Reflections on My First Year at Atomic Object

As I wrap up this year, I am also concluding my first full year with Atomic Object. It’s impossible for me not to reflect deeply on this milestone. I am someone who loves any kind of event that signifies the end of a stage – a birthday, the end of a quarter, or even just the end of a week. Each one feels like an accomplishment, worthy of appreciating what was learned and celebrating the opportunity to start anew.

This feels particularly true as I look back on this first year with Atomic. I joined the company as a Managing Partner for a new team in a new city, during a pandemic, and with a world of uncertainty ahead. I have learned so much, and it only feels appropriate to share some of the things I’ve learned as I wrap this chapter and eagerly turn the page to start a new one.

In-person work with hybrid flexibility is where it’s at.

I love working from home. I love not commuting and being super productive without distractions. These quiet, isolated days have also made me realize just how powerful and meaningful face-to-face interactions are. In-office days are energizing – I laugh so much more, build far stronger relationships, and collaborate much more effectively. This is wonderful and draining after a few days, so it’s back to a home day to recharge. The hybrid modality creates a balance I never knew I needed.

Two really are better than one.

When I first started talking to Atomic and they spoke about their co-leadership model and commitment to pair programming, I knew I had found my people. I thrive with a team and can struggle on an island. But two leaders, doing the same role? That was unfamiliar. Would we step on each others toes? What if his dad jokes were unbearable?

Turns out, co-leadership fosters creativity, collaboration, and authenticity. We can lean into our unique strengths, hold each other accountable, and encourage one another to learn and grow. And Jordan’s dad jokes are actually pretty great (don’t tell him I said that).

When you do things the right way, incredible clients will find you.

As a consultant, the projects you work on vary. It can be easy for a firm to find itself taking on or keeping work that really isn’t a fit – for the team’s skills, for the firm’s culture, etc. – especially if sales are hard to come by. However, if you build the company with purpose, lead by your values, and continually evolve your processes so they make sense and deliver quality results, the right clients and projects will find you. AO has done this over its 21-year history, and the proof is in the portfolio. We have amazing clients with cool projects that continually challenge us. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Your values help you set boundaries.

Company values that have heart and purpose help to create healthy boundaries for the organization. And as any therapy session will help you see, boundaries are positive, necessary, and ultimately freeing. I didn’t realize how important this was at the company level until I learned about AO’s six core values.

Fast forward a year, and now I know firsthand just how crucial these are to our success. We can naturally set expectations – for Atoms, our clients, our partners, etc – and very quickly tell when things are out of alignment. Clearly communicating boundaries and course correcting quickly and as often as needed is key to working with less drama and more joy.

Growth is hard when done well.

Our Chicago office started with a small but mighty team of three makers. We’ve seen more demand for our services than we could possibly manage. Hiring many people as quickly as possible would be a logical approach, but it would result in compromises we’re unwilling to make. Instead, we have continued throughout the year to hire responsibly, one role at a time, staying true to our values and our processes. If all of this resonates with you, check out our open roles. We’d love to meet you and hear your story.

It’s hard to believe I’ve already crossed the milestone of completing my first full year with Atomic. It’s also hard to believe this is only my first year. This was another wild, never-boring year for everyone, and I’m quite grateful to have spent it with this crew. Congrats, everyone, on closing out another successful year and cheers to a new year and a fresh start!


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