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One Decade Down 02

Part Two - Alumni

Wed Apr 22 14:40:01 2015

This is a bit of a story, a bit of a history, a bit of a documentary, and hopefully a lot of entertainment and theatre about Shadowcat Systems.

We are ten years old and to celebrate that fact I want to write ten unique little pieces about Shadowcat that hold as a memory of our first ten years and a celebration of that decade down.

Shadowcat Systems is 10 Years Young[1]

That title is still stunning me and I have been thinking about this fact for almost a year now. We have been in business for ten years. Ten years, I mean ten years…

In this instalment we are going to look at some of the most important assets that you can have, the people.[2] In Shadowcat terms we generally call all our working people the staff, wether they are internal staff or sub-contractors. However there is a broader term and its is filled by more people than just that and for this we have to use Alumni.

Some very serious staff in the Lancaster office.

Some very serious staff in the Lancaster office.

Internal Staff vs. Sub-contractors[3]

It is only in the last few years that we have started to think in terms of internal staff and sub-contractors and it still jars the senses and flips the stomach a little. It isn't like it leaves a a nasty taste in the mouth, or that it is being purposefully separatist. I just don't gel with the phrasing. All the people who work at Shadowcat have always felt like staff, comrades, companions and friends. Therefore having some modifier to distinguish betwixt them feels a little wrong.

So how did we come to this situation? Well long, complex and argument filled journey[4] condensed, we simply started to employ more people at the Lancaster office and needed to separate them to stop the Accountant from sobbing into his tea.[5]

Shadowcat have always tried to see sub-contractors as staff. This is partly the nature of the business that there are a number of people who switch from project to project and want to remain as small contractors in a larger organisation, and partly the simple consequence of economics.

In our usual fashion Matt and I attempt to make sure everyone is treated well and balance fiscal returns with generous levels of understanding and a supportive environment. We actually love the people who we work with for their individuality, and deeply respect them for the different skills and experience they bring to the organisation.

The staff hard at work.

The staff hard at work.

The Broader Alumni

But the Alumni doesn't just include the staff, sub-contractors and other associated denizens.[6] Shadowcat have a larger group that we consider our Alumni, people who hold special regard in our hearts.

To begin with there are the many contributors to the company cause who have an association by just being related to a Shadowcatter. These people are dragged[7] on board because of a familial or friendly association. Over the years they have contributed to the things that we do. There are small ways such as the emotional support and general goodwill. To larger ways such as helping us or recommending our services to others. If we were balancing this on some great karmic scale it would be a heck of a lot of positive brought into the universe.

Then there are the members of the many communities that we have become associated with and to which we feel we belong. These contain many people who have earned a place in the Shadowcat ranks. Some have become so entwined that there is often an issue determining if they are community sub-contractors. They exist in a state where the mutual favours we give to each other would count as fiscal services if we were of a mind to charge.[8]

The most important member of the SC Alumni contemplates his heavy load.

The most important member of the SC Alumni contemplates his heavy load.

The Alumni also includes many of our clients, and not just the smaller companies but the larger organisations where we come to know the internal teams. Because we have always favoured close knit distributed development backed by instant written communication and other online tools, we build relationships that have an immediate nature. We count many of the people we have worked for and alongside as members of our greater Alumni.

The Family Cat

This has always been a core part of how we think about our family of workers, community, clients and associated others. We think of them as family.[9] It's probably a pretty dysfunctional family if you look at it from the outside, and I would wager most families are. But the internal dynamic is still one of close relationship and mutual compassion.

Shadowcat think of all their extended Alumni as belonging to one greater family group. We have benefited in many ways from the interaction, understanding and companionship of that family and it is something that we will continue to carry with us.


[1] Okay I'm lazy, this is the same start as I used last time, what can I say I have been hanging around programmers too much, if I have to do something ten times then it's going to be broadly the same and scripted enough that I only write the bulk of it once ;).

[2] I said assets not asshats, and yeah referring to people as assets is not that great, I could have used resources, elements, components, parts and any number of other euphemisms of annoyance.

[3] Worst WWF match ever.

[4] What really? A discussion with Matt and Mark that involved passion, strong opinions and slight egregiousness, I can hardly believe it.

[5] The tea had brandy in it, this is a Shadowcat connected element after all.

[6] I guess I am broadly hinting at paid for people in that regard, maybe I am, maybe not. it is loose in my head but there is a sort of distinction.

[7] In some cases likely kicking and screaming, into the Shadowcat fold.

[8] There is a cosmic beer tab somewhere with a lot of ale being stacked up on it.

[9] Oops the old Socialist in me reared his head for a moment, don't worry I beat him with a stick and sent him back to his hole.