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In part 2 of our postmortem series, we dig into how to establish a culture of continuous learning, from getting leadership on board to invoking...
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“The PagerDuty value that means the most to me is Growth because I believe in continual learning and development to benefit myself, my colleagues, and PagerDuty as a whole.”
– Mark Smith, Senior Front-End Developer, PagerDuty
Looking at Mark Smith, our Senior Front-End Developer for the past three years, you’d never guess he could croon a tune with the best of them. But as the lead singer and guitarist for his band, The Vinyl Trees, that’s exactly what he does. And if you met him and got to know him and his laid-back attitude, you’d also likely never guess that this father of two used to play for the San Jose Sharks and was known for having a “scrappy demeanor that sometimes resulted in fights.”
Born and raised on a farm in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada, Mark is the youngest of three and has been playing hockey for as long as he can remember. “In our area, there were small little towns, and whoever is in a particular area makes up the team for that town,” Mark explained. “I grew up playing hockey with local farm kids and my brother, and we would drive through blizzards to play other towns’ teams. We also had a rink in our backyard, which was basically a pond that froze over every winter.”
But what did the kids do during the summer after the ice melted? For Mark and his brother, that wasn’t an issue. “We created an indoor rink in our basement with wood from an old grainery that we ripped down and set up nets,” he laughed. “The reason I probably made it as far as I did in hockey is because my older brother would push me—that competition probably drove me to aspire to be better than I would’ve been.”
From Hockey to Web Development
That grit and determination learned from hockey translated into other parts of Mark’s life, notably in his career as a self-taught developer (in addition to teaching himself how to play the guitar). As Mark explained, back in the 1980s and 1990s, most kids only had access to computers at school. In his case, there were four computers for the entire school, and he took his first computer class in Grade 7. “I wanted to create the Edmonton Oilers hockey logo, so I did it,” he said. “Then thought it’d be great to have animations where another logo would slide in and replace it, so I coded a bunch of other logos. I think I made 10-15 before the year was over.”
That was when he discovered he really liked working with computers. But then hockey came calling, and he started playing more competitively, getting drafted by the San Jose Sharks when he was 19, where he would stay for seven seasons playing center and became known for his constantly changing hair color.
In 2008, Mark got sidelined with an injury and retired from hockey, and he and his wife moved to Cabo three years later. With all the free time now on his hands, he decided to dabble in computers again. “I bought a giant book, The Missing Manual on Adobe Dreamweaver, didn’t really understand anything the first three times I read it,” Mark shared. “The fourth time through was when things really started to click. And it was amazing, but then I saw things on the page not lining up, so I went into the code more, and I saw the code was in the wrong spots, and I started moving it around.”
Two months later, he had learned enough to move on past the book and started building e-commerce sites for clients and for his wife’s clothing line. “I was learning so much, and it was so exciting—and that’s when I decided that would be my career. I was determined to learn as much as I could about developing and coding.”
He did just that for the next few years, and when he moved back to the Bay Area, he was ready to take the tech industry by storm. His good friend and fellow Dutonian Jonesy (you may know him more formally as Senior Design Lead Alex Jones) set him up with a staffing agency, and Mark passed their tests with flying colors, as they say. “It was great for me because it was validation I knew what I was doing,” said Mark. “I had never taken any formal classes or educational training when it came to coding and development.”
He joined PagerDuty to help with a website rebuild. “There were only 150-170 people at the time,” he said. “I basically hit the ground running—we built the new site in a month and have rebuilt it a couple times since then.”
“It’s been fun—I like the people I work with. And working in a place like this is like being on a sports team: Everyone has a job, and if someone doesn’t do their job, something won’t happen or something will go wrong. I like learning new technologies, and now that I’m on the Growth team, I get to work with engineers on the product side, and that’s very interesting as I want to get into software development. So the best thing about my job is continually learning. As I tell my kids, the day that I’m done learning is the day that I die.”
Interested in being a part of our amazing culture? Check out our current open roles—we’d love to have you!
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