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What's happened so far

 ![Lookback team](/​as­sets/​posts/​team-look­back.jpg)

I haven’t writ­ten here for al­most a year now, and some things have hap­pened since.

I’m happy with my­self and my life, but I’ve missed writ­ing: it feels like I’ve been silent or what­ever for a long while. A blog is a great out­let, even if you don’t have any­thing in par­tic­u­lar to say. My per­sonal blog, log.jo­han­brook.com has been the mind dump since I started it, and it’s re­ally awe­some to just post things there.

Getting a de­gree

Last year, I did my Bachelor’s Thesis at my uni­ver­sity: Chalmers University of Technology. It was great — I loved our pro­ject and my group mem­bers. The pro­ject was called RymdJS (rymd” is Swedish for space”), and is a mod­u­lar, dis­trib­uted sys­tem for peer-to-peer based en­crypted stor­age. Basically, it en­ables you to send files to an­other per­son with P2P tech­nol­ogy with web tech­nolo­gies in your browser. Pretty cool. Involves fancy tech like WebRTC, IndexedDB, and the HTML5 Crypto API. So much fun to work on. Here’s the fi­nal pa­per.

I haven’t had time” to for­mally re­quest my Bachelor’s de­gree pa­pers yet though.

Lookback

During the spring last year, I was con­tem­plat­ing what to do dur­ing sum­mer. I had free­lanced since 2010, and even though it’s kinda lu­cra­tive and con­nected with be­ing free, I was­n’t too stoked about it. I wanted to work with and be pas­sion­ate about a prod­uct in a team in which I could learn from. I was sick and tired of clients, and build­ing things where the time of life was close to none. The chance would come when I con­tacted Jonatan Littke, whose startup, Lookback, had me im­pressed so much that I was so ready to ap­ply for some kind of sum­mer work.

The orig­i­nal prod­uct of Lookback was based on a quick hack” cre­ated by iOS wiz­ard Nevyn Bengtsson while work­ing at Spotify (Nevyn built the orig­i­nal Spotify app for iPhone and later iPad). He found a tech­nique to record the screen, voice, face and touches of a user while us­ing an iOS app — in su­per nice fram­er­ate. It was so good it could rev­o­lu­tion­ize how we col­lect feed­back from con­sumers, do bug re­port­ing, and UX re­search — ba­si­cally in or­der to bet­ter un­der­stand peo­ple us­ing dig­i­tal prod­ucts. Nevyn, Jonatan and Jonatan’s brother Carl started Lookback in 2013, and they were still the team when I emailed them in 2014.

I emailed Jonatan with a (probably generic and po­lite) text, ask­ing for the be­fore men­tioned con­sul­tancy work dur­ing the sum­mer. Jonatan trolled around with me for a bit (it’s a love lan­guage”) but we ended up get­ting along and de­cided that I’d join them for the sum­mer be­fore the be­gin­ning of my Master’s in Interaction Design at Chalmers.

Working at Lookback dur­ing the sum­mer was so awe­some. I loved it. I could use my (pretty well de­vel­oped) skills in build­ing a prod­uct peo­ple used, I learned more about Meteor, I learned more about re­mote work­ing (which is prac­ticed at Lookback). They gave this long-haired guy (me) the free­dom to po­ten­tially fuck up their code base. I shipped fea­tures and fixed bugs.

I did­n’t feel like a ju­nior in the sense of the tech­nol­ogy used — I was and still am per­fectly aware of my skills in front-end web de­vel­op­ment, and I’ve used much tech (both back-end and front-end) dur­ing my days in school and dur­ing free­lanc­ing. This sounds cocky, but I never ever doubted my tech­ni­cal skills. However, what I learned was how lit­tle I knew about prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and build­ing a large scale web app. I was taught how to:

Communicate and work re­motely

The guys were in the same of­fice, but com­mu­ni­cated over chat with Flowdock. They had some con­sul­tants work­ing re­motely, and it’s been in Lookback’s ethos since its be­gin­nings that re­mote work should be a base­line. I learned how to over com­mu­ni­cate and ex­plic­itly ask for help and give sta­tus up­dates more than ever be­fore. More on Lookback’s way of work­ing in an­other post (I rec­om­mend Lookback’s blog in the mean­time).

Receive re­views

Moving fast and break­ing things is bull­shit.

Everyone in Lookback are con­cerned with de­sign — prod­uct, UX, and UI. Especially Jonatan is a blood hound when re­view­ing fea­tures in the prod­uct (which of course is a good thing). Nothing beats man­ual QA. But I learned to hold my horses and go through my pro­posed so­lu­tion or bug fix one more time. Moving fast and break­ing things is bull­shit. Jonatan taught me how to take a step back and see fur­ther than the check­list on the Trello card. How to ask What if .. ?” ques­tions re­gard­ing the us­age of the prod­uct. Does this cre­ate value? Can it be im­proved fur­ther?”. Tasks and fea­tures weren’t sim­ply mine to take to just code up and re­lease like a mind­less zom­bie. I had creative re­spon­si­bil­ity” for them, which means I had to care for them through the whole process: re­search­ing, plan­ning, cre­at­ing, re­leas­ing, mon­i­tor­ing, main­tain­ing (common stuff).

How freak­ing fun a startup is

It’s like night and day com­pared to client work. Sure, it might be more pres­sure in­volved de­pend­ing on things like fund­ing, run­way, and user en­gage­ment, but gosh it’s more fun car­ing for a long-lived prod­uct that cod­ing on a pro­mo­tional web­site for some weeks and de­liver it - never to care for it again. It’s an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing build­ing a prod­uct to­gether with few other peo­ple, and have those magic mo­ments of cheer, laugh­ter, and joy with each other. I will al­ways trea­sure that.

Going for it

 ![](/assets/posts/lookback-working.jpg)  ![](/assets/posts/lookback-working-names.jpg)

The end of the sum­mer came, and the guys at Lookback asked me if I should­n’t start work­ing for them full time. I was re­ally flat­tered, but re­sponded ro­bot­i­cally with some­thing like: I’m go­ing to start my Master’s de­gree, and I re­ally wanna fin­ish it, so no thank you”. I held on to that thought for a long while, re­peat­ing it my head like a mantra. I had gone to uni­ver­sity in the first place, much in or­der to at­tend that Master pro­gram.

But I changed my mind. I’m in the IT in­dus­try, for god’s sake. What would I do with a Master’s de­gree? Create bet­ter web apps? Perhaps. Perhaps not. One thing was for sure: I did­n’t want to waste” the prime of my twen­ties at­tend­ing school for an­other two years. To waste this chance to join in early in a tremen­dously promis­ing startup, work­ing with a prod­uct I loved, with peo­ple I loved, and miss out on all the learn­ings the courses at school could­n’t give me.

Working in a startup is real. School is not. Academia might be in­ter­est­ing for a while, but no longer. I was done. I was tired of writ­ing pa­pers I did­n’t care about, and the over­all feel of not do­ing any­thing of value to me. Everybody are dif­fer­ent. Some think they need more time in school in or­der to gain more knowl­edge, im­prove hard skills, net­work, and gen­er­ally boost their re­sume in some way to land that sweet job af­ter the Master’s the­sis. I thought I needed some of those things. But then I re­al­ized many oth­ers had dropped out of school when they where younger and/​or less skilled than me — why would­n’t I?

So I filed for taking a sab­bat­i­cal” (code for I’m gonna start work­ing and won’t prob­a­bly come back”) and phoned Jonatan to say I ac­cepted their of­fer. So then I be­came em­ployee #1 at Lookback, and it felt so right.

Now

 ![](/assets/posts/lookback-computers.jpg)

Right now, Lookback has grown into a twelve peo­ple strong team, and we’ve moved our HQ to San Fransisco. The team con­sists of de­vel­op­ers on two more plat­forms: Mac and Android, thanks to the ac­qui­si­tion of Quickcast from the UK, and the hire of the most clean-cod­ing Java de­vel­oper I’ve seen — Marcin from Poland. We also have Tobias (previously Spotify, GitHub) on de­sign, Karim (previously Automattic) on QA/Support, Mai-Li (co-founder of Mutewatch) on Sales/Marketing, and Heidi (Geek Girls founder) on UX re­search. We’ve shipped a re­design. We’ve upped our growth and web dev game with Francis, whose opin­ions and con­ver­sa­tions I deeply ap­pre­ci­ate.

We still do re­mote though. It’s in our DNA (we’re still learn­ing new things with re­mote work at this team scale every day). It feels things have gone re­ally fast since last sum­mer, but I’m so proud and happy of my de­ci­sion, and of the things I’ve cre­ated in Lookback. This is the best first full time job I’ll ever have :)


What I love most about this way of work­ing is the free­dom. Freedom to work how I want, when I want, with (almost) what I want. It’s free­dom with re­spon­si­bil­ity, and it has al­ways suited me. By al­low­ing full re­mote work, you’ll reach the best in­di­vid­u­als — those who won’t go into an of­fice, but in­stead cre­at­ing mir­a­cles from their lap­tops in a café some­where in south France.

It’s the free­dom to wake up when you want. It’s the free­dom to work from wher­ever you want.

It’s the free­dom to form the en­vi­ron­ment around you, in­stead of the other way around.