Astonish is one of the most unique companies I have ever worked for. Everyone of their business needs was different from what I was used to. This was part of the reason I came on, I wanted the challenge. The other was the fact that I got to work with new and old friends. Many of the people who worked at Astonish 2 years ago (when I came on) were from a previous company we all worked for called BZ Results (which was acquired in 2007).
Rishi Bhatia recruited me to Astonish in March of 2012 to do three things. The first was to build a web framework on the industries most popular CMS, WordPress. This framework had to support hundreds of clients, scale, allow us to deploy websites quickly, and cater to the specific needs of the insurance space. I finished, tested, iterated on and deployed this new framework in the fall of 2012.
The second task was to lead a team of designers and developers who could run this system, build themes for the framework, interact with clients and work with intense deadlines and moving targets. When I left Astonish I couldn’t be more proud of every member of that team. Of the 9 members of my team, I recruited 6 of them. We created an amazing culture and put out some awesome work. Read more about my Creative Leadership process here.
The third item I was recruited for was to migrate the existing 450 clients from a proprietary .NET CMS which I had no control over or access to. We had to programmatically move these clients from one CMS to another, for those of you who work on WordPress or CMS’ you can imagine the extensiveness of this challenge. We completed our migration this winter, and most if not all clients saw dramatic improvement in traffic, site load speed, and optimization.
During the past 3 years I not only accomplished what I came on to do, but I also had the opportunity to invent, innovate and build so much more. In early 2013 I filed a patent application for an invention that changes the way a client interacts with a website, while catering to their needs in real-time. I also got to work with some amazing engineers who helped me bring my ideas to life.
Why I left
As with most things in life, all good things must come to an end. I really enjoyed my time at Astonish. As a leader, developer and marketing technologist, I accomplished all my goals. Now I was left wanting more, a bigger challenge, and a new road to travel on.
Well, I’m looking around and seeing what’s out there. I have a short list of companies that I know a lot about, and would really like to work with. I have reached out to most of those companies. However, if you’re in need of a talented leader, developer, product manager, and UX engineer please get in touch.
What’s the Perfect Role For You?
Since I’ve made the news of my departure public, I’ve been asked this question a lot. In my local circles I’m the “WordPress-Guy”. Around the country I speak on topics related to WordPress, UX and business strategy. I can offer a lot but if I was lucky enough to define my own role it’d the Director of Client Performance and User Experience.
What’s a Director of Client Performance and User Experience?
In an effort to correctly define this role I have written up a requirements document and shared it below. I have pieced a few skill requirements from different open positions I’ve seen in the market. However, this is a role that I am very passionate about and have been thinking about for quite sometime. If I were start a new company tomorrow, this position would be one of the first I’d hire for.
Description of Position
Director of Client Performance and User Experience will be a confident business analyst who works as an advocate for the client. Their goals will be to analyze client performance, and identify ways in which things can improve. All performance enhancements will be made through improving the overall user experience of the website or app. It will be vital that this person can understand and improve the entire system, not just a single aspect of a website or app. As the Internet continues to grow and change, so does the need for someone to keep up with it. Clients will appreciate working hand in hand with an expert Marketing Technologist who can anticipate change and shift a product to grow and scale.
- Web agency experience
- Business analyst experience
- Experience developing requirements, use cases and user stories
- Very strong skills in information architecture and UX best practices
- Development experience is a plus
- Experience illustrating information architecture and user interface mechanisms to facilitate client understanding
- Knowledge of life cycle processes, to include planning, analysis, design, development, testing, etc.
- Phenomenal communication skills, with strong ability to facilitate or converse on behalf of engineers and clients
- Advocate for the client
- Innovative thinking and problem solving a must
- Experience managing Agile or Waterfall process’ a plus
- Organize client meetings with an emphasis on productivity and goal setting
- Deliver monthly reports on client performance
- Create a clear line of communication between all fellow teams, 3rd parties and clients
- Measure, track, and perform user testing on products
- Analyze data, metrics, and user experience testing to identify problems or areas for improvement
- Iterate and improve on product to eliminate problems
- Create storyboards, diagrams, wireframes, user stories and more to properly communicate the problem and the solution to fellow teams, 3rd parties and clients
- Work closely with everyone to create new products, and support existing ones
In the end
I’m extremely excited about what lies next. I am truly uncomfortable being comfortable. The second my job gets easy, I get bored. I love the challenge, and always making things better. I’m an innovator and creative thinker, and I look forward to the first step on this unknown path.
Jesse Friedman has been building websites for 20 years, and exclusively with WordPress since 2006. Jesse has written several books, taught 100’s of students as a professor, and organized dozens of local meetups along with a few WordCamps.
Jesse has spoken at tech conferences around the world including SXSW, HOW, Future events and many more; and has consulted for a wide array of companies from small agencies to multi-billion dollar international companies.