Welcome to our very first Gimme 3 interview! This kicks off an ongoing series of blog posts where we interview employees, colleagues – really anyone who feels like talking – about the top 3 things that bring purpose and passion to their work.
Matt Powell is founder and CEO here at Bitwise, and also happens to be my husband. In our very first edition of Gimme 3, Matt dives deep on personal challenges, community, and sets a dangerous precedent for his first motivator. Maybe there should be a rule?
Let’s get going.
Welcome to Gimme 3! Tell us a little about what you’re up to right now at Bitwise.
This is an incredibly exciting time for us because we’re rolling out all-new branding in the next couple weeks that we’ve been working on for a long time. It’s nerve wracking to finally put it out into the world, but you can feel the energy in the company. It’s awesome. So we’re busy putting the final touches on that – updating social media, putting together promo mailers for friends and colleagues – those types of things.
Beyond that, I usually have my hands in a few pots, like hiring and developing new business. You know, the fun stuff.
Let’s jump right in. What’s your first thing that brings purpose and passion to your work?
My family has this Thanksgiving tradition where we all go around the table and each say something we’re thankful for. It’s fun, and usually a bit awkward, but there’s just one rule: you can’t use “family” as your thing. Too easy. So maybe we want to set a rule like that for these interviews, but I’m going for it since this is our first interview, and saying that family brings a tremendous amount of purpose to my work.
Ground rules, check. So what about family brings purpose and passion for you?
Yeah I mean, it’s a little obvious maybe, but everything I do is rooted in my family. They’re the light of my life. But for work specifically, I think the lessons I have learned from them – about what it means to feel fulfilled, about teamwork – were my greatest inspiration for starting this company.
I think back to those early days, and I’d been seeing these government contractors that had this singular model of hiring at all costs. Once someone onboarded with them, it was sort of like, “Ok, that person’s hired, so they’re done. Onto the next one.” As long as they continued billing their contract, they were doing their job.
I know this is a big annoyance for you.
It is. Because without any real connection to their company, that employee’s work isn’t being reinforced as meaningful, and they lose their motivation. And often they just end up sort of… being there. Very cold, very transactional.
And look, that’s a business model, to be sure. Some companies are successful with it. But the employees are almost never left feeling fulfilled. And to me, it just felt so obvious that we should be taking a more connective approach. If I could create this culture around a clear mission and vision – beyond simply billing a contract – then that culture could create its own innovation naturally, and employees would be happier too.
So anyway, I connected these dots recently, but it’s everything I feel about my family that informed what I brought to the table in those early days. Those instincts I had, whether I knew it or not, came directly from my experiences as a son, as a husband, and a father.
Ok, what’s something else that brings purpose and passion to your work?
I’m not completely altruistic, as you well know. Personal challenges are big motivators for me. I have this one-track personality where I tend to focus super hard on one thing at a time, and when I’m in that zone, pretty much everything else falls away. It’s gotten me into a little trouble over the years, but when I can manage to apply it responsibly, it’s one of my most effective tools for making big things happen.
There’s obviously this overarching challenge of building a successful company, but there are also these infinite number of micro-challenges along the way that keep things interesting. So at first it was these existential problems like – let’s win some new work, but we’ll need people first, but we can’t hire until we have work. That was a tough one. But you get past that one, and then it’s onto benefits – some people want the company’s 401k contributions but others would rather have the extra income now, so how do we accommodate both? And once foundational elements are there, we get into optimizing our employment experience and our services to our customers. There’s always something new to tackle, which is sometimes frustrating, but usually rewarding.
Do you have any ongoing challenges that you haven’t been able to crack?
Tons! *Laughs* I mean, we’ll always be in the market for incredibly talented engineers who see eye-to-eye with us on the type of company we’re trying to build. I think our updated messaging with the brand rollout will go a long way to helping us market to the right audience. But even the right folks are hearing enough noise from other companies in our market where it’s a consistent challenge to break through with our unique value proposition.
And of course, our work is never done when it comes to keeping abreast of our customers’ most current needs and the types of solutions that will work best for them. We infuse our solutions with a lot of detail and care, things that we spend a lot of time talking about internally, and so it’s important to me that we’re keeping an eye on how best to send up that ethos through the services we provide. Being a cut above is part of our brand.
Look, we’re a work in progress. Just like any person is, hopefully. And we work on ourselves through constant introspection, feedback from customers and employees, and never being afraid to try out something new, even if it doesn’t work.
Ok, final thing that brings purpose and passion to your work.
We talk a lot about community at Bitwise. That’s because I see it as, possibly, the single largest catalyst for happiness and fulfillment in our work. And it comes in many forms, all of which we’re talking about when we use the word community.
So top of the list for me is, how can a sense of connection and belonging among our employees translate to overall fulfillment with their work? How can we infuse those feelings into our work in a way that enhances the technology transformations we’re providing? And ultimately, how can those technology transformations enable and enrich our larger communities for the better? It’s this stepstool process, and community is the throughline in all of it.
But that’s my soapbox again. Honestly, the simple act of hiring people, welcoming them into the company, and getting to know them is more than enough of a community feeling for me to feel really good about continuing to work hard for our more ambitious goals. Having those people hang out, contribute their ideas. That’s very rewarding. And a motivator for me to keep going.
Anything else we haven’t covered?
Just a quick anecdote, since we talked about my family and their contributions. I tend to consult my daughters when I’m struggling with a decision, usually by detailing the problem to them in all of its glorious, grown-up detail. It’s lighthearted, and I usually get funny answers that help me hop out of my emotions for a while. But back in 2018, my daughter Emerson, who was 4 at the time, was consulted on what I should call this new company I was founding. Her answer, without even hesitating: Lunchbox.
I didn’t use that suggestion, but maybe next April Fools you’ll see a new logo pop up for a while.