Photo credits to Ilinca, my mate at pixelgrade

First year at Pixelgrade

I still remember my first date with the Olaru brothers aka the bold co-founders of Pixelgrade. Looking back at this time last year, I’m realising that everything can be tighten under one word: grit.


I was a happy freelancer, with a nice path ahead, and a pretty rewarding professional history as well. I had my thing, as they say. Cool people around me, challenging endeavors, plenty of ideas to play with. My playground was quite set up.

Connecting the dots, I guess that convenience was the particular reason why I wrote down a short e-mail and asked for a meeting. I’m not familiar with choosing the ordinary path, the safe game. Instead, I was looking forward to finding an adventure. And boy, I got one that still shakes my universe from time to time.


A story about learning by doing

Don’t imagine that I wrote down insights during this timeframe. Not at all. And not because it would have been a bad idea, but mostly because I lived pretty intense moments. I got used with this tango rhythm and now I think I’m able to adjust accordingly.

So back on the blackboard.

Ladies and gents, I hope some of you will resonate with me, and the other ones will find the following thoughts useful. Now or at some point in the future.


#1 — Be honest and don’t overrate your worth

George and Vlad were searching (as if they were Pink Panthers) for someone who loves numbers, Google Analytics, metrics, charts and any other mathematical form of translating words. I was at the full opposite of the spectrum, and I let them know from day one. I insisted that my focus is on marketing as a storytelling strategy and on delivering meaningful content on multiple channels. I’m not a big fan of intrusive SEO practices, nor am I an early-adoper just for the sake of being hype. Ironically, they agreed.


#2 — Foster what you know and do it better

In the digital landscape, but not only, there’s no such thing as ‘‘I know how things work, I’m just going to do it my way.’’ Continuous learning it’s a by-default kind of attitude. Thanks to the awesome team of Pixelgrade I had the chance to take some great courses: Chimp Essentials from Paul Jarvis and Storytelling for Influence from IDEO. I will write a separate story for the last one since I’m in the middle of things. But both of them are lovely experiences!


#3 — Always be a team player (a real one)

You have limited powers and almost an insignificant impact as a one-man-show. I quickly understood to act like an orchestra player and find a common song in order to create charming music. I heavily shaped my skill set to perform even better. At the end of the day, I’m part of a team focused on changing the digital world one WordPress theme at a time. It is my duty to have the big pic, to ask for help, to lend a hand, to have an overview of the whole puzzle.


#4 — Storytelling as a mission

Not only as a marketing approach in a crowded industry. I tried to be a storyteller (not that hard since I love telling and hearing stories) on a internal level as well. To create witty liaisons, to connect people, to find common experiences, to bring the team around the same table, to find gateways that make us better. Work-in-progress.


#5 — Celebrate small and big wins

I learned this one since I was an active volunteer for creative industries. Back then I used to take a moment to reflect and enjoy the victories I accomplished. At Pixelgrade I needed to learn again how to celebrate all kinds of wins. And we have a few. Our new shop and rebranding process, a charming photography WordPress theme, our first WordCamp together, our huddle in the mountains and so on.


#6 — Break to build up again

I’m truly grateful for some mind blowing experiences I lived in the fall. They were emotionally draining mostly because I needed to face things, facts, behaviors that made my vulnerable, but I’m so happy that I was part of this daring process. In the end, the core aspects that makes us-us are always under a bunch of layers and packed into different scenarios. The journey itself totally deserved the effort.


#7 — Listen more, talk less

In the last year, but mostly thanks to the process I mentioned earlier, I’ve learned to be more confident regarding when to shut up in order to achieve better results. I accepted that we have different swings and one is not better than the other. It is just a matter of personality and a particular way of approaching a wide range of topics. Silence can make plenty of room for initiative and courage.


#8 — Spend time together

WordCamp Europe Vienna was the first event that we attended with almost the entire team, and it was amazing from top to toe. I was impressed by the unique personality of the WordPress community, and I also enjoyed being there with my teammates. I strongly believe that spending quality time together (quality doesn’t exclude adventure or fun) consolidates our tribe and makes it run with ease.


#9 — Don’t search for consensus

I found out that unanimity as a package for absence of trust can harm a team, both personally and professionally. So yes, being on the same page is important, especially in terms of values and principles, but debate and active dialogue are far more relevant. In fact, they are gateways for finding creative ideas and empowering innovation. This way, it becomes a state of mind.


#10 — Be bold and take initiative

The fact that I’m mostly responsible for marketing and communication doesn’t automatically mean that I should stay out of touch with other areas. In fact, I think it is crucial to work with multidisciplinary people who have different skill sets and are ready to share their know-how. In the end, this ping-pong makes us better and wiser. So there’s no perfect timing to help a colleague or to make an improvement. Just take initiative.


#11 — Be proud of your work

But not in a individualistic and selfish sense. I’m accustomed to talk about what’s happening at Pixelgrade, how we enjoy doing things, why this obsession to details in everything we do and so on. But I’m not having this attitude because it is written down in my contract or job description. I’m preaching it because I truly believe in our mission and how we work to accomplish it.


#12 — Give before you get

As a good friend of mine would say ‘’we’re in a crises of humanity’’, which is pretty true, even though it sounds a bit dramatic. It’s tempting to act like we’re living in bubbles, where our actions are independent and we’re autonomous in so many ways. In fact, we can have impact much more than we can imagine. I’m lucky to be part of a puzzle where WordPress as a philosophy is tailored to the give-before-you-get mantra, and our team makes no exception as well.


I’m grateful. I really am. I’m also eager to see what’s next and to make the most out of this path. In the end, as Jaqui Banaszynski would say ‘‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.’’


I’m a proud player at pixelgrade — design studio where we craft WordPress themes that solve real and painful problems.👋

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