Career Update: Working with Walker & Company – Bevel

On 17 December 2015 I announced a big career change. After 15 years at the University of Iowa, I planned to return to consulting as of 1 January 2016 and begin working with a mystery company that I planned to reveal in January. Due to some delays in HR processing, I wasn’t ready to make the announcement until now.

So, this is the story I’d hoped to write two months ago.

In May 2015, I learned about Walker & Company through their online magazine BevelCode.com which has articles on culture, style, and personal grooming with a focus on people of color. The magazine offers exceptional photo journalism with great pictures and articles. So, I began reposting and sharing their content.

In recent years I’ve been enhancing the content on my own websites and social media channels to depict positive portrayals of Black people. I’ve been doing this because with the recent rise in racism, it seems like mainstream media and news networks generally propagate an inaccurate and derogatory portrayal of Black people through images that are disproportionately negative. Positive stories help offset the negativity – inspiring people of color, and re-programming those with bigotry.

After several months of promoting the BevelCode content, I decided to try out the Bevel Shaving System which is one of the Walker & Company products. I wanted to learn more about the company, and figured becoming a customer and using their products would be a great way to do so.

On 30 September 2015, after receiving the Bevel products and using them, I wrote “Bevel – A New Tradition in Shaving” as a review of the company and products. That article got the attention of Tristan Walker, the CEO and founder of Walker & Company. Tristan wrote a nice response to the article via Twitter.

I wrote a few more articles and had a lot of positive social media interactions with prospective and current Bevel users.

In early December, Tristan and his staff reached out to me asking if I’d like to work formally with the company. I didn’t need too much time to think over the offer. Having seen Tristan in various YouTube videos and having already studied the company fairly thoroughly over the previous months, I knew it was a move I wanted to make.

The initial offer was for 1-2 hours of work per day. Which doesn’t seem like much, but my job at the University had expanded to 60+ hours per week. Fitting in an additional 10-hour-per week commitment just wouldn’t be possible without dropping the University job.

I’d already begun feeling the financial impact of cutting back on my outside consulting work to take on additional responsibilities at the University. The Walker and Company work would be a perfect fit for me. I could expand my consulting work, and enjoy working for a company that I believed was doing some good work.

By mid-December, I put in my two weeks notice at the University. This would provide about 30 days over winter break (while classes would not be in session) for some reorganizing needed to find people who could cover for the work I’d been doing. My job was eventually delegated among four or five people. I had a chance to offer some transitional support and training after my last day, which I enjoyed doing.

I’d imagined that my consulting work would slowly ramp up, but on January 1 which might have otherwise been a holiday, the consulting work started pouring in. I’ve had steady work since then, which is great.

After getting the offer from Walker and Company, I decided to ramp up my work for them — the work that I’d already been doing voluntarily at that point. I was told I’d be officially on-board by mid-January, so I figured I’d give them a few weeks of free work as a good faith expression of appreciating for getting hired on.

Over the next two months, I was given some fun assignments to do, and had a chance to connect with top leadership in the company. From the consumer perspective, I’d been very impressed with the Bevel brand as well as Walker and Company. So, it was nice to get a more complete understanding of the company.

Heading into April, given the abundance of client work that keeps coming my way, I’m going to focus my attention entirely on my consulting business as well as the public interest work I do.

Many thanks to all those who continue supporting my work.

Career Change

I first started working at the University of Iowa in 1983 as a student in a computer lab. Over the past 30 years I’ve had the pleasure of working at the College of Law, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC), and the central IT group. In 2001, I returned to working for the same department (and boss) that employed me as a student, and I’ve been there for the past 15 years. I always imagined I’d continue at the University until retiring.

Those who follow my writings and social media posts know the that I’m often writing about and promoting various companies and products. I’ve had friends and family ask me if the writing and promotions work I do is paid advertising. I take it as a compliment, but explain that it’s just something I enjoy doing.

Last week on Wednesday, I received an email from a small startup company that you’ve likely never heard of. My previous interactions with the CEO had been nothing more than a few short informal tweets. He’d appreciated what I had to say about their company and products. The email last week, with him copied, was from a member of their team asking if I’d like a job with the company.

After considering their offer, I decided to accept it.

I think their company is doing some really innovative work in an important niche market. They’re not just following best practices, but establishing best practices and creating new approaches to doing business. This has the potential to positively influence how other businesses operate — creating better workplace environments and positively impacting consumers. So, it’s exciting to have at least some part in helping them grow.

In my new role, I’ll be able to stay in Iowa City, have flexible hours, and work from home or while mobile. The initial commitment will free up my schedule to do more of my own consulting work, as well as the public interest work I enjoy doing. My work at the University had at times been taking 50 to 60 hours per week. I’m eager to get back to a more livable schedule.

My last day at the University of Iowa will be December 31. I’ll miss everyone, but I’m also looking forward to the opportunities ahead.

I’ll share more details as they unfold, but today I wanted to let everyone know about this big change.

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