Don’t worry, be happy

Disclaimer: Below is a somewhat lengthy explanation of why I ended up leaving BandPage.  It’s a bit personal, but my hope is that it will help people understand where I’m coming from, and why what happened, happened.

When I announced two weeks ago that I am leaving BandPage, some people asked some good questions. Most notably, people asked “Why are you leaving so soon, even if you weren’t happy?” or “Why are you leaving, I thought you loved that job”. Both are good questions and they deserve a good answer, since otherwise it could look like I’m a flake and I’m just bailing from a company on a whim. As always, things are bit more complicated than that.

The last (almost) nine months at BandPage have been transformative for me, both professionally and personally. BandPage’s culture is built around being open, honest, direct, and caring about each other. It’s very friendly in that sense, while also being very serious and hardworking since the problems the company hopes to solve are huge and difficult tasks. This kind of atmosphere showed me what I felt was true, but have had a hard time finding: your work atmosphere should be friendly and supportive, while also working hard and accomplishing great things as a team .

It is through this culture and company that I’ve been fortunate to form great friendships that have similar approaches and philosophies. In the mix of all of this, I turned 24 and I’ve been thinking a lot more about what it means to be a male adult and being confident in who I am as a person, as a professional, and as a friend. Out of all of this, I’ve learned that I’m most comfortable when I’m open with others about who I am and what I’m thinking, when I’m being honest and caring, and when I’m doing something that makes me happy and that I’m passionate about. This has forced me to change my approach to the friends I choose to have, how I interact with people, and ultimately the jobs that I want to do.

Sometimes I need to stop and remind myself that I’m only 24, that I dropped out of college and started working at a startup when I was barely 20 years old. I skipped out on a lot of things, and I’m in the middle of pretty standard early 20 something stuff (the whole figuring yourself out thing), while still trying to have a successful career that’s now over four years in the making. I’ve got a lot to learn, a lot to figure out, and a lot of hard work to do. It’s important for me to remember where I’ve come from and how I got here, since it’s a bit different than most of my peers.

In the midst of figuring out “Who is Sam Houston, really?”, I’ve also had to adjust my view of who I am as a professional. For better or worse, I identified myself as a “Community Manager in the video game industry!” for the first three years of my career, since that’s what everyone came to know me as and what had become my personal brand. I had spoken on panels at video game conferences about it, I had launched websites and gained a bunch of Twitter followers because of it…it was who I saw myself as. When I left video games I had to reexamine all of that, since I was no longer in an industry where I had a name – I was now in the music and tech startup industry, where not many people knew me and I definitely had a ton of catching up to do in terms of knowledge and familiarity. It was a scary challenge.

A few months back I was asked to go through another change: transition from Community Manager at BandPage to Customer Support. I had my apprehensions, but I knew I cared about users and I’m good at making people happy, and I also really cared about the company and wanted to help out where I could. This change in roles threw my professional view of myself into even more chaos, since I now needed to adjust not only what my industry was, but also my job and my entire career path. I worked really hard to convince myself that this was the right choice, I bought some Customer Service books and tried to inform myself about what this new world was all about. I honestly wanted to rock the role and create a vision for customer support.

But ultimately..I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get excited about Customer Support, I couldn’t create a vision for ways to make support amazing and awesome for years to come, and I couldn’t enjoy my day to day tasks. This reality bummed me out, since I still loved my company and who I worked with, but I didn’t like my job at all. It’s way easier to hate your job AND hate the company. Not only was I going through disappointment with my new role, but I was also going through all of the personal stuff (and then some) that I mentioned earlier…and the end result was a very sad Me.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, I had a meeting with the exec team at BandPage, and in that meeting I talked about how unhappy I was. Out of this discussion we decided that since I was so unhappy, and since the company doesn’t have another role for me right now, that I should find something else outside of the company that would make me truly happy. It was the tough decision to make, but ultimately the right one, even if it does complicate things in the short term.

Luckily I’m now feeling much better about things since I have a better understanding of what makes me happy, who I am as a person and professional, and I’ve got ideas for what I want to do with my career. I’m much happier about life in general, and I’m excited about the future. I confidently know that I’m passionate about connecting with people and that my weapon of choice is the internet and online community tools like social media. I love telling stories, showing the human element of brands/companies/projects, and giving fans what they really want.

So now I just have to figure out how to do all of that, and I’ve been lucky enough to have many supportive peers, friends, and contacts that want to help me along the way. I’ve got some ideas that really excite me and I’m contacting companies and people that I’d like to work with. I’m very excited about the future and now it’s all about finding the path to making it happen 🙂

Keep Movin’ On

It’s a shame that I haven’t updated my blog for the past 8 months, as I’ve done some really great things in that time. I’ve been a part of several BandPage feature launches, gone to SXSW 2012 and helped run and promote a 9 day music festival (that we ran ourselves and had 200+ bands…), I’ve met some amazing people along the way, and been more than fortunate to work with many of them every day. BandPage has become like a family to me, and showed me that you can build a company full of amazing people that are real, genuine, inspiring, honest, and caring.

But unfortunately, my time at BandPage is coming to an end soon. We recently decided that my needs and the company’s needs are not quite working out, and that I should try to find something that is a right fit for me. I still really like everyone at BandPage, and I’m leaving on good terms, but it just came down to the fact that the roles available at the company just aren’t the right match for me.

After SXSW, I started to transition into more of a Customer Support role. At first I thought I could do this, and do it well, and hopefully enjoy it. What I found is that I am good at helping people and making them happy, but I just don’t enjoy the challenges of customer support. It’s not creative enough for me, and I wasn’t inspired by customer support. It left me fairly upset and frustrated with my role, and ultimately lead to the decision that I should find something outside of BandPage.

I’ll still be at BandPage for a little while, to help make this transition a smooth one. I’m still on good terms with everyone, including the CEO (and friend) J Sider. I want to thank him and the rest of the BandPage crew for helping make my experience an awesome one, and ultimately being supportive to me when they learned I wasn’t happy any more.

So what’s next? I’m not sure.

What ultimately lead me to leave Playfish for BandPage was an opportunity in the music industry that I see, and I believe is still available today. In my opinion, the relationship that artists/bands have with their fans is sorely lacking, and could be improved upon greatly by using social media in smart ways. I think someone like me, a Community Manager, could be used to interact with fans, create and share content regularly, and make a stronger connection between the artist with the fanbase. And through this connection, there will even be ways to monetize the fans (in a fair way), because you’re creating great content and great experiences for fans.

BandPage is an extension of that. New companies like Shaker and Instagram are definitely a part of that, as are “old” companies like Twitter and Facebook. And media like Blogs, YouTube, and Photos will be key. But they need to be done all in concert with one another, with a strategy, and not left to the guitar techs or the band members (who often just do it when they have time).

My hope is that I can find a way to channel this passion and vision that I have for the future of the music industry into a new role. I’m going to need your help though, since this is something new for me. You can find me on Linkedin Here, and if you know of anything that you think would be interesting to me, please contact me on Linkedin (or Twitter or Facebook).

I want to change the music industry and give fans and bands the experience that they deserve. Hopefully I can find the opportunity to do that 🙂