I sent this email to Jeffrey Zeldman about 6 weeks ago, and decided that I wanted to publish it here because of how important it was for me to externalize this.
In 2004, I realized that a career in hardware diagnostics was not for me and tried my hand at something new; I joined one of Philadelphia’s larger interactive agencies, and found myself falling in love with a new kind of work.
I worked with brilliant, creative people, who were inspired, focused, collaborative, and fun to be around. We had leadership that worked very hard on company culture. I had a mentor who trained me from barely being able to code a table to leading a number of our largest client properties into our first pure CSS layouts.
I learned from Sherri, who looked up to you, and so by proxy so did I. You may have become the first person that, as a young professional, I added to my pantheon. I read “Designing with Web Standards”, ALA, and as much related and peripheral material I could find.
Reading your work, and exploring the things in the web industry you care about, had an extremely profound influence on how I shaped my career, and helped me discover what I cared about.
Fast forward 6 years. I’m in a place that I never expected to be. I’m the director of technology for a nearly 40 year old family owned company who is strong, profitable, and enjoys the ideas that I have for implementing technology to better serve their business and their customers and ultimately grow this business in ways that they’ve never thought were possible.
Through all of that, the original undertones of the fact that we’re building high quality technology using open source and open standards, stems from things I ultimately learned from you and your friends & colleagues.
In February, we embarked on a deep re-platforming of this company’s entire web infrastructure. From ASPX and Tables to PHP, clean URLS, semantic markup, beautiful designs and interactions. But that didn’t serve the business, which is an e-commerce company and we needed to connect all of that beautiful web technology to our warehouse software.
We built a bridge platform that’s purpose is to keep the warehouse and the web in communication with each other. Again, built using open source software (this time in python/django), we created required functions for business logic but also built an immense amount of business intelligence.
And when we pushed it into production, I decided that it shouldn’t have a cold, mechanical name. I wanted our team to be happy to refer to it. I tweeted asking for a name.
And I felt a circle close in my career. You, whom I’ve looked up to as a secret mentor for over half a decade, had a suggestion for what I should name something I’d spent significant time on and cared immensely about. Not only that, you suggested your daughter’s name. So I decided that our platform should be named Ava.
The point of all of this?
Thanks for being outspoken, thoughtful, opinionated, and more than anything, giving a damn. Not enough people in this world do, and I’m lucky to have found a way to surround myself with those who don’t know it any other way.