Spotlight: JT Grauke

By JT Grauke

Hey, I’m JT! I’m the newest addition to the Focus Lab family. I’ve been here for a few weeks and they’ve been some of the best few weeks of my career. It had been a long-standing goal of mine to work at Focus Lab, so it’s surreal that it’s finally here.

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About Me

I live and work out of my home in Moscow, located in the chimney of Idaho (not Russia!). I am married to my beautiful best friend, Kelsey, and we have two boys, Theo (2.5 yrs) and Henry (5 mo).

At one time, I wanted to be a movie star or a rock star—I would have taken either one. I got a BFA in Musical Theater and still love to sing and play the guitar. I have always been interested and around design of some kind. From making wedding videos in high school to websites for friends and family, I realized halfway through college that UI design was my passion.

After about 2 years working in sales, I decided to take an online course in front-end web development so that I had a more formal understanding of concepts that I had already taught myself. I started getting up at 5 a.m. every morning and learning as much as I could about web development and UI design. In turn, this launched my career as a designer. But before we get into that, here’s a little bit more about my wonderful fam.

About My Family

My wife, Kelsey, runs a side business on which we both collaborate. It’s a WordPress theme shop called Bloom. She originally went to school for interior design, which she’s incredibly talented at, but over time she’s developed a love for blog design. So our talents have merged to form a fun side business. We’ve also flipped a few houses (putting her design skills to good use), and we love traveling, biking, and cooking.

Theo is one giant ball of energy, ready to go the minute he wakes up until the moment he hits the pillow at the end of the day. There is no end to the number of choo-choos, dump trucks, or walks that we can take to wear him out. But, we like it that way! Henry might be the perfect baby . . . we’re not sure. Somewhere between the constant smiles, drool, and giggles, we’ve come to think he’s pretty much the best.

The Journey to Focus Lab

Before joining Focus, I was a UX designer for a local software company named Emsi. It was the first design job I had and a wonderful place for me to cut my teeth as a designer. I learned a ton of things about design, shipping products, working with developers, and communication. Another big lesson was that I got bored as an in-house designer.

It was at Emsi that I first encountered Focus Lab. A friend recommended them to me for a branding project we were going to hire out and I had the opportunity to work with the team. It made a lasting impression on me and I remember having a Skype call with Bill during the project. I told him that I was really intrigued by their work and process and that I wanted to work for them someday, but that I knew I wasn’t ready. Emsi ended up hiring Focus Lab a few consecutive times, which gave me the opportunity to interact more with several team members (I’m lookin’ at you, Alex).

Over time, it became obvious that I needed to set my sights on working at Focus Lab. Over the course of the two years, I was able to get to know Bill and Erik through interactions online. I had reached out at various times to tell them about my interest. Then, one gloomy February morning, I emailed Bill and Erik and professed my love. They were hooked. Sparks flew. It was magic.

Top 3 Things About Focus Lab . . . so far

  1. All-Star Team: One of the immediate things I’ve experienced is what you might call the “pressure cooker effect.” Everyone on the Focus Lab team is incredibly talented at what they do. Each person is an A-team player and it shows! At the same time, they all have humility, kindness, and put others before themselves. This means that the feedback and collaboration is straight fire. Having the opportunity to bounce ideas off these talented, creative minds has been super valuable so far and I’m being pushed creatively in ways that I haven’t been before.
  2. Work Culture: I began working during one of the Focus Lab quarterly meeting weeks. It was a really fun week with everyone in the Savannah HQ. During that week, Erik and Bill presented some new core values (they were already a part of the DNA, but this was the formal presentation of them). There are three: People, Beauty, and Progress. These values have been evident to me though the process of coming on board and on a daily basis. They also have corresponding standards which you can read here. So far, my favorites are “Make it Better”, “Work to Live,” and “Keep it Simple.” These three have been my guide as I settle into this new role. Even in my personal life, I love the reminder to make it better and keep it simple. I also have been encouraged to not work too much and spend more time with my family. This was obvious from day one and the idea of “working to live” has helped me to work hard when I’m working and play hard when I’m not.
  3. Working remotely: Working remotely and making my own schedule has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “work-life balance”. I have been working East Coast hours (which is great for me), so I start around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and I’m done with work by about 2:30 p.m. every day. I have so much more free time to spend with my wife and kids, and we are having the time of our lives. I’m also a lot more productive working early in the morning, so it’s a huge plus on both sides. I was originally worried about feeling isolated from coworkers, and it is hard not being around the Focus Lab crew on a more regular basis. But the productivity I’m able to have along with the extra time with my family are so valuable to me!

I am so thankful for the opportunity to work for Focus Lab and be a part of the team! Can’t wait for the fun times that lie ahead.