2022 was a bit of an exciting year for me – I left a company I’d loved working with for over seven years, and had grown a global team within. I set up a new company, took overseas investment, plunged into a relatively new market segment, and saw that venture wind up. I made great friends, learned new skills and knowledge, and stared over the edge of several abysses, and re-engaged with a community I know well to restart my career again. I even flew a light aircraft over the fjords of norway and sailed a 120 year old pilot cutter, so bucket list wise it did the business too!
Leaving Human Made was tough – I dearly love Tom, Joe, Noel, and the team. I’d had a move in mind for a year or more, as I increasingly felt the move to product the company was making needed skills and experience that my predominantly agency background wasn’t able to provide – at least not in the depth that the company needed. Thankfully the partners had recognised this too, and brought in a genuine expert, nay virtuoso in that field, as CRO – the extraordinary Mr Ross Halliday.
It’d been a brilliant experience to work alongside Ross, to learn from and be coached by him – I think a few people were surprised (even me to be honest) at how strong a friendship and partnership we struck up given our outward differences. I can only say that above all else Ross is an honest man, and I can always work well with honesty, especially when it’s allied to enthusiasm, passion even, and deep skills.
In that final year I took pains to build up a global account management team that had real strength in depth, across product and agency domains. I need to acknowledge the brilliant support of HM’s internal recruiter Yu Hee Kim in that process – she’s an incredible professional and deeply inspiring on very many levels. The team I was able to find provides a global network to support our clients, and I hugely enjoyed finding and onboarding them. However this process also underlined for me how difficult it was to balance the pastoral elements of leading, building, and supporting a global team with the very real demands of being an active engaged dad in a young family. In the end it was this tension, and the guilt I was unable to assuage, that sealed my decision to move on.
One of the hardest things for me was that as I reached this decision, the professional services element of Human Made was undergoing a renaissance. That aspect of the business which had always been closest to my heart – the client relationships, the bespoke development – was mapped out and replanned, strategically, at a leadership meetup in Newcastle in February. After literally years of pandemic enforced separation it was bittersweet to spend intense, close times together with dear colleagues for what I (but not they) knew would be the last time. Siobhan, Jenny, Dee, Adrian, Petya, Corey, I am so so sorry I couldn’t be more open.
So where to go next? I wanted to avoid directly competing with my previous employer, so while a shift across to one of the other enterprise focussed WordPress agencies might have been tempting, I really wanted to try something new. In the end I had two opportunities to seriously explore – leading an EMEA focussed sales team for an enterprise hosting company, or standing up an e-commerce startup as a subsidiary of an established agency. The latter had perhaps the greater risk, and certainly the bigger learning curve, but the opportunity to be ‘in on the ground floor’ of a venture appealed deeply, so that’s how Maksimer UK Ltd came to be. See part 2!