Why We Hired Mark Jaquith

There are subject matter experts; then there are Subject Matter Experts™. Mark Jaquith is a Subject Matter Expert™. Rarely do companies get the opportunity to get the caliber of talent that embodies Mark. So, naturally, we’re thrilled to announce that Mark is joining the b5media ranks this Friday (June 1).

For those of you who don’t know Mark, he is in the top three (I’d say) WordPress developers in the world, and plays a key role in the creation of new features that go into the core. He has commit access to the core. He doesn’t just know WordPress; he helped to create much of it. His intimate knowledge of what WordPress can do is what made him so desirable.

Back in February, we began to seriously look at the needs of the technology team. We evaluated what we wanted to do and what it would take to get there. I began scoping out the WordPress development community and decided to contact two people. Brian Layman has already told you of his experiences. He was one candidate. I reached out to Mark, even though I was convinced that he wanted to remain independent or go to work for Automattic. I was surprised and thrilled when he seemed interested.

In the end, we made offers to both of our candidates and they both accepted.

Mark Jaquith: “I’m excited to be joining the b5media team because they share my belief in the personal publishing revolution as well as my passion for the community-driven software that makes it possible.”

With Mark coming on board, I wanted to explain a feeling I’ve had for a long time. Many people think that working on free software on a voluntary basis is a waste of time. They would prefer to get paid to work on a large development team and put out mediocre projects. It’s not necessary to take ownership of the code because it’s simply a “project” or a “contract” and the manager can take the hits. It’s another thing to stick your neck out there, buy into a project, put your everything into it and come away having notoriety.

Being a dedicated open source developer can turn you into a Subject Matter Expert™ if:

  1. You’re dedicated to the projects
  2. You’re consistent in your methods
  3. You’re available to the community

Mark has been all three and I knew that by simple observation over a long period of time – much like bloggers who have figured out that their blog can be their resumé.

We make no secret about our loyalty to WordPress. We are as powered by WordPress as companies can come. I think perhaps the only thing that is not powered by WordPress is our business cards (and we are trying to figure out how to do that so stay tuned!). With the addition of Mark (and Brian), we now have the capability to extend the platform into other non-blog applications and stretch its abilities.

Welcome aboard, Mark!

Added: Incidentally, Mark and others on the team have posted about this as well.

Mark Jaquith himself says:

Aaron Brazell (previously known to me) from b5media contacted me in late March about a position they had available. He sort of floated it out there, not even knowing if I’d be interested in taking on a full time job, as opposed to staying freelance. The timing couldn’t have been better. Although I enjoy my freelance work, I had reached a point where I would have to hire employees or subcontractors in order to expand the business, and my paid work was starting to reduce the amount of time I could spend contributing to WordPress core. Aaron’s e-mail also came shortly after the loss of my sister. As cheesy as this sounds, it gave me hope. It gave me something to be excited about.

He clarifies how this affects his WordPress contributions on his WordPress.com blog:

My contributions to WordPress will continue to be made using my independent judgement. All changes that b5media wants to go into WordPress will have to go through the proper channels, as they always have. They won’t get any special consideration. If it’s not right for WordPress, it won’t go in.

I only have one thing to say to this: Thank God he spelled the company name correctly! Sheesh!

Jeremy notes the difficulty in hiring as a startup and comments about Mark:

Over the last 8 months or so I’ve started growing into the role of CEO. And during that time one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that hiring in a startup is really, really hard!

Now it’s not that I hadn’t done hiring before. But I’d done it in larger companies. Companies where “œgood enough” was often just that. If people had the energy we could train them, and if they had the skills we could mould them. But in a startup, you need people who are exceptionally skilled, totally passionate, completely bought into the company and who really, really fit the team.

For us, Mark Jaquith was all of that and more.

For the official announcement, check out the b5media blog.