Building Capacity at Reclaim

Yesterday Lauren tweeted that she has taken control of the coveted top spot on the Reclaim Hosting support leaderboard. Beating me is easy, but topping Timmmmyboy is no small feat. Lauren has been working double duty the last 3 weeks given Tim has been on a European vacation and I’ve been traveling and hosting over that same period. This last month was a really good test to gauge whether Reclaim can flourish beyond its co-founders, and I think we have found our answer.  We have built capacity over the last two years, and Lauren’s brilliant work last month is a testament to just that. I do not think anyone hosting with Reclaim has seen a dip in the excellent service they expect, and at the same time Tim and I have been able to let go of certain things these last few weeks.

I think this is a really excellent sign for things to come. If Reclaim Hosting is simply about Tim or I it will ultimately fail, it needs to be about a group of folks working towards a common goal both within our company and beyond. Lauren has become a core figure of Reclaim Hosting, and watching her continually exceed any and all expectations while at the same time soaking up the seemingly endless combination of technical challenges supporting web hosting represents has been very cool. 

Meredith Fierro recently started part-time with us at Reclaim as a support specialist, and she has been following in Lauren’s footsteps patiently working through issues, taking on various challenges on a daily basis, and building capacity at Reclaim. And for me that has been the key because we are showing no signs of slowing. Yesterday may have been one of the busiest support days on record, and the semester is nowhere near full swing.  We could not have had Lauren come into her own at a more crucial time.

While not a science, I think a couple of things may have helped us build capacity more recently:

  • Independence – I think the biggest piece of this is Tim and I do not micromanage. And while we are there for any and all questions, we trust that folks will do the research and figure out possible solutions on their own. And when that avenue has been exhausted we’re ready to jump in. That sense of self-sufficiency and confidence is a huge part of building capacity. And with someone as capable as Tim at the support helm it’s easy to rely on him for all answers (I know I did that far too much early on), and breaking that over-dependence has been crucial for my own learning.
  • Trust – When we bring someone on there is an implicit trust, and it has been particularly easy with Lauren and Meredith given we knew and worked with them at UMW. Who they are is a big reason for why we hired them, the technical skills (which they both had when we hired them) are far less important in my mind. It is amazing what people you work with are capable of when you trust them.
  • Shared space – This may be controversial, and it might even seem hypocritical given I live and work from Italy, but I think having a shared office space this year has been a very good thing for Reclaim. A shared physical space for tackling issues, sharing solutions, and building relationships has some real advantages.  I love Slack, and as a distributed business tool it is quite powerful, but a cool office space to work together can be hard to substitute online for building a team. Part of my experimentation with Reclaim Video is to see if I can actually inhabit that space more physically, albeit virtually—if that makes any sense.
  • Fun – It has been a busy year, no doubt, and it will only get more so in the coming months. But building in the capacity for play and fun is crucial. Designing the office space has been work, but it was also a lot of fun. Same goes for the conference and design work for Reclaim and Rockaway. We also had a blast last year in Portland as a group, and I think keeping a sense of play with the work we do is crucial, although not always easy when doing support. We do this to some degree, but I think we might even be a bit more intentional here, although planned fun is never fun. Anyway, this one is half thought through.
  • Possibility – I think a real strength of Reclaim right now is a sense of possibility. We are all filled with hope and optimism around the work we do. We all see its relevance, and while I am focused on building capacity at Reclaim in this post, I think that same concept extends to the folks who host with us.  We are working to building digital capacity for faculty and students all around the world, and that is not nothing. Lauren and Meredith are in at the ground floor of this process, and together we are all shaping Reclaim’s future with the work we’re doing. It also means our job today may not be our job tomorrow as we continue to grow and explore what’s possible.  I believe the work really matters, and that makes me dangerous: I am a true believer #4life 🙂

All that said, we still have much to work on.  We are starting to explore development work,  and one of my personal weaknesses has been project management and organization—an ongoing debility I suffer from. That said, we are working with Lauren on trying to get this under control because I think this could be a crucial part of our work moving forward given how amazing the community work Tom Woodward has been doing the last couple of months for Georgetown and Davidson—more on that shortly. So this is an area we are presently working on, and I think that’s been the lesson for me these first four years of Reclaim: building capacity is a slow and steady process, but once it starts to materialize the payoff is awesome. What’s more, knowing all this makes it possible to start accomplishing the broader mission of helping build digital capacity in higher ed keeps everything grounded in the work—which will hopefully speak for itself.

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