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The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu

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I just read an article on Fast Company called “Ten Things Your Employees Wish You Knew About Them,” and it prompted me to sit back for a moment and reflect on the past year of my career.

I was asked to join Raidious a year ago this week. I had just been laid off from my position as a web manager at NYU Langone Medical Center. I was faced with the prospect of job-hunting in the midst of a severe economic downturn.

Our CEO, Taulbee Jackson, doesn’t like me saying this, but I’m a big believer in transparency. The truth is I was unemployed and scared, and the timing was pure serendipity: Taulbee was unaware of my recent layoff when he asked me to come on board.

So I moved into a 200 square foot studio apartment (in which I shared a kitchen in the basement with two other residents) in a fairly frightening neighborhood, Bushwick/BedStuy. I spent six months working for free, drawing unemployment that barely covered my rent, food and other bills. I ate a lot of Ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches. With the complete trust of the rest of the company, I sat there with my dog and everything I owned in a tiny room in the middle of a war zone and Got Things Done.

One year later, I’m back in Indianapolis, working with a company that’s on the rise. We’ve been profiled in national publications, we’re working with national and international clients, and we’re hiring people. We’ve built this company on long hours, ingenuity, belief in ourselves, and sacrifice–none more than Taulbee himself.

On a personal level, I’ve had the opportunity to give guest lectures, attend and speak at conferences, have been asked to be adjunct faculty at a college teaching web marketing, am in discussions about a book deal, and have worked on some amazing projects that really mattered.

With all that in mind, here are some things I’ve learned in the last year:

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I spent several years as a web monkey, low on the ladder, staring up at a bunch of monkey butts. I had ideas and knowledge, but I was stuck in a position where they weren’t understood or weren’t a priority. Now my ideas are respected and considered, and many have been actualized with real, measurable results. I didn’t realize that I could contribute on such a scale, because ideas had always flowed down from the top for me and others to execute, not the other way around.

Every decision impacts the company’s bottom line–and mine.

The Great Wall of China started with one brick. No matter how inconsequential one action or decision might seem, each one forms the foundation of success. Going halfway causes a weak point that leads to structural failure. That failure may not become apparent immediately, but somewhere down the line there will be a crack that turns into a major fault. In the end, every client matters, no matter the size or budget.

You make your own luck.

I had never worked with Taulbee prior to joining Raidious. He knew my reputation, and knew of my past ventures, but we were merely acquaintances. Based on what he knew, he asked me to be a part of this grand experiment. Every interaction you have throughout your life and career help shape the opportunities that come your way, and you never know when one of those opportunities will avail itself. Make the most of every relationship, every day, and good things will happen.

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