By Brendon Cambra, Business Operations
On April 26, 2015, I woke up at a decent hour. That Sunday, David, Steven, and I drove for about an hour over to Ridgewood, New Jersey in David’s Nissan Altima to be part of Saylestock, an annual fundraiser held in the town’s main park. David’s family organizes the event every year, and we were honored to have been invited to perform. After 10 months working with Dave and Steven at Neverware, this would be our first gig as AT & the Tapes (and to date, our only one). It was exciting to start playing drums again. Although I’d played in a band in high school (check us out!), I had rarely played rock and roll in the previous seven years. With David and Steven on guitar, we began a series of originals and and covers over our 20-minute set. It felt great to be playing again.
What I hadn’t realized was that I’d been playing the drums ever since I started working at Neverware in July 2014.
Running business operations at Neverware, my snare drum hits on 2 and 4 with a steady hi-hat and bass drum backbeat. This lays the groundwork for everyone else to do their job effectively, while participating in a culture that they enjoy every day. A consistent, unwavering rhythm keeps the vocalist, guitarists, keyboard, and bassist on the same page so that they can never worry about tempo and instead focus on their independent, unique responsibilities. A drum solo is pretty rare as projects where my results are showcased for everyone to see don’t happen often. What is common is a style change: I switch between traditional finance, HR, and operational functions on a daily basis. This means I might play the verse in 4, switch to 6/8 time for the chorus, then start swinging eighth notes during the bridge. Plus I have a small table of auxiliary percussion items like a tambourine, vibraslap, and shaker nearby for odd jobs like ordering the company’s weekly groceries or organizing our office move. In business operations, you have to do it all.
Our software engineering team, which includes David and Steven, is much more specialized. They’re the songwriters. No band can exist without music, just as no software company can exist without a code base. Our software engineers do an incredible job creatively architecting the code behind Neverware’s products and do so with admirable focus and integrity. Although they are solely responsible for the hands-on creation of the product, their names aren’t often found on the album cover (but see Lady Gaga for how to transition from songwriter to celebrity). So as they continue to optimize Neverware’s back end, others are able to steal the limelight…
Our CEO and sales team are the singer and lead guitarist. They are who you see and may have heard of before you consciously pay any attention to the band. Neverware’s front men and women work tirelessly to spread the word of what we do, why we do it, and how it can help school districts domestically and internationally. Musically, the lead vocal and guitar parts are obviously essential. We need the ongoing promotion and evangelism both remotely and at popular conferences to succeed as a small but ever-growing start up.
The Product Manager is a unique case. Popularly accompanied by the “idea guy” moniker, he (in Neverware’s case) architects our products and supports the software engineering team in turning that idea into a reality. He doesn’t play an instrument but he knows what the music sounds like before it’s even made. In that way, he’s the studio sound engineer. The sound engineer knows how to record and mix the song to achieve the sound the band is looking for. The product is a carefully developed piece of art and is created step by step in a very purposeful way. There are no accidents – the final product is the result of specific inputs with known outputs. However, the studio engineer only has control over the studio album and not on live performances. There are times after the album is made when band members have free rein on how a song will sound (think Phish or Grateful Dead). This is when the sales team holds an important meeting or our support team needs to address a critical issue. That said, the original project spearheaded by the Product Manager has always laid the foundation for concert performances from Neverware’s other members.
Finally, we have our support and operations teams, which collectively serve as Neverware’s keyboard and bassist. Although you may not hear about or interact with these groups before participating in a free trial or purchasing one of our products, don’t be surprised if one of them becomes your favorite band member when all is said and done. We take our customer support function very seriously, recording monthly customer satisfaction scores that are shared throughout the company – everyone is accountable for this metric. Our success as a company hinges on the efficiency with which we can solve a customer’s problems via remote or live on-site support (in NYC). Like a keyboard or bassist, they’re always present, always accompanying the main melody, but when it’s their time to shine, they really are alone. An extended solo for Victor Wooten or Nicky Hopkins is not only beautiful but one of a kind, so raw that you can’t help but be mesmerized by the complexity and emotion in their work. The work of these teams at Neverware is constant, essential, and heroic.
Part of what makes a startup special is being able to see all of these instruments, though different, perform in harmony with a common goal on a daily basis. Our mission of providing the most innovative technology to K-12 schools is top of mind with every melody we write and note we play. It’s a privilege and a joy to be part of the Neverware band.