My path to Focus Lab is one filled with a lot of not-yets and even more patience. It started in October 2010 when I applied to a designer position with the Milwaukee Brewers. (Aside: I grew up in Phoenix but the Diamondbacks weren't around then. Both my parents are from Wisconsin, so I grew up a Brewers fan.) Instead of applying with the sea of applicants online, I designed a Scouting Report about myself. It was an elaborate kit with a ton of baseball references, but, long story short, I didn't get the gig.
A few months later I posted the process work of that project to my blog where a bearded fellow whom I had never met left me a comment: "Well played sir!" I followed the link in his comment and that's the moment I became a fan of Bill Kenney and the work of Focus Lab.
Bill and I followed each other on Dribbble and Twitter and I always kept my finger on the Focus Lab pulse. He was kind enough to answer my questions about running a design shop and I would send him interesting design stuff that I thought was useful. But it wasn't until I saw Focus Lab hire a couple remote employees that I thought it would be possible to work with them.
After hanging a couple days with Bill and the Focus crew at Circles 2013, it was clear to me that this was a tight-knit and talented group. And I wanted in.
Less than a month later there was a job opening and I applied. But a couple weeks later I found out I didn't get it. Was it a bummer? Yeah. But was I going to let it stop me? No.
I still kept in touch with Bill online, passing along funny tweets or offering helpful critiques on Dribbble shots. I even got nit-picky on something in the Focus Lab portfolio, identified the issue, and then did the work to help fix it. I wanted to let Bill know the kind of worker I was.
In the Summer of 2014, another design position at Focus Lab opened up. This time, instead of a fancy-pants online application, I crafted an email selling myself. That's not normally my personality but I wanted to try something different to let Bill know (probably more than he wanted to know) more about myself and my work ethic. About a week later I got an email back.
Alright, alright! Not exactly what I was looking for but still progress. A few weeks went by and I didn't hear anything so I reached out again asking if I could lend a hand with anything and got this response.
I knew Bill well enough by now to know that he's not the kind of guy to pay anyone lip service. But at that point, I just let it ride. He knew where I stood and vice versa. If the timing was right, things would work out.
While not totally out of the blue, yet still unexpected, in October 2014 I got the sort of email that quickens your pulse and makes you sit up a bit straighter. No introduction. No beating around the bush. Just one sentence: "You have time to chat at some point today?"
We ended up on Skype that night. And over the next few weeks I put all my extra time and–well, focus–into my first project at Focus Lab. It was clear from those early beginnings that the relationship was going to be awesome. After a six-week notice (ask me later) at the company I had worked at for a decade, I came to work alongside the great people at Focus Lab.
If you take anything from this story I hope it's this: when you have a goal in mind, I encourage you to stay focused and make it happen. Who would have thought that the work I did for that Scouting Report (which I considered a failure at the time!) would start me down the path to an incredible opportunity.
Be persistent. Be patient. Be nice. And never give up.
Make Some Noise