The Experience

First Contact

In June of 2000, I received an intriguing e-mail.  It stated that job placement personnel at Bell+Howell Publishing Services had read my online resume and determined that I was, perhaps, a good fit for a position they had been trying to fill since April of that same year for one of their online divisions, 

We exchanged emails back and forth for several days, and finally we decided that I should come in for an interview with the hiring authority at MCW.

The Offer

I made my appointment and visited with the gentleman that was to ultimately become my boss and, in many ways, my mentor.  In a nutshell, what he described was an environment where an emphasis was placed on creativity and teamwork and little attention was paid to procedure and protocol; a veritable free-for-all where nerf-warfare developed and was exchanged as often as ideas. 

The Dilemma

Now I was faced with an important decision.  Do I accept this opportunity and give up the small but growing practice I had established, or do I scale back my personal operation and go back to working for others, however appealing that situation might be?  After much thought and, with the understanding that I would be allowed to continue to provide service to my existing customers, I made the decision to become the fulltime Web Designer of

The Job

For the record, I would like to say that the job was everything that was described and more… some good and some bad.  On the plus side, the staff at was incredible.  I had never before worked with such a bunch of talented and enjoyable characters.  From the developers, whose behind-the-scenes expertise gave its unmatched functionality and whose antics often had me rolling in the aisles, to the editors and writers whose gift for creating the content viewed by’s visitors taught me volumes about how to do more with less; each in their own way, helped make my time at an enjoyable and rewarding experience.  In addition, the experience of having worked on a site, which grew from 500,000 to more than 1,500,000 hits per day, was nothing short of astonishing.  There was, in fact, a single day in which accounted for just short of 2% of ALL web traffic.  That means, on average, 2 out of every 100 people who surfed the Internet on that day came to – dumfounding – simply dumfounding.  On the negative side, and yes there always is a negative side, having come from a private practice in which I both created and implemented advertising strategy, the experience of not always having a hand in the creation of the concept was something of a frustration.  Take into account the immutable fact that ultimately did not make it – and I’m sure you can see the many enjoyable hours of “what if” and “if only” I’ll be playing for years to come.

Trouble in Paradise

No matter what happens after May 31, 2001 (the date I departed), will never be the same.  On that date most everyone was given his or her notice.  Even if in some fashion is sold to another entity and continues on, it can never be the same.  The team that made it what it is has scattered to the winds and without those men and women,, for me, will be just another website. 

It would be comforting, in an odd sort of way, if I could put my finger on one or two things – point to them and say, “That was it.  That’s what killed”  There are a lot of things I can point to and say, “I would have done that differently.” But truthfully, they would only have been different.  There’s no guarantee it would have made any difference at all.  I can amuse myself with the thought that they might, but reality tells me that these things usually happen for a reason.  In the end, what killed her was what kills any business: too many expenses and not enough revenue.  It doesn’t matter what the reasons – the bottom line is always just that.

The Aftermath

So what have I learned from this experience?  How do I feel about having been a part of  Here’s what I know for sure.  I know that I am glad for having had the experience of working for this organization.  I wouldn’t have traded it for anything… even knowing what I know.  Apart from how it will look on my resume to have worked for the #1 Motorcycle site in all of creation, or one of the top 3,000 sites in all the universe, I am glad to have had the experience of working with the men and women of  Almost to a man (or woman) they were the finest and most creative collection of individuals I have had the pleasure of working with.  There was no task too big, no challenge too hard, and no deadline too short to overcome.  I learned that you don’t always have to all be on the same page to be a team; that it’s not the uniform, it’s the person in it that makes the player.  We were perhaps the most unusual mix of people ever assembled in one place (apart from one or two Federal corrections facilities for the criminally insane).  I had so much fun.  And yet, all the work somehow got done. 

And in the end, when the final verdict was announced, we did what we always did best.  We pulled together, went to lunch, and talked about how much we were going to miss doing what we did best – be a part of  And, for the record, it wasn’t just the informality of the place that created this sense of team and made it fun.  It would be too easy to say it was that.  In my heart, I know it was that we all believed in what we were doing; that more than anything, we wanted to see succeed.  So, even though one of the things I take away from this experience is a sense of loss, what I gained, is the knowledge that given the right circumstances, a group of individuals can come together and become more than just the sum of their parts.  This is a lesson that I will take with me, wherever I end up working and an environment I will attempt to recreate, or be open to, wherever I’m lucky enough to work in the future.

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