One Year At Akamai

A little over a year ago I came to work for Akamai filled with hope and optimism for my new job. Today I am even more hopeful and jazzed to be going to work every day. It is, without question, the best job, and working environment, I have ever had.

A lot of this is due to the team I’m on. I am surrounded by smart people who work well together, and are damn good at what they do. The product we’re working on is filled with interesting problems, and possibilities (both financial and technical), and I have to say that I absolutely love being a part of it.

What I like about this team, and this job, and it seems this company overall, is that they allow you to find, or build, your niche, and thrive in it. When I started here I was doing standard web development stuff, but we needed a way to easily configure and automatically update our back end systems. So, seeing an interesting task that needed someone to tackle it, I did. And now it’s pretty much mine. They’ve let me build up this component from scratch because I wanted to, and they supported my ideas for doing it. But what’s even cooler is how pervasive that attitude is…

We have two guys on our team who are fresh out of school. Interns, who have graduated, and come on full time within the past six months or so. They’re smart, but, like all young programmers lacking in experience. But, no-one here treats them like newbs. The other day the CTO, who happenes to also be the head of our team, stopped by the cube of our newest intern and was asking him to bring up some stuff he’s been working on, asking him questions, and treating the responses in the same way he would any developer who’d been here for years. He’s not a newb, he’s just another team member who we expect to have a few more questions. And the project he’s working on is, not only almost entirely his now, but is also a critical piece of our infrastructure. Both of our ex-interns proved they had good heads on their shoulders when they started here and we treat them as such.

Shortly after I started September 11th came around again, and as one of our founders died in it, there was a memorial ceremony outside of our main office. Tears were shed, and stories were shared. I may have mentioned it before, but I overheard a story one of our salespeople told, of how she was in the middle east when it happened. No-one was quite sure what, if anything, was going to happen immediately afterwards. Someone at HQ called her up and told her to get on the next plane out of there. They didn’t care where she flew to, just as long as she got out, and got somewhere safe. That speaks a lot about Akamai. They care about their people.

Similarly, they care about the world around them. People are strongly encouraged to spend some time doing volunteer work every Sept 11th; turning a day of sadness into something constructive and good. They organize with a few local charities like the Food Bank, the Boys and Girls Club, and others, and will be bussing groups of us over to their facilities to help out. But, we’re also encouraged to spend some time volunteering at any time through the year. They’ve set up the Akamai Foundation which gives out grants to help with math education, and has given out millions of dollars, all from employees. It’s not some corporate “see how we are a charitable company” deal. It’s people at Akamai who wanted to make a difference, and the company stepping up to help organize it and make it a reality.

I think our project’s a bit like that too. Someone had a cool insight. They realized that we could offer something that no other company in the world could offer. I’m not sure who this was, but a talented developer was pulled in to put those theories to the test, and then another, and another. When I joined the team there were, I think, three other full time developers, an intern, an engineering manager, and a product manager. I had no idea just how big this project was going to be. Now we’re our own business unit with about 30 people and very real dreams that end with lots of zeroes. Of course, our products wouldn’t exist without the work, and support of many other teams, and the very real financial backing and support of the company itself . My point is, that Akamai is a place where ideas are honestly respected wherever they come from. I’ve yet to see any fiefdoms with little power plays between teams. Everyone seems to honestly seems to be trying to make whatever they make as good as they can and work with other teams whenever they can.

I know I sound like some cult member, but I do so because the people at Akamai have really earned my respect. There’s no “Three cheers for us!” b.s. here. Akamai doesn’t try and convince it’s employees it’s a good place to be. It simply goes about being that place. It sets high standards for itself and its employees, and quietly expects everyone to meet them. The people in charge seem to treat us as if they were parents; proud of their children, and trusting them to be the best they can be. If a person or group is singled out it’s because they’ve done something above and beyond that deserves recognition.

And that’s partly why I’m writing this. Akamai, and it’s people, have earned my respect1, and deserve recognition for what they have built. That, and I’m damn proud to be here.

only go so far. You’ll never work your ass of for people you don’t respect, or who don’t respect you. Although, I have to admit, free breakfast would get me into the office notably earlier… ;)

  1. Fat pachecks, free meals, and other perks