I recently chatted with Jordan McNamara to ask him a few questions about his work at Envato, previously working on the Market team, and now working on the Studio team. Envato Studio is part of the Envato network, supporting over 4,000,000 digital creatives worldwide with sites including ThemeForest, Tuts+ and Envato Studio. So, let’s get started!
– How did you get involved with Envato?
I first heard of Envato was back in 2008 when I was pondering diving into graphic design and web development as a career. I’d finished high school in 2005 and wasn’t really enjoying my university course, so I was starting to think about other options. I’d always been into the idea of being some kind of freelancer or web professional and my friend Natasha (aka Skellie) was editing FreelanceSwitch at the time and suggested I should check it out. Over the next few months, I spent a lot of time researching how I could launch my freelance career and learn the skills I needed to be successful. I used a lot of Envato resources at this point personally, mostly from FreelanceSwitch and Tuts+.
– Where did you hear about the job?
A few months after my friend who edited FreelanceSwitch introduced me to Envato, she told me about a position that just opened up at the company. The role was Customer Support Manager which she thought would be a good fit for my skills. In my previous jobs I’d done a lot of customer service, sales and management so I agreed it could be a great opportunity. I immediately dropped everything and spent the next 24 hours perfecting my application. Within a week I had an interview with Cyan Ta’eed (co-founder and Marketplace Manager at the time) and the rest is history. I started a few weeks later. :D
When I think back on the biggest things to happen in my life, this is a standout moment. Working for Envato has 100% changed my life. I’ll forever be thankful for the opportunity I had to join the team when we were still just a little startup (the company was only three years old when I started and still working from a small co-working space!). Our small size meant I got to try a bit of everything and have a real influence on how the company grew. I’ve learned so much personally and professionally in my years here and have been flabbergasted at the growth and successes of our community! It’s been such a great ride.
– Working on the Marketplaces team, what were some of the best things you’ve learned?
When I started at Envato I was managing our customer support department, which looked after support for the whole company (at the time: Envato Marketplaces, Tuts+, AppStorm, Creattica, RockablePress etc.), but the bulk of our work (more than 95%) was supporting the Marketplaces, and as such I became very familiar with the community and product. I got a real understanding of where we were strong as a product and where the pain points were, which was super helpful when I took on additional responsibilities the following year as the Marketplace Community Manager. It really helped me to empathise with the community.
My time on Marketplaces taught me pretty much everything I know today. It’s hard to nail down one or two specific things that were the ‘best’. I am now definitely of the view that having a passionate, strong and intelligent community behind your product will take you places you never dreamed. I’ve made friends from all over the world and gotten to speak to amazing designers, coders, animators etc. daily, just by doing my job. I also learned that the reason our community can be so vocal and sometimes angry is because they are truly passionate about these sites. They make their living off us, and often feel powerless when things change, which is a super frustrating feeling. It was really humbling to realise how many people have a stake in the work we do at Envato. I guess technically I’ve gotten a lot better at project management and communication. But really, everything I know now and use day-to-day is from my time on Marketplaces :).
– Have you ever worked directly with Collis? If so, what’s he like? He seems awesome!
I sure have, and you’re right – he is awesome! I reported directly to Collis for three years while I was the Marketplace Community Manager. Getting to work so closely with him on so many different projects was incredibly inspiring and influenced the way I worked in so many ways. Because Envato is his baby, I really feel connected to the goals and values of the company. He’s incredibly intelligent and thoughtful, and has really big ideas and generally a very ‘big-picture’ view on stuff. The way Collis approaches work made big projects seem easy and very doable for me. The thing that stands out for me as the best thing about working directly with Collis personally, was his 100% trust and belief in me that I could get the job done. That was incredibly motivating for me and really influenced my own management style.
Apart from that, he’s super humble, funny and down to Earth. Really just a genuinely compassionate, good person – which made working for him a breeze. I value my time working with Collis closely very much. He has less time nowadays, but we still chat occasionally and I know his door is always open. :)
– What did you think when you first heard about the idea for Studio (or Microlancer)?
The idea for Envato Studio (Microlancer) in at least some form has been floating around for a very long time. I remember hearing Collis talk about a freelance services marketplace as a natural area for us to move into since I’d first started. So in some form, it’s always been in the back of my mind as something which we’d do eventually.
When the wheels started turning and Studio started to become a reality, I was super excited. The implementation was going to be a little different to what I’d always imagined, which was that Studio would kind of sit as an overlay to the existing Marketplace structure as opposed to a brand new product. But I think the approach we took has a lot of benefits. Long story short, I was super excited. Working on a massive new branch of the Envato ecosystem and getting to help make a new startup product from scratch is pretty dreamy! Layla Foord our GM was recruiting roles for the new team and approached me to ask if I’d like to join as Communications Manager. I said yes without hesitation!
– Did you enjoy the change of departments, and which job do you prefer?
The change was exciting. I’d spent a good 3.5 years working on the Market team and was looking for a new challenge. I loved my role as Community Manager for Market. I loved my team. I truly loved our users (I even have a soft-spot for our trolls!), but I was ready for something new.
Getting to work on Studio has been an amazing experience for me overall; it’s been great to learn new ways of doing things and the team is fantastic. I love the startup feeling we have – for me it’s the key reason why I joined the team. I thrive working on products early in their lifecycle – I love the challenge and hustle. Ultimately the best part has been connecting with our community of freelancers as a part of my role and making real connections with these amazing people. I’ve had the chance to speak with successful providers like Unipen (recently featured on Envato Stories), Zlaws, Isabelmdd (also on Envato Stories) and even yourself, Sam! :D It’s incredibly motivating speaking directly with the community – it reminds us of why we’re here.
The two roles have been very different, so it’s hard to pick a favourite! I’ve had amazing experiences on both Market and Studio that wouldn’t have been possible on the other side – I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work on both products and with both communities. :D
– Tell us what’s coming soon on Studio! :D
We’ve got a lot of UI work going on at the moment, cleaning up the design and UI across the whole site. Improving the consistency and feel generally. We have some new ways for people to discover services in the pipeline and a whole lot of improvements to the way people choose who to work with. We’re also thinking about allowing providers to add extras on to jobs after they’ve started etc. We just launched our affiliate program, so we’re starting to build that out and are looking at where we can further integrate with Envato Market. It’s an exciting time! We’ve still got so much to do! :)
– Anything else you want to share?
That’s it! Thanks for the chat, Sam!
We’d like to thanks Jordan once again for his great answers! If you have any more questions you’d like to ask Jordan, leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to pass them on to him. For more info about Envato Studio, visit the website.