Farewell, Michael Aird
February 26 was Michael’s last day with us at the Brain, after more than a decade. You probably did not speak to Michael if you are a client…but, I can assure you that he had a significant impact on your use of CampBrain!
In June 2010, we offered only a desktop version of the Brain (and we were downloading online registrations into it). We had a large client base grown primarily over the 2000’s. But, let’s face it, we were behind in moving to the cloud. We hired Michael as our lead developer and architect to bring us to the web, to develop the next generation of the Brain. To be clear, this required a complete re-write of CampBrain from scratch – it is not like we could use any existing pieces.
Michael’s first job was to choose a technology stack and architecture. This is no small feat when our goal was to serve thousands of camps, millions of campers, billions of dollars in transactions. This is one area where Michael shines. He absorbs new technology (how it works and how it can be applied) very rapidly and analyzed several different options before landing on our chosen stack. I would also point out that the architecture of the Brain was not simple. We wanted to accomplish a lot – such as serving organizations with multiple camps, serving organization with multiple different “pools” of people, serving organizations with multiple different “seasons” happening simultaneously. There is so much more complexity to describe but suffice to say it was a challenge to take on and conquer.
Michael’s second job was to assemble a team. He was not going to do this himself (!) and we were not going to outsource our development. We needed to “own” this product in every way – we were building something for the long-term and it was essential that our team knew every aspect of it. “Ownership” of one’s work, taking pride in one’s work, writing high quality code – these were all important to Michael. With Michael leading the way, we built a high quality, multidisciplinary development team, most of whom have been with us at least 5 years (several have exceeded 10 years).
The team liked to work with Michael – they were attracted to his knowledge and technical know-how…but, also to his ability to teach and mentor. He worked closely with his team, loving technical challenges and loving to see the team advance their skillset. He’s admired and respected by those that work with him. And Michael loved his team back. He looked out for them, cared deeply about their situation, their growth and their needs.
As we released our web version of the Brain, Michael led the team to continue to push our feature set further and further. As the feature set continued to grow, those camp/camper/transaction numbers I mentioned above also grew….at a rapid and steady pace. Through this growth, Michael moved to a role as CTO in the company and took on an increasingly broader role, including things like security, policies, system performance, database management, hosting, etc. To put it simply, he was responsible for the product and its performance. Somehow our internal IT management snuck into his responsibility list as well! I think it is fair to say that we relied on Michael’s knowledge and leadership heavily.
There are some people that you just cannot replace. The role they played, the knowledge they acquired….you don’t simply put a job ad out there and replace that. The reality is that those roles/responsibilities and that knowledge need to be shared amongst the team. Asking one person to simply play that role is not realistic – that is the type of impact Michael had. He leaves us a decade later, having accomplished what he came to do – help us completely re-write a piece of software in a new technology stack so that we could serve thousands of camps, millions of campers and billions of dollars in transactions.
Michael will take on a new building project and will, undoubtedly, have another huge impact for another large number of people (who may never get to know him). And we will be forever grateful for his impact on us, our company, our product and our camp community.
Thank you, Michael.