#CultureFirst: Kevin Yank

The #CultureFirst series is a chance to showcase the team here at Culture Amp. We asked everyone a few questions which will give you an opportunity to get to know each of us a bit better.

Kevin Yank - Engineering Manager, Melbourne

Kevin taught a generation of web developers during his time at SitePoint and helped to launch success stories like 99designs, Flippa and Learnable. On weekends he performs improvised theatre, which is a lot more like building web apps than one might expect.

Culture Amp: What can you do as a CAmper that you haven’t been able to do elsewhere?
Kevin Yank:
This is going to sound schmaltzy, but it’s a rare thing to work on a successful, groundbreaking technology startup that is also changing the world for the better. In the past I’ve dedicated myself to educating web developers, with the assumption being that some of them—at least statistically—would go on to use those skills to make the world a better place. At Culture Amp, I get to do that myself.

CA: Best day you’ve ever had at work (here or anywhere else)?
I used to write books about programming for a living, so it’s hard to go past the day my first book arrived at the office in real, honest-to-goodness “dead tree” form. These days I consume all my books digitally, like many of my fellow nerdy folk. In just a few more years it may be rare for authors to see a physical manifestation of their work. It’s hard to argue with progress, but the old “author’s copies” on my shelf make those memories of my time in the publishing industry all the more nostalgic.

CA: What do you geek out about outside from work?
You’re never going to believe this, but I’m into video games and Star Trek. No, seriously—a programmer *and* a sci-fi nerd? What are the chances! Seriously, though, I’m fascinated by video games as storytelling medium. Firewatch, Until Dawn, and Gone Home are all recent games that tell stories in ways that would not be possible in other media. I can’t wait to see what Quantic Dream does with Detroit. The trailer gets me misty-eyed every time, and I can’t wait to see if the story lives up to that promise. And as for Star Trek, well it’s always been about imagining a future where technology helped humanity come together and build a better world. Deep down, I feel like we’re doing that in our own small way at Culture Amp. I know what you’re thinking, but I do get out of the house now and then! For one thing, I’ve been performing improvised theatre for over a decade. In startup land we talk about “failing fast” - experimenting and growing through our mistakes. Improv works on the same principle: it’s only funny if your audience gets to see you fail and deal with that failure playfully. It’s every bit as silly as you think it is, and you should totally try it.

CA: What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an architect, because drawing lines on paper that made shapes appear in the real world seemed like a super power. I remember vividly the day I met an architect that my dad worked with, and he told me it was all about budgets and building regulations. The poor guy probably had just had a bad week, but that one conversation completely changed my path in life. Programming has the same kind of magic - the way code makes things happen in the world. And there aren’t many regulations.

CA: What is something about you not many people know?
: As a boy, I was caught stealing colored pens from our church. I had to return them and apologize in person. I’ve been on the straight and narrow ever since—that’s enough guilt for a lifetime!

CA: What’s on your playlist this week?
I mostly listen to Canadian indie music (one of the ways I stay in touch with my homeland from down here in Australia), but I discovered CHVRCHΞS as a backer of Loud on Planet X, a music rhythm game on Kickstarter, and was immediately hooked.

CA: Where would you go on an all expense paid trip tomorrow?
The International Space Station. That view.

CA: What does culture first mean to you?
It means starting with the team, not the product. It means building a group of people who enjoy working together, who trust each other and can be honest with one another, and who care enough to give of themselves for the good of the team. It means sacrificing other business objectives to look after the health of the team, because you believe the business will benefit in the long run.

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