Carbon Five Turns 18: What We’ve Learned So Far

David Hendee ·

2000: what a year! Steve Ballmer became CEO of Microsoft, the PS2 had just come out, the first crew boarded the International Space Station, and Carbon Five was founded.

18 years later our team is still thriving, perhaps with less baggy jeans, but with just as much enthusiasm for building great products. When we started, we wanted Carbon Five to be a place for people to work hard on interesting problems, have fun making software, and then go home to enjoy the other facets of their lives.

We have stood by our principles and learned a few things along the way:

A passion for products

We love all of our clients, especially those that wear their enthusiasm on their sleeve. Even if they’ve never been involved with a software project before, these are the people that radiate a contagious sense of pride when they talk about their work. Their energy and passion inspires the rest of the team to make the project a success. We enjoy watching each of our clients grow after we are done working with them and the ones that really thrive never lose that energy they started with.

Work to live, don’t live to work

Carbon Five was founded by folks who, after escaping the startup grind, saw the value of focusing intensely while at work, and then completely unplugging at the end of the day. 18 years later, that core value hasn’t changed.

Our team is made up of mothers, fathers, hikers, bikers, gamers, coffee enthusiasts, surfers, artists and so much more. The reality is that we are also all hard workers and we’re always actively making sure that our work identity doesn’t diminish, but instead supports our other identities.

Work/life balance is a loaded term, but to us, it means that when you come into work, you work hard and when you’re done, you’re completely done and should go off to explore and grow other aspects of your life.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Working elbow to elbow with our clients not only helps us see their point of view (quite literally) but allows us to bond as a team. Thinking back to the best times you have had working with a group, what do you remember the most? Was it the emails you exchanged with a project lead you never met, or the triumphant high five you shared with your deskmate when you pushed the first version of your product to production?

We enjoy spending time with our team so we can appreciate the wins and loses, and learn from every step along the way.

Our door is always open

Over the years, we’ve had amazing employees join our team. Eventually, some leave the nest…and sometimes come back again. We work hard to hire genuinely nice people and invest in their professional development and careers, even if that might mean exploring other interests and opportunities.

We’ve learned the best thing to do is encourage everyone to go out into the world and explore, and if they’re ready to come back, our doors are always open. Some of our team are on their third run at Carbon Five because they just can’t resist the lure of a sane work/life balance, and we’re always happy to have them back!

Work should be your safe space

As our team has evolved we have always kept one thing front and center, the idea that everyone should feel safe at work. Safe to take risks, safe to admit help is needed, and safe to tell each other the hard truths. From this safe environment, we have grown a team that we value and trust.

Time flies

Looking back at these 18 years, it’s tempting to get nostalgic, things (and our hairstyles) have changed, and time has totally flown by. As we look towards the future, it’s nice knowing that some things will never change: passionate clients, sustainable pace, amazing coworkers, and a fun, supportive place to work.

Want to experience Carbon Five first-hand? Check out our open positions, or let us know about an upcoming project you’d like a hand with. We’d love to have you!

David Hendee
David Hendee

David is the Director of Design at Carbon Five. He joined the company in 2004. Before that he was a freelance illustrator and a co-founder of the web development firm Fire Engine Red. David lives in Alameda with his wife Jenny, their dog Daisy, and a tiny dinosaur named Dorothy.