Interview – Matt Mickiewicz, COO of SitePoint.com

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In the last interview, we got into Jeffrey Zeldman’s pants, and now it’s time for a little SitePoint "down under". So, I’m here with SitePoint’s Co-Founder and Online Marketing Manager, Matt Mickiewicz.

SP: Matt, I have to ask, have you ever considered changing your name to something people can type? I’ve heard some odd names like Wiszniowski that I can both say and spell, but yours really does take the cake. Any plans? How about if we start a petition?

Ahh… yes, the famous last name. Did you know it’s actually found in every encyclopedia? Adam Mickiewicz was the Polish equivalent of Shakespeare… they even have a statue of him in Krakow’s Town Square. How many people can say that about their ancestors?

Seriously though, the name lends itself to some good jokes. I was doing a lecture in Quebec this one time, and afterwards I was talking to someone who had an equally obscure name. Needless to say, we both got asked to "spell that" all the time. Her standard reply? "Got half a day?"

Life @ SitePoint

SP: What is an average working day in the life of Matt like?

Since I work out of my home office, I tend to set my alarm clock for 9AM. While my email is downloading and being processed by MailWasher (and being checked against 5 separate blacklists) I can be found off in my kitchen making breakfast. I used to make pancakes about once a week, until a recent bad experience that ended up with my smoke detector going off, and staying on. After a few minutes of futile attempts to turn it off, and the realization that it wasn’t battery powered, I just started yanking at the various elements… and got mildly electrocuted.

SP: How did you end up being involved in SitePoint? Were you part of the "Sausage Exodus" as they say?

Ahh… no. I dragged them out of Sausage! SitePoint.com used to be called Webmaster-Resources, which I registered on April 1st, 1998. It grew, and grew, and grew, and advertisers were literarily throwing money my way. At one point, I had a waiting list of advertisers. Eventually I found Mark Harbottle and Jason Donald over the Internet, and we formed a company. The rest, as they say, is history.

SP: You, Mark and Jason own SitePoint. How do you avoid problems in the partnership? If one partner spends less time at work than the others, how do you solve it? If one says yes, the other says no, what happens?

We discuss it. We’ve never had any major disagreements. By taking into account multiple viewpoints, we come up with ideas and strategies that no single one of us could have come up with individually. So 2+2=5.

SP: Do you take any time off from SP? Do you work regular hours or is it round-the-clock? What do you do with any spare time?

I used to be a workaholic, skipping vacations, working ’til 11PM at night and weekends. Over the past two years I’ve learned that what’s important is not how long you work, but how much you accomplish while you’re working. So working smarter, not harder, has been my guiding philosophy in recent years. While I still can be found on the computer ’til late at night on weekdays, on Fridays I sometimes take off early, and I almost never work on weekends anymore.

SP: What’s in store for the future of SitePoint? I keep hearing about "SitePoint NextGen", what is that, and what can we expect? Give us the inside juice that nobody outside of the "office" is allowed to know about. We promise, we won’t tell.

How about if I give you the answer in binary code? :-P

SP: What are you goals — for SitePoint, and for yourself?

For SitePoint: to become a leader in the Web Development Publishing field, and a pioneer in developing new and more profitable publishing, marketing and sales systems for content. Just what we’re doing, or how we’re going to do it, will have to remain a trade secret though… let’s just say that lots of good things are on the way.

I AM Canadian

SP: So just *how* superior do you feel to be living in this beautiful country we call Canada, as opposed to your co-workers who are on some island called Australia?

SitePoint knows where to live. Vancouver and Melbourne are ranked the #1 cities to live in, in the world.

Speaking from Vancouver’s perspective: Whistler, the world’s #1 rated ski and snowboarding resort is just a 3 hour drive from my house. The ocean is 45 minutes away. Parks and lakes are within 20 minutes of my house, and yet I only live 5 minutes from a shopping mall and all the major conveniences of life, including the liquor store…

SP: How does the time zone difference affect SitePoint work? Is it frustrating going to bed just as your team is getting into work, or does it mean you can give them lots of work and then literally "sleep on it"?

We schedule weekly phone meetings, but sometimes the time difference does get in the way. I frequently find ICQ messages sitting for me in the morning which were sent in early afternoon Australia time — which was midnight here. I usually work late, so our working time does overlap by several hours Monday through Thursday, my time.

SP: You went to Australia last year — what was that like? How long were you there? Was it weird to meet all these people you’d only ever talked to on the phone or online?

It’s actually been more than a year! They haven’t flown me down in ages (hint, hint). I went to Australia when we first started the company (just me, Mark and Jason — without employees or offices), and I went down again for an extended trip when we opened our offices and started our Web design division. I haven’t been back since. The 17+ hour trip is not one to be taken lightly… next time I go, I’m loading up on sleeping pills.

SP: Just where *are* the mean streets of Vancouver?

Hastings and Main. I roll up my windows and lock my car doors and I avoid making eye contact with anybody around there.

Matt, the Pensive Protagonist

SP: How did Webmaster Resources first come about? What made you kick it off? What was it like being on TV?

I was frustrated by the lack of a central location from which one could obtain links to Web development-related software, services and information sites. So I compiled a list of links, and I put them up on Geocities as a one-pager. I actually still have the page on my hard drive.

I’ve been on TV, in the papers, and on several radio shows quite a number of times (not always because of SitePoint). It’s always an exhilarating rush and a lot of fun. The first TV appearance was the hardest, but I’ve greatly improved since then and my last TV interview went over very well according to people who saw it — though I’ve personally avoided watching the tape!

SP: Before its success, did you ever envision being able to live off SitePoint and even hire employees full-time?

I had everything mentally, before I ever had it physically. Once a clear goal is established and you start taking action, any action, towards that goal, it eventually materializes. Yes, mistakes are made along the way, but ultimately for me, my brain corrects itself and comes up with the ideas and inspirations that are necessary to achieve whatever I desire. All I have to do is act on them.

SP: What are the hidden costs of success? Are you still eating $3 microwave dinners?

I’ve actually gotten tired of microwave dinners in recent months, and I frequently don’t eat dinner at all. In the past month or so I’ve gotten my girlfriend to start making dinner for me on weekends, though of course, I help her. I also tend to eat out at a lot of restaurants. For a fast bite to eat, Subway or Quizno’s are the only way to go. For drinks, my current favourite is Corona. I drink one every time I close a deal worth over $10,000.

SP: Do you think SitePoint could have achieved the success it has today if just you led it without joining up with Mark and Jason?

Definitely, no. Success is never a solo effort.

SP: What has running SitePoint taught you?

The importance of accounting, finance systems, prompt collections, credit checks and signed paperwork (no, not everybody intends to pay their invoices).

SP: If you could change one thing in the evolution of SitePoint, what would it be?

Nothing.

I do wish I had bought the NetCreation shares when they were offered to me at the IPO price though — as long as I had sold them quickly.

Now for Something Completely Different

SP: I’m a .NET developer for a large team. Will you hire me? If not, where do you live?

SitePoint is solely based on open-source technologies… I’m based in Vancouver, Canada though the rest of the SitePoint staff are in Melbourne, Australia — all nine of them.

Thanks to Matt for taking the time to let us get to know him a little better!

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