Farewell to CTI: A retrospective, and thanks

Farewell to CTI: A retrospective, and thanks

Christianity Today InternationalAs I have mentioned in various posts throughout this weblog, I have been a proud employee of Christianity Today International for some time now. After serving as the first webmaster for the General Council of the Assemblies of God and a brief stint as a self-employed consultant, I was invited to join CTI’s staff by Vice-President of R&D, John LaRue.

That was in the late-summer of 1999. I already had a relationship with CTI by then because when the A/G first decided to go online in 1995, we did it through CTI’s America Online content-provider area, “Christianity Today Online.” In order for the A/G to provide content on AOL via CTI, I was sent to the CT offices in Carol Stream to learn how to use the AOL “Rainmaker” system for content-management. (What a headache that system was!) As it turned out, only a few of us outside content providers ever took advantage of the training CTI provided after returning home, and that apparently made me noteworthy in CTI’s eyes. So, when Judy Gill, office manager for the content production team at that time, found out that I was no longer working for HQ, she prevailed upon John LaRue to find a way for me to come work on staff in an official capacity.

PreachingToday.comWhat followed was a whirlwind month of activity at CTI that I never knew about. I found out, much later, that the position was actually created just to bring me on-board, and that I was being offered a job before there had even been a job-description crafted! When I joined CTI on my first day of work (August 2, 1999), I came on as “Special Projects Manager,” and the very first special project I worked on was PreachingToday.com. They needed to go live with PT before the end of the year, and the project was running late. They hoped that since I had led a similar project at the A/G, that I’d be able to help out here.

To this day, I don’t remember if we launched before the end of the year, or not, but it matters little, by now. PreachingToday.com has been one of the most successful CTI websites since its inception. I think, by now, there are more than 10,000 members subscribing to PT, adapting its illustrations every week in sermons across America and around the world — literally. I’ve had some of my own illustration-submissions (see: “Sermon Illustrations“) included in its database, and even once listened to Rev. Gordon Aikin use one of my illustrations in a sermon when I was sitting in his church. What a heady experience … to know that my work was helping active preachers craft sermons that can change lives because they illustrate and apply biblical truth with work I have contributed!

Not long after PT’s launch, the Online department was broken up into two segments: “front end” and “back end.” I know, not terribly imaginative — but nobody was sure what to call the departmental split at the time, which later become “Internet Research and Development” and “Internet Operations.” So, I wound up being moved from John LaRue’s area and began working for another vice-president: Vicki Howard, who oversees CTI’s production operations. Till this point in her career at CTI, she had been responsible for the print production of CT’s dozen-plus magazines. Now she was being asked to also ride herd over a bunch of techno-geeks and I was one of them. I can’t imagine a more difficult transition, but she handled it nicely, and Vicky quickly adopted a management style with me that put me at ease and lessened any fears I had about being either perceived as a pure geek (which I’m not) or being micro-managed (which makes me very nervous).

I had thoroughly enjoyed working for John LaRue and was initially worried about Vicki Howard being difficult to work for since she didn’t know me, and hadn’t had a relationship with me like John had. But over the four or five years that I worked with Vicki, I came to respect her leadership and management style a great deal. I learned a lot about myself from our many and varied conversations, and I came to have even more confidence in my abilities and skills because Vicki was unfailingly honest with me. While she never glossed over my shortcomings, she was always forthright in her evaluation of my contributions, as well. And like every manager at CTI, Vicki was adept at spreading praise and recognition for legitimate contributions.

Christianity Today LibraryUnder Vicki’s leadership, I was involved in another significant and successful launch for CTI: the Christianity Today Library website: which aggregates all of the articles from Christianity Today, Books & Culture, Leadership, and History & Biography. As planned, this was to be the “paid curtain” behind which anything older than three-to-four months from the free-side of ChristianityToday.com would move into membership-only status. At my suggestion, Kevin Miller (the vice-president of Resources, who initiated this project) agreed to also port into CTLibrary all the out-of-print books which CTI has published over the years. As it was, they were no longer earning CT any income, and the negligible additional expense of putting the electronic text into CTLibrary would “sweeten the pot” for potential members and give them one additional reason to pay for membership. So, about 50 books got poured into the database, including the excellent “Pastor’s Soul” series, and the “Leadership Library” series.

Christianity Today CoursesToward the end of this project, I was asked to begin researching another launch for Kevin Miller: CT’s experiment at providing online training materials for church lay-leaders. So for about six-to-eight months, I began compiling data on streaming media providers, online course-ware, and hosting solutions for a full-featured training website. When Kevin approached me about taking a more active leadership role in this project — as managing editor — I leapt at the opportunity. Although I’ve been involved in online technology and Web development since 1995, I have never really seen myself as a “technician” but as more of a communicator who happens to work with a lot of technology. So, in January, 2005, I was thrilled to transfer from managing Internet Operations to managing Christianity Today Courses.

For the last two years I struggled up a steep learning curve: editing audio, editing video, creating attractive titles, transcoding from one codec to another, jiggering with one variable after another to determine the best way to encode and stream multimedia content on a budget, project managing ongoing development with a third-party developer in California, struggling with incomplete development, writing, editing, and designing courses for an online audience.

Unfortunately, we found a couple issues facing us that we simply could not overcome. First, we didn’t have a budget for staff. I was it. So, the burden of developing courses and doing the video preparation fell to me. As a result, we simply couldn’t produce more than a few courses a year — and that first year was brutal because there was simply so much to learn and so many FaithVisuals.comother impediments to struggle with. By the end of the year, we’d gotten one course out the door: “Hosting Small Groups.” In 2006, our second year, I managed to pick up the pace and we got “The Da Vinci Code Conversations” launched, along with a freebie: “Seven Tips for Handling E-Mail.” And last month we pushed “Discovering Spiritual Disciplines” out the door. But we could already see the handwriting on the wall: we simply weren’t getting enough customers signed up to even begin to defray the cost of course development (for every dollar we earned, we probably spent $14-20). So, in a last ditch effort, I converted all our courses to a downloadable format for distribution via FaithVisuals, another project I helped out with over the last year. However, it was too little, too late, and we saved neither CTCourses.com nor — ultimately — my job.

I’ve suspected — or feared — this was coming since this time last year, when budgets were due and we were worried the project would be cut then. In fact, when Kevin Miller offered me this position it was with the caveat that if the project failed, it could well mean the end of my tenure at CTI. I took the position knowing the risk, and accepting it. After all, the best things in life often come with many risks attached.

And, so, last week, Kevin Miller somberly informed me that the project was being cut.

I am now officially looking for work, full-time, free-lance, or otherwise. Thursday, last week, was my last day at CTI. I was honored by a farewell trip to Culvers with my coworkers in the Resources department, Vicki Howard, my previous manager, and a few other close friends. Nice things were said about me, I held back my tears (barely) and good tasty things were eaten by all. For some, perhaps, it was even an enjoyable break from the day’s tedium. But, for me, it was very emotional.

After, I sent an email to my friends at CTI, bidding farewell. Later, I sent an email to non-work friends. A few comments have come in. My favorite was from Kathi Sharpe, an ex-Wiccan who came to know me through my work at CTI and who came to Christ shortly after:

Well — the first thing I said was, “HOW DARE THEY?“. When I said it (rather loudly!), my pastor’s wife came out of her office and wanted to know why I was talking to my computer again, in that tone of voice, at that!!

So I told her with great indignation about you losing your job. She grinned and said that God must have something great in store for you. Yes, indeed He must!!

Indeed, he must!

I am hopeful and excited to see how this next chapter unfolds. Yes, it’s with a heavy heart and sadness as well, but I have confidence that my God who has always provided for us will continue to do so even now. But, if you’ve read this far, please pray for us.

And, so, as I begin my new job-hunt, I wanted to take a few moments to let you, my faithful readers, know about this latest development. And I also wanted to thank some of my friends from CTI for the memories and friendship they’ve shared with me. I’ll forget to name a few, I’m sure, but here are some things I wanted to say which I couldn’t in my haste to pack up my office and clear off my computer. In alphabetical order:

Clay Anderson:
Clay, how many hours of how many days have we spent talking about this, that, and everything in between? It’s a good thing we were salaried, or CTI could dock us for time wasted! But, thing is, it was never time truly wasted, was it? From my first week at CTI to my very last, it was always a pleasure to spend time with you. From the first time you invited my opinion on a new design to the last time we chatted about IT stuff in the freezing wind out in the parking lot, I’ve always found you to be a ready comrade-in-arms, a like-minded minister, and a great friend. I was delighted you replaced me in IO, and I’m hopeful there’s an even larger picture for you to fill in the years ahead. Ride on, Bonanza!
Heidi Anderson:
Heidi, it’s hard to find nice things to say about a lot of HR department personnel, but it’s not hard with you! Has there ever been a more cheerful person to talk to about pension, benefits, insurance, and taxes? I doubt it. You are a pleasure to work with and I’ll miss stopping by to say hi.
Stephanie Benware:
Stephanie, I gave you a lot of grief over the years, all of it in fun, but some maybe a little too much at your expense. Thanks for bearing up under my torture and punishment. You’re a great person to work with and I’m glad CTI has you handling every tech support request that comes in. Please forgive me for all the punishment over the phone! I’ll always remember: 4435.
Chris Blumhofer:
Chris, I feel I hardly got to know you, but I am glad we got to meet and knock some ideas around. You’re exactly the kind of guy I like to work with and if we’d been in college at the same time, I’d’ve been sequestered in your dorm room kicking back and talking about the latest in theology or dragging you out to Starbucks for some good conversation and a lot of caffeine. Resources is a better office for having you around. I hope your tenure there is glorious and long-lasting.
Russ Breimeier:
Russ, your encyclopedic knowledge of music is a marvel. You’re like a walking iTunes or Napster. I’ll honestly miss being mistaken for you from time to time — I suppose I’ll need to pay somebody to occasionally call me Russ just for the heck of it. (I still don’t know why people get us confused, but I always took it as a compliment every time it happened.)
Valerie Broucek:
Thanks for thinking my photography was worth looking at from time to time! I’ll fondly remember the swampland heat that always seems to emanate from your office-space. You are one of the least ego-driven people I’ve ever met, and I find that remarkable. I only wish I could’ve worked with you in IO before I moved on to Resources.
Cindy Cronk:
Cindy, the best part of getting coffee two, three, four times a day when I was working in IO was the walk by your office. I knew that if I needed to unburden myself with someone completely outside of IO, you’d be available and you’d somehow always help me find a way to think about my problems in a new light. Your example as a mother and cancer survivor is so incredible, it’s good to just soak up the wisdom you’ve learned from your struggles. You’re an awesome lady, and I’m honored to have known you and worked with you.
Lee Dean:
Lee, even though you’ve left CTI already, you’ve left an indelible impression. I could always count on you for an interesting, down-home illustration to get your point across, and you were one of the few people I felt could actually “get” my sense of humor without looking at me like I was mutant June bug. What I always found so interesting and exciting about you was the hidden layer of intellectuality that you never seemed to throw around. But once discovered, it’s a joy to tap into.
Kathy DePue:
Kathy, I can always count on you for advice, insight, a random observation, or a quick chat in the hallway — or even the local Lenscrafters. Thank you for keeping tabs on AJ and Ellie, and thanks for offering valuable insights on parenting ADHD children.
Terumi Echols:
Terumi, I will miss our random hallway conversations and your interest in the growth and well-being of my children. You are an interesting lady and I always felt liked around you — not merely tolerated as that “geek who must be dealt with.”
Traci Eggleston:
Sure, you’re one of the newest CTI hires, but you’re a great addition to the team, and I really appreciate your kindness and the spirit you bring to your work. I only wish I could’ve gotten to know you better in the months to come. But, alas.
Ken Flanigan:
Thanks, Ken, for always taking the time to chat with me about nearly anything any time. Despite your busy schedule, whenever you were near my office or cubicle or whenever we crossed paths, you always stopped to share a few words and a smile.
Rob Gaskill:
Rob, I feel like I just started to get to know you. There I sat, working outside of your office for the better part of a year and we hardly ever spoke to each other. Then, in the last two months, we got to spend a little bit of time together and I thought, “Wow, how is it I never spent more time with this man?” You are a true inspiration and a model of grace and charity.
Judy Gill:
Judy, if it weren’t for you, I never would’ve had a job at CTI. I feel like I owe you for the joy I’ve experienced in the last seven years. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for your respect, for your trust, and for the honor of calling you a friend. While we maybe didn’t always agree about business decisions, I am so grateful that we have always been able to relate and I’ve always felt that you respected and honored me. Thanks for making the last seven years possible.
Stan Guthrie:
Stan, Stan. You are a life-saver, man, and I’ll always appreciate how you came through for me and Jennifer in a time of need. And, I’m sure, our former kitties appreciate you as well!
Ryan Hamm:
CTI seems to hire people of unusual intellect and wit, and you’re one of the most unusual — and I love that about you. When Kevin suggested I use you to write some of the CTCourses quiz questions and discussion questions, I was dubious at first, but thrilled at last. You have a great talent, Ryan, and when you finally unleash it on the world, you’ll go far. I’ll miss your quirky insights and wry humor.
Mike Herman:
Mike, it was great to work side-by-side with you when I took over the video job. I had never worked that closely to you before, but I felt I had been missing something until we did. You are a great office mate, a true brother, and an honor to know. I was thrilled when you asked me to speak at your wedding, and crushed when I was not able to make it. I still regret that — even though you’ve forgiven me — and I wish I could make it up to you. Thanks for the CDs, the great deal on the headphones, and for sharing part of your life when we worked three feet from each other.
Todd Hertz:
As CTI’s resident “funny man” you were a great help to me when I was invited to help with the improv comedy at CTI’s spring picnic. I hadn’t really spoken to you much before then, but I was in awe ever after at how agile your mind is, and how quick you are to find the humor in anything. I love folks with a great sense of humor, and you’re one of the best. I regret not being able to work more closely with you during my time at CTI.
Holly Hess:
Holly, thanks so much for your kindness and for treating me like a brother. Sure, we go to the same church, but it’s so hard to run into the same person twice in a year when there are six thousand people to wade through in the hallways! I always hold a special place in my heart for people who instantly tease me when they meet me. Thanks!
Vicki Howard:
Vicki, I’ll always, always, appreciate the enormous amount of time you spent rehabilitating my fear of management and my own insecurities. Your unfailing praise of my “big picture” vision, your willingness to be transparent and emotionally honest with me, your support of my advancement through CTI and your freedom to release me to Kevin’s care and feeding have meant a great deal to me. I will always be indebted to you for being a great manager and helping me not only be a better employee, but a better person as well. Thank you.
Catherine Ingo:
Catherine, thanks for your interest in my family, for always asking about my kids, for always taking time to chat with me and for generally being a great coworker. It’s not often you meet people working in departments completely unrelated to your own — people tend to focus only on the details of their own job. But you are a great connector, and while I already missed chatting with you since moving to Resources, now I’ll miss even the chance to run into during my odd trips over to the main building.
Brian Larson:
Brian, you’re one of my favorite people at CTI, and always a good one to bounce an idea off of. I always appreciated the fact that you would ask me, with genuine curiosity, “What have you been reading lately?” I never felt it was an idle question, and I loved the fact that you thought what I was paying attention to was worth hearing about. I thank you, especially, for inviting me to fill your pulpit. I cannot tell you what an honor that was and how it encouraged me. You’ll never know how valuable that has been, but I assure you, you have touched my heart. Preaching Today has always been special to me, and I suspect it’s partly because the guy at its helm is also special to me. You’re a good friend, a good brother, and a great pastor. Keep up the good work, CTI is very lucky to have you.
John LaRue:
John, I will always appreciate you for sticking your neck out there and bringing me on board. You are a true visionary and trail-breaker and I suspect CTI doesn’t really understand how much value you bring to the company. If I read it correctly, virtually all of the online projects that exist today at CTI wouldn’t be alive if you hadn’t had the vision to make it possible. I respect and admire you and loved every sparkling brainstorming session we’ve ever had. You’re a hard man to keep up with, but it’s worth trying. Thanks for your friendship, your respect, and your trust. It’s meant an awful lot to me.
Mary Lasse:
Mary, you’ve been long gone from CTI, but you were one of the most fun people to work with that I’ll always remember you. You have an incredible flair for creative writing, and I’ll be forever upset with you if you don’t do something about it and get published! I loved your sense of humor and it always made a difficult day at work more enjoyable — especially when you could tell us about the latest interesting customer support call in a flawless Okie accent. Thanks for the yuks, I’ve missed having you around.
Jill Meier:
Jill, you’re freakin’ awesome. I’ll never understand your vivid, Technicolor dreams with quirky story lines, but they’re still entertaining to hear about and listen to. There’s gotta be a scientific study just waiting to be written about your night time screenplays. And if it ever happens, I want to be in the distribution list. Thanks for always giving the Diesel the dissin’ he deserves. (Yes, I speak of myself in the third-person.) And, yes, you’ll always be remembered fondly for being the most neatly disheveled person I’ve ever met.
Kevin Miller:
Kevin, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed working for a manager as much as I have working with you these past two years. You manage with a light touch and much praise — but not without corrective medicine when necessary. When I jumped ship from managing IO to working with you, you were at least half the reason I did so, and I’m glad I did. Your heart for ministry, your passion for the church, your excellence in communication, and your winsomeness are all to be emulated. The more time I spent around you, the better person I became. And that’s not easy to find in people. Thank you for being a friend and a great manager.
Jane Mix:
Jane, your unfailing sense of good will, patience, and humor in a very difficult job is an inspiration to me. You are an incredible mother, and an great helper at work. I know that Tom is delighted to have you as an employee, but I was delighted to have you as a coworker first! Thanks for keeping the coffee flowing, and thanks for being the kind of coworker that makes any office a much better place to work. I’ll miss your smiles.
Emily Mohnkern:
Emily, one of the things I loved best about working in your office area while starting up our little video project was being able to wander over to your cubicle and share my latest photos with you, or to look over your shoulder while you shared your photos with me. You’re a true talent, and I hope you are able to capitalize on your gifts and skills and eventually retire a rich, old photographer. You’ve been like a true sister to me, and I appreciate the fact that you teased me as much as I teased you. I’m also sorry I didn’t get to say good bye on my last day.
Rob Moll:
Rob, I’m really going to miss being able to stop by your office any time to be able to bat ideas around with you. You are a genuine friend, and I hope we can keep in touch after all this. I’ll always remember the ribbing and kidding we gave each other in our little writer’s group, and I appreciate your kindness and humor in everything you do. Plus, I envy your hair.
Tim Morgan:
Tim, you are one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. Something about your style just puts me at so much ease that I suspect I could just hang out in your office and never hear a cross word from you. Thank you for treating me as a colleague when it’s quite clear you’re in a class all your own. And thank you for being so kind to a wannabe poet when I introduced him to you in the hallway long ago.
Mark Moring:
Dude, thanks for taking a chance and giving me the opportunity to write a commentary for you on the whole Jesus Camp thing. And thanks for your incredible support in its aftermath. I’ll always appreciate that, and you can be sure I’ll try my hand at something else, too.
Harold Myra:
Harold, I hardly ever got to speak with you or spend time in your company, but in the two or three times our paths crossed, I was always struck by your willingness to share of God’s grace and work in your life. Your testimony is an inspiration. May your retirement be filled with joy and much work. You and Paul have made CTI a wonderful place to work. Thank you.
Sam O’Neal:
Sam, we didn’t get to chat much since you’ve come on board at CTI but I always wish we could have. Problem was, since I’d moved out of the R&D offices to the downstairs area, our paths never crossed much. But I have the feeling you’re going to have a stellar career both as a writer and as an editor. Plus, you’re working on my all-time favorite project at CTI, and you got bonus points for that any day. Keep up the good work.
Ted Olsen:
Ted, I have never met anyone with more of a nose or a sheer capacity for news than you. You have a quick and agile mind, a great sense of under-appreciated humor, and an incredibly efficient work-style. Thank you for helping push CTI into new directions.
Brian Ondracek:
Brian, you’re another man of similar humor and outlook. I always appreciated the fact that within minutes of meeting me, you were ready to tease me, and your amiability has always been refreshing. Thanks for helping reform my view of advertising and sales execs!
Tim Ostermiller:
Man, I’ll always regret your evacuation from CTI. You became one of my main buds when you moved over to Internet Operations. Your realism, pragmatism, and sense of humor about everything that could go awry — and did — made working in Internet Operations so much easier. I loved the bull sessions when you’d pop into my office, close the door, and start ranting about some problem or other. Then, after a few minutes of that, we’d find a solution. Or, actually, you’d find a solution. I was just happy to be near ground zero. CTI lost a lot when you left, and I was delighted to be able to roast you on your departure — because you so deserved it!
Jennifer Oxford:
Jennifer, thank you for listening to me, for hearing my concerns, and for being unfailingly nice to me when it wasn’t always clear that I was worth being nice to! (And it’s probably still not clear.) You are a great manager, and I could learn a lot from your use of lists and spreadsheets. CTI is lucky to have you. And thanks, especially, for your kind words on my last day.
Theresa Phillips:
You are one of the most competent and efficient workers I’ve ever met. One of the things I’ve always admired about you is how quickly you rise to the challenge of whatever job you’ve been given to do. And you do it with so much focus and intensity it’s a joy to behold and well-worth emulating. Thanks for the great conversations and for always acting like I know what I’m talking about when you probably knew better anyhow.
Laurie Powell:
Laurie, you always had a generous smile for me, and I really appreciate that spontaneous hug on my last day. Thanks.
JoHannah Reardon:
JoHannah, your instant smiles were always a delight whenever I wandered up to your office area. I honestly cannot imagine that you have gripes or complaints about your job or any of your coworkers, you seem so unfailingly joyful. I love being around folks like you, and it was great to work with you.
Eric Reed:
Eric, what can I say, I love and admire your quick mind and incredible sense of humor. I enjoyed every minute I got to spend with you and only wish I could’ve spent more. You’ve been pulled in a lot of different directions this past year, but I have great hopes for the Rapid Response team and what you’ll be able to do with it as soon as you have the time. You’re a good man, and another one of the great CTIers I wish I could’ve worked with more.
Paul Robbins:
Thanks, Paul, for taking a chance on letting me craft a humorous video for Kevin’s 20th anniversary. My main regret was never getting to work more closely with you — especially after getting a steady dose of second-hand Robbins’ wisdom from VPs who quoted your business bon mots in nearly every meeting I had. You are a legend, and CTI is a much better place for having you at its helm. I wish you well on your retirement.
Rubino Robinson:
Rubino, a lot of techies are pure geek through and through. But you’re not, and I’ve always liked that in you. You have such an easy-going manner about you that nobody feels threatened when you come to solve their every tech problem. Thanks for helping me out of my tech jams, and thanks for being ready in an instant whenever you’re needed.
Amy Simpson:
Amy, everybody was nervous about whoever Kevin would hire to manage the editors in Resources, but you have been a delightful surprise. You’re quick, knowledgeable, unassuming, always ready with a laugh, and surprisingly amiable. I would’ve enjoyed working with you more, I get the feeling you’ll be a valuable contributor to CTI’s future growth.
Susan Sjogren:
Susan, you’re one of the most solid workers I’ve ever met. You put your head down and simply get to work on whatever you’ve been given, and you do a stellar job of it. I know your job is marketing, and your remaining time at CTI is short, but I have a feeling you’ll excel at whatever job you put your hand to. CTI was blessed to have you for the short time it did, and I hope you do amazingly well in your next endeavor.
Harold Smith:
Harold, I’ve always appreciated your sense of humor that seems so much like my own — wry, slightly cynical, and ever-ready. I also deeply appreciated your genuine concern for me when you learned about my diabetes. If there was anyone else in the company I would’ve leaped at a chance it work for, you’re the man. I’m happy you’ve been tapped to co-lead the company upon Harold and Paul’s retirement: CTI is in good hands. Also, thank you so much for taking the time on my last day to pull me into your office to check up on me and to say a heartfelt prayer for me. That meant more than you will ever know.
Keith Stonehocker:
Keith, I was always amazed at how approachable you were and how you treated me as an equal whenever we talked. You came to me for tech advice and always listened. And when I came to you with stats and data for your presentations, you invariably had great questions I never anticipated, sending me back to the drawing board every time. You’re a great idea-generator. Thanks for letting me bounce a few off of you.
Brittany Tarr:
Brittany, like a few others I have noted, you almost instantly treated me like one of your brothers and teased me from day one. I love that. You are a true word-smith and very, very funny. If you’re this good just out of college, I can only imagine that you will be a force to reckon with ten years from now. Maybe, by then, you can assign me some freelance writing? Just be gentle with me, okay? I’ll miss having you around to tease and joke with.
Phyllis Ten Elshof:
Phyllis, thanks for taking me on board in your writing group back before I was a Resources employee. I know I was a difficult case — always with a different perspective, daring to disagree, and generally having a lot of my own ideas about stuff. But you were a patient sport about the whole thing, and I appreciated that, a great deal. Thanks, especially, for your concern and support upon hearing the news of my departure. That means a lot to me.
Judy VanZanten:
Judy, you are such a sweet person, I cannot imagine anyone I would have enjoyed receiving weekly checks from more than you. You always had a smile for me and I was always so impressed at how you would leap to work whenever I asked you a question. I’m still wearing the jacket and shirts you donated from your husband’s closet, by the way. Thank you.
Doug Varner:
Doug, even though you left CTI for greener pastures, I’ll always remember you, your sheer enthusiasm for every tech gizmo that existed, your willingness to share tech insider knowledge with me, and for your labor of love in creating nifty videos for CTI’s enjoyment. I’ll never forget the giant bunny doing the Macarena. Priceless.
Todd Watermann:
Hey, Nancy-boy, thanks so much for the good times, the shared idea-generation, the plotting, planning, and joking. You were always good for a playful punch and covert threatening gestures, and you help make CTI not only a fun place to work, but a great place to get new ideas and strategies for the Web. You and John make a great team, may it never be broken!
Marty White:
Marty, Martin, T-Dog! Thanks for saying such nice things at my farewell Culver’s thingie. You’re right, you’ve always been like a big-sister to me, and I’ve always had great fun mixing it up with you. Sure, we disagreed about things, but you always, always, gave me a chance to make my case, and you always listened. Thanks for being game whenever I teased you, and especially thanks for teasing me right back, every time. I love what you’ve done with my old office, and I’ll miss the random frogs in unexpected places. But more than that, I’ll miss you. Thanks for being a great coworker.
Cory Whitehead:
Cory, it’s been a true delight working across from you for the last several months. You bring value to everything you do, you do it well, and you do it quickly and efficiently. Kevin is right to lean on you for new product development, you bring polish to whatever you focus on. I wish you brilliant success with FaithVisuals, and may you have many more projects under your belt. Maybe someday you’ll be running CTI and you can hire me back!
Tom Williamson:
Tom, in the short time you’ve been with CTI you’ve blended in like an old-timer. You’ve got a great mentoring spirit, you spread credit around the way a great manager should, and you are unfailingly complimentary. Plus, you shared a pizza with me, and for that I’ll be forever grateful! Thanks for your support, and for trying so hard to champion the cause of CTCourses in my last days.
John Wilson:
John, I don’t know if I have ever met anybody smarter or more well-read than you. And I don’t know how we got started, but whenever I ran into you in the hallways we always got into some interesting tangential discussion. The best part was that you honored me by honestly wanting to know what I thought. Thank you for your scholarship and your pursuit of truth, wisdom, and Christ. And thank you for your respect.

No, this isn’t every CTI employee, but it’s many of them. There’s some I’ve left off, but not on purpose. I simply couldn’t say thanks to everybody and I have to stop somewhere. If you’re not on this list, I apologize, it’s not meant to slight you, honestly.

To all of you, thank you for a wonderful seven years. It’s been heart-breaking to leave, but I’m confident God has his hand in all of this. I love you all, and I’ll miss you, but I know God has you exactly where he wants you, and he’s done the same with me.

If you’ve read much (any) of this, it probably sounds like I spent most of my seven years wandering the hallways, chatting people up, but, you know, it’s amazing how many great conversations you can have if you only have one a day. Over the course of seven-plus years, that’s easily 2,000 conversations with funny, interesting, and insightful people.

And that’s probably the part of CTI I will miss most of all. CTI has a strong intellectual culture, and that’s home for me.

Thanks, and please keep in touch.

[tags]BlogRodent, CTI, Christianity-today, farewell, employment, thank-you, evangelical[/tags]

12 thoughts on “Farewell to CTI: A retrospective, and thanks

  1. Susan Sjogren

    Rich —
    I’ll be the first brave soul to comment on this blog. 1) How can you write such thoughtful and kind words at 4:30am?? Amazing. 2) Thanks for your kind words. 3) Your words to me could very well be turned around right back to you, “CTI was blessed to have you for the short time (okay your time wasn’t exactly as short as mine) it did, and I hope you do amazingly well in your next endeavor.”


  2. Clay Anderson

    And here’s to the Diesel!

    (That nickname still makes me chuckle, years after its inception.)

    Thanks for your words, Rich. And not just the few here on this page, but for the thousands upon thousands we’ve exchanged over the years. I can’t tell you how many times Karen has come to pick me up from work, and I’ve walked out late, saying “Sorry, got talking to Rich.” (You made for a great excuse!)

    But really, thanks for being a confidant, a sounding board, a design critic, a theologian, a wanna-be programmer ;-), a “technologist” (whatever that is), a photographer, an improv comedian, a big jolly guy, and a dear friend.

    I mean it when I say, please keep in touch. May God bless in a multitude of ways.

  3. Jen Oxford

    Ditto what Susan said! How can you be so creative and prolific so early in the morning? (or should I say so late at night?) I, too, am thankful for the time we got to work together at CTI. I know that I am a better person because of you. God helped to grow us both and that’s all you can really ask for right? But, in typical God fashion He also added to the mix lots of fun conversations and interesting tidbits of information (mostly from you!). All the best to you,

  4. Glen Davis

    Big news. Wow. I’m sure all of us will be keeping our eyes and ears open for any leads that sound like a fit for you.

    Are you hoping to work in a technology-related ministry job again or to focus more on the communication side of things now?

    And is there anyplace you’ve always wanted to live?

  5. Marc V

    I’m almost jealous I’m not on the list, even though I don’t work at CTI!

    God bless you on your job search. Someone with your “mad skillz” should not have trouble finding a good paycheck. May the Lord bless you with a fertile field for the plowing you love to do.

    Your post helps remind me that Christians don’t fear death or even a lack of a job, as He has provided for us and is active in our lives. Praise God!

  6. Marty White

    Rich, thank you for your remarks. I’d forgotten I had your old office. It DOES look slightly different, doesn’t it! :-) Please keep in touch and let me know what exciting thing you’re doing next. You have so many talents, it’s going to be interesting to see where they lead. I already miss you, even though you were in the other building! So stay in touch! Thanks, little bro!

  7. Mary Lasse

    Gotta tell ya, Rich; I think the whole “project’s being cut” speech is a sham. We all know that you’re gone because you talk too *flippin’* much. Remember the story that you told me about how you were fired for talking and being sociable, thus leading to a decrease in production? Well, let that settle in for a minute. Let it settle…LET IT SETTLE!

    OK, fine. I’m just kidding. We all know you produce more work than most people combined at any point in history. Well, maybe not the Egyptians with the whole pyramid thing, but you get the idea. I mean, really, you can’t stop the Egyptians. They’re amazing. Anywho, your loss will be felt at CTI, I’m sure. And, you don’t need to tell me outright, but I know that my departure sent you into a spiral of depression and anger, all of which has led to this event. It’s OK; let it all out. There you go. Better?

    Thanks for the kind words about me, even though you know I don’t have enough self-confidence to believe any of it. But, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll publish something creative if you’ll publish another something. I know you’ve done things, so do another thing. I’ve got an idea brewing (or is that the egg roll I had?) and I think it could be big.

    E-mail me — I’ll send you my addy after I post this obnoxious comment.

    Baked Goodies

  8. Michael G. Davis

    This was a bittersweet post at best.

    Lord, we pray that doors will open for Rich and let the ‘later’ be even better and greater than the ‘former’, and let the later come soon. In Jesus name Amen.

  9. Don Kammer

    Rich — Wow, I envy your courage and graceful attitude; now you have the joy before you of new opportunities and the pleasure of waiting for the surprise faith promises.
    – Don

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