Newb Insights: Volume 1

Newb Badge

I have started four different jobs in the past three years. That’s not a stat I’m proud of, and I’m sure my one-job-for-life grandpa shifted in his grave as I wrote that opening line. Sorry, gramps. The positive spin is that my recent history makes me something of a veteran newbie and connoisseur of onboarding processes.

Based on past experience, I expected my first days at The Nerdery to fall into one of two distinct categories – Chaos or Order. The Chaos onboarding plan is basically, “Here’s your computer. There’s the fire. Have fun!” The Order process involves phrases like, “You will spend the next 45 minutes reviewing the Harassment Policy before taking a quiz.” Awesome.

The Nerdery falls into neither category, which was my first clue that this place is doing much more than simply developing world-class interactive solutions. They have the crazy idea you are an adult human being and an asset who can transcend your job title and make a difference. That means not throwing you into the fire without ample support and training. That also means not tailoring the onboarding to such a low common denominator that they’re wasting everyone’s time.

It only took me a few days to learn The Nerdery is treating Newbs better than anywhere else I’ve worked. I say this not because they are paying me and not because Ryan Carlson is holding a Nerf gun to my head (he is). Rather, I volunteered to write this post because potential future employees should know the accolades and boasts on the website aren’t simply window dressing or gimmicks.

Even before I stepped in the door on day one, I already had a team of people looking out for me – an advocate, a team lead, a mentor, a development manager, and a Nerd buddy. My support system grew exponentially during the first week because The Nerdery designed their onboarding that way and because my fellow co-Presidents are cool, empowered, and interested in seeing their colleagues succeed. By the start of week two, I felt as welcome as Norm walking into the “Cheers” bar.

Feel free to be skeptical. I know you’ve all heard the “Culture! Best place to work! We love people!” company pitches before. Many, many businesses talk that talk and put their best face forward on their websites. Fewer businesses, like The Nerdery, make the necessary effort to walk that walk.

It’s not all rainbows and puppy dogs between these walls – although there are a lot of puppy dogs. It’s still work. And work is work is work. The Nerdery is a business, and as with any business, you are an employee being paid to do tasks, log time, fight through tough projects, occasionally overextend yourself, and deal with clients. You’ll get that everywhere.

But companies also control how they want to build their environments, tools, processes, and resources around that core of doing work, and those choices have major impacts on employee happiness.

Among the many messages driven home during my Newb week, the most refreshing one for me was that failure is an option. The Nerdery understands that projects can go wonky in a million different ways, and we’re all going to stumble and fall. Again: we’re human. The question is how we deal with those situations, how we communicate those issues, and how we rely on our supportive colleagues.

That big warm hug was very reassuring during a week when most newbies are nervous, unsure, uncomfortable, and over-eager to impress.

iBeacon: Radio Radio


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The Nerdery’s Ryan Carlson tells K-TWIN’s Cane & Co about iBeacon and the internet of things. Barely mentioned by Apple at WWDC, iBeacon has flown under the radar among all things iOS, but devs took notice – and Nerds experimented.

Must-hear radio like this can be heard at 8 a.m. Monday mornings on K-TWIN (96.3 FM, Twin Cities). Or, hear our rebroadcast, here.


Radio chatter on your next iPhone


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Tuesday tech-talkin’ with K-TWIN’s Cane & Co., The Nerdery’s Ryan Carlson compared Apples to Apples: iPhone 5s, 5c, and all iPhones who’ve come before them.

Tech chatter like this can be heard every Monday morning (unless put off ’til Tuesday) on K-TWIN radio (96.3 FM) at about 8 AM. Or, listen faithfully to our rebroadcast, here.


Week In Review: Nerdery Tech Content for September 2nd – 13th

Show Links:

NerdCast: WordPress Q+A

NerdCast: iOS Developer Reaction

NerdCast: WordPress Plugins

NerdCast: Lab Experiment -Tastemapper

Nerdery Webinar: Big Data – Going Beyond the Buzz

TasteMapper Blog Post

UX Apprenticeship Results

K-Twin Segment

WordPress Security Blog

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Vote Fred

Fred Beecher, Nerdery UX Designer, wants and deserves your vote to speak at SXSW. Fred’s running two (totally clean) campaigns, for two different but similar/supportable talks:

Candidate qualifications: Fred pioneered The Nerdery’s UX Apprenticeship program. He made the business case for it and had the wherewithal to see it through, with course-corrections along the way. Here is where Fred said what he’d do, and here is where you’ll see he did what he said he’d do. Vote-worthy accountability? You bet it is. So send this man to SXSW. Give him the trip to Austin that he so richly deserves.

With the first UX Apprenticeship cohort in the books, three of our four apprentices were hired while the fourth heads back to school, with a job waiting right back here with us upon graduation. But all four apprentices are ready to be UX Designers today, after their 12-week apprenticeship. And we’re ready to begin with our next cohort.

And you, by now, are surely ready to vote Fred, here and here, by the voting deadline of Sept. 6. Can’t decide which of Fred’s talks to vote for? Easy. Both. Two thumbs up. Vote Fred, early and often.

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Week In Review: Nerdery Tech Content For August 5th – 9th

Show Links:

K-Twin Segment
UX Apprenticeship Article
WFH (Work From Home) NerdCast Recording
NerdCast Interview with Nick Le Guillou

RFP Webinar Sign-Up Page


I’m Ryan Carlson the Technology Evangelist here at The Nerdery. This week we kick things off as we do each week with our regular tech segment on local radio station K-TWIN. We talk about how the tech community was in a buzz over speculation of what exactly did the NSA contribute to the Android code base. We wrap up the segment discussing Motorola Mobile’s hail-mary pass with the Moto X, the latest smartphone by Motorola and heavily influenced by their new company overlords at Google. Hear what makes this phone unique and how it takes a new look on the mobile market.


If you want to catch our weekly tech segments live in the Twin Cities, tune into 96.3 FM at 7:45 am every Monday morning.

Did you know that The Nerdery has it’s very own team of UX apprentices and they are under the tutelage of the Nerdery’s very own UX Sensei Fred Beecher?

This week on the blog, Leah Honsey, one of the first UX apprentices, writes a first-hand account of her first impressions and early experiences in this first-of-it’s kind experiment. Tune in next week for part two of this story.


This week we had not one, but two NerdCasts – The Nerdery’s very own weekly podcast that is featured both on the blog and available on iTunes.

Our first episode is all about working from home. We interview WFH Nerds Ben Koren and Shane Smith. Hear about their tips, tricks, and struggles of being away from an office that prides itself so heavily on a fun and collaborative office culture.


Last week we promised an interview Nerdery Developer Nick Le Guillou, the team lead on the Sparticl project. We hear about what he had to say to the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians at an event held at The Science Museum of Minnesota. Hear more about Sparticl and how the wisdom of Wil Wheaton event played into it.


We are excited to announce this month’s Nerdery Webinar topics.

The first will be about how to get top notch responses to your next request for proposal document. Check the nerdery.com homepage banner to save your spot on August 20th.

The second topic is all about demystifying Big Data and what it means, how it applies to normal business, and it’s real world applications. This will be live on August 27th.

If you have Nerdery Webinar topics you’d like to hear about, send that feedback to webinars@nerdery.com

I’m Ryan Carlson and This has been Week In Review for Nerdery Tech Content. Tune in next week, subscribe on YouTube, and be sure to follow us on Twitter @the_nerdery

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MinneDemo round-up on KTWIN radio


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Nerdery Tech Evangelist Ryan Carlson recapped highlights from Minne*’s MinneDemo with K-TWIN’s Cane and Company, including a nod to TasteMapper, the first passion project to spring from The Nerdery Lab Grant Program, created by Kevin Moot and Andrew Golaszewski.


Listen-up: NSA Radio, via K-TWIN


KTWIN Logo 96.3Nerdery Tech Evangelist Ryan Carlson talks with K-TWIN’s Cane and Company about … actually, the NSA may be onto us – and maybe we’ve already said too much about who may or may not be privy to your Skypin’. Listen at your own risk.


Launching Successful Agency-Partner Projects Under Pressure – Podcast Discussion


In this special Valentine’s Day edition of the NerdCast, we share strategies with our agency partners on how to help their next rush interactive project flow smoothly. With perspectives from our sales, project management and front-end development Nerds we explore what makes rush projects successful contrasted with common mistakes.

Have a pressing project? Need to start immediately? We’re ready.

Host: Ryan Carlson / Guests: Eve Poeschl (Solutions Engineer), Charlie Kandiko (Project Management), and Jason Dicks (Front End Developer)

Relevant Follow-Up Blog Post: Tips & Tricks: Creating Efficiencies For Your Development Projects

Listen to the Episode Preview Now:
Running Time: 0:01:56 / Subscribe on iTunes

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Moving forward, missing friends

As part of a significant restructuring of our organization, we’ve eliminated 24 positions today. There’s no way, nor would we want to, sugarcoat or gloss over that fact or try to make it seem like less of a big deal than it is. As a business owner, at least for me, the worst possible decision I ever have to make is to cut people’s jobs – I hate it. We made hard choices about admirable people who’ve made lasting marks on our company, and people who perhaps leave a piece of our culture better than they found it. All of them deserve our due respect, befitting of Nerdery Nerds and alumni. Today’s moves were made to get to a more profitable ratio of billable to non-billable staff through reductions and reorganization.

Even though we’re a privately-owned company, we believe in being publicly transparent in both good and tough times. This afternoon I talked to our staff about where we’re at, and what’s next. We’ll still grow this year, but intend to do so at a more manageable pace – our current targets call for adding 77 staff between now and the end of the year versus 222 in 2012. To be clear, we’ll have no hiring freeze. We aren’t losing money, but running a thin margin means not saving up for a rainy day and a potential inability to handle bumps in the road. But most importantly, it made us risk averse, and we can’t afford to miss opportunities we should be taking advantage of.

Our recently slumping profitability had much to do with today’s changes. Wherever we could, rather than eliminating positions, we’ve done our best to transition non-billable positions into revenue-generating roles, and looked for ways to make doers of managers wherever possible. Principal Software Engineers – among our most senior developers – will still mentor other developers but will get back to directly contributing to our clients’ projects, for example. Just seven of today’s layoffs are developers, the only revenue-generating department being reduced. All in all, changes were made today in Development, Nerd Experience (a.k.a. HR), Nerd Support (no equivalent in layman’s terms), Sales, and Strategic Information Systems – a reduction of about 5% of our workforce.

Our rapid growth has opened a lot of doors for our company. We’ve been able to assemble an amazing team of geniuses and do amazing things for our partners and clients. As much as we’d like move forward forever at a breakneck speed, we recognize that a pace like that is incompatible with our vision to be the best place in the world for nerds to work. That conflict is on me and the rest of our leadership team, so it’s us who must address it head-on, as we have today. Today’s changes give us a solid foundation to pursue an aggressive but manageable growth strategy in 2013.

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