Ryan Woodings, Chief Geek

Ryan headshot editedRyan Woodings may not have expected to be the face of a leading tech startup in downtown Boise, but in MetaGeek’s 10th year in business, he’s grown into his position as CEO, and can be found representing MetaGeek as a leader in the tech community at events and speaking engagements throughout the Treasure Valley. “Being a geek, I tend to be more introverted,” Ryan explains, ”so it’s interesting to have these public spotlight moments. It’s very outside my normal day-to-day, but it’s fun, and in some ways, a little nerve-wracking.”

Ryan is, and has been for the last 10 years, dedicated to making MetaGeek a tech ambassador for Idaho. In 2015, MetaGeek was a sponsor of Hackfort, a tech event geared towards awareness of Boise as a thriving startup city.Hackfort gives prospective tech employees an insight into Boise and the tech community here.Hackfort_banner

In a story by KBOI 2 News about Hackfort, Ryan commented that attendees “can come to Treefort and Hackfort and see that ‘Hey, Boise is really cool!’ If they get a positive experience and see that there are tech companies here, it will be easier for them to consider Boise when they’re going for a job.” He acknowledged that Idaho isn’t always portrayed as the most open environment for people of all backgrounds, and he wants MetaGeek to help disprove that negative perception. “The tech industry in general is very progressive and accepting of different cultures and different lifestyles,” Ryan comments. “If Idaho doesn’t have that perception, it’s going to be hard for tech companies to recruit people from out of town.” He hopes that Hackfort and MetaGeek can help shake that reputation, and show people that Boise is a great place for tech. The more perceptions change, the easier it will be to recruit not only at MetaGeek, but at younger tech startups in Boise.

MetaGeek’s successes have not gone unnoticed by the local community. Built in Boise, an organization that highlights entrepreneurs, innovators, and visionaries in our city, sat down with Ryan last month to chat about the “Geek Life”, and how to establish a vision for your company by stepping back and asking “why does my company exist?”

“I wish I would have known earlier, and it took a long time to figure out the why of MetaGeek. I suppose I was scared to dig deep and stick with something. But once we did, it made things clear as far as what we are doing, and why…and it made other decisions easier.”

dev idaho poster by @developidahoRyan also elaborated on this “work should be awesome” purpose at a conference put on by the Idaho Technology Council, Develop.Idaho. While there, many speakers from the technology industry spoke about the challenges that tech companies face in Idaho. He specifically talked about how if businesses hire smartly, then awesomeness will result. You can learn more about that in his blog where he discusses How we Unsucked our Hiring Process.

While Ryan has positioned MetaGeek as a leader in Boise’s  tech community, it wasn’t without its struggles. Ryan comes from a computer science background, not a business one; he had to learn how to be a CEO:

“When MetaGeek first started, it was just me in charge of strategy, design, implementation, and everything else, so if I had an idea, I was also in charge of turning that idea into a feature. In the last few years, we’ve built out a great team of coders. The first time as CEO that I had an idea for a cool Chanalyzer feature, I told Adam, and he turned my idea into action. You can get so much more done with a great team behind you.”

Ryan playing chess

 

Within the past year, Ryan and his leadership team have implemented SCRUM, an agile development process, in every department at MetaGeek. SCRUM wasn’t an original idea, but taken from Jeff Sutherland, and adjusted to fit with MetaGeek’s culture and business model. It has allowed the company to maximize productivity, synchronize teams, and make work more transparent. Ryan is continuously changing things up, borrowing from others’ ideas and trying new things, in this case, he doesn’t have a problem following what Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, and great artists steal”.

MetaGeek has enjoyed impressive growth and success in the last ten years, but what is in the startup’s future? “We’ve been on this journey for the last couple of years. Eventually we need to diversify,” explains Ryan in a May 4th, 2015 article published by the Idaho Business Review. In the article, Ryan describes the birth of the MetaGeek brand and its flagship product, Wi-Spy. Wi-Spy, used with inSSIDer Office or Chanalyzer software, was the original low-cost, portable spectrum analyzer for Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

But Ryan knows that for a company to survive, it must adapt to changing markets. “We want to be here in 10 years, and we don’t think the Wi-Fi tools will still be in the market for 10 years,” he explained. In a few years, you might see MetaGeek as a few different companies in different markets, but the company’s “why” will stay consistent: “We think work should be awesome, and we want a place that we love coming to, with a team we love, and we want to help other people do that too.”

Our Philosophy for Employee Compensation – Focus on Employee Value

Unless you just returned from a two month sabbatical from the Internet, you know that last month Dan Price at Gravity Payments announced a minimum salary of $70,000 per year for the entire company. Some people say it’s just a PR stunt. Many others applaud him for taking care of his employees, and others see some combination of the two. In one of the many interviews with Price, he asked other CEOs to join the conversation. So, thank you Dan for the opportunity to share my philosophy on employee compensation.

Ryan Woodings

Price’s move is definitely bold. Moving the minimum salary to $70,000, when their average salary today is about $45,000, will obviously have a huge impact to Gravity Payments’ expenses. It will also have a huge impact on their hiring, and has been a boon to their customer base. It’s impossible to predict how the combination of variables will impact Gravity Payments. The bottom line: I like Price’s willingness to take action and try something different. If this is successful we’ll likely see a growing number of companies taking similar actions.

Now for my philosophy. I believe that the traditional approach of annual raises based on employee effort has some fundamental flaws. Market rates for many technical jobs, like software engineers, don’t increase at the same rate as the typical raise of 3-10%. Under this model, loyal engineers that have been working at the same company for five to ten years are soon underpaid and are thereby incented to switch to a different company in order to get their salary back to market rate. For other positions, the standard raise may leave someone making a lot more at their current company than they could make anywhere else, financially handcuffing them to their job.

As CEO of a self-funded, privately-owned company, I am responsible for the livelihoods of thirty families. Determining the salary for each employee is a very subjective task based on myriad factors such as employee performance, culture fit, and market rate for similar jobs in our region and industry.

MetaGeek Team

At MetaGeek, we are trying a different approach to employee compensation. Our salary structure is based on the Top of Market Salary philosophy from Netflix. The Top of Market philosophy aligns everyone’s salary with the current market annually. The process is very straightforward; for each employee we ask the following three questions:

  1. How much would another company likely pay this person?
  2. How much would a replacement cost us?
  3. How much would we pay them if they had a higher offer from another company?

The answers to these three questions answers the primary question: how much value does this employee provide? Top of Market means that some people may not get a raise every year, while others may see significant raises. Some people have a hard time with this concept; the annual raise is a longtime tradition in many U.S. workplaces. However, it’s important to look at the person’s total compensation, not just the comparison to last year.

By changing the conversation from “annual raise percentage” to employee value, the focus is now on how an employee can increase their value to the company. While many jobs have an indirect connection to the company’s revenue and expenses, intuitively it is easy to connect an increase in employee value to an increase in our bottom line. Because we use Scrum across the entire company, the link between employee value and our company’s financial health is fairly straightforward. As employees increase their value to MetaGeek, MetaGeek’s bottom line improves.

As the company’s bottom line improves it is easy to increase the employee’s salary without a negative impact on the livelihoods of the other thirty employees. Focusing on the value provided by each employee is a win-win; it improves the company and it improves the employee’s ability to increase their salary. In the long term, it isn’t beneficial to anyone to artificially create way-above-market salaries, but I’ll gladly help each and every employee raise their market value. In this model we all grow together.

Best Places to Work in Idaho 2012, 2013, 2014, and… 2015!

Most of us spend a great deal of our adult lives at work, for better or for worse. We see coworkers and bosses as much or even more than friends and family members. Yet, it’s a common, and even institutionalized attitude for Americans to accept that “work sucks, it’s just a means to an end, and we just need to deal with it.” But really, does it need to be that way? What if working in Idaho was awesome, and something that you loved? Where should someone look if they wanted to work for a company where people love their job?

That’s what POPULUS, a third-party research firm, looks to answer every year when they compile their Best Places To Work in Idaho™ list. Each year a survey goes out to participating micro (10-19 employees), small (20-99 employees) and large (100+ employees) businesses in Idaho. Employees are able to fill the survey out anonymously and provide their honest opinions on their employers. The survey asks about work/life balance, workplace environment, compensation and benefits, employee growth, development and overall organizational management. Once all the data has been collected, a list of the top 10 employers is announced. This year, finalists were honored and celebrated at the awards ceremony on April 16 at Boise State University in the Stueckle Sky Center.

10 of us from MetaGeek were able to attend the event. Everyone enjoyed the ceremony, the food and most of all, the view. Craig, our HR director explains,

“It was great. We were in the Stueckle Sky Center so the view was amazing, and we were able to get a picture with the blue turf in the background.”

From top left: Woody, Skay, Ryan, Craig, Maryn, Mike, and Lisa. From the bottom left: Marissa, Holli and Jay

From top left: Woody, Skay, Ryan, Craig, Maryn, Mike, and Lisa. From bottom left: Marissa, Holli and Jay

For the past three years, MetaGeek has made the Best Places to Work in Idaho Top 10 list, continuing to move up the ladder each year. After getting 6th last year, we’re proud to announce that we’ve moved into 3rd place for 2015! With perks including our vacation incentive plan,“You’ve got Plenty” paid time-off policy, and tuition reimbursement, it’s easy to see why. Lael, who’s been working at MetaGeek since 2011 states,

“The workplace perks are great, but it’s the attitude behind those perks that make me feel valued as an employee. The theory is that if MetaGeek provides you with any tool, book, paid vacation, snacks, etc. that you need to succeed, they trust that you will turn out amazing work. And because of that mutual trust, amazing work does get done around here.”

bestplacetowork

CEO, Ryan Woodings showing off award for 3rd Best Place to Work in Idaho

Our CEO, and Co-Founder of MetaGeek, Ryan Woodings, received the award on behalf of MetaGeek. He’s just another reason why we are one of the best places to work. Ryan, and our whole leadership team at MetaGeek, continue to develop and grow not only the company but employees. A big thanks to them for making MetaGeek one of the best places to work!

We are all very honored to be apart of a company that gets recognized for what makes us awesome.

 

Want to join our team?

Check out our current job openings at MetaGeek

For more information and the rest of the winners

Visit Best Places to Work in Idaho