This is the first in a series of articles highlighting members of the 1 Second Everyday team. Our team is small, remote, and global. We have twenty employees, spread across at least nine different time zones, with no permanent central HQ. Like the community of folks who use 1SE, we come from all over. Because this was the first of a series, and because I was at first unsure how to go about writing them, I’ve started with my boss and 1SE’s Brand Manager, who not only was a very patient interviewee, but also helped me figure out in what direction we wanted to take these articles. Thanks, Emily!

Getting to First Contact

Emily’s relationship with 1SE is long-standing. Back in 2012, Emily’s then-boyfriend was inspired by 1SE founder Cesar Kuriyama’s TED Talk to start a one-second-of-video-each-day project of his own. At the end of his first year, he showed his video to Emily. She was, for obvious reasons, in many snippets of the video, often captured in moments she hadn’t even realized he was recording. She had the opportunity to look back on their relationship, and to watch its evolution and growth.

Inspired to start her own project, Emily started using 1SE at the beginning of 2014, intending only to use it to record her college experiences. She was at college full time at the University of Oregon, training for a marathon, trying to manage a relationship, and also working full time. During her junior year, she nearly dropped out of school, feeling that she wasn’t cut out for it. Every day was a struggle, but when Emily talked to her mom about her frustrations, her mom had this advice: “In retrospect, when you look back on this time, it’s just going to be a little blip on your timeline.” The phrasing her mom used came back to Emily the first time she re-watched her 1SE compilation for that year. Those tough times that had seemed so daunting, so impossible to overcome, were literally a blip on her timeline. Further, she was able to appreciate the struggle and the effort it took to get through that time.

Emily at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2014, just after she started using 1SE

Emily was an English major and had always assumed (the child of two teachers) that this meant she was destined to teach English. But she didn’t really have a love for the world of education, and didn’t know what she wanted to do. She felt lost. During her senior year, Emily found out about copywriting and advertising, and that her university actually had a school specifically tailored to advertising. Feeling that it was too late to switch her major, Emily simply started hanging out at the advertising school, doing homework there, and meeting folks in the field. She told people she was a writer.

Okay! I graduated! Now What?

By the time she graduated, Emily was sure that she wanted to be a copywriter. She used 1SE to get her first job in the field, editing her (now two-year-old) video and adding narration to showcase her ability to tell stories. Her passion for the app and its power to help storytellers gained her the attention of bad-boy Portland ad agency Mutt. Despite her lack of experience, her video and fresh-voiced writing samples scored her an internship. The hours were long, the pay was awful, but Emily learned a ton, and an internship at Mutt opened other doors.

After leaving Mutt, Emily bounced around from agency to agency, freelanced in copywriting and social media advertising, worked for a cannabis beverage company, and even worked as an executive assistant at an agency when she couldn’t get a writing job. Finally, she wound up taking on a full-time gig at an agency. At first, it felt like a dream job. She had the experience, she’d worked in the trenches. She’d earned her stripes, and now she was surrounded by people she liked and being challenged creatively. She was sure this was it. This was her path. For a while.

The Mutt era: July 4, 2015

Emily’s story will be painfully familiar to many who have worked as creatives. Even though she was working for big names, and writing copy that was seen all over, she felt herself stagnating. As Emily says, “when your job is ‘creative,’ it winds up not usually being all that creatively fulfilling.” She decided that what she really needed was a personal project, something to inject that creative passion back into her life. She would start a blog.

There will be moments you don’t want to remember. And some days there are too many good ones to choose from. The good and the bad, they all get the same treatment and the same emphasis, messy stuff alongside beautiful, breathtaking, cry-out-loud stuff. Because that’s life…

How Emily Joined Team 1SE

She only wrote one post, dated January 7, 2017 (the full post can be found here, and the quotes that follow all come from that post). She tweeted it out. Then, one cozy Portland snow day (the very next day), Emily was curled up on her sofa with some friends when she received a pair of messages on Twitter:

When Emily realized that Schöneck was the cofounder of 1SE, “I lost it,” she recalls, “I was crying. I stood up and was like ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. 1 Second Everyday saw my blog post! What’s happening?’” Two and a half years later, her excitement over first contact with Team 1SE is still visceral and contagious.

At the time, Team 1SE was four and a half people. Sami Samhuri (our humble rockstar CTO) had just been brought on, and was basically rewriting the entire app from scratch. Schöneck and Jason were desperately trying to handle support as the annual New Year’s wave came in. Cesar was dealing with hundreds of emails that had started hitting his inbox as we climbed the download charts. I was teaching full-time and trying to pick up some slack where I could.

“We had no one really keeping an eye on social media channels,” Schöneck recalls. “I had set up some listeners [bots that search for specific keywords on various online channels] on the various platforms that would let us know when people shared stuff about 1SE. But it was super ad-hoc. Jason and I could handle either support or social, but not both.” It was becoming clear that the need for a public-facing team member was only going to grow, and then the listeners found Emily’s blog post.

Seconds make up your lifetime, it’s a granular way of looking at it, but somewhere in those seconds is a unified and distinct story. It’s a way to recall memories in a whole new way.

“It was really well written, and was from the perspective of someone who had been using the app for a long time,” says Schöneck. “It wasn’t like a lot of blog posts about 1SE. It spoke to the real value of the product, instead of just being a share of a video.” Emily’s blog post dug in and showed a real understanding of the ethos behind 1 Second Everyday. It also spoke from a deep, personal level of the power of recording both good times and bad. We came to learn quickly that this is just who Emily is. Schöneck describes Emily as having “unfiltered, blinding honesty.”

One of my biggest fears is losing my memory. I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s always been the inevitable deterioration of my own mind that I’ve feared most. I want to remember. All of it. Every second. Every day.

May, 2017: Schöneck travels from Tacoma to Portland to pay Emily a visit

After making initial contact and learning that Emily was not only a 1SE superfan, but also had experience in both advertising and copywriting, Schöneck went to Cesar. “I was like, ‘Okay, crazy idea, but I found someone who wrote a blog post about us, and I talked to her, and I think she’d be a really good addition to the team.’ As soon as Cesar talked to her, he was like ‘Yep, she’s in. She’s the one.’ There was no apprehension. At no point in the process did we second guess the decision to bring her on.”

Emily remembers her first phone conversation with Cesar as both personal and powerful. “I got off the phone and just started sobbing,” she says. “I felt like my life had gone full-circle. For three years 1SE was a huge part of my life, and now I’m talking to the creator. I’m part of the team.” She also notes that from their first conversation, she and Cesar discovered that they had a lot in common. This has been an invaluable energy-exchange for the whole team. Emily is great at tempering, channeling, and focusing Cesar’s wide-eyed, sometimes childlike (but not childish) energy because she understands it in a way that those of us of a more cynical bent will never manage. This energy at the core of 1SE is like a gravity-well around which the rest of what we do orbits.

The only real question that remained was how involved Emily was going to want to be. It quickly became apparent that Emily could bring a ton to the team. Schoneck began gently nudging her about coming on board full-time. She went to friends and mentors, and many of them told her not to make such a risky move. But when she asked her then-boss what he thought of her going to work for a small, remote team, he said “Why not? You’re young. If the company goes under in two years, come back here. Go for it.”

In June of 2017, Emily became the fifth full-time employee of 1SE, and the leading edge of a wave of hires that would lead us to where we are today.

Emily, the Mad Hatter of 1 Second Everyday

Emily loves costumes. She typically dresses simply and comfortably, hair up in a ponytail or bun, so anytime she gets a chance to pop on a wig, some fancy period costume, and some wild makeup, she jumps at it. She seems to think of this as something silly and removed from the rest of her life, but to those who know her, this seems like a perfect extension of her ability to be whatever those around her need her to be. As 1SE started to grow, Emily’s duties grew with it. She spent six months working for 1SE in a freelance social media manager capacity before she was asked to come on as a full-time team member. 1SE didn’t provide her with any wigs, but there were plenty of big hats for her to wear.

The many faces (And hats! And wigs!) of Emily Volk

“Emily is always the first to raise her hand,” Schöneck says. “She’s willing to take a whack at anything. That’s something that you can’t teach. You can’t put that in a workshop. That’s just who a person is, and it’s super, super important.” As one of her first assignments, she took a bunch of jumbled and disjointed philosophical tidbits that Cesar and I had scrawled on various surfaces and stuck in random files over the years and crafted them into the 1SE company manifesto:

Life is made of seconds and every second has a story. Like your first slow dance. Your first time overseas. A first pet. A long walk with an old friend. A child growing up in front of your eyes. They’re all made up of who you met, how you felt, what you learned. Some moments might feel more insignificant. They’re not. Don’t let them disappear. Today is what you make of it. Try that thing. You might fail but do it anyway. Let’s record the bad times as much as the good times, and trust us, even the mundane moments of today will be priceless tomorrow. Future you will thank you. It’s no secret that happiness comes from the little things and that bad days build better days. But stop and cherish the people who make your seconds count. Sometimes who you are with is more important than what you did. The meaning of life? We don’t know either. But we do know that time is our most precious gift. Let’s use it wisely. Whoever you are, wherever you are, know that you are right where you’re supposed to be. Life is made of seconds, and everyone has a story.

Soon after, she took charge of writing the company handbook. To steal directly from the handbook, our four key values are:

  • People come first
  • Value Transparency
  • Think Big
  • Do Good

These are the values that Cesar and Schöneck constantly aim for, and that Emily was able to put into words. They’re what 1SE is all about. It’s pretty hard not to get behind a company that not only takes such a stance, but also actually lives it, and Emily is the best role model I can think of to demonstrate these values.

Before long, Emily was taking on even more roles that she had to learn as she went. She began to work with Schöneck on operations, planning team retreats. As with so many things, this came about as a result of Emily throwing up her hand and finding out she was good at something. We decided to have our summer 2018 retreat in Portland, where Emily calls home. Because of her familiarity with the city, she took on a huge role in planning hotels, dinners, workspaces, and activities for the retreat. But because she was so good at it and the retreat was such a success, she ended up continuing in that role for the company’s next retreat in Lima, Peru — the city from which our founder hails, but with which Emily had no familiarity at all.

Emily has always gone at life sideways like this. She finds a way to make herself useful wherever she wants to be, figuring things out as she goes. She thinks of herself as a misfit, but in some ways, it’s more that she’s able to retool her own skills to become a perfect fit, like glue filling and strengthening the fragile spaces of an old, cracked piece of wood.

Without a dedicated HR person, Emily got tossed some of those duties as well. She wound up being the shoulder for each of us to lean on, the person to call in times of stress. These duties ranged all over the map, but they all had two things in common: Emily’s role always helped us identify and define who we are as a company, and her work always made 1SE a better place to work. In many ways, she set the groundwork for the direction that our company would grow over the next few years. In the midst of all of this, Emily was made Brand Manager, which meant that not only was she also responsible for crafting the voice of the company, she was also in charge of me.

Moving Forward

I’ve never asked Emily what it was like to have to deal with me as a first direct report, but I’ve loved having her as a boss. Being slotted in under Emily has been fantastic for my peace of mind. Not only is she a boss who knows and cares about me personally (she sent me flowers last year when my cat died, and this kind of empathy and caring has become essentially unwritten company policy), but she’s also great at pointing me in a direction, setting me loose, and running some interference for me with people like Cesar (an absolute human volcano of ideas), so that I only have, say, a dozen projects going at any given time. I create posts for our online channels, make sounds for the app, compile videos into “crowd” mashes to throw up on social media platforms, write blog posts, do a ton of little one-off odd jobs internally, and generally try to be more of a help than a nuisance. I think it’s taken her a while to feel comfortable actually calling herself my boss, but I’ve been able to snuggle right down into the cozy little nest she’s made for me and just make stuff.

Emily planned and played host for 1SE’s 2018 company retreat in Portland, Oregon

1 Second Everyday is just now wrapping up the biggest round of hiring in the company’s history. When we started this process a couple of weeks ago, there were thirteen of us. By the time we’re done with all of this, we’ll have grown by almost half, to twenty souls. Because we’re a small team, nearly all of us have had to take part in at least a couple of interviews. I’ve interviewed for jobs, but I’ve never been on the conducting-end before. I found myself mentally and emotionally exhausted by the process, and I conducted only a tiny fraction of the interviews Emily had to go through.

Choosing the right candidate for a job is hard, especially when you’ve got a reputation for great company culture. I won’t even hazard a guess as to how many of the folks who interviewed for our new social media manager position listed that as the number one reason they wanted to join up, but we had over 300 applicants for the position, and pretty much all of them either listed our culture or wanting to make a difference in people’s lives as the number one attractor to 1SE.

Emily dove into the deep end with 1SE. She took a huge risk on a small, independent, idealistic tech company. And she found that she could swim. “In the next five years, I see us growing a lot, both in terms of the whole company, and as a marketing team,” she says. She intends to stick around to see it. She can’t imagine going back to an office job, but she says she initially stressed over the decision to work remotely. As an extrovert, the idea of working from home wasn’t immediately appealing. She was used to being in an advertising agency, where you’re surrounded by like-minded people. When she first joined 1SE full time, Emily worked from a coworking space, but eventually found that she preferred the flow of working from a space where she was already comfortable, and that she could set up to her exact specifications. “I can never see myself not working remotely,” she says. “I’ve never felt so healthy, both physically and mentally. The work/life balance here is amazing.”

Emily’s workspace. She would like to point out the Wanted poster made by friends for her cowboy-themed 28th birthday party.

“There’s no reason with the technology we have that office jobs should exist anymore. No reason that we should all be expected to get in our cars and drive somewhere and pay for parking and be at a desk, just to be a warm body in a cold office.” She misses being surrounded by the people she works with, and always eagerly looks forward to team retreats, but feels that remote work is definitely the future.

When 1SE was still in its infancy, Cesar didn’t go hunting for the most trained and professional people to work with — he went to people who he knew shared his values and would perpetuate them. Schonek Shoaf and Product Lead Jason Forest were guys he knew from college and who he already trusted. For odd jobs, he had me, also a guy he’d known forever, though it would take another five years before I could join the team full time. Everyone was floored when we managed to nab our Sami, who was clearly the man for the job from second one (see what I did there?). But once it came time to actually begin expanding, to look further afield for help, Cesar and Schöneck made a move that solidified our culture, and set the standard for how we view each other, our work, our world, and our mission:

They hired Emily.

1 Second Everyday is a video journal app. For an in-depth description of what 1SE does and how it came to be, check out the story here. This is the first of what will presumably grow into a series of user stories, featuring folks who exemplify large cross-sections of 1SE-humans who not only use 1SE regularly, but also share their stories on Instagram.

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Posted by:Bruce Seaton

Bruce is the Content Creator at 1SE. He likes making stuff: art, music, bits of writing, food. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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