This is the second most frequently asked question I have received since agreeing to leave a perfectly wonderful job as president of a large, publicly-held, well-established, and successful supplier of networking and communications equipment to lead the team here at Digium. The question comes in many different forms, some direct and some in a round-about fashion, and most often comes from someone that is, well, lets just say, more my age than is the prototypical Digium employee. After all, why would someone give up the big corner office with a great view on the top floor with the cherry desk and credenza for a folding table and this creature as an office mate?
This creature by the way is known as Guardian and is the creation of Mark Spencer, Digium’s founder and a man of rock-star status in the community of open source developers.It’s a Digium icon – but apparently is more of a fixed-base operator than a mobile operator – so when Mark moved out of this office upon my arrival I was awarded custody of Guardian and Mark negotiated visitation rights for every other weekend.
To someone who’s not been following the disruption that Digium and other open source companies like Digium represent in the world of software development (anyone notice the sell of Zimbra to Yahoo for $350M?), and is brazen enough to ask me directly, I suspect the stream of consciousness that spews forth for the next fifteen minutes includes far more detail than was expected or possibly warranted.But hey, I’m an excitable boy.
It gives me the opportunity to explain how IP Telephony and Unified Communications is disrupting traditional business communications.It’s usually followed up with how mass collaboration and open source is disrupting the way large-scale software development is done.I then throw in a few paragraphs about how the traditional PBX will become obsolete in favor of software applications running on either dedicated or virtual machines – and follow that up by explaining that Digium is at the epicenter of where each of these market trends intersect.By then, if I haven’t caused the person’s head to spin around backwards, I can move on to reasons that even my father, who approaches luddite status, can understand.
I don’t really know if people and personalities come in ‘big company’ or ‘small company’ models, but if they do I’m certainly of the small company variety.I will mention that when the little company I helped found was acquired by my previous employer, the combination was approximately the size that Digium is today.The excitement and enthusiasm of building something and watching it take shape along the way with the thrill of knowing that if you make bad decisions today you may not be here tomorrow, is in the Alabama vernacular, what cranks my tractor.
Having been at Digium now for several months, I’m even more bullish on the future prospects for the company than before joining (which I’m sure is a relief to my wife).That notwithstanding, I must admit some early apprehension to moving into a company where I have more gray hairs that the entire company combined.However, what the Digium team lacks in experience, they more than make up for in enthusiasm and innovation.After all, most of them were here when I arrived because they ‘got it’ way before I did.Mark Spencer had succeeded in creating a culture that attracts young, energetic, and innovative talents into the company.This has produced what might be called a ‘west-coast-style’ culture here in north Alabama – which is non-traditional, quirky, and occasionally irreverent, but is also fun, challenging, and engaging.Culture is such an important and often fragile aspect of any company’s success, and one of my goals is to preserve and protect those elements of culture that have served the company so well.
So, combine the business opportunity with a unique culture and an idealistic group of people who believe that Digium has the potential to change the world, and you get the answer to the second most asked question I’ve heard since joining Digium. By the way, if you’re interested in learning the answer to the most frequently asked question I’ve heard since joining the company, stay tuned to future blog entries.