As Luminary approaches 20 years in operation, they tap into the memories and motivations of those team members who has been with them for a decade or more.
In an industry with average staff tenure of 24 months, you’d be pretty-hard pressed to find anyone who’s been at the same agency for more than 10 years. Well, Luminary is proud to say that they have eight of them, which refers to 15% of the whole team.
As the agency prepares to celebrate their 20th birthday, they decided to send them out for a celebratory lunch and quiz them on what it is that keeps them here, how the industry – and their role in it – has changed, and what have been their favourite memories.
Without further ado, let us introduce you to Luminary’s ‘Long-termers’…
Chris Coppin, Solutions Architect – 10yrs
Roles held: Developer, Senior Developer
Best memory: The music battles way back when we used WinAmp were “fun”, with the diversity of music tastes in the office. I used to change the song remotely from FPH (a client site) to something awful and crank up the volume. I’ve not told many people that. Lol!
What is it that’s kept you here for 10+ years? Challenging work, great people, being treated well, and being trusted.
What was the office culture like when you started? Not that different from what it is now, really. We had music being played on an old PC via WinAmp and everyone sat pretty close to each other (producers, devs, etc). It was fun, but we worked hard. Pretty similar to how I’d describe Luminary now, but without the multitude of remote locations.
How has the agency changed since you started? It’s much bigger now. We didn’t really have “Front-End” and “Back-End” Developers, just “Developers”. We no longer sell $1000 websites.
How has the technology landscape changed? The way we work, and what we are producing has changed a lot in the last 10 years. iPhone came out, which fundamentally changed the way websites were built. First there was the wave of having a desktop site and a separate mobile site, eg: www.kidspot.com.au and m.kidspot.com.au, then came responsive with set breakpoints for iPhone portrait and landscape mode, then fully responsive. The need to pretty much specialise in either BED or FED development. CDNs started to become a thing, followed by full Cloud services and Azure.
Proudest achievement? There is no one thing that is my proudest achievement. I think I’m most proud of producing consistent, quality work, of being reliable and becoming a trusted advisor to any client I’ve dealt with.
Carolyn Battin, Training Manager – 12 yrs
Roles held: Project Manager, Training Manager
Best memory: Any of our annual karaoke nights could qualify for my funniest times here. Witnessing Adam and Andy’s dance moves and singing has made me realise that in an alternate life they could have formed a pretty killer boy band. [Ed’s note: They have both, in fact, been in (separate) boy bands in their misspent youth.]
What is it that’s kept you here for 10+ years? Karaoke and free brekkie.
What was the office culture like when you started? The office culture was everyone working in one room with one shared music system. The fear was that certain team members might take over the playlist and only play musicals.
How has the agency changed since you started? We’re now in a giant multi-room, multi-location business and everyone is wearing headphones.
How has the technology landscape changed? I can remember a time when Marty used to make fun of younger colleagues who used Twitter. He would openly yell “Twitter will NEVER last!”
Proudest achievement? “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” I’m proud of the times I remembered to keep my mouth shut.
Sarah Dam, Front End Developer – 14 yrs
Roles held: Maintenance Coordinator, Front End Developer
Best memory: Publicly shareable you say!??? [Ed’s note: Radio silence from Sarah…]
What is it that’s kept you here for 10+ years? It really is the people. I love the culture and the people I work with. It has always been such a great place to be.
What was the office culture like when you started? Although the company was much smaller, it still had a similar work hard, produce quality work, but have fun vibe.
How has the agency changed since you started? Mostly in size. I think I worked with around 12 other colleagues when I started, so that is very different. The guy behind me worked on FPH, I worked across many projects… that isn’t so different!
How has the technology landscape changed? We used to make our own CMS and all of the data (for all websites) was in a single database. Flash animation, especially if it was interactive, was the thing to have!
Proudest achievement? Being around so long and constantly keeping up with technology for 14 years feels like a big achievement. Taking time out to have kids then slotting back in to a different developer stream was a very hard thing to do at the time, but I love my role in FED.
Andrew (‘Raddo’) Radburnd, CIO – 14 yrs
Roles held: I started out as a Support Technician, which in a small company meant you did everything you could help on – receptionist, project manager, help desk, finance, accounts… (I’m pretty sure Fab still thinks I’m in control of paying his wages.) As the company grew, so did my positions.
Best memory: Have you heard the story of the TVPhone? [All will be revealed by Fab, below…]
What is it that’s kept you here for 10+ years? Great culture, great team and technology changes so much and so quickly that every day is a new challenge and a complicated problem to be solved.
What was the office culture like when you started? It was still a start-up mentality. I first met the team when they had just moved into their first “real” office (i.e. not someone’s lounge room) in Elizabeth Street. The office was bare and everyone sat on exercise balls. Most of the team were uni students and part-time and people would be in the office all hours of the night.
How has the agency changed since you started? When I started about 50 percent of the team had the first name ‘Andrew’. That percentage has reduced significantly over the years and not all for the better! Core values are the same; we have just grown in size and wisdom and maybe our stamina at the team end of year functions has lowered a little bit. Some things haven’t changed, we are still all excited and passionate about technology and where it’s heading next. Oh and we rebranded!
How has the technology landscape changed? Nothing we use today existed and, from an IT point of view, nothing was compatible with each other, which meant you spent a lot more time trying to work out why things didn’t work than actually improving things. The rise of Cloud services and Cloud computing has leveled the technology playing field.
Anyone can access services without having to have enterprise-scale IT teams to run them. This, and the DevOps movement, have meant that deploying a site is no longer a “copy files and cross your fingers” task, which usually took way too long, followed by trying to work out what went wrong!
Proudest achievement? Seeing the company grow and seeing the clients grow also. We’ve worked with some clients that have changed their industry and also people’s lives, like Royal Commissions.
Adam Griffith, MD – 17 yrs
Roles held: I started as the part-time bookkeeper while at uni doing my actuarial and finance degree (I’d done a few subjects of accounting in my first year). I then started to manage clients and website projects and then took on the General Manager role in 2004. In 2007 I moved to the MD role I am in now.
Best memory: Our 15 year celebration was a lot of fun, including a rather large bottle of Veuve that we surprised the team with. The bottle still takes pride of place in our conference room with all the signatures of everyone who was with us at the time.
What is it that’s kept you here for 10+ years? The team culture and our ongoing commitment to getting better and better at what we do.
What was the office culture like when you started? We had a very small team so we were all mates. It was a fun and exciting time.
How has the agency changed since you started? As the agency, the directors, and long-term staff members have grown up, the culture has grown up too. But the essence of Luminary hasn’t changed. We’re still people-first, focused on quality, and passionate about what we do.
How has the technology landscape changed? It’s a cliche but change is the only constant. The technology landscape has been in constant change since the early 2000s. Back then, content management systems were in their infancy, social media didn’t really exist, and Flash was still a thing. The commoditisation of CMSs was probably the first major technology change that impacted us in a big way. Then it was mobiles and responsive design. More recently the (very positive) focus on the agile way of working, as well as customer and user experience are changing the way we do things from a technology and people perspective.
Proudest achievement? The rebrand to Luminary was definitely a big achievement for us all. It was more than just a name change. It was the culmination and embodiment of the journey of growth we’d been on for many years. Other highlights include: helping Kidspot grow to become the leading parenting site in Australia, helping Snooze transition from a basic website to full-blown e-commerce, and supporting a number of the Royal Commissions in Australia.
Andy Thompson, CTO – 17 yrs
Roles held: Most of them… Back End Developer, Front End Developer (since before that was a thing), Tech Lead, Tech Director, Strategy Director, Creative Technologist, Resource Manager, QA Lead, CTO… Basically everything except designer.
Best memory: So many… but here’s one no-one else probably mentioned. I still remember how much fun the end of year function was when we all went go-karting, but the best part was when Marty won, yet the official record had his name as “Mary”. Sorry Marty, but I still remember people’s reactions and chuckle about it!
What is it that’s kept you here for 10+ years? The industry has changed so much, the company has changed so much, and my role has changed so much… even the name of the company changed recently! It doesn’t really feel like I’ve actually been in the same job for that long… because I haven’t.
What was the office culture like when you started? It was much more of a startup culture. The original founders were all still there, and made up more than half of the company. There were only a couple of employees, and we all worked out of a single room at the top of an apartment building in Latrobe St. But even then we had great monthly team events, and very similar values to now.
How has the agency changed since you started? Well it’s about 1000% of the size for starters… While we’re still designing things and writing code, the types of projects we do and the services we offer have changed a lot over a couple of decades. The roles people fill have changed to suit a much larger organisation servicing much larger and more mature clients. But deep down, the values, culture and objectives are still the same.
How has the technology landscape changed? There’s barely anything from those days still around! When I started, Google still hadn’t gone public, Internet Explorer 6 was brand new (and frankly AWESOME) and had close to 100% market share as Netscape Navigator was in its death throes. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Google Chrome, Firefox, all of these didn’t exist.
Smartphones were years away – many people didn’t have a mobile phone at all, and if they did it was probably a Nokia 3310. We typically built things using Classic ASP (.asp pages), maybe with an odd DLL built in Visual Basic if it needed to be REALLY advanced, and often powered by a Microsoft Access database in the back end.
We had a Dell server under one of the desks in the office, endearingly named “COW”. .NET 1.0 had only just been released so no one was using it yet. Web design was typically locked to 780px wide to ensure it fit on an 800×600 screen, although huge 1024×768 screens were emerging. The Cloud was where The Rain came from and was generally not compatible with computers.
Proudest achievement? It’s a while ago now, but we helped a little startup called Kidspot (built using that awesome tech stack described above) become the largest parenting site in Australia, and eventually it sold in 2011 to a large media corporation for a reported $45 million. We didn’t see a cent of those millions of course, but we were immensely proud of what we’d helped them create!
Fab Ferrante, Senior Designer – 19 yrs
Roles held: In the beginning I was both a designer and front end developer. I would design my sites in Photoshop and build html sites using Dreamweaver. Now I’m a Senior Designer and focus my attention on delivering great user experiences and beautiful interfaces.
Best memory: One of the funniest memories I have was Marty returning to the office after a trip from Thailand. He was telling us about his adventures and was also very excited to share with us the new iPhone he had just bought while overseas. They weren’t available in Australia yet so we were very anxious to see what they were like.
When we saw the box we immediately knew that this was no iPhone. The box read ‘iPhone/TV’ and when we opened the box we saw the phone had a massive antenna sticking out of the top. It seemed as though he had been duped, and in fact all he bought was a glorified radio!
What is it that’s kept you here for 10+ years? I think wanting to be part of something from the ground up and contribute to its success has made me want to stay here. I get great satisfaction being part of such a fabulous team and making sure I can support them in their future achievements.
What was the office culture like when you started? I think we have always had a positive work culture. There was always a concern about the happiness and satisfaction of others. We would have regular team events to help build team bonding.
How has the agency changed since you started? We have grown quite considerably from when we first started. We now have a number of employees working from a number of different locations in Australia and overseas. We have provided people with the flexibility to work remotely and have embraced video hangouts. And we had a brand change.
How has the technology landscape changed? It has changed quite a bit. We now use Slack for most internal conversations. Previously we relied on email. Sketch is now the design program of choice, whereas previously it had been Photoshop. We have a work management system (Accelo) to track our productivity. Previously we didn’t really use one. Google apps are used heavily in our day-to-day activities.
Proudest achievement? I think it’s nice being acknowledged over the years with some awards for the work I have done.
Marty Drill, CEO – 20 yrs
Roles held: Founder and CEO. I sat with a friend from uni and compared business plan ideas. Google had just launched and my friend believed that digital would change the future and so we went with his business plan and the agency was born. We formed the team in March 1999 and officially launched on 1 July 1999.
Best memory: We had a penthouse apartment on Latrobe St that had a glass office on the roof. We had the entire roof to ourselves and we would play basketball with a large fitness ball. The door to the glass office was the net and one day, a huge block from one of the team stopped the goal. We gasped as the ball went sailing over the edge of the 17 story building. We never saw that ball again.
What is it that’s kept you here for 10+ years? A belief in people and a belief that technology can change business, the way we interact, and the human experience.
What was the office culture like when you started? We were a small team and we were highly enthusiastic and even more naive. We worked hard and looked after each other.
How has the agency changed since you started? After 20 years, it has changed dramatically, as you would expect. Consider how far the internet has come in that 20 years – we have transformed with it. The technology that is available to us now is remarkable. The team has grown to over 50 people and multiple locations. I think the essence of who we are has remained, while our spirit of enquiry and thirst for problem solving has grown.
How has the technology landscape changed? We started with a dial-up modem at 14400 kbs. Now people complain when they get under 50mb. The technology has fundamentally changed, from the desktop, to the laptop, to mobile, to voice. The intersection of digital and marketing and business is actually the biggest change.
What has been your proudest achievement? The launch of the Final Report of 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission in 2010, which was downloaded over 100,000 times in the first day. We served 400GB in the first hour and didn’t have an outage. The work that went into the Final Report was extraordinary. With such a high loss of life and property, along with the impacts on the community, the context for our work was clear.
Luminary is an independent Australian digital agency that has been creating award-winning experiences since 1999. With a portfolio that includes some of the most well-known names in the Australian government, retail and corporate sectors, Luminary’s offering includes digital strategy and transformation, UX design, development, hosting, and digital marketing. The agency specialises in the implementation of large-scale digital projects across a range of platforms including Kentico, Episerver, Sitecore and Umbraco.