Graduating from Daylife


After blogging about my time at Daylife for the past couple of years, this will probably be one of my last posts about it. Today I’m graduating from Daylife and will start a new adventure with Behavior tomorrow. I thought it would be worth while to look back at some of the invaluable experiences of working at a start up in NYC is like.

I think in the mid to late nineties there was a mantra from the design community that it was important to understand business talk. What are CEO focusing on, what are C level executives talking about, how do the management teams function? While understanding that is still important, there’s a new skill that a lot designers are coming late to the game with. That is knowing how to work with engineers, building digital products and the idea of constant iteration.

Living and working in NYC has been one of my goals since I was in school in Canada. I also realized that the path along that way is never straight nor predictable. So when the opportunity to work for Daylife but something that wasn’t a traditional design place like a studio or agency—it wasn’t that hard of a choice. There were a couple reasons why I wanted to see what I could do there. It was the chance to build up some unique skills that not every designer would have, I didn’t totally understand the concept of aggregation—thinking that if I could make it more understandable while there, others using our system would benefit too, and there was an article that I had read many years ago from the NYT. That article was It Pays to Have Pals in Silicon Valley. That article is where I read about the PayPal Mafia where it lists off a number of successful people that started their own companies after once working all at PayPal. Back in 2006 when that article was published I filed it in the back of my mind—if the opportunity to work at a start up became available I should at least try it. It would give me a unique network of people that I might not otherwise have known about. There’s a lot of hype right now about the start up scene in NYC, a couple years ago I don’t think that was the case. So it was a huge risk for me to just do something that really was new territory for me. But now that I can look back it was really worth me trying. I also look at those that were at Daylife ahead of me and how successful they’ve become with their design work, so I have a lot to live up to post Daylife.

Working at a start up made me reconsider everything I knew about design, and business in this economic and technology climate. In bullet form here some of the things that come to mind for me.
· Building a product out of data
· Understanding product road maps
· Developing features, incubating ideas that can become a feature that in turn with time become a product
· Going through stages of product development
· The everyday all hands meetings and post mortems of launches
· Just enough design, agile development
· Info flow, UX and fragmenting content to create new meanings
· Working with engineers*

I really enjoyed launching new features and blogging about it. It gave me a chance to show what was going on, but more importantly gather feedback in a public space. Here’s a couple of those posts from newest to oldest:

A @Daylife Update: SmartSections and SmartTopics Launch

Working on Getty Images SmartGalleries by Daylife

Latest news from Le Tour de France 2009

Daylife Beta Topic Page: Kate Moss

Latest Daylife Select Release

Daylife Select Release

Check out

Daylife Photo Matrix

Daylife Redesign Part One

It would be hard to distill one favourite moment at Daylife. It was the continous cycle of iteration that I was really proud to be a part of. We reworked every section of the site and content type that later on would become the basis for new products. It was cool to see what NPR, ABC News and Dallas Morning News did when they implemented it. In turn taking one of the most popular sections (photo galleries) and turning that into a successful product was invaluable to learn about in terms of product development. This is great gallery from Time Warner about Pandas

But after two plus years I think I’ve done as much as I could and now it’s time to move on. I would def. work with/for/ or create my own start up in time, but for now I just want take what I’ve learned and see what I can do with it. And for those that were at Daylife with me along the way—thanks for your help.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • siguy

    You will be missed Michael! Best of luck with your new endeavor.

  • jzipps
  • Jimmy Ball

    Congrats Michael!

  • Pablo Puga

    Best of luck Michael!

  • Matt Daniels

    Good luck on your next job–looks like behavior is an awesome digital design firm. I'm thinking about, the future-term, doing your exact opposite, moving from an agency to a startup. Did you ever get the paypal mafia experience at daylife? And do you think that the shift to the slower, agency-client design relationship will be difficult?

  • Guest

    Best of luck Michael. Behavior is a hugely impressive firm and I'm looking forward to seeing what you do there.

  • richardstewart

    Hey Michael,

    Congrats on the new position, best of luck!

  • michaelsurtees

    Thanks guys!

  • michaelsurtees

    Good questions Matt—though slightly loaded. As for the PayPal mafia experience I would say yes. I've got some great contacts and the lead CSS developer left too, so we'll be in touch for quite some time.

    As for your other questions you'll have to buy me a beer before I'll explain the pros/cons of my own startup experience vs where I'm at now.

  • clippingimages

    All the best Michael.. May Almighty God helps you in every success of your life ! 🙂