Under The Microscope


Archive for the ‘Employee Milestones’ Category

Long-Term Support

Rogue Amoeba has been around for almost 13 years, and in that time we’ve been fortunate to work with phenomenal employees, some of whom have stuck with us for many years. Most recently, our technical support lead Chris Barajas celebrated his five year anniversary with the company. After half a decade of helping customers with our products, we now take a moment to express our gratitude to Chris.

Technical support is a demanding role here at Rogue Amoeba. It requires responding to emails rapidly and continuously, so that customers and potential customers alike get the answers they need. In addition to providing helpful and polite responses, there’s a great deal of problem-solving required. Tracking down bugs and issues based on reports from users is also a key part of the job. We’ve had a half-dozen people handle the role over the years, and none have lasted as long as Chris. We’re tremendously grateful for the work he’s done and the stability he’s provided. We know that the many, many, many users he’s helped are grateful as well.

It’ll Last and Last

When an employee reaches the five year mark with us, we present them with a distinctive gift we hope will be meaningful to them specifically. Given that Chris can work from just about anywhere where he has an Internet connection, he’s done quite a bit of traveling over the years. He’s also spent a good amount of time refining what he carries with him. With this in mind, we set out to find Chris a great bag to travel with, ultimately deciding on a gorgeous briefcase from Saddleback Leather:

Briefcase

(Out of focus dog not included)

When a company offers a 100 year warranty and uses the slogan “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead”, you know they’re worth checking out. It’s clear that the folks at Saddleback care as much about their products as we do about ours, and Chris has been delighted with the bag. We hope he has decades more use of it.

Of course, there was also a custom made card, as well as one of the 5 year challenge coins we’ve had minted. All of this is just a small way to show our appreciation for the work Chris has done.

Challenge Coin

Card

Thank You!

Chris is often fortunate to be able to receive appreciative feedback from those users he’s helped, but it’s important to publicly acknowledge the milestone as well. We want to thank Chris for his hard work since 2010. He’s helped thousands upon thousands of customers with our products, and then guided us to improve those products based on that feedback. So thank you Chris, and here’s to more great work in the future!

Previously

We’ve previously celebrated the five year anniversaries of four other employees here at Rogue Amoeba: Christa, Lee, Jeff, and Mike.

Five Good Looking Years

As some folks know, Rogue Amoeba is a distributed company, with home offices around the globe. This has both upsides and downsides, and it leads us to work hard to make the company feel like a cohesive group. Part of that is taking time to celebrate major releases and anniversaries. As readers of this site may recall, one big anniversary we celebrate is five years with the company. Previously, Mike Ash, Jeff Johnson, and Lee Falin all reached that mark, and were properly feted. Now, it’s Christa Mrgan’s turn!

Christa joined us back in October of 2009, as our first full-time designer. When we started the company, we used various part-timers for our art needs. As we grew, we realized we needed more, and eventually we sought out someone to work with us full-time. Unfortunately, we had a run of prospects who simply didn’t work out.

I had first met Christa at WWDC in 2009, and we hit it off as friends. After repeatedly bemoaning our troubles in finding a suitable designer with her, we eventually realized that, hey, she ought to give it a shot. More than five years later, it’s clear this was the right call. In ways both big and small, Christa has touched almost every single thing we make here at Rogue Amoeba. She’s done touch-up work on older apps, and full designs for newer apps, and all of our apps are better for it. There’s lots more to come, too, with some major updates including improved designs coming in the next year.

Piezo and the Braun RT-20

One of Christa’s best designs can be found in Piezo, our charmingly simple audio recording tool. Piezo was made to be very simple to set up, with one big record button and not much else, and it certainly succeeds in the ease-of-use department. However, its interface and corresponding icon also look great, featuring subtle wood grains and other textures. Even after the skeuomorphic trend has passed, Piezo still holds up well.

Christa did a lot of research finding reference images for old stereo equipment. As Christa noted in her Piezo design review from 2012, perhaps the most relevant hardware found was the Braun RT-20 radio. You can read more about that radio thanks to Australia’s Powerhouse Museum.

The RT-20 hasn’t been made for decades, but I knew this would be a great gift for Christa. Thankfully, the Internet makes it possible to track down things like this. After I hunted down and acquired an RT-20 to match Piezo, Quentin did some work in restoring it.

Christa's Braun RT-20

The controls are all in German, but it works! It sounds great, and it looks even better. We hope it enjoys pride of place in the Mrgan household for many years to come. As Christa’s Instagram photo indicates, she was delighted:

…[C]heck this out: a vintage Braun RT-20 radio, which inspired the design of Piezo, the first product I designed from inception at Rogue Amoeba. PLUS a special challenge coin for the RA elite (5 years!) Many thanks to [Paul] for hunting it down, and to Quentin for restoring it. And to both, for a job I enjoy doing!

Thanks for Five Great Years and More to Come

So then, allow us to issue a public thank you to Christa for her great work in the past half-decade! We look forward to the future as well, with many exciting new products and updates in the pipeline, all with your mark upon them.

P.S. Now Hiring

This also seems like a great place to mention that we’re currently hiring. While Christa handles all our current design needs, we do have an opening for a Cocoa developer. If you’re interested to join us in making top-notch audio products used by Mac users the world over, we’d love to hear from you.

You can get the full details on our Jobs page. Apply now!

Five for Falin

Last year, we celebrated Jeff Johnson’s five year anniversary with Rogue Amoeba. At the beginning of 2014, we were able to celebrate another milestone, as Lee Falin hit his own five year anniversary. While these two celebrations came close to one another, such longevity with a company is relatively rare, and decidedly worthy of note.

We shared a private celebration with Lee and the team already, but we also like to publicly acknowledge these important anniversaries. Lee began his work with us back in 2009 as a support technician, and many of you may have been helped by him. While working support, he improved our processes, which is still benefiting folks now. However, he eventually moved on to taking over development of Airfoil for Windows in 2010, where he’s helped develop a steady stream of updates. In one way or another, Lee has helped tens of thousands of our users, and we thank him for it. We’ve been thrilled to have him, and look forward to the future.

A Real Virtual Gift

Each time an employee reaches the five year mark with us, we present them with a personal gift. Rather than a pin, or plaque, or paperweight, we try to find something that will be meaningful to the individual. For Lee’s gift, though, we went with something incredibly cool. It’s something just about all geeks lust for, yet something that’s not quite practical for most to purchase.

That gift is the Oculus Rift, a next-generation virtual reality headset. If you know the Oculus Rift, you may already be jealous. The rest of our team certainly was (including the founders!). But you don’t have to take our word for it, because even 90-year-old grandmothers enjoy the Oculus Rift!

Lee's Swag
Caution: Contents May Be Fun!

Lee received the Oculus Rift development kit, as pictured, which will enable him to hack and play around. When the first consumer version ships, he’ll receive one of those as well, which should include some fun games. For now though, Lee’s just started fiddling with the dev kit:

“It is definitely an interesting experience, and more than once I jerked my head backwards to avoid a wall, or felt my stomach lurch if I tried to move to quickly. I haven’t had much time to do anything other than plug it in and try the demo, but I look forward to using it for a secret About box in Airfoil for Windows.”

If you look at the image above, you might notice the card featuring Ammo scaling Big Ben on the card. Our designer Christa made that, because Lee and his family have been living in England recently. As well, you can see that Lee also received a 5 Year Challenge Coin. The aforementioned Mr. Johnson was the first employee to receive one of those, but now Lee has joined this exclusive club as well.

Thank You!

Thanks for all your work over the past five years, Lee. Here’s to many more great years to come!

Another Momentous Occasion

Long ago, back in the days of EDGE smartphones, we welcomed aboard Jeff Johnson as employee #008 at Rogue Amoeba. That was back in June of 2008, which means we’re now celebrating five full years of working with Jeff! Such an anniversary is most decidedly worthy of note, and so we’d like to take a moment to show our appreciation.

When our first employee Mike reached his fifth anniversary, we procured a special gift in the form of a hard-to-get SSD drive for him, and customized it with a personalized engraving. For Jeff, we went a slightly different route.

Tennis, Anyone?

As anyone familiar with our Staff page knows, Jeff quite enjoys playing tennis. For Jeff’s anniversary, we came up with the idea of a VIP shopping experience to acquire some new, top-of-the-line tennis gear. A quick search led me to The Tennis Shop, a small and well-reviewed family-run business in Madison, Wisconsin. Speaking with the Dermodys for just a few minutes was all it took to know I’d found the right business to work with, and they were happy to help us out.

We prepared an elegant card to inform Jeff of his gift:

Jeff's Card
As Elegant as Ammo Gets

Jeff will be working with Peter Dermody to pick out exactly what he wants (on us, of course). After that, he’ll be storming the courts, so watch out, Wisconsinites.

Members Only

In addition to Jeff’s personalized gift, we also created something we’ll be giving to all members of Rogue Amoeba’s Five Year club: a challenge coin. If you’re in the military, or know someone who is, you’re probably familiar with challenge coins. If not, they’re custom coins which prove membership in a club or celebrate an accomplishment. In this case, our challenge coin recognizes an employee’s five years with the company:

The 5 Year Coin
Shiny!

Replete with Latin (“For Five Years with the Company”), the coin signifies Jeff as a member of a very exclusive club. While we hope to add all employees to this club, it’s still a rare thing worth marking with a bit of pomp.

Say It Again

While we celebrated with Jeff privately, it’s also worth noting his accomplishments publicly. Tens of thousands of users have benefited from Jeff’s great work over the past half-decade, particularly in Airfoil. But Jeff’s had a hand in almost everything we’ve released in recent years, so if you’re using a Rogue Amoeba product, he’s probably made it better for you.

And from the founders, thanks for the past five years Jeff, and we hope to have you around for many more!

Celebrating 5 Years

Way back when Rogue Amoeba was nearing its third birthday, we were excited to bring on our first employee – Mike Ash. On September 30th, we’ll celebrate our eighth birthday, which means Mike has been with Rogue Amoeba for five full years!

When I noticed this milestone approaching, I knew we should celebrate it somehow. We have a form of profit-sharing here, as well as annual bonuses and other gifts (iPads for all! Apple TVs for all!), but this occasion called for something a bit more special.

We wanted to give Mike something both useful and personalized. After kicking around some ideas, we settled on engraving a solid state drive (SSD), the ultra-fast, ultra-not-inexpensive new storage technology. To make things more interesting, we decided to do the engraving in-house. Co-founder and CTO Quentin describes the process:

To The Engraving Machine!

About a year ago I picked up a small bench-top CNC machine for making circuit boards and electronics enclosures. Configured correctly though, it can also do simple engraving.

The process starts with designing what you want to engrave as vector-based artwork. Naturally this task fell to Christa, who made the initial design in Adobe Illustrator. From that initial artwork I then generated tool path code (using Cut2) for the CNC machine to follow and do the engraving.

For the first prototype run, I used machinable wax to see how things looked:

A wax test run

If you look carefully, you’ll see that Ammo’s head hasn’t engraved correctly here. Engraving is a rather precise operation – this engraving was cutting only three thousandths of an inch of material out of the wax. Because the wax block was not held perfectly parallel to the engraving bit, by time the bit traveled to the top of Ammo’s head, it was no longer touching the block at all.

This posed a problem for engraving the SSD enclosure itself, as it would have to be held flat within two thousandths of an inch to get a good looking result. To hold the SSD within the required tolerance, it was disassembled and a custom fixture was made to hold it as flat as possible. Despite my best effort though, I could not achieve the required parallelism, and so engraving the SSD itself was abandoned.

Thus was hatched Plan B: engrave something simpler and then bolt it to the SSD. This provided the benefit of being much easier as well as making it possible to move the engraving to new hardware when the old drive went obsolete. As luck would have it, I had nice black anodized aluminum sheet metal, perfect for engraving:

Halfway done with the final product

The final plate required three more prototypes before all the bugs in the process worked out. Here you see the “Rogue Amoeba” logo being engraved on the final production run. The engraving bit is a 0.01″ 60 degree half round engraving bit, spun at 11,000 RPM, moving at 10 inches per minute. WD-40 is applied generously to both cool the bit and lubricant the cutting. Total machining time for the final run was around 45 minutes.

The Final Product

Once Quentin was done engraving, he attached the plate to the drive itself and sent it to Christa for final preparations:

Final engraving

Christa packaged up the drive along with the very pretty card expressing our thanks:

Card and SSD

Mike received our token of appreciation yesterday, and got it set up. How did he like it? We’ll let his tweet answer that.

One More Time

We said it privately, but I’ll do it one more time here on the site. Thanks for five great years Mike, and here’s to many more to come!

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