Recently my company Schematical and I have had some good fortune and our team is growing. Last week I hosted a grill out with the majority of our team. Toward the end of the dinner I felt it necessary to propose a toast. One of the main focuses of the toast was that we are building a business around our lives not the other way around.

One of the key things I remember mentioning in the toast was to one of our team members that had recently welcomed his infant daughter into the world. It is my goal that he never miss a soccer game (or if I have my way, gymnastics competition) because of work. I sincerely meant that.

As I was working out this morning a thought struck me: I should have my team tell me what their ideal work environment looks like.

What times of day would they prefer to work?

I know a lot of devs that do their best work in the latest hours others in the early morning. Some with kids are going to have to split their days into pieces.

Where do they want to work from?

I know my Senior Dev is thinking about spending the winter in Tahoe and my Administrative Assistant will be traveling to 411 US National Parks over the next few years.

What do they want to work on?

My Administrative Assistant maybe doing the books but that only takes up part of his time. Hopefully he can dream up new projects that excite him and help the company in some way.

Putting it into action:

As of this morning this is now an exercise that each team member has to do when they come on to the team. (Those of you already on I will be hitting you up on this soon).

As I thought further I figured it would probably be a difficult task so perhaps I should kick it off by writing my own. I don't want to be assigning bureaucratic tasks that I would not do myself. So here I am eating my own dog food and sharing it with you.

Matt's Ideal Work Environment:

(This is tough, I have actually been staring at this screen for about 5 minutes).

Where:

I like to live my life in seasons.

  • Summer: At Camp
  • Fall: In Madison
  • Winter: Somewhere warm like Austin
  • Spring: Wild card (maybe Europe next year).

When:

For those of you that know me I have trouble turning off sometimes. I find I like my early morning 5am-8am for personal reflection while training/working out. This is also when I do most of my writing.

After that I like to work in about 90 minute intervals until between 5PM-7PM. Every 90 minutes I try and get up and move around. This is a perfect time for a 10-20 minute meeting/walk (I like combining the two) or some other type of physical activity. At camp 20 minutes is a perfect amount of time to squeeze in a quick workout.

In the evening I like to do a social activity. Often this means coaching or sharing dinner with friends (Cooking is one of my favorite relaxing activities). Then if I am lucky I crash somewhere around 9:30PM only to get up and do it again the next day.

What I want to work on:

Again I like to switch it up. Some days I am a writer. Most days I am an inventor. More often than not a student but often enough a teacher.

What I enjoy working on currently that is most profitable for Schematical is large scale web application architecture. It's like solving a Sudoku puzzle that instead of 9 by 9 is 1000 by 1000, is 3 dimensional, is constantly changing, and takes years to "solve".

For some of you the Sudoku example probably sounds like your idea of hell. If you are on a team it is important for the other team members to know that so guys like me get assigned those puzzles and you get assigned the other stuff that I cannot do such as spelling things correctly.

Long Term:

I want to meet at least quarterly in person for a week for a long term retreat with the team. This might just be a lake house we AirBNB in Northern Wisconsin or it might be a straw hut in Bali as long as it has internet. We will probably have some retreats just the team, others the team and clients, and other the team and their families. Since my family has played such a key role in the rise of Schematical I plan to keep that part of the tradition.

For the summer one I have this wild dream of making it a company perk that we will pay for one week of camp for each of the team member's children. Then we fly the team with their kids to camp. The kids will have their fun and the team members will work on what is coming up next for Schematical. I know it is a long shot but let me dream.

Other Stuff:

I doodle during meetings and plan to continue to do so. It helps me stay focused on the meeting and I take better notes that way since my pen is already to paper.

I am not a huge fan of wearing suits and ties. I chose two occupations (coach/remote contractor) where I could wear sweatpants 90%+ of the time for a reason. I enjoy wearing my Star Wars PJs and Fuzzy Bear Slippers. Therefore I could never contemplate depriving my team of being able to wear clothes that express themselves. Yeah there are the occasional meetings with clients but on a day-to-day basis please feel free to rock whatever style makes you comfortable.

I always want to keep learning and reinventing myself. If I am not challenged I start losing my mind. Last year the month after camp ended, before I picked up my new wonderful contract, I was loosing my mind with boredom. Keep me challenged, keep me moving forward.

I plan to keep coaching until the day I die. I may someday retire from the Web Application Architecture game but I don't ever foresee me retiring from coaching. If my role in the company ever pivots to a point where I can no longer coach I assure that role will be short lived.

Eventually I want to have a lake house in Northern Wisconsin that the aforementioned retreats can be held at. I will work from there in the fall while I am in Wisconsin.

Conclusion:

Wow, that was a massive brain dump. I wrote this mainly for my team. I don't want them to be afraid to communicate what non traditional things it will take to make them happy. Were a small company, were no Google, and I will never be able to compensate you financially like Wall Street, but I am not sure that would make you happy even if I could.

As long as we are providing more value to our client’s than they expect on a daily basis then why not be comfortable, have fun, and share our adventure with other awesome people while we do it?

Let's figure out together how to make the most of our time together inventing cool shit and enjoying this adventure called "Life".

Thanks for reading everyone!

PS: Random thought - Those of you not working at Schematical may want to consider defining your ideal working environment and submitting it to your employers. Don't just take what you're handed, sometimes you have to be bold to get the most out of life. ~Cheers

About the author