I joined Building Blocks on the 19th January 2009 as the first Project Manager, staff member number 10 and the first permanent female employee! With the arrival of my fifth anniversary at Building Blocks, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my journey here so far and share a few of the experiences I've had along the way.
As cliche as it may sound, time really does fly when you're having fun and that has certainly been the case for me in the past 5 years. There has been a lot of hard work along the way, working with driven people who are passionate about what they do in an industry that doesn't stand still and is always evolving. No two days are ever the same and there's always something to get involved in outside of the day job.
Whilst you can see my career progression on LinkedIn, this post is intended to provide a bit more of a lighthearted insight into a few of the things I've been doing and celebrating over the last 5 years at Building Blocks.
January Day 1 at Building Blocks I walked into a small office in Pall Mall Court on King Street filled with co-founders Andy Iddon and Jonathan Whiteside and a lot of developers, took my place as the first full time Project Manager and got stuck in.
February Having missed the individual entry deadline for the Manchester 10k, I tried to rally my colleagues into entering a Building Blocks team, however it seemed this was a challenge too far for my code loving colleagues!
March Delivered my first projects with Building Blocks for Warner Leisure Hotels and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
June In my first appraisal I told Andy Iddon that I knew I'd never want to do sales, I was delivery focused through and through. He then challenged me to 'make a sale', with the ultimate prize on offer...a new pair of shoes!
Andy then taught me that selling is not about getting someone to buy something they don't need, it's about providing solutions to problems they have. Understanding one of my clients problems, I then worked with the technical team to define a solution and created a plan of how that solution could be realised and discussed it with my client. Off the back of that conversation, the project got up and running and I had officially made my first 'sale' and bought my very own pair of Dolce and Gabbana shoes on the company credit card!
July Delivery of my first international project for Vodacom in South Africa, this was a real milestone as I never met the client once in person, but it showed that you don't need to meet people face to face to build great working relationships and deliver fantastic results.
August Ian Stacey joined as the second Project Manager, we officially had a Project Management team and I now had to share the development team! This meant scheduling meetings to plan developers work each week and the creation of the 'work schedule'.
September With 19 employees and growing, Building Blocks moved offices to a more spacious 131 Portland Street. As you can see from the picture above, it needed a few alterations before we moved in, but it allowed for the space to be created inline with the needs of our growing company. On moving day I remember 19 of us barely filling one quarter of our our big new office, but the space didn't stay empty for long!
May Ran the Manchester 10k which fellow Building Blockers Ian Stacey and Dave Houlker finished in a much more impressive time than mine! With the start line for the race right outside our office on Portland Street, there really was no excuse for me not making it to the start line!
June Emma Robinson and Andy Butterworth, pictured above, joined the Project Management team which I then managed in my new role as Head of Production. This meant not only managing my own projects, but taking responsibility for the scheduling of all project work at Building Blocks and most importantly, approving the holiday requests!
September Our Quality Assurance arm was established with Christine Houlding, (pictured above, bottom right), joining as a Quality Analyst, this I was ecstatic about...dedicated testing - who wouldn't be excited?!
Testing at Building Blocks before this was a responsibility of the developer (let's be honest, we Project Managers never released anything to our clients that we weren't happy with so there is always a certain amount of testing we will always do), but having a dedicated tester meant that we could ensure quality work was delivered and free up our developers to carry on with what they love to do, coding!
December We were quickly filling the 2 floors at 131 Portland Street, with the Technical, Project Management and Testing teams growing from strength to strength we'd reached 37 employees by the end of the year.
January The Client Services Team was born with Mark Simpson joining as the first Account Manager, this meant new work discussions could be managed outside of the project management team, giving the dedicated time our clients needed, without losing focus on the delivery of in flight projects.
March We brought design work in house with John Saunders arrival in the office, whilst we always worked with trusted freelancers on design work, John's creativity bolstered our in house services and made everything look beautiful.
April Nicola Chew joined the Project Management team and Jacqui Williams soon followed, we were delivering projects in abundance and as we reached 45 employees we had filled our office space and needed more room! Thankfully we were able to get some stairs installed to the vacant office above, whilst this didn't mean the whole office had to move, it did mean keeping fit going from one floor to another.
May The Building Blocks US office opens with our first US based employee and I can't wait to head stateside and get working on my tan...if only!
May I ran the Manchester 10k again in the hope of beating last years time, but was 47 seconds slower and decided running was not my forte!
December Introduced one of the challenges in a video recorded for our Christmas Challenge campaign to raise money for charity. Seeing and hearing myself on camera put to bed my dreams of one day becoming a world famous actress, I can't stand listening to my own voice!
January Promoted to Service Delivery Director and responsible for all project and support work delivered by Building Blocks. This meant ensuring best practice delivery for our fixed price, fixed scope project work, but also our retained support contracts. Given that many clients we worked with had ongoing support and maintenance contracts and implemented new projects in parallel, it was key to establish a working process that suited our clients to give them the flexibility to maintain their existing websites whilst rolling out new features, sections or whole new sites.
February The pool table arrived at Building Blocks and you can actually book it to hold a meeting there! I don't seem to be as good at pool as I remember from my uni days, maybe the angles worked better when I'd had a few drinks at the student union? Either way, this is not something I'll be testing now I'm a professional!
May Featured in 2 photo's for Paul Welsh's 'Moustache Match' solution write up in .net magazine along with other colleagues sporting moustaches (both real and fake). Can you spot me in the picture above?
October Ate lots and lots of cake, made (and bought) by the team in support of our client Macmillan Cancer Support's 'World's Biggest Coffee Morning' fundraiser. This was a great day in the office, not only did we raise lots of money for a fantastic charity, we all ate soooooo much delicious cake!
December The first Christmas Jumper Day at Building Blocks arrived in support of Save The Children. I spent a (small) fortune in a pound shop to create a musical number but didn't win as Rune's fairy lights jumper took first place.
January We reached 50 employees and moved to a fabulously large office at 1 Portland Street, with all of us on one floor and more meeting rooms than we could dream of. We even had a conference room which seated 70 people and allowed us to hold company meetings in our own office!
February Our US office size doubled, with Nicholas Vander Ende joining Chris Morgan (both pictured above) in the San Francisco office.
March I embarked on my new role as Operations Director and got invited to present at the monthly board meetings! As Operations Director I'm responsible for balancing the amount of work we deliver against revenue targets and monthly cost budgets, whilst maintaining quality in everything we do. Working closely with the Client Services team to discuss up coming opportunities I plan for the future whilst my trusted Operations team manage more of the day to day questions and decision making.
March Putting our great facilities to the test Building Blocks host the Umbraco Meet Up in our conference room. The beer, pizza and technical talk go down a treat with everyone who attended and the event is a huge success.
April We completed our ISO 9001 Quality Management System assessment and soon after received our official certification, now proudly on display in reception! We've always had a tried and tested way of working that ensures quality for our clients, but managing the process to formalise this and have it independently assessed and certified by Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance is an achievement I am extremely proud of.
June Worked in our San Francisco office for a week (I only had to wait 2 years to get to our US office!) I saw the famous sights of San Fran, watched the New York Yankee's beat the Oakland A's at baseball with our American colleagues and attended SDL Innovate in San Jose to promote the services available with Building Blocks.
August I had 3 whole weeks off work (I'd highly recommend it) and got married! I received a massive bouquet of flowers (they were over half the height of me) sent with best wishes from all at BB. I returned to work in September as Mrs Sonia Lamb, a new email at the ready and finally able to use the newly branded business cards that I received 3 months earlier - I think Building Blocks were more prepared for my wedding than I was! That is a little white lie, there's still a project manager within me and the wedding was planned to perfection months ago ;o)
November With the Client Services, Project Management, Design, Technical and Test teams growing, we reached 60 full time employees and hit an all time record on the amount of work delivered in one month!
December Christmas Jumper Day became a tradition with it running for a second year in a row! My jumper failed to top the judges votes, but who could compete with Andy Whitehead in a Santa Suit onesie?!
December Building Blocks named in the Recommended Agencies Register (RAR), what a fantastic way to end the year!
5 years on from joining, Building Blocks is still a place with big plans and I'm looking forward to the challenges, triumphs and success that lies ahead. There's so much more I could tell you about, certainly some more work related activities, but that isn't really what this blog post is about. For me it's about taking the time to reflect on a fantastic 5 years at Building Blocks and think about where we'll be in 5 years time. So much has happened in the past 5 years, I know it's going to be a hell of a ride ahead!
I'd urge anyone thinking about joining the team to not hesitate for one second, apply now and you too could start your own Building Blocks story very soon!