(Finally) introducing our new employees (and a new office)

Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed the post a while back about hiring staff (and the really attentive will have spotted a couple of new commenters). If you have been to see us in person, you will have found me (director, founder and generally important person) sat in the corridor. We ran out of space in our little office at Waterloo when we hired Christophe Maximin (web developer) and Leonie Wharton (Graphic Designer) at the beginning of September.

As a consequence, we have moved office - to 151 Tower Bridge Road (still in SE1 in central London - a short walk from London Bridge) (again, eagle-eyed readers already knew this - after we blogged the break-in). But more of that later. First, we need to introduce the newcomers, but before we do that - what's going on? How come Distilled which was just Duncan and I at the beginning of the year, now numbers 6? (and that's not including Michael who is hopefully coming back for more punishment when he's finished his dissertation and Graeme who is still doing a sterling job keeping the various servers safe, secure and speedy).

Well, you see, it's all Andy and Deborah's fault. Back in February, Andy advised us that our first hire should be an account manager (hence Emily) - in order to free Duncan and I up to grow the business in the way that we wanted to.

That worked pretty well.

Then we started being coached by Deborah. Initially, we turned to her to help us cope with the stress of running a small business. She quickly diagnosed competitiveness and an extreme impatience for success in Duncan and I and advised that the best way of avoiding the stress of running a small business was not to run a small business, but to be stressed by running a bigger business.

The final straw was learning about the valley of death - a recurring theme after that in our coaching session was in the need to grow a bit. By this point, Tom had already joined us part time and we were well on our way (you'll have seen him around!). It was at this time that we decided to grow aggressively (as Deborah says "what's the worst that can happen?" (she also says "how does that make you feel?" a lot, but that's different...)).

As a sneak preview of the future, by the way, we think the next hire is most likely to be a writer (preferably with marketing experience as well), but that is yet another story for another day.

##Adding a graphic designer

In recent times, we have passed our branding leads to our favourite branding agencies: Stedman Oliver Creative (responsible for the Distilled identity) and Bull Rodger (direct response kings). We are going to continue to do that - we don't have any ambitions to get into big branding projects. We have gradually realised the benefit to an agency like ours, however, of having great design resource in-house. I think this first started to dawn on us when we had Krystle Cho work with us for a couple of months on an internship from UC Davis in California. In her first week, she had made our presentation for our how to make PR work online seminar look fantastic as well as typesetting our how to make PR work online ebook. As we realised the benefit to our internal projects, we made the call that even if we wouldn't initially be keeping our new designer busy full time with client work, everything about the business would benefit so much that it was definitely the right direction.

Enter Leonie Wharton - Distilled's employee with the current dubious distinction of having the longest commute (unless you count Tom trekking to London from Leeds) - who joined us straight from university. The references her tutors gave her went so far beyond polite acknowledgements that they knew her - one was possibly the best reference I have ever seen.

We are thrilled to have Leonie on the team. You'll start noticing that everything we do looks better. You can already see her influence in the design of the icon for the AdWords to AdCenter converter.

##Our Guadeloupe-ian prodigy

The other position we advertised was that of 'web developer'. Taking some advice from the SEOmoz hiring guide (and learning from our prior experience of the number of ridiculously rubbish applications you get when you advertise online), we put together a wufoo form containing a number of pertinent questions about best practices in web development and gently probing to understand the experience and aptitude of our applicants.

One application caught our eye early. We really hoped that the interview would go well, because his application made us laugh. Written in practically perfect English (with just enough of a hint of interesting phrasing to let us know that he was telling the truth when he asked us to excuse his jokes because "I am French"), it was funnier, had better spelling and a clearer understanding of the relevant technical issues than any of our other applicants.

This was despite its author having:

- come from Guadeloupe (that day, practically) - no-one in his family who spoke English (he taught himself mainly on the Internet and with TV - proving that education is what you make of it, and that there is a use for lolcats!) - never been taught English - left college after 4 weeks - not yet turned 20

When Christophe Maximin arrived for interview, he quickly proved that, although he was never going to be a safe hire, he was the right answer for us. He parsed some deliberately poorly-written HTML in seconds in his interview and found all the mistakes we had planted.

On his first day, we needed to make some changes to a client's website template and as I was explaining how to find the folder, he had already finished making the change (in his trusty vim editor). This was despite me not yet having explained our content management system or the smarty templating system (which he had never seen before).

Although he's a Ruby on Rails fan, he's learning CakePHP in order to play nicely with Duncan and I think you're going to see a lot more applications built by Monsieur Maximin.

##The new office

So. With our fantastic new employees, and their shiny new computers (Leonie with her 24" iMac and Adobe CS3 Suite and Christophe with his dual 19" monitors and Ubuntu (mainly many virtual desktops full of vim as far as I can tell)), we were well on our way to building into a powerhouse. Or we would have been if we could all fit into the office.

The little office in our quirky space in the crypt of St. John's Church had 4 desks in it (and only just enough room for that many!). Which leaves us where the story started - with me sat in the corridor - tidying my laptop away every time I had to go anywhere (awwwwwww).

Following a traumatic search, we found a shiny new office (to go with the shiny new computers) on Tower Bridge Road - a short walk from London Bridge. I've just been trying to look it up on Microsoft maps' fantastic new "bird's eye" view, but it looks like it was a building site when the picture was taken: our office. To make up for that, here's a picture of our neighbourhood.

We're now in and up and running. It has 8 desks initially, which will mean that we all fit (even if Tom comes down and Michael brings his dissertation to the office). The office move itself was subject to its own traumas caused by our lovely telecoms incumbent, BT. Hissssss. At some point, we'll get some pictures (or even a video) up.

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About the author
Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. For the...   read more