Get to know: Jon Young, Jon-of-All-Trades

Joined Job Portraits: September 2017 | Based in: Hellertown, PA

What do you do at Job Portraits?

I work mostly behind the scenes, as kind of a business generalist on various projects. My official title on my contract really is Jon-of-All-Trades. When I first joined the team, I was rebuilding the Job Portraits website, and I still contribute there on both strategy and design. I also lead ops for business development. But the core of my work is collecting data on our engagements — everything from pricing to staffing to expenses — and building modules to help us make better decisions. We can look at margins on past projects to better price new ones, or see what everyone’s capacity looks like and know whether we need to hire. It’s essentially an enterprise resource planning system, but very customized to Job Portraits’ needs.

After those tools are up and running, the long-term vision for my role is to treat the company as my product and our team members as my users. As Job Portraits grows and expands our services, I want to build things that support the rest of the team and make their jobs easier.

What were you doing before Job Portraits, and why did you join?

I’ve been friends with Miki and Jackson for a few years now; I met them through my first job out of college. I worked at a company that ran events, a podcast, a newsletter, and invested in early-stage startups. Most of my time was spent interviewing founders to see where their startups fit in our products. I also managed and grew the newsletter, and launched a premium publication that ramped up deal flow for angel investors. I loved speaking with so many brilliant people, but with tight deadlines I didn’t have much time to evaluate the products I was working on. That made it tough to improve.

After that, I moved to Hong Kong and learned to code at a boot camp. I got a job as a full-stack developer at one of the startups my previous employer invested in, and moved back to San Francisco to work with them. I sat at a computer for 12 hours a day there, working on projects alone. I loved building, but missed talking to people.

I moved back to Pennsylvania after that job — but before I left, I went on a hike with Jackson and he pitched me on exploring a project together. I’ve always been a huge fan of Job Portraits; work culture and employee well-being are things I really care about. So when they asked if I’d be interested in contributing as a technical person on their team, I was like, “Heck yeah!” It felt like the best of both of my previous worlds.

What’s the culture like?

It sounds like a simple thing, but everyone always says, “Thank you.” That means so much after my previous experiences. Being appreciated is important. I also really like that everyone has a voice here and is encouraged to speak up. It’s deeply satisfying that even as a newcomer, I’m part of the conversation on things like our strategy for the coming year.

I think the general mindset of Job Portraits is a good complement to mine. Most tech places are very data-driven and linear, and I’m pretty product-minded myself. Miki and Jackson are conceptual, big thinkers. But at the same time they’re very receptive to a more linear view. I also trust them, and I like everyone they’ve chosen to work with.

What’s it like to collaborate remotely with the team?

The downside is a lot of time on video, but other than that, I love it. I’m able to travel — I spent a few months in Mexico last year and I’m working from South America right now — and I get far more done remotely than I ever did in an office. I was kind of a class clown at previous jobs, and was usually happy to let someone distract me. I’d get to the end of the day and realize, “All I did this morning was help people take out the trash!”

More importantly, though, I’ve never been so connected with the people I work with, even though we’re spread out all over the country. Miki and Jackson have been very intentional about how we communicate. For example, we start our weekly team meeting talking about what we’re anxious about, what we’re excited about, and how we’re taking care of ourselves. Those few minutes are a window into one another’s lives, and I could tell you more about a Job Portraits teammate I’ve never met in person than I could about people I shared an office with for a year and a half. Plus, I think that connection is part of the reason things don’t often go wrong. We trust each other and we take care of one another. You’d think being remote would make things harder, but this might be the best work environment I’ll ever have.

Lightning Round!

What’s your morning routine?

My routine is a bit all over the place since I’m hopping from city to city. But, no matter where I am in the world, I'm terrible at getting out of bed. Once I'm on my feet, I’ll drink my coffee and run to a park to work out. If I'm somewhere with a tub, I'll finish my morning reading the news in the bath. One nice thing about being three hours ahead of most of the team is I have time in the mornings to take care of myself before I hop online.

What’s your superpower?

I’ve always been really good at cleaning up cables. Under desks, behind TVs, wherever. I’m kind of an organization freak, and I hate looking at them when they’re messy, so I use little Velcro wraps everywhere.

We had standing desks at my last job, and one of my teammates had a chow chow that would run through all the hanging cables and almost knock down our monitors. I couldn’t take it. I finally went around and cleaned up the cables on every desk in the office.

What’s the worst advice you ever followed?

When I was maybe 13, I dropped my cell phone in a lake, and my uncle’s friend told me to put it in the microwave to dry it off. I knew better, but I’d been talking to a girl and I was really desperate to text her back, so I did it. Of course it exploded. I never took advice from that guy again.

Tell us about a book that had a big impact on you.

I remember reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse when I was in high school and thinking, “Holy crap, you can have a girlfriend and be a badass and do whatever you want, and still be a good, holy person.” That was so different from the other coming-of-age stories I’d read, where it seemed like everyone was either a terrible person or they could do no wrong. Siddhartha was right in between. It kind of freed me to feel like I could screw up, or do things other people might not agree with, as long as I believed I was doing the right thing.

If you could interview one person, living or dead, who would it be?

GG Allin. He was this punk overlord who did all kinds of disgusting, unhealthy things. It would be fascinating to have a conversation with someone like that, who’s so out of their mind that they believe they own your children. I don’t know if I would even ask him questions. I think I’d simply say, “Tell me a secret” And then let him yell at me.

What unpopular opinion do you hold?

I think The Rock sucks. I don’t see the appeal. I do like some GIFs of faces he made in the WWE, though.

What’s your next adventure?

Right now I’m traveling through Latin America, which has been my dream for a long time, and I hope to hop around down here all year. But the real next adventure for me is buying a house. Both of my brothers are buying homes in Philadelphia, and it feels like my natural next step — even though settling down is scary when you like life on the road!

Video music credit: OurMusicBox (Jay Man) | Track name: “Wrath Of God” | Music by: Jay Man | Official “OurMusicBox” YouTube channel: License for commercial use: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) | Music promoted by NCM

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