I’m the co-founder and CTO of Woopie, which is a digital publishing platform. In a startup, you kind of do everything! So while I have spent a lot of time developing Woopie as a product, I also spend a fair amount of time selling, marketing, doing business development, looking after accounts and of course working with our customers. It is a lot to do but it’s always interesting. Working for yourself is the best because you can really push yourself and your company to its full potential.
How did you get into the digital publishing industry?
I have always worked in software development, but publishing is something I’ve become more and more obsessed with over the last four years. After leaving Microsoft in 2010, I went to work as a CTO for a digital magazine publisher in New York. I have always loved magazines and reading, but I had no idea how much I would love working in this space. Working with editors and writers on short deadlines is completely different from building software, and I learned so much. Ultimately that company took a different direction and I realised I was in a position to do something I had long wanted to do: create a magazine for the Irish tech community (Idea magazine). It only took me a couple of months working on Idea to figure out that there just weren’t good tools for digital publishing and that a lot of people were struggling in the same way I was. I quit teaching and consulting and started working full time on Woopie.
What does a typical working day entail?
I usually go to the gym first thing in the morning and straight into the office after that. To make sure everything gets done each week, I break up my days so that I have different focuses each day. I find this is more effective than trying to multitask each day. So I set Mondays and Wednesdays as product development, Tuesdays as planning & business development, Thursdays as marketing/sales efforts, and Fridays for accounts. Customer communication is the one thing I make sure to do every day.
If I’m doing development, designing or working on new features, I need quiet. I have enormous headphones and often just listen to white noise in the office. I often find I make significantly faster or better progress on these types of things either early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the office is relatively quiet. If I’m making good progress on something I generally go as long as I can because sometimes it’s hard to get into that groove again. This occasionally makes for late nights, so I make sure to balance it out so I don’t get overloaded.
What’s fun about your job?
Everything! Well that’s not true. It’s half true. Working on Woopie, the product, is the most fun thing and most interesting thing I’ve ever worked on. Visualizing new features and thinking about things no one else is doing is fantastic. Spending the time architecting solutions to our crazy ideas is challenging and very rewarding. The things that aren’t fun are the ones that, as a startup, you think get in the way of you creating something great. The legal work, the business infrastructure, the accounts, the pitch training, the applications for grants and funding, they all take a lot of time and thought and often feel like distractions. I absolutely love making Woopie work and look great, and I love talking to my customers and hearing about the cool things they want to create and how happy they are using our product. I’m so excited about the product’s potential to help people, and that is really fun.
If you had advice for anyone wanting to get into the same industry, what would it be?
As an engineer, one of the things I learned early on was that just because people use a computer all day for their job doesn’t mean it’s comfortable or intuitive for them. This was quite surprising for me, but I found a lot of people who find computers to be sources of stress and who don’t like using devices or computers. So many of the editors, writers, and publishers I have worked with find a lot of software quite frustrating and confusing. I think it is critical to spend a lot of time with your customers, making sure that things are user-friendly and task-focused. It’s also important to ensure your software makes their life, their job, easier and less stressful.
… and finally, when you’re not busy at work …
I keep busy outside of work too. I love travelling, but don’t get to do a lot of it at the moment unless it’s Woopie-related. I enjoy learning languages and learning to cook new things. Next I’d love to take a course on making your own bacon & sausages! I am a huge bacon fan.