Can it be that these people are just as clueless as I am?
It's the summer of 2013, and my partner and I have landed our very first big client — an international company with offices in Canada, the US, and Europe. They make professional-grade security equipment for construction sites.
We are supposed to design and build their website.
For the first time in our careers, we are not dealing with a mom-and-pop operation, but a serious company, doing serious work. Internationally!
It's all very exciting!
The brief is straightforward, their brand materials are usable and their visual assets are of high quality.
2 months in, we are making great progress.
Their marketing team is providing feedback regularly. We are hitting all the deadlines.
Everything is going as planned.
Just as the project is nearing its end, Ashley from the marketing department who had been our main point of contact this entire time, tells us that the company CEO would like to talk to us. Today!
It's urgent — "I already gave him your e-mail address." — she says.
Wow, we have never worked directly with a CEO of an international company before. This is kind of a big deal for us — the next step in our journey if you will. Finally, us, designers having a seat at the table?! But, we know better than that! A CEO getting involved (late) in the process can't be too good of a sign.
So, we are sitting in anticipation, waiting for our very first true CEO experience.
It's getting late.
The first e-mail arrives!
"Hello Bojan and Marta, I like what I see. Great work! Jim"
Ok. That went rather well... I guess.
"Thank you, Jim. Really glad you like our work."
Is this what we are supposed to write to a CEO? Ashley did say this was urgent, but it doesn't really seem all that urgent?
Well, we'll find out.
The second e-mail arrives!!
"Hello Bojan and Marta, I need to ask you something. Jim"
Okeeeey, there it goes...
"Sure Jim, let us know what you had in mind."
The third e-mail arrives!!!
"Hello Bojan and Marta, I like your designs. My son wants to be a designer too. Can you help him out? Jim"
What?! Is this some kind of a trick question?!
We never spoke with the CEO of an international company before. Maybe this is how it's supposed to be.
We're trying to figure out the right response... Ping!
The fourth e-mail arrives!!!!
5 need y64 t6 send 0e the.
Why 5s 0y 2eyb6ard ty*5ng n40bers+
What the fuck is this? A code? A secret CEO language we don't speak... yet?
But we manage to decipher it.
It actually reads — "Ashley, I need you to send me the... Why is my keyboard typing numbers? Jim".
My God! It's not a secret code! It's way worse than that — it seems as if the CEO's keyboard is... Not working properly!
And the man is asking for Ashley.
We are about to tell Jim that he had e-mailed us by mistake, but just as we are to hit the Send button, Ashley responds. Damn, she's quick!
It turns out, she was in the Cc the whole time.
"Hello Jim, this has happened before. But, I can't remember what you did the last time to fix it. Ashley"
It looks like she's got it under control.
Yes 5 2n6w
Translation — "Ashley, Yes I know. Jim".
The e-mail thread goes on for another 30 minutes. It's already past midnight (our time) but we can't go to sleep now. Not until we see this poor man's keyboard fixed. I mean, how is he supposed to run an international company without a keyboard?
Just when the whole thing starts looking hopeless, Doug (from IT) gets involved.
It seems like he was in the Cc the whole time, too.
"Hello Jim. Can you please try pressing the NumLk button on your keyboard? It's at the top right corner of your keyboard. Doug"
15 minutes later Jim responds
"Thanks Doug, it's fine now. Jim"
Doug saves the day!
It's almost 1 am our time and way past working hours in Canada. But the problem is fixed and that's what matters. Great work, team! Life can go on.
We finally decide it's safe to go to sleep and get some rest. Who knows what new challenges tomorrow will bring?!
But tomorrow turns out to be business as usual.
We never ever heard from Jim again. Ashley continued to be our point of contact and nobody ever mentioned anything about that whole e-mail thread again.
We finished the project on time, we got paid on time, and we were left wondering if this is what it's like to work with owners of multimillion-dollar businesses.
PS. We hope Jim's son has found success as a designer.