Yesterday, Cory made the public announcement that I would be starting as the new Chief Operating Officer for our company. “Thrilled” doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings I had when the news went public. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have be blessed with, and wanted to take the opportunity to fill some people in on how all of this came to be.
My junior year of college, while I was Colorado skiing with Cory and some friends, Cory first brought up the idea of me coming to work for iThemes. At the time, iThemes was in need of someone to help respond to sales emails. I had a little bit of experience with WordPress (meaning I had broken a few sites, and begged Cory to help me fix them), and Cory thought I could help lighten the load of sales emails.
It only took a month or two of working at iThemes for me to realize that this was something I wanted to be part of for the long haul. At that time, the team was only about 5 people, so I was surrounded by incredible talent. Chris and Cory immediately started investing knowledge in me. Eventually, Cory confronted me with a question: “Matt, what do you want to do here?” To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure. I eventually figured out that I loved developing and solving problems, and decided I wanted to do theme development.
iThemes has an awesome culture of continued learning, but I also had to make a personal investment of my time to learn the skills to get the job I wanted. I used nights and weekends (and eventually dropped out of college, but don’t tell my mom) to soak up everything I could about web development. Then, I would utilize resources like Chris Jean during the day to help push me and show me what I needed to learn. I can say without a doubt that even if I had all the drive in the world, I could not have learned as much as I did as quickly if I hadn’t surrounded myself with the best and most talented developers and leaders.
Eventually, I started developing the front end of all of the themes we were releasing. I even released a free plugin or two. Our company continued to grow, and Cory started helping me shape some of my roles in that growth. One thing Cory challenged me with was helping to create and sustain a culture that made iThemes a great place to work. He cast a vision for the culture he wanted to work in, and charged me to help make it happen. As we grew even more, we knew we had to look for more space. Then, about a year ago, we moved in to our third office space (fourth if you count Cory’s house). Now we had 2,500 square feet of playground. It was a perfect space to cultivate our culture. It wasn’t much to look at when we first got it (and admittedly is always a work in progress), but we have tried to make a space that is more than just a place to plant your butt for 8-10 hours a day. We wanted a space that inspired creativity. I think we have made a great effort in that direction, and plan to continue making it better (as I type, there is literally a painter putting some new color on our dev room walls).
Now, our company has grown to 20 team members (with more coming all the time). Cory recognized that we were going to need to have some leadership in place so we could continue to mold the culture of our workplace. About a month ago, he gave each of our 4 brands a team lead to help direct the teams. Additionally, he started talking to me about a new chapter in my role here. We didn’t really know what it would be called, but we knew some of the things that needed to be done. After some planning, Cory came to me with the idea of COO. I had to look it up, because I wasn’t really sure what all that meant. After reading about it, and comparing it to the goals that we had set for my new role, we both thought it was a pretty good fit.
Honestly, I’m lucky to be here. I have no doubt that there are people out there that are smarter than me, but haven’t gotten the same opportunities that I have. I am grateful to Cory and his partners for taking a risk on me. When people ask Cory how he has been so successful at what he is doing, I always hear him respond with, “I was in the right place, at the right time, and I was ready.” I’ve decided to adopt that. It’s not that I was the best at the time, it is that I was at the right place. at the right time, and I was ready.