We first met Douglas about a year after our company moved from Los Angeles to Austin. We getting to know the who’s who of the Austin startup scene and the name Douglas Ferguson kept coming up. What was interesting was the commonality in the recommendations for Douglas — he not only knows how to build a team, but he’s a real team player.
Fast forward to June of this year and we were looking for someone to consult with us part-time both to help make sure our AWS setup was rock solid, and to give insights into how we could better organize all things engineering. It was a hard combination of skills to find in a consultant and most we met with were more tactical and focused on writing code or building a system, not on helping an engineering team work better together.
When we met with Douglas and did a deeper dive into his background we realized, this is that special mix of skills we were looking for. Now the question was, would the team like him?
That’s the challenge with a consultant that goes beyond delivering code or solving a specific task, we were looking for someone that could look at our team, how we all worked together, and help us find ways to improve. We told our team, be totally honest, if you don’t feel like he’s a fit here, let us know, we only want to bring him onboard if we all feel like he can help.
After the first day with our team it was clear that Douglas had a really unique way of doing things. He didn’t come into our company with a set way to do things. He didn’t reference books he’d read that suggested we do things a certain way, instead he just listened.
The result was an almost instant level of comfort between our team and Douglas. Over time, this listening allowed Douglas to really take a step back and understand how we were working together and where we could improve. In a couple of weeks it was safe to say that Douglas wasn’t an outside consultant looking in, he was a real team player that we all felt was bought-into helping us streamlined the way we worked together.
Fast forward to today and Douglas really does feel like a member of the team. He’s gotten his hands dirty and learned the intricacies of our system, and at the same time, he’s created one seriously kick-ass Trello board that has helped us better communicate and prioritize engineering goals as a team. These goals are now alongside sales goals and marketing goals so that we’re all working together as a cohesive unit, rather than distinct and separate departments like we were before.
In short, Douglas is the definition of the team player. Sure, you can hire a consultant to do one specific thing, and there are plenty of amazing people out there that can do what you’re looking for. It takes a very special person to come in and not just improve how your team works together, but do so while becoming part of the team.
Startups are busy and hectic places, for some people that can mean disorganization and chaos. For people like Douglas, it is an opportunity to add a sense of calm, a feeling of organization, and a positive vibe that I think every company needs. The way we work together continues to evolve, and as our company grows so does our relationship with Douglas.
Originally we were looking for a consultant, I’m happy to say that what we found was someone that I think we all know is more than that — he’s a member of our team. He might not be there all day every day, but he always adds value and is always there when we need him. Now I’m just crossing my fingers he decides to continue to follow this path for years to come…but if not, I can tell you we’ll be competing with whoever is trying to take him off the market because it’s not easy to find people like Douglas.