I was sitting in an Applebees when Robert Moore called, but I didn’t answer.
I was used to interviewing and getting turned down, but this time was different. I wanted this. I stepped away from my double crunch shrimp and listened to the message.
In 2012 I spent months building two data reporting tools and one night I googled, “Philadelphia data visualization.” The second search result was a business intelligence startup, RJMetrics, who audaciously claimed to give you an iPad just for interviewing. Their blog had a fascinating post where they did a Serial-esque data investigation into the “Single?” dating signs littering yards at the turn of the decade. This was the place I wanted to be.
RJMetrics was founded just blocks from my house in Collingswood and my friend Alex Hillman knew one of the co-founders, so I asked for an intro. A year later when I eventually worked there, I looked up my own resume in Resumator (later awkwardly renamed jazz.co), and there was just a single comment from Bob: “This guy keeps emailing me.”
My first week I was assigned a bug related to a client’s pie chart. It looked like this.
They were trying to render negative values in a pie chart and this was the result. I think many engineers would be annoyed solving problems like this. At RJMetrics, we had an endless supply.
And I loved them all.
I spent years fixing axes, formatting tables, cleaning lines, scaling bars, parsing formulas, debugging queries, scaling databases, and everything else you can do with a powerful data visualization system. When asked what RJMetrics did by family and friends, I used to joke, “We take our customers’ data and sell it back to them” which was true. But we did it to empower them.
We didn’t always do everything right, Bob covers it well in this interview, but we always tried to course correct when we didn’t. The outcomes weren’t great for everyone, but we strived to do the right thing.
The company grew fast.
Eventually we sold the full stack business intelligence service to Magento along with me and 35 others. The people who stayed rebranded the company into Stitch and rallied around our other product. They were acquired by Talend in late 2018 for $60 million.
Figuring out how to operate inside Magento was a challenge. I flew to Austin so many times I lost count and even once to Kyiv, Ukraine. We learned how to ship software with hundreds of coworkers across 10 time zones and Magento Philly became known as a squad that shipped and took ownership.
I challenged our team to build a system that was better, faster, and cheaper than what we had before and they delivered. MBI crushed all project deadlines and re-built the RJMetrics product for a more focused audience. We launched Magento BI Essentials in April of 2017.
Magento was acquired in June by Adobe for $1.68 Billion, which was great for many people but unfortunately they decided to close our office. I was offered a great opportunity in Austin, but I’m not done with Philadelphia yet. I’ve lived here almost my whole life, but my connection to Philly has never been stronger.
When I search LinkedIn for RJMetrics it’s a result set of the smartest and most talented people I know. They’re all at top technology companies or promising startups, or maybe trying to meet 10K people on Instagram. The people I met at RJ/Magento/Adobe were amazing it would take years to name everyone who made an impact on me.
For everyone who reviewed my code, stayed up late hackathoning, ate spicy food, shared a beer, argued about proper y-axis origin values, ate a cupcake with me on the stairs, gave me a fake trophy, shared a secret, fixed my bugs, built an automatic gong, rode a funicular, came with me to get a tattoo, voted for my chili, helped me rehearse, beat me in ping pong, called me out, listened to me vent, challenged my worldview, gave me a mug, complimented my sweater, taught me how to debug slow Redshift queries, and made me a better programmer and a better version of myself, I love you all and I’m grateful we met.
So, what’s next?
For the last few months I’ve been meeting people working on all kinds of things and I’m excited about the opportunity I settled on. Not only for myself, but for the city as well. In February, I’m joining Betterment and helping them open a new Philadelphia office. Six years from now I hope I’ll look back and be as happy about that decision as I was the day Bob Moore called me at Applebees to tell me I had the job.