Like so many of you during the holiday rush, we've been reflecting back on the year—thinking about what went well, what we could've done better, and what exciting things the new year will hold. I sat down for a chat with Traci Knudson, our CEO, to find what what she thought of the year and what 2017 has in store.
First, tell us a little about your role as NogginLabs' CEO. What falls under your responsibility?
I’m responsible for the larger strategy at NogginLabs. Beginning in December, we start looking at how we did against our goals for the current year, and then look ahead to plan our big company focus for the coming year. We always try to improve on one or several aspects of our business every year. For example, 2016 was the year of design. The entire company focused on design and raising the bar to an even higher level than our past high standards. From those high-level conversations at the end of the year, we do a lot of planning: budgets, plans, forecasts, all that stuff.
Looking back at 2016, what is one word you would use to describe the year?
Design. We had a company-wide focus on design, and the courses we created this year continue to push the envelope in terms of competing with any website or marketing campaign out there. They’re beautiful, balanced, and they speak to their audience.
What was a big change or something done differently this year? How did it pan out?
For the first time, we sponsored a coding boot camp, Code Platoon, which is a non-profit organization that retrains U.S. veterans to become software developers. Most of the other sponsor companies are large organizations, so this was a pretty big deal for us. We were a sponsor of the first class, and then we had two interns working in our office to get their on-the-job training. We learned a lot! It was a big commitment of our resources to mentor the veterans, and then to have the two interns in the office working on client work under the close supervision of our programming staff. Asking our programmers to be mentors and also supervise these interns was a huge commitment to us in terms of the programming team’s bandwidth, but it was a great experience. We met two great people and were able to provide them with their first programming internships. We then felt fantastic about the opportunity to hire one as a full-time Noggin. We plan to participate again next year.
Did anything happen this year that was a game-changer for the company?
We have always used third-party project management software, and for a long time we’ve been working on what would be an ideal project management software for NogginLabs. We rolled out our own PM hub this year, and it is custom to us and our blueprint process. It’s an easy repository for our clients to use. It reminds me of when we built the first version of our BugTracker, which was wildly successful and sets us apart from our competitors. I think the new hub will have the same effect.
What was your favorite fun thing the company did this year?
We had a great summer party this year. We all left at lunchtime and walked down to the lakefront about a mile from our office and found what had to have been the most perfect oak tree (pictured above). It had the biggest canopy. We were a little worried we would all bake in the sun, and we found this magnificent tree that shaded all 60 of us. We roasted a pig, played bocce, and sat out in lawn chairs. It was a perfect, relaxed opportunity to enjoy each other’s company. It was really warm outside, but with the shade from the tree and the breeze off the lake, it was an ideal day.
Looking forward to 2017, what's your biggest goal for the company?
We haven't announced that yet! We're currently talking internally about all of our ideas and narrowing it down. More to come!
Are there any social events already in the works for 2017?
We are a super social organization with a softball team, soccer team, movie club, game night, etc. Next year we’re going to have our first ever Noggin family day and invite everyone’s kids into the office. We don’t have any details yet, but it’ll be very fun, and even our staff that don’t have kids are excited to see all these little ones. Back when we started the company, no one had kids. Mine are the oldest in the crew, but now there seem to be tons of little Noggin babies and toddlers out there. It makes me realize how old the company is that we have so many Noggin kids now. So we’re very excited to do something fun with them.
What are you most excited about for the new year?
We have some great new clients in the mix that have either just kicked off projects in December or are scheduled to kick off in January. They’re going to get us into some fantastic new content domains that will continue to stretch us in exciting ways.