A hole big enough to fit through

Author: Andy Hartwell

In 2009 I emailed Andy the MD of Substrakt to ask if there was a Steadman-sized hole in his organisation, that I might fit into. I’d come off the back of a trying year, after doing some post-redundancy freelancing that hadn’t panned out as well as I’d hoped. It turned out that there was a hole just big enough for me to fill, and now six-and-a-half years and a promotion on, I have the pleasure of watching that hole slowly close.

I don’t think it would be tooting my own horn to say that, as Technical Director, there was once a time when leaving would have left a gap unfilled in the company, but now as I look at the incredible talent we have on-board – and the growth that the company’s enjoying – I can see that’s no longer the case.

Weirdly, this isn’t the first time I’ve left Substrakt. In fact, I’ve had more leaving celebrations than interviews, but the Substrakt I leave now could not be in more capable hands.

In 2011 I took a year out – which is a slightly revisionist way of saying that I left to form a couple of businesses, one which fell flat, and one which I now run with Andy, Rebecca Bartlett and Robbie Beak – and when I came back a year later, it was with a greater understanding of what I actually brought to the table. But since 2014 I’ve seen myself get gradually outclassed by techies like Max, Stu and Sam. I’ve also learned huge amounts and loved working with Jim, Lee, Chris, Ash and Dan. That’s not a platitude; I’ve learned frontend skills, improved my team-working abilities and increased my productivity by working with the creatives, front-enders and strategists.

And as Substrakt welcomes more new minds into the fold and continues to work with amazing organisations in culture, education and health, I have nothing but a sense of pride in this studio that now spans three cities but still feels boutique.

I’m leaving, not only to carry on working on the occasional web project, but to take a step in a new direction. I’ve been an avid podcaster since my first botched attempt in 2008, and will be producing digital content including audiobooks – I have two already in the Audible store! – for small businesses and organisations. I’ll of course be keeping my hand in as a developer – a leopard never really changes his spots – but only as one element in what I’d like to think of as a portfolio career.

I don’t need to wish Substrakt good luck, and while it would be needlessly self-deprecating to say that the studio will be better off without me, it’s now at a point where I’d be running to keep up. We’ve come such a long way in our nearly 10 years as a digital studio, but right now it feels like the company stands at the threshold of some breathtaking work, to add to the plethora of meaningful and impactful projects we have in our portfolio.

Thanks to everyone at Substrakt, for your time, experience, patience, knowledge, memes, opportunities and laughs.

And thanks to Andy for finding a hole big enough for me to fit through.