My time at Reaktiv
For the past year and a half, I have had the privilege of working alongside the kind and talented folks at Reaktiv. During my time there, I was able to work on interesting projects for a variety of clients.
Plus, I can say without reservation that Josh is one of the best bosses I have ever had.
To tell the story of my time at Reaktiv, it must be understood against the backdrop of some family struggles we were going through at the time. It is not an exaggeration to say Reaktiv was a lifesaver.
We had known about my wife's brain AVM for years. For her doctors weighing options, it was always sort of a "watch and wait" scenario. Essentially, the risk of operating would outweigh simply living with it. That changed on October 29, 2019.
As luck would have it, that was coincidentally the same day I had a skip-level meeting scheduled with my manager's boss. Since we had gone to the hospital for my wife's bad migraines in the past, I took my laptop with me to get some work done while in the waiting room. Usually, the scans would reveal there was nothing to be worried about.
Unbeknownst to us, that day would be different. While waiting for a doctor to come into the room to evaluate her, I stepped out for my scheduled meeting. I walked to another nearby, empty hospital room and got situated for my work-related call.
I am paraphrasing here, but it went something like this.
Manager: "Are you sitting down?"
Nathan: "Oh, I am sure she will be fine. They are running some tests now."
Nathan: "We are at the hospital, because my wife is having a bad migraine. I thought you were referring to that."
Manager: "Ugh, I am sorry. That makes this so much worse. We are doing layoffs. I have to inform you that today will be your last day with the company."
When I walked back into her hospital room, my wife told me the diagnosis. In turn, I told her about my brief video chat. We nervously chuckled — with tears welling up in our eyes — at the random absurdity and timing of the one-two punch we had been dealt.
Olga: "The doctor came by while you were outside. He said I had a stroke."
Nathan: "Well, I was laid off. But yeah, your bad news is definitely worse."
Long story short, over the next few weeks — sometimes while in my wife's hospital room — I treated searching for employment like a full-time job. Thankfully, posting a tweet got the ball rolling. Friends and former coworkers sent referrals. My philosophy at that point was to follow up with any/all job leads.
I narrowed down the list of potential employers to companies I thought would be remote friendly, and tracked my interview progress with a spreadsheet.
All told, I ended up with 48 viable job leads and applied to 27 of them. I had at least a first round interview with every company to which I applied. Some progressed to a second round as well.
There are a few factors worth mentioning.
This was before COVID-19, and several of the companies I spoke with did not allow for remote work.
Some of the interview processes would have taken longer than I felt comfortable with, due to the immediate need for health insurance continuity. Those in the US know what I mean.
I respectfully bowed out of any interview process that would have culminated in an on-site interview. I did not want to be out of town, in case anything else happened with my wife's medical situation.
I wrote more about my job hunt on LinkedIn.
Also in the back of my mind — as we progressed into November of 2019 — was the tendency for larger companies to go into a hiring "freeze" during November and December. The thought of not having gainful employment lined up before then was daunting.
Reaktiv is family
After interviewing with Josh (Reaktiv's CEO) and three other team members, I felt like I had found my people. They officially brought me aboard, knowing full well that my wife would need brain surgery shortly thereafter. I will forever be indebted to them, for graciously allowing me to spend time with her in the hospital as she recovered.
This became my default, boilerplate reply to recruiters.
I appreciate the interest, but I am happy in my current role. I started with Reaktiv in December (2019), after having been laid off from a start-up.
This probably sounds cliché, but it is a company that feels like family. Meaning, I feel like that is where I belong.
Reaktiv initially hired me to "the bench." That allowed me to have health insurance continuity and spend most of January (2020) in the hospital with my wife, who was recovering from brain surgery.
It was a crazy whirlwind of being laid off, the same day my wife was diagnosed as having a stroke, and then interviewing frantically (with 25+ companies) to make sure I landed somewhere quickly.
I wrote more about that here.
Again, I appreciate the interest. Never burn a bridge, etc.
But I feel like I am where I should be.
I know that the phrase "unlimited PTO" gets thrown around, and is sometimes blamed for making people feel guilty about actually taking time off. But in the case of Reaktiv, they encouraged a healthy work/life balance. Honestly, it was unlike anywhere I have ever been.
When COVID-19 hit the United States in early 2020, I (like so many of us) unexpectedly found myself with some "down time" between billable projects. As a company, we took that opportunity to get ahead of work that we would need later. To that end, I built the RKV Component Library.
It housed a set of internal React components, for use on client facing projects. I also built vanilla JS versions of those UI elements, to be used with flat HTML. This versatility allowed us to apply the same markup and styles for single page JS apps and/or CMS generated content.
Along with my coworker Cory Webb, I was interviewed for the React Wednesdays live stream. You can view an archive of the video here.
I created training curriculum about Jest, Next, and React. I led video calls for devs at partner agencies. On retainer, I would periodically do code reviews of their projects. Some devs needed help moving from classes to React Hooks. I created comparisons, built using both approaches.
Working at Reaktiv afforded me the autonomy to craft solutions, while also allowing me to lean on the collective wisdom of my coworkers. It was a positive and uplifting environment. I truly feel their company culture is something special.
I may eventually write more, in terms of "What's next?" on my career path. But for now, I wanted to jot down my thoughts while they are still fresh in my mind. I sincerely wish the best for the folks at Reaktiv, and will emphatically cheer on their continued success as a proud alumnus.
Though I will no longer be there, I cannot overstate how thankful I am for having been a part of it. I believe that I am a better person because of the friendships I made. Josh especially was (continues to be) wise, kind, and gracious. Time and again, he extended undeserved patience to me.
The entire team was impactful — in a "positive force multiplier" sort of way — during an especially difficult time in my life. If anyone else is looking for an agency that treats you like a human first (whether employee or client), I would encourage you to consider Reaktiv.
Depending on when you are reading these words, I bet that Reaktiv is hiring.