After many inspiring years, I am leaving Cooper. In this blogpost, I will reflect on my time at Cooper, and the powerful and formative experiences I’ve had here.
Before I came to Cooper (for the second time)*, my all-time longest stay at a job was 18 months. When I ran out of steam or patience, I found a new job, a new group of mentors, a new set of problems. My wandering stopped when I came to Cooper in April 2000. The work never got old. Mentors surrounded me. Clients with really complicated problems trusted me, and inspired me to do great work. New teammates arrived with exotic backgrounds, and injected divergent ideas into my process.
My farewell email became a long list of people to thank, and sparked a lot of nostalgia. When I started at Cooper in 2000, my first design teammate had designed software for the Newton. (It seems quaint now, but back then it felt like a very authentic sort of street cred.) The guy at the desk next to me had been a studio assistant for the British artist, Andy Goldsworthy. The guy who hired me had been a journalist. Another played the theremin. Compared to them, my background as a science museum program developer felt very square, and I simply wanted to find a way to contribute to the very potent diversity of skills and perspectives. Talking about “culture” is very trendy now, but I’ve always admired, and taken pride in, the wild variety of people that make up Cooper.
The work has always been amazing. In my first year at Cooper, I worked on a sophisticated financial asset management tool, an early e-commerce site for plastic auto parts, and a tool for game developers implementing haptic feedback. Over the years, I watched software eat the world; often, it felt like we were sitting right there at the table, cutting the world into bite-sized pieces. I loved that we traveled through domains that hadn’t quite been named until after we’d finished the project: Big data before “Big Data.” I worked on interactive experiences that helped people design telecom networks, implant prosthetic knees and hips, manage truck fleets, plan brain surgeries, manage a supply chain, and predict the impact of natural disasters on insurance portfolios.
I am deeply grateful to the clients around the globe who brought us gnarly problems and opportunities to invent new things. In my time at Cooper, I worked for big companies, startups, and small companies on shoestring budgets, who paid invoices with personal checks. They placed an incredible amount of trust in us, and maintained it even as we pushed them into uncomfortable places. As a wise person once said, simple is hard. I appreciate the many opportunities that our clients have given me to make their lives hard, in the quest to make their product or service better.
So, why would I ever leave a place that has given me so much? I love the work we do at Cooper, but after 15 years, I again need to experience a new set of problems. My Apple life will look different from my Cooper life. For one, I’ll take a shuttle to work, instead of casual carpool. I’ll have a boss again. (And I wish him the best of luck in managing me). I’ll move from a small and mighty company of 45 to one with 80,000 employees.
What drew me to Cooper was band of humanists on a very worthy mission. I could make a long list of things I will miss about the day-to-day of Cooper — the co-workers and the passionate, motivated clients, the permission to speak the truth even when it’s uncomfortable, the quick pace from problem to awesome. I will also miss the never-ending exposure to new things, new new things, new new new things, the thrill of winning awesome work, doing it well and, most of all, seeing it in the world. Cooper has always felt like a little pirate ship, pointed to the horizon, unafraid to explore the unknown. I’ll miss that, and I feel lucky to have been along for the ride. The Cooper I leave is very different than the Cooper I joined, but it’s just as exciting and enriching. I look forward to watching the company continue to create the future of business.
Hello, world. And thank you, Cooper, for 15 action-packed and unforgettable years.
*In my first weeks at Cooper, the Dow and NASDAQ lost a combined one trillion dollars in value. (Uh-oh). The shockwave hit Cooper almost exactly a year later, and I was laid off. I spent seven months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, traveling in China and thinking about applying to law school. I mean, could I really make a living doing interaction design? In retrospect, the layoff was perfectly timed. It gave me room to reflect on what I actually wanted to do with my life … and that included giving Cooper another chance to fire me. Which they never did, for some reason.