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Design, Dignity and Doughnuts: My First 3 Months at the Ranch

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Jeff Heaton

My interview at Big Nerd Ranch was intense. I was in a room with glass on two sides, and anybody could look in. It quickly became crowded, with eight people in a room that fits four comfortably—and all focus was on me.

The interview was admittedly nerve wracking, as most are, but it is rare that the CEO drops in to ask a question or two. Or that candidates are evaluated for culture fit as well as their credentials. But afterward, I found this reassuring. I knew that that being a Nerd was taken seriously, because so many people took an interest.

I got the job as a mobile UX designer, and ninety days of design, dignity and doughnuts have flown by.

Design

While I had done design before starting at Big Nerd Ranch, it was never like this. The design team at Big Nerd Ranch is small but growing, so there’s a ton of flexibility as to what projects we’re on and what we get to delve into. We’re surrounded by extremely sharp developers who aren’t afraid to share their knowledge in order to make projects better. It’s been incredibly satisfying to combine UX, UI and visual principles with an agile approach to give deep consideration to everything we touch. We get to shape what design at Big Nerd Ranch means and spread the word that we’re open for business.

Dignity

We get our hands on amazing projects with customers who understand what it takes to make great products. A bias toward action and experimentation means that we can contribute to whatever we’re interested in, without fear. In fact, I think that’s part of the genius of Big Nerd Ranch: the removal of distractions. That focus enables people to establish flow in their lives.

As soon as I was made part of the team, I was trusted with responsibility and given the tools and time to rise to the occasion. I’ve been treated like an adult. I can work wherever and whenever I want as long as I get it done, and this has freed me to figure out how I work best. It’s fostered more experimentation in my life, and it’s inspiring.

Doughnuts

Doughnuts are simple pleasures: single-serving snacks in chewy yeast or crumbly cake. A dreary, rain-soaked Friday morning in April is no special occasion, but a few of us found reason to drive down the street and bring back a dozen or so doughnuts. And sharing little unexpected pleasures has pervaded my experience here. I can think of no better way to explain all the touches that make working here genuinely great. This level of comfort is hard won by those who have worked and continue to work to make Big Nerd Ranch what it is. I can only say thank you and do my best to contribute.

Three months has flown by. I left a group of friends to join Big Nerd Ranch and found so many new ones. I have a faint idea of what the future holds, but I’m confident that whatever it is will be faced properly, and with a bit of icing. Hopefully strawberry.

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Jeff Heaton

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