SparkFun and Its Not-So-Traditional Work Culture

Check out this article from Forbes - and some cute dog pictures.

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I've been working at SparkFun for nearly four years now. I feel pretty fortunate to have stumbled upon a position here while surfing Craigslist one day. I had just graduated from college a few months prior and was intensely job hunting when I came across a listing for a copywriter position in the marketing department of a "small but growing" electronics company in Boulder. The post had all the usual stuff you'd expect except one note at the bottom - "Must like and/or tolerate dogs."

Lucky spends most of his days watching his owner Mike solder together widgets.

That was the first indication that working at SparkFun is a bit different than what might be considered "traditional." Indeed, working here is unusual, in the best of ways. Between the 30+ dogs present on any given day, the no-shoes-required dress code, and other eccentricities of SparkFun, the office is never dull. Today, Forbes published an article about the SparkFun workplace and the mantra to which we try to adhere. Give it a read!

Copper during his production days. He now is up in Technical Research with his owner Pearce.

The article also touches briefly on our new Department of Education website. This is an initiative we are especially excited about - bringing electronics into the classroom. If you haven't checked out the website yet, head over there and poke around. It is still a work in progress, but is being updated nearly every day. It is also the home for our class listings now, so if you want to take an electronics class you can sign up there.

Lewis belongs to Aaron in Engineering.

It's amazing how much SparkFun has changed in my brief time here. I was employee #45 or so and we are now hovering right around the 140 employee mark. We were also recently named to the top ten of the Northern Colorado Business Report's Mercury 100 for fastest growing companies in Boulder - our 6th straight year in the top 10 (we came in at 8th this year). It is both an honor and rather humbling to be amongst so many great companies. And truthfully, it is all because of you folks - our outstanding customers who keep finding amazing new ways to use the things that we make and sell. So thank you, SparkFun customers, for letting us do what we love and inspiring us each and every day! Happy hacking!

Comments 41 comments

  • It's so great to see a company reach a place where it becomes apparent that they have finally "made it". Congratulations to Forbes for finally making it by interviewing Nate and publishing an article on Sparkfun.

  • I am extremely envious of Sparkfun!!! "I live in New York" I have you bookmarked right in the center next to google, youtube, facebook , AVRfreaks, mouser, batchPCB, and my I've learned a major amount of what I now know from here. 7 months ago I didn't have any knowledge about electronics/programming...nothing. Now I am finishing up with a complete custom project using an unpopular microcontroller, program/design/eagle built from the bottom up. :)

    • Ichbinjoe / about 12 years ago / 2

      I would say the same here. I'm a younger designer, not even in college yet, but I have already created many coding and design projects. I've got to say, most of my ground knowledge of electronics has come from your tutorial section (now department of education). Of course now I have to fish around for explanation on things like LADAR systems, and odd com. protocols, but none the less I am proud to say I buy things at Sparkfun. This is what a company should be, great values and great products. Thanks for all you do.

  • sultanblender / about 12 years ago / 4

    Sparkfun: This aint' your Grandpa's hobby electronics e-retailer!

    Don backwards cap, shades, double pistol-fingers, wink, back out of room.

    • skip2 / about 12 years ago / 1

      well when my grandpa ran his surplus store we had the dogs there ... such a comfort, and kept us focused. never late for lunch. chow truck a mile away always stirred the beasts.

      DOGS are OPEN SOURCED so keep them in close hugging and petting distance.

      what a wonderful community of people and pets.

  • John Price / about 12 years ago / 3

    While I'm not looking for a job, I have two currently unemployed dogs I am eager to get good positions for. One is very good at licking and the other makes a great door stop. Also two cats are available who I am quite sure excel at whatever it is that cats are supposed to do, though I never figured out what that is.

  • Ace! / about 12 years ago * / 2

    SF has gone to the dogs!

  • Coyote / about 12 years ago / 2

    How about cats and parrots? Does Sparkfun discriminate? I have three cats and an African Gray. :)

    • rwizard / about 12 years ago / 1

      And ferrets. No workplace can be productive without ferrets. In fact, I employ several. They keep my cat and my dog in line.

      Okay, which one of you furballs ran off with the solder?

      • MikeGrusin / about 12 years ago / 5

        Once when I thought my parrot might have chewed on a solder sponge, I took him in for an emergency X-ray. The leaded solder would have shown up as bright dots in his crop. Luckily for both of us (avian surgery is expensive), he was clean. And no longer allowed on the workbench.

        • I love it when you make up stories Mike. You're so creative.

          • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago / 1

            I hear that RobetC is willing to pay the Vet bill the next time this happens. LOL.

        • sgrace / about 12 years ago / 3

          Would've been one expensive story to tell everyone. "I spend 2 grand getting leaded solder pumped from my parrot's stomach. Long story..."

      • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago / 1

        Until the Ferret climb up your pants leg and give you a rabid squirrel in my pants dance. Being of the Male persuasion and once owning a black footed Ferret- I can contest you do not want one of these anywhere in your pants. Hint: Very SHARP teeth and claws do not mix with any body parts that can be bitten. Also they are great detectors for finding holes. Meaning they find it and will not come out. Any attempts to extract the kit are considered play… Then the uniform for the day for extraction will be wielding gloves.

        And for those who need to do the Squirrel in my pants dance >> www . youtube . com / watch? v=GKL6WuiTlgk Just take out spaces... Also No Pete was hurt while making this video.

    • We've never had cats in here, but Mike in engineering has had a parrot in once or twice.

  • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago / 2

    You cant go wrong with people who love dogs...

  • tigeramam / about 12 years ago / 1

    How I envy you guys! It would be nice to take a break once and a while and be able to play with and/or pet a dog... or cat, or pig, etc. My kitty just has to sit home alone and wait for me to return.

  • GB / about 12 years ago / 1

    Where are the other 27 dog pictures?????????

  • Great post Cmac! When do we put together the dog poster? We've got a wall of employees, perhaps we need to post the dogs and their 'hire' date as well...

    • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago * / 1

      Dog's rule the world!

      Humans are for tummy rubs, walkies, yum-yum-time, pooper scooper, car by-by (aka responsible for driving/chauffering the pack), scratching places where you can’t get to, something to lean on when your down, a place to put your head when your tired, a place to put your but when the floor is cold, an ear warmer, snuggle partner, and play time coordinator and/or Cookie/Hug dispenser. Also the person that takes you to the Vet when you need it.

      I feel a nap time coming on after the walkie.

      Nate- it almost looks like you need a dog walker too.

  • Calif / about 12 years ago / 1

    That actually looks traditional.

  • Wylly / about 12 years ago / 1

    I wish I could bring my dog to work! It would be really great for both of us :)

  • Member #283897 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Can I request to have my orders packaged in a dog free area?

  • Ichbinjoe / about 12 years ago / 1

    Forbes had an update:"Head over to their latest blog post (link at end) for some photos of SparkFun canines!" Your dogs are apparently very inspiring.

  • I wanna work at Sparkfun. Too bad I'm only 15 and live a couple states away. Bah humbug.

  • cshutchinson / about 12 years ago / 1

    Congrats on the Forbes article!

  • jbaker / about 12 years ago / 1

    You guys should open an office in the northeast. I've kinda wanted to send in a job application for a while but Colorado is a bit too far for me. :(

  • CF / about 12 years ago / 1

    By the way, my dad would be a kick ass accounting manager for you guys. Now if I could only convince him to move to Boulder...

  • CF / about 12 years ago / 1

    I recall reading the same Craigslist post and wondering what exactly a copywriter did. I would totally work for SparkFun if I could find a way. Any chance you guys would hire someone for 60 hours a week until raises kicked in? I'd scrub toilets for the opportunity to learn how to do the stuff you guys do!

  • SuperCrackMunkey / about 12 years ago / 1

    This is the kind of place I would like to work at, when I 'grow up'.

  • scharkalvin / about 12 years ago / 1

    The CEO of the last place I worked would often bring HIS dog into work, but nobody else did. I don't know if it was allowed, or just RHIP but anyway Frank's dog (a golden lab) loved the attention and was very smart. But mostly she just slept under the CEO's desk.

  • Rcrowley / about 12 years ago / 1

    When the President visited our campus, the Secret Service wanted to run their bomb-sniffing dogs through the wafer fab cleanroom (where we were making 386 processors at the time). The SS was unable to find cleanroom "bunny suits" for the canine crew but the POTUS completed his tour without incident.

  • Elimegrover / about 12 years ago / 1

    I would kill to work at a place where employees are respected. Instead, I'm a micromanaged webdev/GD/Law-Student who hates waking up every morning.

    • FlippinBits / about 12 years ago / 2

      I know how you feel. Being under a uManager or under a totalitarian corporate structure is a drag. Micro managers, at best are just uncomfortable as leaders; worse case, they are sociopaths. I just left a job working under the latter.

      • skip2 / about 12 years ago / 1

        I used to work for a goosestepping drama 'queen'. they promoted him to director and he ODed on crack. works every time.

  • I can't help seeing the peril in lucky's eyes, anyways thanks for the post!

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