After spending the first few years of his life in Lake Havasu, Arizona, Brian’s family returned to Rochester, NY. There Brian Watkins would stay until his early twenties, running the gauntlet of grade school to high school while developing a bittersweet relationship with the northern lake effect weather.
Early life of Brian Watkins
Brian was fascinated with electronics from a young age. A regular weekend occurrence of his father’s stereo blasting classic rock of all sorts got Brian into music and speaker technology in general, something that would shape his hobbies much as he grew through adolescence. Never a big fan of book learning, Brian learned much about speakers and electronics through the classic “take it apart and try to understand how the pieces work together.”
At 13 Brian Watkins and his best friend began learning HTML, bobbing between different free hosting sources and experimenting with designs within the limitations of the relatively primitive browsers of those days. What seemed like simply of a fun way to kill time would become significant for Brian years later as a budding career in web development emerged.
During the formative years, when life is easy because there’s basically only school and fun, Brian was an avid cyclist and jogger, preferring to run during the evenings to enjoy the quite of the road.
When inside, Brian spent a lot of time crafting short stories and creating fantasy worlds, something else that seemed like simply a hobby at the time. It wasn’t until college that the calling for writing something more became apparent.
In the final years of high school, guidance counselors were everywhere coaxing students to take career assessments and corralling everyone into boxes. None of the results his tests generated actually sounded interesting, but he wasn’t sure what to put in their place either. Amidst the bustle of passing tests, trying not to get harassed by bullies, and keeping up with a world that seemed to be changing faster than a day would allow, seeing that far out in the future seemed a complicated and unimportant task.
Following a series of programming courses that spanned into the first year of college, he quickly discovered a growing chasm between what seemed fun as a hobby and tasks laden with everyday responsibility. He found himself yearning for the more creative courses on his schedule, and it soon became apparent that a change of major was in order.
3 years later, after a blur of diversity literature and rhetorical writing courses, Brian Watkins decided it was time for a change of scenery. The soul-numbing years of menial jobs and the same old town, made more poignant by his parents’ divorce and the rift left in the status quo, made a reinvention appealing. He moved to North Carolina immediately after graduating in August 2006, following his then-girlfriend as she changed schools.
The new setting was exciting and scary — exactly what he’d hoped it’d be. But he wasn’t prepared for how difficult landing a bona fide writing job would be. The “it will work itself out” casual attitude had served him well enough in college, but it became obvious that it’d also led him not to plan much for afterward, and the lack of certain strategic moves seemed to close a lot of doors as the search began.
Sometimes the path forward isn’t immediately clear. Brian Watkins took a job in 2007 that seemed misaligned with his true goals, but it was a pay check while he could plan the next move. A year later, aptitude in office communication led him into the marketing department of that same company. Under the tutelage of a supervisor all about the then-emerging field of SEO, Brian learned the value of blending technical skills with a creative edge. He took to it well, and honed his new craft on company blogs, newsletters, sales pieces — everything he could get his hands on.
A year or so later he found himself moving from freelance writing into opening a business with his wife called One Click Consulting. He largely handled the office tasks, building WordPress websites, and writing while his wife networked and handled sales. It was a good partnership for a few years, but ultimately the lack of starting capital and business experience made a return to the corporate setting appealing. He and his wife Terri learned much in those years, but often there are limits to the gains of hands-on experience in a given trajectory.
In 2012 joined a local startup that seemed similar in goals to what they’d been working on, but with greater reach. By combining the stability of a day job with the entrepreneurial spirit the office embodied, Brian was able to test his skills against larger clients. His propensity for process refinement and planning was soon rewarded with management opportunities. Though the training from above ended up being minimal compared to what leadership had promised, the “in the trenches” experience gained from running meetings and being the sole contact for premier clients was very enlightening from a project management standpoint.
Outgrowing the white collar
Organizations inevitably change as they grow. Sometimes they scale well and preserve much of the initial spirit they had as young organizations, and other times they grow into very different companies as they attain critical mass. By mid 2014 it was becoming clear that the company’s vision and Brian’s no longer aligned. In reminding himself the adage he’d coined just after college, “I’d rather be an artist than a mercenary,” he began to weigh his options.
His days started to feel very production-line-like, with very little value placed on creativity and being different. The next move wasn’t clear, so he decided to stay on awhile while he re-evaluated his priorities. The misalignment he’d felt was apparently mutual from the company’s standpoint, pressing a decision June of that year in which Brian found himself back in the freelance realm. This time, however, his skills were better honed and his poise had matured from the early days of writing marketing copy.
Personal blogs that he hadn’t had time for while working nights and weekends unappreciated beckoned, and he knew they could become something more if he approached with the right focus.
Deciding that a blend of creativity and well-researched data was not only possible but viable, proven by so many others in the industry who’d found success by outshining the mediocre, Brian Watkins took a few months to plan. He had no desire to go it alone as he had when he’d first freelanced years before, so he began looking for like-minded fellows to build a team.
The rest is history being written.