Jamon Holmgren is the founder of Infinite Red, a consultancy specializing in React Native. He discusses his journey and insights into technology and leadership and highlights how Infinite Red stands as a testament that businesses can be run ethically while still achieving success.
The conversation shifts to leadership styles and the principle of "one-minute praise" from the book "One Minute Manager." Both Jamon and Will agree that acknowledging others' efforts openly can make a significant difference, enhancing leadership skills and building stronger relationships. Will points out how this simple principle has been a game-changer for him in various aspects of life, including his personal relationships.
Towards the end, the focus turns to motivation and long-term strategy. Jamon is driven by his enthusiasm for learning and the thrill of tackling diverse challenges in his consultancy work. He also shares his philosophy of keeping the company "10 degrees above the horizon," emphasizing steady, sustainable growth rather than erratic leaps and bounds.
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- Follow Jamon Holmgren on LinkedIn or X. Visit his website at jamon.dev.
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WILL: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Will Larry. And with me today is Jamon Holmgren, Co-Founder and CTO of Infinite Red, a software consulting agency that specializes in React Native. Jamon, thank you for joining me.
JAMON: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
WILL: So, Jamon, what's going on in your life? How's everything going?
JAMON: You know, things have been obviously very busy, like, I guess, pretty much everybody. You know, school has started. I have four kids, so that keeps me quite busy, going to various school events, going to volleyball, you know, bringing kids here and there, running the company. I have some side projects I'm doing. I am playing hockey. So, it just seems like every waking hour is filled with something.
WILL: I totally understand that. I have three kids of my own. So, they're a little bit younger than yours, so mine is 4, 3, and, like, 17 months, so...
JAMON: Okay. Yeah, so you're just getting started. And you're doing all of the, like, physical labor associated with being a parent.
WILL: Yes, yes, yes. So, I want to start there. Tell me a little bit about your kids. I know their ages are 10 to 18.
JAMON: Yeah, so I have a boy, Cedric. He's actually a programmer as well. He's just starting his career. He is the oldest, and then we have three girls. We have a 15-year-old who's a sophomore in high school. And then we have a 12-year-old who's in middle school and a 10-year-old who is in fifth grade in elementary school. And it's a lot.
My wife and I both came from very large families, so we're kind of used to it. And it's a lot of fun. A lot of challenges at this age, I mean, teenagers especially, you know, as they kind of all come into that same era, you know, it's more of a challenge. I guess the thing that I think about it is a lot of the skills that I learned as a young kid parent don't really translate super well to being a teenager parent. And I'm having to learn a lot of new skills. And I actually talked to a guy the other day. His kids are, I think, 32 and 28, or something like that. And he said, "Yeah, the learning never stops." [laughs]
WILL: So, I'm going to ask you for the secret sauce because I'm still in the temper tantrums and those type of emotions and stuff. So, how is it different in the teenage years from the temper tantrums?
JAMON: Well, I think that they can act like adults in a lot of cases, and you start thinking of them as adults, and you start developing a relationship there. But their brains are also not fully developed. And so, they will also do things that are very inexplicable, like, you'll just be like, why? Why would this be a thing? Like, I don't get it. Like, you act like an adult for half the time, and then the other half, you act like a kid. Navigating that, and the fact that they change all the time, and all the other challenges.
And they're all different. Like, if we had only had one kid, you know, my boy was pretty easy. He was pretty straightforward. It would have been like, well, shoot, being a parent is pretty easy. Like, I don't know what everybody else is complaining about. Like, he never did tantrums. He was just a really quiet, you know, like, well-behaved kid and kind of went through life like that. But then, obviously, developing a relationship with him is more of the challenge because he's quieter, where with my girls, it's easier to develop the relationship, but then you [laughs] deal with a lot more volatility as well. So, they're all different. Every kid's different. It's hard to really apply that directly.
I would say that the thing that I've learned the most in the last few years is just kind of continuing to be, like, even through some of the tougher times, continuing to be there, continuing to develop that relationship. A lot of times, it feels like you're not getting anywhere, but you are. It is actually happening. You just don't see it until later.
WILL: I'm writing that down. That's great advice [laughter]. You mentioned hockey. Tell me about it. I've never played hockey. I grew up in the South, so we didn't have that. So, tell me about it. And you're a goalie also, correct?
JAMON: Yeah, I play goalie. I didn't discover hockey...I played basketball in high school. I played four years of high school basketball. I even played a little bit at college. And I didn't really discover hockey until I moved to Southwest Washington, about an hour away from where I grew up in the coast of Oregon. When I got there, a lot of my friends that I made were playing hockey. And one friend, in particular, he was a goalie, and he had grown up in Upper Michigan. So, you know, like, he grew up playing hockey. He was a very good skater and things like that.
But there was one weekend I was coming to watch him play just rec hockey. And he's like, "You know what? I can't make it. Would you want to jump in and, like, be my sub?" And it was just a pick-up game. So, it wasn't like there was anything on the line. And I was like, "All right, I'll give it a try." You know, put on the gear. He showed me what to do to put on the gear. He kind of gave me some tips. Like, in the living room where we were, he was, like, showing me how to play.
We were, like, I would say, 19, I think. Nineteen years old, something like that. Anyway, I show up, and I put on the gear, and I go out there. And I actually had a decent game, considering I barely knew how to skate and barely knew how to do anything. But I'm kind of big; I'm six foot four, almost six foot five. And having all that gear and everything, I filled up a lot of the net. And it wasn't a very high-level game, so I did pretty well.
And after that, the team was like, "Well, we'd love to have you back." And then my friend really was not interested in continuing, so he was like, "You can have it, like, just roll with it." I kept playing for about three years, and then, I don't know, I took over a decade off. The team dissolved. It wasn't even a league team. It was just, you know, pick-up hockey.
And then a friend called me and was like, "Hey, I'm starting up a game. It's going to be Finnish Americans," because I'm half-Finnish myself. "So, it's going to be all Finnish Americans. We're going to call it the [Foreign language]," which is the Finnish boys in sort of Finnish. It's not exactly supposed to be like that in Finnish. Anybody listening who's Finnish is going to be like, "Yeah, that's bad Finnish." But it kind of means Finnish boys or Finland boys.
And we put together the team, and I've been playing for the last three-plus years. It's been kind of, like, a rec league team. We've won the championship four times, which was really fun. This year, I'm actually playing in two leagues. I'm playing in rec league, and I'm also playing the next league up, so a little bit faster, better skaters, better shooters, things like that. And I just love it. It's so much fun.
WILL: Wow, that's amazing that you started later and that you're still playing it. Because when I look at hockey, I'm like, that's really hard. I don't know if I could do that. I can skate. I can't stop.
WILL: Like, I can get a lot of speed [laughs]. But it's just something about turning sideways and thinking I'm going to fly over the skates.
WILL: And yeah, it's a whole thing [laughs]. Is goalie harder than playing any of the other positions?
JAMON: I would say it's different. Like, I don't have to be as good of a skater, you know, things like hockey stops are still not supernatural for me. I don't skate backwards super-fast. You know, I'm not a fast skater in general. But the difference is, of course, you have to be reading the flow of the game. You have to know the body language of the players that are coming at you. You have to kind of see what's happening. At the end of the day, lots of things can happen, so you try to put yourself in the best position.
It's a lot of, like, positional, like, where are you in the net? What does your position look like? And then, once they shoot, how do you react? Are you dropping down, or are you staying up? Are you using your glove? Are you using your blocker? Are you just trying to block with your body using your stick? Then, once the puck hits you, then what do you do? How do you control the rebound? Are you trying to cover it up and ice the puck so they do a face-off? Are you trying to kick it out to one of your skaters?
And then, once that happens, you have a little bit of a rest, hopefully, while they're down on the other side. But you're continually alert and watching to see what's going to develop because it could be a breakaway. And then it's just you and the skater and trying to anticipate what they're doing and try to make it so that they have to make a play. Like, just be big, be in position. Don't get out of position. Don't make a mistake.
And I've had really great games where I've, you know, had 45 shots on me, and I've only let one in or something like that. And I've had some bad games too. I know there's one game in a championship where they only had six shots on me. But we ended up losing because I let in two, so that was not a fun game. I only had six opportunities, and I failed on two of them. But that happens, and so you just have to be mentally tough.
WILL: Wow, that's amazing. The limited knowledge of hockey...I'm going to assume here, so I hope it's right. With you being 6'4, 6'5, I'm guessing that the five-hole, if I'm correct, was probably your toughest position to defend.
JAMON: You know, you would think so. And just for the audience, the five-hole is, like, between your legs, you know, the puck going between your legs underneath. But I play a style...a little bit older style of goalie because that's what I watched. You know, in, like, the early 2000s, I watched Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche, one of the greatest goalies of all time, and he played what's called a butterfly style.
So, as the play develops, you're standing, but then you go down fairly early, and you're protecting the bottom. You have your stick in front of you protecting the five-hole, and you have your legs, you know, spread out. So, I used my height really more for blocking as I'm down rather than standing because when I'm standing, I'm above the net. It's better for me to get down. And I think that that's worked out pretty well.
You know, Patrick Roy was a pretty big goalie as well. Most modern goalies play a more hybrid style. But, you know, we could get into all that. I'm a big kind of hockey nerd in this way. But that's what I do. I play butterfly, so most of the time, people don't beat me five-hole; when they do, it's usually they're picking a corner.
WILL: Wow. Now that you've painted the picture, I can see how that's smart because you do have the goal, I mean, the gloves plus the stick and then your height. Yeah, I can see how...that's smart. That's very smart [laughs].
JAMON: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, that's kind of the goal. And also, because I wasn't a great skater, it sort of played into it as well, playing down on the ice where I was just more comfortable that way. It's worked out. I've had a pretty decent record over my career here [laughs].
WILL: That's awesome. Well, let's transition a little bit into consultant agencies. You've been doing it for 18 years. Tell me about that. How did you get started?
JAMON: Well, when I started, I was working in construction. I was working for a home builder. And, you know, everybody I knew pretty much worked in construction, including my dad, who owned a business. And I went on my own. I had always dreamed of owning my own business, but I didn't start really thinking about websites. I was coding. I loved coding, and I was coding since I was 12.
But in 2008, there was the housing crisis, and all of the design work for homes just dried up. There wasn't much there. In fact, it actually really dried up in 2007 because things kind of started a little early for designers. And so, I was like; I got to do something to stay busy. I've got a wife. I've got a young kid (Actually, at that point, I had two kids.), and I need to make sure that I'm staying busy. And so, I really ramped up trying to find work, you know, as a programmer, as a web developer.
And there were plenty of companies at that time that were really trying to drum up business. So, they were putting money into their websites trying to get new projects, and they were all construction companies. And so, that's how I started. And I started doing more things like internal web apps for managing orders and managing sales leads, and that sort of thing. And that led me into web apps and eventually to Ruby on Rails, which became sort of my bread and butter for a while.
As I was doing Ruby on Rails, you know, obviously, the iPhone was out, but the iPad came out. And I was more of an Android guy at that point. But I bought an iPad because it looked really cool, and my dad had one. When I started playing around with it, I'm like, I need to build apps for this. This is super cool. So, I took some Stanford courses online, which you could do back in those days, iTunes U, and learned how to use Objective-C.
WILL: Wow, I love that. If I'm following you correctly, you said in 2007, that's kind of when everything dried up. So, you were almost forced to find something different, correct?
JAMON: Yeah, that's right. I mean, I kind of sat around feeling sorry for myself for a while. And then I was like, well, it's my business. I got to figure out what to do. It's not anybody else's fault. Like, you know, it doesn't matter that this is forces out of my control. I do have control. I have the ability to go in there and figure out, okay, what do I do next? Well, I know how to program, and it seems like people want me to program. So, let's lean into that.
WILL: Wow. I love that. Because it's funny, that's how I got started in programming. I lost my job. And I was working at Buckle, the clothing store. If you know me, that is not me at all, like, at all [laughter]. I love gym shorts and athletic clothes. Like, fashion is not my thing. It's just not. So [laughs], I got into programming because I was just struggling. And it was a very pivotal moment in my life. And I'm thankful that I lost my job. Losing your job is just hard, and I think it makes you rethink things.
JAMON: Yeah, absolutely. It was a growth moment for me as well, one of many. But that was definitely a point that I look back on and say, I mean because I can actually point at almost the day when it all dried up. It was, like, April 2007. And my uncle had been sending me a lot of work, you know, he had extra work. He didn't have barely enough for himself anymore at that point. And I finished up my last project, and he's like, "I don't have anything else." And I had some other clients as well and called them up, and they were like, "No, we don't have anything. Like, nobody is buying right now." And it just kept going like that.
And it was weird because 2005, 2006, most of 2007, it felt like things were really rolling, but it just dried up all at once. And so, I was really lucky that I did end up getting a bunch of web work to do in 2008. I was still doing home design till probably late 2008, 2009. But then I eventually just hung that up and was like, okay, this is over. I'm definitely focusing on programming.
WILL: Wow, how was the initial traction when you moved into ramping up the web development?
JAMON: It was really good because it didn't take much to keep me busy. And I ended up getting some big contracts from, like, a cabinet manufacturer was a big one. I did some other things as well. And I ended up hiring my first employees in 2009. So, really, less than two years later, I was starting to hire employees. And I just hired, like, junior developers who had barely learned to code and taught them to code. So, I hired probably, over the years, next few years, like, ten programmers, many of whom are actually still with me today, and I taught them to code back in the day.
And as time went on, they became senior and really high-level programmers who are now leading projects for big companies that you've heard of. But they started with me building, you know, PHP and MySQL and whatnot for small, like, regional construction companies. And we learned together. So, it was definitely a progression you can go look back and see.
WILL: Yeah, I saw a tweet that you tweeted, and I loved it because I totally understand.
WILL: And so, I'm glad you mentioned the junior devs and stuff. The tweet that I'm talking about was, "I got into this industry to code; ended up becoming a founder because I was the only person who would hire me."
WILL: I want to ask you about that.
JAMON: Yeah, it's really that I grew up in a small logging town, like, very tiny logging town in Northwest Oregon. I didn't know...I knew one programmer, and the guy was, like, an incredible genius. And I just thought that that was the only way that you could professionally be a programmer was to be an incredible genius. I was coding, but I was, like, coding games, you know, in QBasic. And so, for me, every time I looked around, it was just, like, construction, or logging or, you know, blue collar, like, working at a mill. Like, these were the things that I saw around me. And so, that was the path I went.
And I didn't really think of using this passion that I had for coding to turn it into, like, actual money. And when I did start thinking about it, I was like, I don't know anybody who does software. Like, even when I moved to Southwest Washington, I was closer to Portland. But I thought you had to have a CS degree, and I didn't have a CS degree. So, I was like, okay, well, I'll start my own business then, and that will be the thing that kind of leads me into tech. And that's what ended up happening.
And it's kind of funny because I did go to, you know, one semester of community college for basketball and for...until I got cut. And then I studied some things there. But I never finished for the community college. What's kind of cool, though, is today, I'm actually on their, like, tech advisory committee. Like, they actually have me advising their professors on the current state of tech, which is kind of cool.
WILL: Wow, that is really cool. It is interesting because I remember when I first started out and that feeling of probably over 300 applications just trying to get a job. And it was just hard. And my first job, to be honest, I think it was because of networking is why I got the job. If I didn't know the person that introduced me to the company, I probably wouldn't have gotten the job, if I'm being honest.
But I am very sympathetic for junior devs anytime. If a junior dev asks me a question, I will take time, help them out. Because I remember...it's very hard as a junior dev trying to get that first job. So, when you said that, I was like, yeah, I can see your heart towards junior devs.
JAMON: Absolutely. That's where I started. You know, the first developers that I hired were all juniors. We don't hire juniors anymore because of the style of business that we are. But I miss that. I miss that to some degree. We really can't. And we've looked at it from just about every angle. But I did my time [laughs]. I spent a lot of hours teaching junior developers when I could have done it quicker myself.
WILL: Definitely. Like, you end up losing some money when you do a junior dev and you're hiring for the future. So, like, in a consultant agency, I totally understand that, yeah.
JAMON: Yeah, absolutely.
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WILL: So, I want to ask you about the transition from ClearSight Studio to Infinite Red. How did that happen?
JAMON: ClearSight was my first company. And it sort of evolved from being a, you know, a home design/website company to just a website and web app company, and then mobile apps. And, at a certain time, we had, I think, around 12 employees, something like that. I had a design department. We were building websites and whatnot. And I was really interested in iOS development. That was really my passion.
And so I actually ended up working on some open source with iOS developers across the globe and then got invited to a conference down in San Francisco in 2014. And I went and gave a talk there. It was my first tech conference that I'd ever been to, much less given a talk, and I was the first talk [laughs]. So, that was kind of an interesting little anecdote there.
And as I did it, I got to know some other developers. I had one in particular, Todd Werth, who I really hit it off with, and we ended up chatting a lot after the conference. And it felt like he and I had a very similar outlook. And he had an iOS agency. That's all they did.
Well, 2015 rolls around, and I had had some rough times toward the end of 2014 in terms of the business, and I was kind of complaining to Todd. He had had some issues as well, and we started commiserating. And he's like, you know, he just started joking. I still have this conversation in Slack way back if I go look. And he's like, "Well, maybe we should just merge our businesses together," because it felt like we had maybe complementary skills. And we had a similar outlook on what we wanted from our businesses. And so, we ended up eventually solidifying that. I flew down there, talked to him and his business partner, Ken, at the time. We ended up making that happen later that year.
So, just a few days ago, October 1st was our eighth anniversary running the companies, running the new company, the merged company, which is Infinite Red. So, that was kind of how that all came together. Eventually, Ken left, and we had a new business partner who was our top employee buy-in; that's Gant Laborde. And so, there are still three owners. We have three directors and then the rest of the team. We're about 30 people altogether, and we focus entirely on React Native.
WILL: Wow, congratulations on eight years. That's a lot. That's amazing.
JAMON: Yeah, thank you. I was just thinking the other day that I ran ClearSight for ten years. Infinite Red is getting close to how long I ran my first business. And, like, my youngest is, like I said, 10. So she was only two years old when I merged the company. She does not remember my old company, which is weird to me.
WILL: Wow. So, can you walk me through your decision to go here with React Native and specialize in that? Because it sounds like right around the time when React Native was created, and people started using it in production.
JAMON: That's right. The iOS technology that we had sort of bonded over at that conference was called RubyMotion. But in 2015, the founder ended up going to work for Microsoft for a while and then went back to Apple. He had been from Apple before. So, it was sort of going down. And we were looking for a different technology, both of our companies were, and then, of course, the merged company.
React Native looked interesting, but it didn't have an Android version yet. But then, in September of 2015, Android came out, so it was iOS and Android. So, we were able to take a look at that one month before we ended up solidifying the actual merger. So, basically, day one, October 1st, 2015, we were, like, we are now doing React Native for mobile, but we kept doing web. We kept doing Ruby on Rails. We did some Elixir. We did some Elm. We did some...I think we had some old Ember stuff going on. We had all kinds of things going on.
But over time, we got more and more traction with React Native because that's really where our interest was. And so, we ended up saying, okay, well, this is where we really want to be. It took us a few years. It took us probably five years, six years, something like that, to really develop the confidence to say, "Hey, this is all we want to do," because it's a risk. Like, you put yourself on one technology. We had that before with the other technology that went down. But we had the confidence that we knew we could step off of a sinking ship onto another one if we needed to. So, we said, "You know what? Let's do this."
And I got to give my co-founder, Todd, a lot of credit because he was the first one to say, "Let's go all React Native. Anywhere that React Native is, React Native is on a lot of different platforms. You can do tvOS. You can do Mac. You can do Windows. You can do web with React Native web, all kinds of things. So, let's just focus on React Native. Our team will just focus on that. We will only hire React Native developers. All of our marketing is going to be around React Native. Let's just focus on that."
And it ended up being a great call. We did that. We made that happen. And for probably the last, I would say, three, four years, something like that, that's all we've been doing.
WILL: So, what's your opinion on, I guess, the argument that's being held right now with native iOS and Android, even the Flutter, and I think Ionic is the other one that I've heard of, versus React Native? What's your pitch on React Native over those?
JAMON: There's definitely reasons to use any of those. But I wrote this article a while back. It was specifically about Flutter, but I think it applies to a lot of the other competitors as well. The title of the article was provocatively titled, "Flutter Is Better Than React Native in All the Ways That Don't Matter." And the idea behind this is that, yes, Flutter gets a lot of things very right. A lot of their developer experience is actually better than React Native; some is worse, but, you know, some is better.
So, a lot of companies already use React. It's a no-brainer to then use React Native if you're already using React Web. It doesn't really make sense to go to Flutter. It makes maybe some sense to write it in native, but then you have to write it twice. And you have three teams. You have a web team. You have an iOS team, and you have an Android team. And you also have three codebases, and one's always lagging behind. That's always what's happening.
Marketing is like, "Okay, when can we announce this?" "Well, iOS isn't done," or "Android is not done," or "Web is not done." Where if you can combine all of those things and combine just the culture of your team, then it becomes more tight-knit because everybody's working on all aspects at one time. You can take a feature, and you can build it in web, and you can build it in iOS, and you can build it Android with all the same skills.
Now, there are some deeper parts of React Native. It goes really deep. But in terms of just being productive out of the gate, a React developer can be productive in week one, and that's, I think, a huge deal. So, it really comes down to is the performance and developer experience good enough? And the answer is absolutely yes.
So, with that in mind, I still see React Native dominating the apps that are at the top of the App Store. One of the Expo developers, Evan Bacon, has put out a bunch of tweets about, you know, like, 24 out of the top 100 food and drink apps are written in React Native, as opposed to 8 in all the other options combined other than native, you know. So, it gives a good sense that React Native is still growing and continuing to. It has a lot of steam behind it.
WILL: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I'm a big React Native fan, and I do a lot of React Native work here. So, yes, totally agree with you. And one of the most frustrating things that I've come across is, I'm a big researcher, and so I'll research things, and I'm like, oh, there's an app for this. And I'm a big Android fan, so when I go to them, it's like, oh yes, I can use this app. And then it's like, no, I can't. It's only for iOS. Okay, like, you lost me as a customer.
WILL: I was willing to pay whatever on this because I've been looking for it. So yeah, I like how you said that.
JAMON: Yeah. It treats all of the platforms as first-class citizens.
WILL: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Totally agree. How does your company handle the backend? Do y'all do any of the backend, or how is that handled at Infinite Red?
JAMON: We used to do that, like I mentioned. But a few years ago...we had a very, very small back-end team by then. Most of the time, and now pretty much 100% of the time, when someone comes to us, they already have a back-end team, so we work directly with them. A lot of our developers were back-end developers, and so they understand the backend really well, but they're obviously React Native specialists now.
So, you know, I came from that. I did PHP. I did Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Elixir, Node, all kinds of back-end technology. So, I understand it really well as well. But yeah, we lean on our clients for that. We might partner with an agency like you folks over there at thoughtbot and have them do the backend, or just have the client, you know, come up with their own solution.
WILL: Yeah, I love that, yeah. And we've done that with numerous agencies, so yeah, that's awesome. What does success look like for Infinite Red now versus, you know, six months or five years from now? Do y'all have any goals in mind that you're trying to hit?
JAMON: In the Infinite Red leadership, we are currently reading John Maxwell's 21 indisputable Laws of Leadership, which is a good book. And we had this really great conversation at our first book club meeting in leadership, which John Maxwell defines success in a very different way than we do. You know, he measured it as, like, McDonald's, or Starbucks, or something like that, like, giant, becoming huge, becoming big, making tons of money. And it was sort of just implicit in the book that that was the case.
We had this great talk internally. Why didn't this resonate with us? And that's because we don't really measure success that way. So, I love that question, Will, because measuring success is you really have to start there. Like, you have to start there and say, "What do we want from this?" So, ultimately, we want to build cool things with our friends. I'm a coding nerd. I want to code. I want to be in the code. That's why we're an agency. Like, if we were a product company, if we were building, I don't know, podcasting software or something, we'd have to become experts in podcasting rather than experts in React Native, or experts in TypeScript, or whatever we want to do.
So, we really love code. We want to build that. We want to have an amazing family-first environment. We want to treat everybody super well. We want to have really low turnover, which we've been able to achieve. Hardly anybody leaves Infinite Red. Maybe every other year, we might lose one person. And even with those people, they tend to come back [laughs], which is a great sign. They go out and find out that, yeah, actually, Infinite Red is pretty awesome, and they come back. So, we really look for that. We really focus on that. We want that to happen.
And it's really less about making the most money we can. Obviously, everybody wants to be well paid. And so, we're going to try to make sure we have a successful business in that way and that we want to be around for a long time. But, really, measuring success is less about business success and it's more about life success. It's really more about family success, being with my four kids, being there for them when they need me to be. That's why we're remote, you know, as another example. So, everything really hinges off of that. It's around happiness. It's around fulfillment. It's not around financial success.
WILL: I'm a huge John Maxwell fan, by the way.
JAMON: [laughs] There you go.
WILL: So, yes, I love it. And I love how you explained, you know, because one of my questions I was going to ask you is about the core values, but I'm going to switch it up a little bit. So, I'm just going to say, in my opinion, I feel like there's almost leadership talk void at times, especially in the tech space. Like, we don't talk about leadership a lot. But it plays a huge part in what we do day to day. Like, you named a couple of core values and principles that you're following because of the leadership. So, for you, why is the leadership so important and I guess you can say have a seat at the table at Infinite Red?
JAMON: I'm a strong believer, and I've become more of a strong believer over time, that it all starts at the top. If you don't have buy-in from your top leadership, it does not really matter what happens otherwise because they will continually undermine, and they have the power to continually undermine that. So, these core values have to apply to the top leaders. They have to be held accountable to that. And these leaders also need to be developed.
So, we have three owners. We have three directors. And the three directors who are underneath us were not directors when we hired them; you know, they started out as developers. They started out as designers. They started out as project managers. But they became Director of Operations, Director of Engineering, Director of Communications. And we developed them. We poured a lot of time into them, and we continue to do that. In fact, even reading this book with them and going through that exercise is continuing to invest in them. Not that we as owners don't have growth to do; we also do. And so, we learn from them, and we learn from our team. So, you have to start there.
And on that same vein, we do have some core values. We call them our foundation and our pillars. We have three foundational things, and we have four pillars. So, the three foundations are: one, we control our own destiny. We are not going to be beholden to some other company. We're not going to ride someone else's coattails. We're not going to be in a situation where someone else can kill us. And it can be easily done that way where we're in a position where, you know, we're too reliant on one whale client or something like that. We just won't do it.
The second foundational thing is that we have...it's a word bonitas, which means kindness, friendliness, benevolence, blamelessness. And it's basically just being a good person to everybody and doing the right thing.
And the third one is having a significant positive impact. That's why we do so much media. That's why we try to have an impact outside. And we're only 30 people, but people think we're way bigger because of how we kind of present ourselves in the world. And then our pillars all support those things, so high personal support. We support each other. We have high expectations, but we also support each other not just at work but also as a whole person.
Long-term viewpoint, we think way beyond this year. We think about what is Infinite Red going to be when I retire? You know, I'm 41; that's a ways out, hopefully. But what's that going to look like?
The next one is collaborative creativity. Creativity by yourself is just a solo thing. We're a team, so it has to be collaborative. We have to do it together. All our creative work, whether it's our conference, Chain React, or our work, it's all collaborative, and we love being creative.
And the last thing is being pioneers, pioneering spirit. We like to be pioneers in technology. We put out a lot of open source. And we try to bring that pioneering spirit everywhere we go. And then, there's a lot of different things that kind of come out of that. For example, we have this internal saying, which is, "Don't do hard things alone."
So, you have a hard thing coming up? And it could be hard in various ways. It could be a technically challenging thing. It could just be hard because of the mood you're in that day. But don't do it alone. Ask someone to help you, you know, jump in with you, pair with you. Do it together. And we love that. That's part of the high personal support and the bonitas. So, all these things come out of the foundation and pillars that we have.
WILL: Wow, I love all those. I want to pick one of them out and ask you a question around it. So, you're talking about having an impact. I'm loving this conversation just talking to you. It's just been amazing. So, for you, what do you want the impact on the world to be from your perspective?
JAMON: That's a hard question to answer, and it tends to be something that I think about a lot. I'm more of an opportunistic person. I react more than I plan ahead, that sort of thing. But with that said, I think that we have had significant positive impact through a lot of different ways. So, on Twitter, for example, I try to present a...and this is authentically who I am. But I try to present a positive force out there, someone who's excited and enthusiastic about the technology, who supports other people, even who you might consider competitors, for example.
I just retweeted recently a Callstack thing. I mean, you might consider them a competitor. They're another React Native agency. But I love Callstack. They're great people. And I retweeted one of their really amazing resources, which is the ultimate guide to React Native performance, which, by the way, is really good. And if you do React Native, you should check it out.
So, I think what goes around comes around, and I really want to have that positive impact out there. I want to give talks that inspire people. You know, I'm a nerd, and I'm going to nerd out about stuff. And I feel like that has an impact all of its own. So, that's kind of my personal side of it. And then Infinite Red is a showcase that you can run a company the right way. You can treat people the right way. And the company can be successful along our own metrics of success.
WILL: So, one of my biggest principles that I've learned in life that's changed my leadership 100,000% is from this book called One Minute Manager. And I think it's called one-minute praise. And, essentially, the background behind it is, if you think something, just tell the person because so many times...and I get in my head, and I think amazing things about people, but I never say it.
WILL: So, I want to just tell you, like, you said, the impact that you're making. You are doing that. Like, one of the reasons why I invited you on the show was because of your impact that I see that you're having on Twitter and LinkedIn and just everything that you're doing at Infinite Red. So, keep going. I want you to know that you are making a difference. I see you, and it's making a big difference in my life.
JAMON: I love that, and it makes me feel great. And I appreciate you sharing that one-minute praise there. It is something that sometimes you put it out there, and you don't really know what the impact is, you know, it's sort of hidden in maybe the likes, or the replies, or whatever.
As an example, I just reached out to my friend Aaron Francis last night, and I told him, "Hey, I love your videos." I don't even do the tech that he does. But I watch his videos on YouTube because I just love the vibe that he has. And I told him that. I was like, "You're doing a great job. You're being a very good advocate for your company." And I agree with you; I think that just taking the moment to reach out and say, "Hey, I think you're doing good work," it encourages people to do more of it. So, I appreciate it a lot, Will. That's really nice of you to say.
WILL: Yeah, definitely. If you can go back, what is some advice that you would give yourself? We could do both at the beginning when you did ClearSight and whenever you merged and did Infinite Red. Was there any advice that you're like, wow, I learned these lessons, and they were game changers for me?
JAMON: [laughs] Boy, this could be a whole nother podcast, to be honest. There are so many different things that I've kind of learned over the years. I feel like, you know, there's value in, you know, there was actually...I forget exactly where I heard this, but it was about Cloudflare, the company.
And a long time ago, as they were sort of launching, one of the people that worked on the...I think it was their founder, actually. One of their investors told him, "Hey, running a company is sort of like flying an airplane. You want to make sure that it's well-maintained at all times. And then, when you're flying, you keep the wheel steady and the nose 10 degrees above the horizon so you continue to rise. And you don't need to shoot for the moon. We're not a rocket here. Just continue to execute well, make sure that it's well maintained, make sure that you're continually rising."
And Cloudflare is a good example of this, and I think that Infinite Red is as well. Every year, we try to do something where we're continuing to keep that nose 10% above the horizon. That doesn't always mean growing. Like, we don't hire all that often. We don't grow in terms of headcount, but we grow in other ways. And you can see that looking back over the years. Every year, there was something that we continued to, you know, improve, keeping that nose 10 degrees above the horizon. And so, that's a big one. And you can just go do all the little things really well and continue to think long term and where are you headed. And if you do the right things long enough, good things happen.
WILL: I love that because, especially when I'm working out, I try to shoot for the moon.
WILL: I go all out. So, that was some amazing advice. I don't even remember who told me, but when I first started programming, I tried to shoot for the moon. And, oh, I crashed and burned so many times [laughs] because it's just something you can't just master it, and just like, I got it, da da da. And I love that advice. That's amazing advice. So, that's perfect.
JAMON: Yeah, it really stuck with me, and I have so many more lessons. I have actually kept a notebook of profound things that I've heard over the years, and I actually really enjoy that minute praising you said. And I'm going to look up the quote after this, and I'm going to put it in my notebook.
WILL: Yeah, yeah. It's been a game-changer because I'm a very straightforward person. And so, a lot of times, like, I don't mind addressing an issue just head-on. But what I found is I'm just always doing that. And I never had equity in the bank at times. This is when I was a very young leader. I didn't have equity. And so, it was just hard to tell people, "Hey, can we tweak this? Can we do that?"
And then I had to sit back and say, okay, what can I change to be a better leader? And it's like, I can connect better. And I see so many things. Like, I'm very observant, I think. To be honest, it's helped me in every area, even with my spouse, with my kids, with friends. It's just saying, "Hey, I see what you did. I see that you made breakfast." Or "My kids, I see that you made this beautiful mud pie for me. And it's amazing. So, thank you. Thank you." And so, yeah, it's been a game changer for me.
JAMON: Yeah, one of my friends, his goal was...and he's a leader. And he said that his goal with everyone on one was to give them one thing to change and highlight one thing they did well like you said, equity in the bank. He was talking about when he was a leader of, like, a call bank. And he said, "No matter how bad the call was, I wouldn't give them more than two things to improve because there was no way that they could take ten critiques and improve. They would just be defeated." And then, he would review and see if they could improve one more thing, avoided negative language, things like that. So, that's a really interesting concept.
WILL: Yeah, definitely, definitely. So, I have one other question for you. What motivates you? What's your wind in your sails? What keeps you going? Because I know running a consultant agency is not easy. What keeps you going?
JAMON: For me, motivation tends to be enthusiasm for learning, really more than anything, like going into something new and, like, exploring. I see it more as exploring even than learning. With a consultancy, there's always so many different...it's never the same, you know, there's always some other challenge. And that's one of the reasons I've loved being, you know, a consultancy owner for so many years. You're never dealing with just the same stuff over and over. So, I would say it's really about the exploration that happens, and just loving code, and talking shop, and being around great people. To me, that continues to motivate me.
WILL: I love that. Do you have anything that you would like to promote — personally, Infinite Red, anything?
JAMON: Well, Infinite Red, of course. If you're looking for React Native, we are all senior-level React Native developers. We've been working together for a long time. So, big companies, the biggest ones you can think of, many of them have hired us to, you know, be the experts with their team. We usually put 2 or 3 people on a project, and then the client will come in with 2 to 10 people or whatever they have on their side. And we work with them side by side, teaching them as well as delivering code. So, that's really our bread and butter.
We also put on the biggest and, I think, only U.S.-based React Native conference, and it's called Chain React. It's in Portland. Next year, it's going to be in July. So, go check it out: chainreactconf.com. We'd love to see you all there. I'd love to see you there, Will. And network with all these different React Native developers. There's people from Meta, and Microsoft, Amazon, all over the world, really. And they're some of the best React Native programmers you're going to ever meet, and some great talks, and great food, and a great city.
WILL: Yeah, I would love to be there. Let me ask you this: how is Portland in July?
JAMON: Portland is amazing in July. Sometimes, it can get hot, but for the most part, it's just beautiful. It'll be like 85 degrees, not really any humidity, nice, little breeze. It's just a beautiful weather pattern around Julyish. That's why we chose that time of year. So, definitely, if you're going to be coming to Oregon, Portland, you know, West Coast, July is a great time to come. It's not going to be super, super hot, usually. Sometimes, I mean, we get over 100 sometimes, but no worries, you know, there's AC as well. But for the most part, it's beautiful.
WILL: You sold me already.
WILL: So, I live in South Florida, so...[laughs]
JAMON: Yeah, it's going to be different in South Florida in July.
WILL: Awesome. Well, this has been an amazing chat, and just great getting to know you and learning more about Infinite Red. Thank you for being a part of the podcast.
JAMON: Yeah. Thanks for inviting me, Will. It was a lot of fun, and you're a great host. I appreciate it.
WILL: I appreciate it.
JAMON: You can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for this episode at giantrobots.fm. If you have questions or comments, email us at email@example.com. You can find me on Twitter @will23larry.
This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Thanks for listening. See you next time.
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