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Do one thing well.
I relentlessly tell this to coworkers and students. One plan, one focus, one feature. SparkFun makes electronics more accessible to everyone -- it's what we do well. As a CEO, I love to give advice. As a CEO, I should learn to follow it. I am and will always be an engineer. I’d rather spend countless hours talking about my projects than talking about my company. I love building projects. I love to write. Over the past 12 years, the time for writing and projects has been diminishing.
Day to day life at SparkFun is wonderfully crazy. During a recent workday I took a call from a detective looking for customer information in regards to a crime committed using our parts (“Please refer to our Law Enforcement page, come back with a subpoena and we’re happy to help”), I was delivered a skinny FedEx envelope (they don’t send legal nastygrams any other way), I got to meet an amazing 15-year old girl building a device out of SparkFun parts to battle diabetes -- oh, and the basement of our new building sprung a small leak due to the rain. This job is a roller coaster.
Presented with what I should be doing (laying the groundwork for the next three years) and what I love doing (building electronics for the local kid's museum), I have to push myself to do what’s required. And when I squeeze in a few hours on a weekend to design something, it’s never enough to get it properly finished.
So therein lies the rub -- it’s time to relinquish the reins of SparkFun to someone who adores setting strategy, daydreams about tomorrow without distraction and enjoys herding cats (a.k.a, managing people). It’s time to get back to building cool stuff and doing something silly with it.
Normally when you hear about a CEO "stepping down," it's a bad thing. However, this is not the sign of SparkFun’s demise -- far from it, actually. SparkFun is healthy, happy, and rocking right along. Our customers continue to inspire us each and every day to build awesome gear, and we're churning out new products, tutorials and content every day. I simply know that SparkFun -- and you -- deserve someone at the helm whose heart is 100% committed to being a CEO.
Media outlets love to cover tantalizing details of the fall of a CEO, hence the public’s often confused view that a departing CEO is a signal of something dire. You know this guy, right?
After 16 years Jon Stewart announced he’s stepping down from the Daily Show and has selected Trevor Noah as his replacement. While countless fans are dismayed, I relate. This shi...stuff is hard and I'd rather be soldering.
Remember, Jon Stewart was not the original host. Craig Kilborn set the stage, Jon Stewart made it his own as I’m sure Trevor Noah will. It’s foolish and arrogant of me to believe in a world of 7 billion people that I am the best person to run a company. I cannot begin to explain how excited I am to get back to building stuff.
In the meantime, I’ve been told not to get senioritis and rightly so. SparkFun has a tremendous number of awesome projects and internal programs progressing nicely. Keeping the day-to-day flywheel going is much needed. We'll still be writing, building, and creating the products that you've come to expect from SparkFun. At the same time, I’ve got the long process of finding the right person, onboarding them, and eventually stepping down. Someday, perhaps in a year, maybe more, maybe less, I’ll have moved from CEO to NtE (Nate the Engineer). You’ll know it when you see it. Once you do one thing well, whether it’s being the CEO or being an engineer, everything just gets better.
Do you think you can run SparkFun? Do you know someone crazy enough? For the right person it will be a fun challenge. Bob Executives may find it hard at SparkFun. Those who do not respect the world view of others need not apply.
There are a lot of pieces and parts to line up, but over the next few weeks we'll post the role of CEO at SparkFun on our jobs page. While a standard job posting may seem odd for such a large role, I want to leave open the potential for discovering amazing candidates. If you or someone you know is the right fit, please consider applying.
TL;DR -- SparkFun is thriving, but I'm returning to my engineering roots.