Ghost in the Machine: Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

by: Kevin Smith on: 10/6/2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

(credit: Dylan Roscover)

I was writing a rememberence for Steve this morning trying to capture how much Steve, through his work at Apple, inspired us at EllisLab (and continues to do so). Everything we’ve built was made on a Mac. Macs come with a guiding philosophy etched in every detail, a ghost in the machine if you will, that influenced and inspired us daily. I took a break, logged onto our intranet, and discovered that Kevin Smith, one of our Customer Advocates, had already written a beautiful eulogy that perfectly captures that influence and what it means to EllisLab. I encouraged him to share it here. – Leslie Camacho, CEO, EllisLab, Inc.

When I went to work for Apple, first in 2006 and again in 2008, it was honestly like a dream come true. I tried to find a more clever, less cliche way to get that across, but I’m not sure there is one. Apple is a company that time and again releases mind-blowingly innovative products, so many of which enable me to do nearly everything I do. Even in 2006, after only owning a Power PC Mac Mini that ran Tiger, my life was already substantially enriched by Apple.

The company’s history and Steve’s story were inspiring, too. Steve was at the forefront of a new industry back in the 70’s, and literally launched what would become one of the most valuable companies in the world from his garage with little more than his vision, some computer parts, and a few guys to help out.

The culture at Apple, even at the retail level, is real, honest excitement about the company and the products because we know how the things Apple produces truly enrich the lives of our customers. Even on the toughest days — people weren’t afraid to physically get in our faces to tell us how we’d let them down — we knew we were part of something truly unique. We worked for a company that was literally changing the world year after year. And it was all started by a man unwilling to bow to the status quo, who made risk-taking his modus operandi, and who obsessed over the quality of every little thing his company would present its customer.

Believe it or not, coming to work for EllisLab was a very similar experience for me. In the spring of 2008, I was set to go on a year-and-a-half long tour with a famous singer as part of her crew. But she got sick. Sick enough where it looked like she might not get well at all. The first leg of the tour was canceled, and we were all thanked for our time and laid off. That happened only a day after closing on my new house.

I was completely heartbroken and desperate. After licking my wounds for about 45 minutes, I started brainstorming to find a way out of this brand-new hole. The bottom of the job market had just dropped, and I knew I wasn’t going to find something immediately. The only marketable skill I had was from years of building websites as a hobby and to promote the few artists I’d picked up for my own fledgling record label.

I had gone from static websites to using all the well-known CMS platforms on various sites, but I knew I couldn’t rely on any of those to support a client. Coming from a web designer background, I didn’t like the idea of having to bend my design to a rigid theming system. I read an article that talked about ExpressionEngine’s flexibility; it raved on and on about how this was “The Designer’s CMS”. Having waded through the theming process of Joomla!, Drupal, and Wordpress, ExpressionEngine seemed like a drink of water in the desert.

To get to the point, I was able to hit the ground running with ExpressionEngine. I started a web design shop and started taking clients right away. EllisLab and ExpressionEngine saved my house.

Pretty soon after I started using ExpressionEngine, I began to see the invested, helpful community that surrounds it. I read about the story of EllisLab’s founding, began to learn the names and personalities of those of you who worked here, and learned how to write PHP applications thanks to CodeIgniter. I can do what I do today thanks to EllisLab.

Joining EllisLab was like being asked to join your favorite band. I couldn’t believe I was joining the ranks of all these people who made software products I use every day. I applied on a whim; knowing what kind of reach EllisLab has, I didn’t even expect to get a callback. Being asked to join EllisLab was a dream come true.

We’re a small, relatively new company, on the forefront of a new industry that is changing the world every day. Not as many people may know the names EllisLab, ExpressionEngine, or CodeIgniter, but every day millions of people’s lives are enriched by what we do. And while we’re experiencing some very public growing pains, we’re surrounded by a passionate community filled with people and businesses whose paths in history we have changed for the better. Companies could only dream of such a thing.

We change lives. What we do every single day matters. We don’t forget that, even on the toughest days.

If the legacy of Steve Jobs means anything to me and to all of us at EllisLab, it’s this: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world… are the ones who do.”

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