Wednesday, August 08, 2012

100 Days of Gratitude - Day 30: Steve Rogers

Steve Rogers
"F&%k, f&%k, f&%k...!"
On September 26, 2005, Steve Rogers joined GlobalGiving as Director of Engineering.  He picked up where Scott McLoughlin left off,  and there was good news and bad news.

The good news was that we were getting traction.  We had tens of thousands of users, and large partners (including innovative companies) were asking us to add more and more features.

The bad news was that we still did not have a lot of resources.  Steve had a couple of coders working with him, but good technical expertise was hard to come by in the Washington DC region in those days, especially at the rates we could pay at the time.

Like a contestant in one of those world's strongest men contests, Steve came in with a scowl and roar. He picked up an inhuman workload and seemed to toss it physically around the office.  (Someone told me one day Steve reminded him of Iorek Byrnison.)

Asking him to add a feature to site or fix a long-standing bug was always a dangerous proposition, eliciting a loud response that it was impossible, that it required ten people, that it would happen when hell froze over, and that no one understood anything about how tech worked.  Many on the team feared him, and some were scared to approach him.

Over the past seven years, Steve has touched over 2.1 million lines of code, presiding over extraordinary growth in traffic and functionality on the site.  When he took over, he realized that the only viable way forward was to retrofit our fledgling single engine airplane into a jumbo jet - while flying it! First he replaced the engines, then he lengthened the wings, then he added an entire new body to the jet.  All this without losing altitude, much less landing.

I will never forget the first day that I watched Marisa Glassman from our business partnership team approach Steve to ask for a new feature.  Some of her colleagues were crouched down behind their desks to avoid the expected shrapnel.  Instead, the two sat there talking quietly, and in the end Marisa walked calmly back to her computer and started working again.

In amazement, one of her colleagues asked what happened.  "He said he would try to get it done in the next two weeks," Marisa replied.  "Holy cow, how did that happen?" her colleague wondered.  "Oh, Steve's a real pussy cat; you just need to know how to handle him," Marisa said.

Marisa was right, Steve is a pussy cat, even if he can seemingly lift a thousand pounds.  One of Steve's colleagues, Kevin Conroy, says:
Although he probably doesn't want his ice hockey opponents to know it, he's one of the most caring guys you're likely to come across and is always looking for ways to make sure that everyone is taking care of themselves and their families in addition to getting their work done.
Because of this, Steve has been able to build a tech team second to none.  I admire his ability to find, motivate, and lead people more than I can say.  Kevin continues:
He's the reason that we can handle traffic spikes when we get a shout out on Oprah. Why our system doesn't crash when tens of thousands of people come to support Japan relief, and the reason why our tech team is among the best in the industry. His no-nonsense, results driven leadership inspires those who work for him.
Amen to that, brother.  And thank you, Steve.

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