A *full* year in management

A *full* year in management

A year ago today, I officially started a career in management. I accepted a role as the Head of Software at South by Southwest (SXSW), a company I have worked with for the past several years. It was a tremendous accomplishment for me, and something I had joked about in years prior, so to have it come to be felt extremely rewarding. That being said, I didn’t know what a roller coaster the SXSW 2020 season would come to be.

In May of 2019, I graduated from USC. I was wanting to put my newly-learned skills to use immediately, and I was in the early stages of my job search when Nick Hammond, my boss, called me to let me know he was leaving SXSW and wanted to recommend me for his role at the company. I was excited that all of my hard work was paying off so quickly, and after a few rounds of interviews, I was signing all the paperwork human resources needed for my start date, September 25, 2019. The fall flew into the winter, and I was heads-down learning how to manage my new team and manage the expectations of the company.

In January of 2020, my wife and I got married. It was something we had planned the following summer, and we had been doing long distance since I took the new job. It was a great wedding and a really exciting time for my personal life, and it deserves its own post. So, I won’t go into detail here, but you can imagine how focused and busy it was to be planning my wedding and learning how to be a good manager.

You may know what happens next…

Coronavirus. Covid. Covid-19.

I remember feeling like “a dummy” because I didn’t put two and two together when the first reports started coming out of Wuhan. I didn’t realize how much the virus would affect our lives. After my wedding, I went back to work. SXSW happens in March, so I was still very focused on ensuring that my first event as the Head of Software went off without a hitch. On March 6, 2020, the City of Austin announced that is was canceling SXSW 2020. I think I will remember that week as the most terrible week of my professional career for a long time. What followed shortly after was a series of layoffs, pay-cuts, furloughs, and other difficult business things.

Once the dust settled a bit, we entered the summer of meetings. The company was working remotely, so it was zoom meeting after zoom meeting discussing what to do now and what to do next. Many of these conversations are ongoing, but one exciting moment of progress was the announcement of SXSW 2021 Online this week. It was a big initiative across the company, and I’m very proud of the work we have done.

It was a full year, with a lot of learning moments for me. If I had to pick a silver lining, I would say my increase in confidence. By brute force and necessity, the confidence I have in my work and decision making has increased by at least one order of magnitude.

We are still in the coronavirus pandemic, and I know a lot of folks have been affected in a bigger way than I have. Please shoot me an email if there is something I can do to help.


About Brandon C Sammons

Brandon is a versatile and passionate engineer that uses design thinking and web technologies for creative problem-solving. He is currently working as the Director of Software at SXSW and teaching Web Design at FIDM.