Building Capacity at Reclaim

Yesterday Lauren tweeted that she has taken control of the coveted top spot on the Reclaim Hosting support leaderboard. Beating me is easy, but topping Timmmmyboy is no small feat. Lauren has been working double duty the last 3 weeks given Tim has been on a European vacation and I’ve been traveling and hosting over that same period. This last month was a really good test to gauge whether Reclaim can flourish beyond its co-founders, and I think we have found our answer.  We have built capacity over the last two years, and Lauren’s brilliant work last month is a testament to just that. I do not think anyone hosting with Reclaim has seen a dip in the excellent service they expect, and at the same time Tim and I have been able to let go of certain things these last few weeks.

I think this is a really excellent sign for things to come. If Reclaim Hosting is simply about Tim or I it will ultimately fail, it needs to be about a group of folks working towards a common goal both within our company and beyond. Lauren has become a core figure of Reclaim Hosting, and watching her continually exceed any and all expectations while at the same time soaking up the seemingly endless combination of technical challenges supporting web hosting represents has been very cool. 

Meredith Fierro recently started part-time with us at Reclaim as a support specialist, and she has been following in Lauren’s footsteps patiently working through issues, taking on various challenges on a daily basis, and building capacity at Reclaim. And for me that has been the key because we are showing no signs of slowing. Yesterday may have been one of the busiest support days on record, and the semester is nowhere near full swing.  We could not have had Lauren come into her own at a more crucial time.

While not a science, I think a couple of things may have helped us build capacity more recently:

  • Independence – I think the biggest piece of this is Tim and I do not micromanage. And while we are there for any and all questions, we trust that folks will do the research and figure out possible solutions on their own. And when that avenue has been exhausted we’re ready to jump in. That sense of self-sufficiency and confidence is a huge part of building capacity. And with someone as capable as Tim at the support helm it’s easy to rely on him for all answers (I know I did that far too much early on), and breaking that over-dependence has been crucial for my own learning.
  • Trust – When we bring someone on there is an implicit trust, and it has been particularly easy with Lauren and Meredith given we known and worked with them for before Reclaim at UMW. Who they are is a big reason for why we hired them, the technical skills (which they both had when we hired them) are far less important in my mind. It is amazing what people you work with are capable of when you trust them.
  • Shared space – This may be controversial, and it might even seem hypocritical given I live and work from Italy, but I think having a shared office space this year has been a very good thing for Reclaim. A shared physical space for tackling issues, sharing solutions, and building relationships has some real advantages.  I love Slack, and as a distributed business tool it is quite powerful, but a cool office space to work together can be hard to substitute online for building a team. Part of my experimentation with Reclaim Video is to see if I can actually inhabit that space more physically, albeit virtually—if that makes any sense.
  • Fun – It has been a busy year, no doubt, and it will only get more so in the coming months. But building in the capacity for play and fun is crucial. Designing the office space has been work, but it was also a lot of fun. Same goes for the conference and design work for Reclaim and Rockaway. We also had a blast last year in Portland as a group, and I think keeping a sense of play with the work we do is crucial, although not always easy when doing support. We do this to some degree, but I think we might even be a bit more intentional here, although planned fun is never fun. Anyway, this one is half thought through.
  • Possibility – I think a real strength of Reclaim right now is a sense of possibility. We are all filled with hope and optimism around the work we do. We all see its relevance, and while I am focused on building capacity at Reclaim in this post, I think that same concept extends to the folks who host with us.  We are working to building digital capacity for faculty and students all around the world, and that is not nothing. Lauren and Meredith are in at the ground floor of this process, and together we are all shaping Reclaim’s future with the work we’re doing. It also means our job today may not be our job tomorrow as we continue to grow and explore what’s possible.  I believe the work really matters, and that makes me dangerous: I am a true believer #4life 🙂

All that said, we still have much to work on.  We are starting to explore development work,  and one of my personal weaknesses has been project management and organization—an ongoing debility I suffer from. That said, we are working with Lauren on trying to get this under control because I think this could be a crucial part of our work moving forward given how amazing the community work Tom Woodward has been doing the last couple of months for Georgetown and Davidson—more on that shortly. So this is an area we are presently working on, and I think that’s been the lesson for me these first four years of Reclaim: building capacity is a slow and steady process, but once it starts to materialize the payoff is awesome. What’s more, knowing all this makes it possible to start accomplishing the broader mission of helping build digital capacity in higher ed keeps everything grounded in the work—which will hopefully speak for itself.

Reclaim Reflection

Last week provided a unique scenario for me. Jim was in Australia, Tim was in Germany, and Meredith was on vacation. As both of my bosses were asleep by early afternoon on the east coast, I had to step up my support game to say the least. I worked longer hours, faced the out-of-my-league support tickets head on, and learned an absolute mess of information. And to be honest, I feel rather proud of myself. It was probably the first time that I was on my own support-wise for longer than an afternoon. Additionally, it was also the first time that I felt like a truly capable “fixer”. Don’t get me wrong– I still had to be rescued every now and then, but overall I held my own and that’s something worth celebrating.

I suppose in any line of work, it can be very easy to compare your skill set to that of someone else’s. Especially in an “All Things Internet” career path, this feels so tempting. There’s always another language to learn, another problem to solve, another platform to develop. And on top of that, it’s ever-changing. Shortly after I was first hired at Reclaim, I dreamt of this scenario one day where I never had to ask support-related questions. Where I just always knew the answer. (Lol.) It sounds silly to even type now, but there were months on end where it felt like asking questions was all I did.

(Asking questions is hardly a bad thing, but I’ll save that for another post.)

Every now and then I have to remind myself that I came into Reclaim Hosting with only an English/Creative Writing major under my belt. Everything that I know that allows me to be successful at my job has either been self-taught or learned on the job. So I’m taking a quick minute to step away from the competition, challenges, and tutorials to reflect. I’ve come far in these last two years & I’m feeling proud of that. Psst… If you’re wanting a flashback to my first ever Reclaim Hosting post, you can read that here: How I Joined the #4Life Club.

Last week also gave me a chance to connect & sync with CoWork on a new level. I’ve been opening & closing every day, keeping the Instagram up to date, overseeing conference meetings & being a point person for members. I’ve also been tidying up, dreaming of the “What Next” for the space, and was even interviewed! Since moving back to Fredericksburg in May, this week and last week have been some of the busiest I’ve experienced in the space. Yesterday alone, we had 5 members working in the open area for most of the day, 2 large conference room meetings, gatherings in the private office, and the phone ringing off the hook. It was also a super big mail day for some reason, haha!

^I took on a little mini project of organizing our kitchenette. I added baskets, snacks & a little sign. The goal is to get a built in countertop + sink combo with hanging shelves. The black paint on the wall is actually a chalkboard paint, so I can’t wait to make some floor to ceiling art one day. :) But for now, I’m loving this corner.

^I fully believe that keeping the CoWork Instagram active really does help bring in traffic. It helps give the location a personality. I’ve had multiple people now come in saying “I found you guys on Instagram and wanted to stop by in person!” That feels cool.

^Also today is extra special– it’s Bring Your Brother To Work Day!

Testing a Migration: Editing Your Host File

When conducting a site migration, it can be really helpful to see if the move worked properly & the site is functioning before pointing nameservers & making the change live. In a lot of cases, data will transfer “successfully” but then actually require a few extra tweaks before the site is online. Simply put: you need to test the migration before you make it live.

So, to tell our individual computer to look somewhere else before loading a website, we’ll have to edit the host file on our computer.

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Reclaim Turns 4

This week Reclaim Hosting turns 4 years old. That’s something, isn’t it? This year has been a really good one. We brought Lauren on full time, hired Meredith, designed and opened an office/co-working space, started a second web hosting company, ran a conference, and more than doubled our business for the third year in a row.

It’s been crazy and awesome all at once. The coolest part about this milestone (the exact date is July 23rd -but for some reason I insist on July 28th in my head) is that we are truly world wide this week with Tim in Europe, myself in Australia, Lauren holding down Reclaim HQ in Virginia, and Meredith at an undisclosed location on vacation. Reclaim Worldwide, indeed.  Here’s to 4 more and then some!

Website Migration from Bluehost to Reclaim

Trying to get into the habit of documenting bits of my work at Reclaim– today I did an account migration from Bluehost to Reclaim. Here’s the quick & dirty checklist:

One

If the user follows Reclaim’s Migration Assistance instructions, then they will have previously signed up for a Reclaim account before filling out a Migration Assistance form. Our first step is to go into WHMCS and terminate newly created hosting plan. Since there’s no existing content on the account yet, “terminating” does no harm– it just removes the DNS cluster from the server.

Two

Log into the client’s Bluehost account & grab the dedicated IP address on their cPanel. Make sure the IP isn’t blocked. For us, this means (1) checking to see if it’s on a global greylist on BitNinja and if so, whitelisting it, and (2.) Ignore/Allow on Reclaim WHM new server.

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From Asana to Suite CRM

One of my first changes that I established at Reclaim Hosting after being hired was moving all of our customer relationship content into Asana. (It was actually one of my first posts, too!) Fast forward a couple of years– I’m now transitioning Reclaim out of Asana and into Suite CRM.

Let me preface this post by saying the following: I love Asana. It has been a great tool to me personally and has been crucial to the inner workings at Reclaim for a while now. I set each university or institution as a “task”, and then separated the accounts into the following “projects”: Current Accounts, Opportunities, & Recycled Accounts. Each task description had the point contact, a link to the initial inquiry support ticket (if we were super organized) & sparse commentary about the account’s who/what/where/when/why. By using tags, assigning users, & setting due dates (i.e. our reminders) the RH team truly squeezed all we could out of the platform.

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The Moodle Fighters Suck!

But damn they look good!

This is the Moodle Fighters (at least some of them): Grant Potter, pictured above rocking the bass, along with Brian Lamb on drums and Mikhail Gershovich on guitar (as well as Luke Waltzer—not pictured here)  made up part of the splinter group from other bands like The Dead Moocmen (who were headliners, but pulled a no show) and Blackboard Sabbath.

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Reclaim Video

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging sabbatical the last month or so. It’s been nice to take a break, but at the same time I have never had more to write about between the Domains 17 conference (total blast), a cross-country trip on Route 66 to LA, the community work Tom Woodward has been developing with Reclaim, a position paper I’ve been procrastinating, and an impending trip to Melbourne, Australia in just over a week. Life moves pretty fast when you’re a Reclaimer.

I tried to capture as much of the UMW Blogs migration as possible in my previous post (a temporary breaking of the blog hiatus) for fear it would all be lost, but that’s always the fear with blogging. the more time that passes the less that gets blogged. Not always a bad thing for the two or three remaining readers given I make no pretensions towards quality here, this blog has always been about quantity. So taking a month-long blogging break wreaks havoc on the numbers.  Read more

Set UMW Blogs Right to Ludicrous Speed

UMW Blogs was feeling its age this Spring (it officially turned ten this month—crazy!) and we got a few reports from the folks at DTLT that performance was increasingly becoming an issue. Since 2014 the site had been hosted on AWS (Tim wrote-up the details of that move here) with a distributed setup storing uploads on S3, the databases on RDS, and running core files through an EC2 instance. That was a huge jump for us back then into the Cloud, and the performance jump was significant. AWS has proven quite stable over the last two years, but it’s never been cheap—running UMW Blogs back then cost $500+ a month, and I’m sure the prices haven’t dropped significantly since.

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CoWork Love

^View of the entrance to CoWork. Folks are greeted with bright plants, eclectic shelving & a Joke of the Day. We’ve started hanging posters & art on the metal wall that faces the main space. More recently, this has included pieces from our recent conference event.