Thursday, July 17, 2014

How I was fired from Leadpages for standing up for their own self proclaimed culture principals (“no politics”, “no bureaucray”) – An Open Letter

Dear Friends,

I write this email to present to you some problems that have come up recently that have caught me by surprise. These are problems that I feel strongly about and that I feel could potentially prevent LeadPages from reaching its potential as valuable business software and services (as well as being a company that attracts great, innovative and entrepreneurial people). Problems that I was fired for taking a stance against.

With each additional outside manager that has been brought into Leadpages to “help” us work I have found myself less and less motivated and less and less productive. I felt that I was not the only one experiencing the change, but that others were afraid to speak up.

It was in February of this year that I was initially hired as a python web developer, but in the last 4 months I’ve written less than 1000 lines of python code for LeadPages. This isn’t because I haven’t wanted too (or am able to) — rather this is because despite the title I was given —  at the time I was hired the bottleneck for the development team was and still is templates (simple HTML, CSS, and some javascript coding). Having recognized the problem months ago — I ignored my title — and instead focused on what was (and still is needed). I mostly self learned the LeadPages template system and in the last 4 months have fixed many bugs and worked extra hours on many occasions toward release.

Additionally, I taught myself as many of LeadPages  systems as time has allowed (hat tip to Matous, Simon, Bogdan, Dave, Radu Dan and Ray for writing them). Recently I spent hours documenting what others would need to get started with developing their own LeadPages (such as development environments, and now v4 templates) – in the hope that more trained coders would ease the bottleneck. For the past few months, I have worked to reconcile the abilities of the builder and features of the templates — this having lead to some of the initiatives that have come with the creation of the new builder (migration issues, dynamic elements, etc…). On more than one occasion I have stayed up late at night and also worked weekends (at the request of my supervisor the Director of Product Development) to finish features on time. I say this not in expectation of any fiscal compensation (Leadpages paid me well). I was happy to do each task as part of the work.

However, In the past few weeks I have felt that myself and others in engineering were losing all autonomy – the departure of Director of Product Development (on vacation for a week) lead to a reimplementation in the way work was done by the VP of Engineering  — and these changes are why I started to feel unhappy with the way things were developing. Upon Director of Product Development’s return all of the “new” practices stayed in place. Having heard of some of the VP of Engineering’s plans months ago (I dismissed them as I thought they would never see the light of day) – as they grew I saw no end in sight to the growing bureaucratic process continuing to be further implemented. The problem with slowing development (as I saw it) was that we didn't have enough coders to write all the code that needed to written and debugged.

There is an old saying that “companies will eventually be controlled by those who can stay awake in meetings the longest”.  My hope is that LeadPages is never such a company — but there is no certainty that it will not be – and now appears headed on that path.  This past week I made a few decisions: to work on resolving a builder translation problem, and to write documentation for the developers that will be writing templates in the future. These were a continuation of working on the same bottlenecks I and others in the development team have worked on for months to resolve (as well storing what I’d learned in a way that others could use it). Following each of these decisions I was scheduled into meetings by the VP Engineering to explain my actions. I was also told to “not get too far ahead”. This past week my fellow developers also learned that changes to the way we work will now lead to a centralization of all tasks (this executed by the VP). None of the meetings I was scheduled were necessary (I had already arranged to contact the people relevant need to talk to fix each issue). Add to this everyday morning meetings (along with the additional company meetings), and the meeting you have to have when you're done with any work or starting on anything new -- all left me feeling micromanaged — all while we were facing an upcoming release -- which lead to an exchange with with the VP of Engineering (which I regret was public). My confusion lay in the fact that part of the LeadPages’ pitch to me upon my employment was “no politics, no bureaucracy”. This top-down controlled workflow – was however the opposite of this principle – and lead to my losing intensity and passion for the work — which I have sustained since my first months at LeadPages. I felt that others may be feeling the same way but were too afraid to say anything. One coder I overhead mentioned his nostalgia for the "old way" of doing things. I continued working on the same bottlenecks -- but had my permissions removed on the documentation that had been under progress for over a month (work I was doing that was approved by my supervisor the Director of Product Development).

LeadPages has by far the best business model of any company I have worked for. Lead Pages’ CEO Clay Collins decision to move to build a marketplace is additionally a powerful play — one I strongly supported (and still believe in). Its known by some as the tower and moat strategy ( Its an especially powerful move, because if an ecosystem can be built it will make it very difficult for others to “copy” LeadPages because they won’t be able to copy the ecosystem.  Yet, I feel strongly that if the process of communication and development continues along it’s recent bureaucratic developments — it will be very difficult to convince developers to join that community and maintain the pages and programs that will keep it thriving. This is precisely because software that requires decisions in meetings to get built is not accessible. It has been my goal to bring my experience of using successful ecosystems (Amazon’s Cloud and Elasticsearch) into the type of experience people get using lead pages. I believe in accessibility — in its power to build emergent ecosystems — and is my hope that that LeadPages will have marketplace that will enable anyone with an internet connection,  time and knowledge to build something that can fix a problem they see in their world or in their company. That accessibility doesn't just appear -- it is grown within.

I was informed of the change today. There's really not much more to the story as for cause of my departure (though you should always hear both sides of the story). I was in process of writing my side when I was informed (I had intended to wait until after the release) -- but things happened.

To my friends – I appreciated the opportunity to work beside you and with you and more specifically:

To Jason: My hope is that you will be given recognition and management responsibilities for the leadership you have already shown in developing the builder.

To Chase: I think the design of the builder is not just great – its brilliant. You are (to me) the most influential front-developer I have ever worked with.

To Donovan: I was always kind of suspicious to me that you always brought Donuts (after all Dexter always brought donuts and he was serial killer) but I learned that you are also a great javascript developer (and have taken to learning angular because of how highly you spoke of it). I will in the future speak angular (and then we can talk).

To Dave: I have the utmost respect for your abilities at python (and coding in general). You didn’t know this – but I always thought of you as the “Lebron James” of programming – without a doubt the most productive coder I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

To Nick: I learned about testing frameworks and I regret that I will not be able to work with you more on them. You may have to “become me” sooner than you thought. Also, if we should run into each other -- remember that I like poker stories where you don’t tell me the result (rather setup the moment of decision)

To Pushpa: We didn’t work together long – but I learned a few neat testing tricks from you in the short time .

To Kayla: I was pleasantly surprised by your coding potential – and strongly felt that you have the ability to continue to learn many more coding concepts and tricks – be it producing single pages or much larger websites.

To Ray: As I said before – it was an absolute pleasure working with you.

To Max: I always felt more secure with you around – it’s a feeling like there wasn’t a hack you couldn’t reverse engineer and counterattack.

To Clay: I have a great admiration for your abilities as a marketer and whenever you spoke about marketing – I often left learning something new and exciting.

To Simon: You didn’t know this but when you interviewed me I had trouble understanding your accent. On one question you asked me (about proxies or something  -- ray later told me) I had no idea what you asked but didn’t want to ask you to keep repeating yourself. I answered in a general manner about emailing app engine to see if they could fix it (and surprisingly this was the answer that lead ray to want to hire me).

To Bogdan: I regret that we never got to work closely together as our statistical interests (I suspect) would have meshed well and perhaps lead to program that could write itself.

To Kevin: I loved your stories -- and I could probably learn a lot more from you at lunch or something.

To Jeff: Your videos are lightyears of above the competitors and hope someday to see you on a commercial as the new "micro machines" guy.

To my enemies (you know who you are) : enjoy the bureaucracy. I can you tell that my departure was not decided by Ray or Clay (or any others mentioned in my thanks).

I have but one final favor to ask of friends, and that is for a show of support in this time of transition – not for me – but for my wife. She is feeling that our security has ended -- and is very anxious.

I, however, feel that no man in this world is truly fired who has friends and if you have anything that would help to reassure wife (and are willing to leave a comment) I would most appreciate it.

With Sincere Regards,

P.S. I am uncertain to what precisely what I will do next. If any of you have suggestions – or just wish to email me – I’m available at . I’m not acutally unemployed as I have 2 ongoing software projects I have been contributing to for the past few months on nights/weekends that have been requesting further work from me – but I do have some open time for other considerations. I should also mention that my wife is 5 months pregnant so I must act in this regard -- to secure her confidence -- of a healthy pregnancy and labor.

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