Why I’m Here

by Sean Crickenberger

Hello! I’m Sean Crickenberger, and today I am truly grateful and openly excited to announce that I’ve joined make&model as Director of Operations. Before I get into just what that means, allow me to tell you a bit about myself.

I’ve worked in digital project and product management for nearly fifteen years, at companies both small and large, new and old, spanning multiple industries.

Things really took off for me when I joined National Geographic. Over my ~6.5yrs years there my responsibilities ran the gamut. I started as a project manager, launching all manner of projects from sweeping website redesigns to sponsored UGC campaigns. I helped to define, implement, and evolve the Society’s original agile program and processes, which included working remotely with multiple teams spread across the globe. Eventually, I served as Product Manager for their suite of digital publishing platforms, working across nearly all teams and departments to deliver a system that massively sped up our ability to redesign, refresh, and launch National Geographic’s most valuable web properties.

From there, I went to Mariana Tek, a small SaaS company servicing the boutique fitness industry. This was my first experience working with a startup, and I learned a lot acting as project manager, scrum master, and product manager in one. We built an intricate but elegant platform that would support nearly all facets of business operations, as well as helped create, launch, and evolve several customers’ user facing sites and apps.

Most recently, I worked With DockYard - a digital product consultancy - where I helped grow and mature the Project Management team and discipline during an explosive growth period, working with clients both small and gigantic. With one of my larger clients, Netflix, I spent a year and a half directly managing five projects (three of those involving totally greenfield products) belonging to a complex ecosystem of internal tools, and assisting in the creation, evolution and implementation of a unified design system.

So what brought me to make&model?

Well, first of all, let me acknowledge what a strange, strange time this is. Peak stress, anxiety, and uncertainty abound. Literally bare shelves. Every day, it feels like the world shrinks a little bit more.

As I spoke with each of my (then) potential future teammates, one thing became very clear: all the people here, and the company as a very real extension, embody - to their very core - values I care deeply about.

There is real, purposeful focus on using design to engage in social issues. From helping to improve the access and reach of education and related technologies, to supporting the growth of more inclusive communities, the marrow of make&model’s mission is simple, but powerful: let’s try to leave the world a better place than we found it.

That kind of empathy-driven approach, working both as and with kind, genuine people, seeking in whatever way to improve the lives of others, seems of paramount importance now more than ever. I’m motivated to bring my best to work each day not only because I work with awesome people, but because what makes me happiest is helping others, and that’s what make&model does.

In just one full week here, I’ve already been impressed - both professionally and personally - by my new colleagues. They give generously of their time in and out of work, specifically to help others. Everyone has been kind and extra supportive as news from the world outside unfolds. And last week, a client literally shouted with delight at the new work one of my teammates was showing. That’s incredible.

Working with smart and passionate people, especially on a small team, means that everyone is taking on a huge swath of high value tasks at any given moment. It becomes hard to keep track of all the balls in the air, and very hard to stay aware of what the big picture is, and how it relates to the day-to-day. My goal is to help guide, communicate, and evolve how we do what we do here at make&model, to ensure connectedness and clarity amongst our team, and our clients.

As far as how I work:

  • I’m an unwavering believer in leading with empathy, and in the idea that strong relationships are the key to creating meaningful experiences.
  • Having spent nearly half my career working remotely, I’m very comfortable with that model and what it entails, which (perhaps surprisingly) includes the ability to recognize when meeting in person just makes more sense.
  • For better or worse (I’d certainly argue for the better, my family maybe less so), I like to organize, to optimize - avoidable inefficiency drives me absolutely bonkers. The absolute best part of my day is being able to make someone else’s day better.

These qualities and motivations will define my focus as Director of Operations with make&model.

Ultimately, my job is to help make everyone else’s jobs easier, less stressful, and more fun. That is literally my dream job, and I am overjoyed that I get to do it here. While the world outside might be shrinking a bit, the world inside is expanding with near-infinite possibilities, and I can’t wait to see what we do next.