What does a software company look like? 12/4/2013

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to visit AWeber.  They are going to take part in our Hour of Code events next week.  They have helped us organize several technology companies to come to our school district.  These companies will demonstrate what they do and the paths that lead to employment in a technology company.  One of the goals of our week long events is to show students that the typical vision of the “coder” is not a reality.   The “coders” (or “makers” as I like to think of them) come from many different fields and backgrounds and yes some of them never actually write lines of code.  Coding a computer is no longer just line after line of a text based programming language.  Coding is a way of thinking and interacting with technology that everyone is capable of doing.  Bob one of the “makers” as I like to think of them, even stated that a 10 year old could pick up the skills needed to code in CSS and html in just a few weeks.  Bob I am sending my kids on over.

AWeber  designs web-based tools  to help businesses grow by staying in touch with customers and prospects through email.   To support their email marketing software, they have a robust customer solutions department and a thriving website with educational resources.  Beyond the CS department they also have an education department that provides training and education for their clients in using the products.  They even have an employee, Brandon , who’s primary job is to manage social media of the company. (#Brandon is his nick name)

During my site visit I was amazed at the value that is given to each employee at the company.  There are activities available for them to unwind, a restaurant that creates exquisite plates and lots of different chairs.  Yes chairs are important.  They have set up many spaces for people to work together and be comfortable so that they can live up to the potential that each employee has.  I have to admit I was a bit jealous when I walked in the door of the building and saw the two twisty slides.

Our afternoon began with some informal meet and greets.  Everyone was happy to stop what they were doing and chat with us for a bit about what they do and how they got into the position.  Our tour guides were AmandaEric, and  Mike.  They answered all of our questions and showed us every bit of the building.  (I have included some pictures at the bottom and WOW  is really all I can say to that…) We even ran into the CEO and founder Tom and the COO Sean.  Tom even posed for pictures.  The very interesting thing about their layout is that there are no offices.  There are stations in an open format.  There are private rooms for meetings but the stations of Tom and Sean and the CTO Brian are all in the same open space as the engineers and designers.  Every one is valued in the company. In fact they just recently had an event (one of many such events) that brought the entire company together for a thanksgiving meal where they created a book of culture.  I n that book they all submitted what was important to them about the culture of AWeber.  Doesn’t this sound like a place you would like to work?  Where is this place..California, New York, Seattle, nope…It is in Chalfont, Pennsylvania just north of Philadelphia.  In fact Brandyn (across the desk from #Brandon AKA  “Lady Brandyn”  and PR manager ) calls AWeber the new Silicon Valley.

We ended the day with a fantastic discussion with AmandaEric, and  Mike along with two engineers Kelly and Matt.  We talked about starting a program for students in Bucks County, PA where different technology companies would get involved with school districts to help promote STEM education.  At the end of the conversation I felt excited and  energized and I can’t wait to get started (more to come on that in a later post).

All in all it was a fantastic afternoon.  And yes I went down the slide.

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