach and generally plan every step of my career. Because I've seen the alternative, and it ain't pretty.

And then Table XI upset the plan. Let me set the stage. In bullet form!

  • It is late October 2013.
  • At the time, I worked remotely for Test Double, an amazingly rad consultancy.
  • I had just moved to Chicago three weeks earlier and didn't have many local friends.
  • I had eaten lunch at Table XI once or twice after having been invited in an offhand way by Noel Rappin.
  • Mark Rickmeier invites me to play on the Table XI dodgeball team.

Ready? OK.

Morning of the dodgeball tournament, Mark asks me how I'm doing. I'm not really the "fine" sort of guy, so I tell him the honest truth, which he may not have been expecting at a friendly morning dodgeball game. I tell him that I just left my wife. Mark rocked back on his heels upon hearing about my morning, as if I had just punched him in the nose. The shock was brief and followed by overwhelming warmth and concern. “My God, are you alright?” That day, I dodgeball with Table XI, I drink with Table XI after dodgeballing with Table XI and I revel in the press of humans who aren't assholes. It turns out that Mark is generous when he’s drinking and mentions that I can work out of (and eat free lunch at) the Table XI office for a little while in return for writing some blog posts.

I never wrote a single blog post over the two years that I ate Table XI's lunches. This leads me to one conclusion: Whoever said that there's no such thing as a free lunch wasn't trying very hard.

In October of 2015, I decided I was done with remote work and moved out of Table XI’s office to join my new employer. That company changed CEO's nine days after I started. That company laid me off seven weeks after I started. That company was probably the best damn thing that happened to me in 2015. Being laid off means that you get to openly shop for a new position! In this job market, frontend JavaScript specialists with a Ruby/Clojure background are employable. Highly employable. It was time for a new product company to replace that last product company. Checking my career chart*, there was no way that I'd even consider a consultancy, I didn't want too much of one kind of experience.

I had started the interview process with more than 20 Chicago companies, all of them product shops with deep pockets and interesting problems. They all shared one critical flaw, though. None of them were Table XI.

While I was working at the Table XI office, I saw Mark and founder Josh give their people advice and support, even when it directly conflicted with their own best interests. I saw this so many times that they gained my trust, even if I was a little worried they had some sort of highly specialized disability that forced them to tell the truth. I hadn’t seen that level of selfless disregard since my days at Test Double.

I'm at Table XI because of trust. I trust that I'm going to be given feedback in a timely fashion when I'm messing up. I trust that the developers, designers, and project managers I work with are considerate, thoughtful professionals. I trust that this organization is dedicated to self reflection and improving itself. I trust that we solve real business problems for companies that aren't evil. I trust that Table XI is chock full of humans that I really enjoy.

I trust these things because I've been witnessing them for two years. Seems that I ended up writing a blog post in return for those lunches after all.

*I didn't have a career chart. I still don’t have a career chart.

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