After nearly eight years, I’ve decided to step down as a member of Outlandish and go freelance as a producer, Product Owner and all-round creator of good things. Oh, what a whirlwind it’s been. 

I know I won’t have the time (or memory!) to email every client I’ve worked with over the years, so I wanted to write something openly to say farewell, reflect on my journey at Outlandish and what I’ve learned and enjoyed, and pay tribute to the folks I’ve worked alongside.

I started at Outlandish with no previous technical experience – my only claim to software was that my parents met in computer programming school. My project management experience was extremely limited and I’d never seen the backend of a website. Agile? Never heard of it. I was lucky enough that people here saw that I have initiative and am a hard worker, so they gave me a chance. It was up to me to make of it what I could. 

I’ve always described starting here as a baptism of fire, and luckily I took to the flames pretty well. Initially my role was to cover – or at least try to cover – co-founder Abi’s maternity leave. If you’ve ever seen Abi at work, you’ll know this is a huge ask. Luckily I only messed up payroll once while she was away, and the place was still standing when she got back. I gave it my everything from the start and before I knew it, a snap election had been called. Cue the need for a digital producer on School Cuts…I put up my hand to give it a go, and safe to say the project went pretty well

My role since has been incredibly varied. I joined as a member or worker-owner six months after starting as a freelancer with the acknowledgement that running a business demands so many spinning plates, creativity, and – in all honesty – a fair amount of stress. When I want to be succinct, I describe it as basically everything that isn’t design and development. I sold and ran countless projects, joined the People Circle, carved out a role as a User Research lead, sat on the Worker Co-op Council, spoke at events, developed my ‘soft’ skills and got involved with Building OUT. I organised and ran hackdays and the first ever CoTech meet up across three days for 50-ish people. I’ve been interviewed on Newsnight, Positive News, the brilliant Tao of WAO podcast talking about my interest in restorative justice and loneliness among many other things, and The Laura Flanders Show (I watched the latter for the first time last week!)

I always had a strong opinion that it was important for us to make this business as good as it could be, because we could; it belongs to the workers. I pushed for tangible changes such as holiday pay, sick pay, birthdays off, and a well-being budget. I’ve been a dissenting voice over the years about less tangible things that didn’t sit right with me, where the power was sitting or strange dynamics. It didn’t lead to immediate changes, but in the long-term I think it has made Outlandish a better place to work. I found an unexpected enjoyment in creating policies and designing internal processes for the business to try and improve things iteratively both internally and externally. I spent many sleepless nights agonising over the future of Outlandish, or what the best way to take our strategy could be, or how we were going to sell more work. 

There are a few things that I want to mention that have made a big impression on me and made me feel incredibly grateful to be part of this organisation: 

  1. The deep dives into Sociocracy, both as student and practitioner with Pete Burden and Sociocracy for All. “Good enough for now, and safe enough to try” are the mantras that have helped me move quickly where it’s safe, and understand where it’s not. Discovering the Prime Directive was honestly life-changing.. 
  1. The year-long Org Builders course with NEON delivered by the dream team that is Minda Burgos-Lukes and Charlotte Millar. It gave me the space and clarity to articulate and place things that were not working for me, and the vocabulary to talk about it. I was able to deeply critique the kind of leader that I want to be, and understand the changes that I could make to get there (I’m definitely still a work in progress) alongside the type of organisation that I wanted to help build. “Decentralisation requires process” will stick with me for the rest of my working life, I am sure.
  1. Some impactful projects I’ve run: Greenpeace’s Wall of Change, School Cuts, CoTrack and Accessible Remote Communications for a cohort of charities via Catalyst. 
  1. An unforgettable compliment from then-MoodleNet product owner and seasoned facilitator Doug Belshaw, after I curated and ran our first ever Design Sprint with Moodle: Doug said he had no idea that we or I had never delivered one before

In many ways my job here has been incredibly cushty. I’ve had the space here to explore so many skills and find out that I am good at lots more things that I realised – and been paid for it. So I might seem foolish to leave. But at the end of last year I experienced a deep burn out and had to step back. I realised that along with lots of the exciting projects and tasks that I’d delivered, I had also spent too long on the undesirable or undervalued that others didn’t want to do, however important they may be – mostly operations and people-related work – that are fundamental to keep any company going. I was able to see that this role frequently falls to, or is picked up by, women and/or people of colour, and that I’d been doing it for years. This is not about blaming my colleagues; it’s about me owning how I’ve perpetuated a role that I don’t want or enjoy, and I have intentionally chosen to step back from it. 

There’s been lots of changes at Outlandish over the years, and some big ups and downs. But one thing that has remained constant is that this lovely bunch of humans care very much about the work they deliver. On our most recent away stay, at around 11pm we discovered that two of our biggest sites (together they receive about 100k hits per month) were being attacked by bots. Despite the merriment happening around them, two of our fully sober developers jumped on the case and got to work. That’s what a big part of Outlandish is to me, people that really care and deliver fabulous work, even if there’s chaos surrounding them.

My long term goal is now to open a campsite in Mexico (yes, really) and I’ll always wish the current workers of Outlandish, its clients and future team members much love and solidarity.