Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Reflections from my desk at Paste magazine, 8 years ago

Last week one of the folks at Paste magazine posted some photos from its old office in Decatur, Georgia.

The photos were taken in September 2005, a few months after I'd started my job there. In one of the shots, you can see me hunched over my desk -- a happy workaholic -- surrounded by what a fire marshall would deem a disaster waiting to happen.

With the news Facebook's bajillion-dollar acquisition of Instagram, it was especially nice to see this digital time capsule opened up last week. Photos and their memories are incredibly powerful. This particular album reminded me of my own days at a start-up (albeit of a different sort) and what really goes into that work: a lot of love, frustration and faith.

I shared the following reflection on Facebook but wanted to expand on it and give it a bit more breathing room...
I vividly remember the first time I visited the Paste office for my internship interview, at the recommendation of my wonderful sorority advisor and friend, Christy. Situated next to the train tracks and above a frame store, the office looked like a frat house occupied by music geeks.

Overdressed in my pencil skirt and heels, I plopped down on a hand-me-down couch to talk to Paste's publisher, Nick Purdy, who gave me the first case interview of my career. I was sure I bombed it, but on the way out he suggested a start date of August. Surrounded by posters, CDs and shipments of magazines, it was all a bit overwhelming and I wondered what the heck I was getting myself into.

A year later, they couldn't drag me out of that place and they had no choice but to hire me on full-time. My coworker, Jeremy, donated his old college desk so that I had a place to sit. We built it in what little space was left in the place, while other folks were sitting two to a table (while our interns got resourceful and turned huge rolls of bubble wrap into makeshift workstations). The Brick Store Pub acted as our conference room and we shared team lunches on the roof. We took turns taking out the trash and answering customer service inquiries. If the train was rolling by, we put our phone calls on hold.

In the years that followed, Paste grew-up and got a bigger office and I learned how hard it is to build something from scratch. I also learned how rewarding it is when you succeed. Many of my coworkers had second jobs -- valeting cars, writing press releases, coding for other companies -- but you wouldn't have known it from how hard everyone worked when they arrived at the office each day. Every contract, every subscription and every award was a tiny victory that each of us had a hand in.

More importantly, I learned that it's true what they say: to love what you do, you must do what you love (and it doesn't hurt to surround yourself with good, smart and creative people).

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