This week, Smashing Magazine turned thirteen years old. The web has changed a lot since Vitaly posted his first article back in 2006. The team at Smashing has changed too, as have the things that we bring to our community — with conferences, books, and our membership added to the online magazine.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that we’re a small team — with most of us not working fulltime for Smashing. Many in the team, however, have been involved with the magazine since the early days. You may not know them by name, but you will have enjoyed and benefited from their work. I enjoyed finding out what everyone gets up to outside of Smashing, and also how they came to be involved — I hope that you will, too.
Vitaly Friedman is the person you probably think of when you think of Smashing Magazine, and rightfully so. He posted his first article to the site on September 2nd, 2006. When asked what he likes to do outside of Smashing, he says,
“I’m a big fan of hiking, running, ironing and fruits! For me, ironing shirts is really like meditation — and I also loooooove music festivals (which is something most people don’t know about me as I tend to be quite obscure about that).”
Vitaly has done pretty much everything at Smashing at one time or another — web developer, writer, editor, designer, creative lead and curator. These days, he helps to keep us all on track with his vision for all of the Smashing things, and always has some new ideas! Vitaly (originally from Belarus) travels as much as I do, our company standups usually involve us reporting our current and next location and timezone! As you’ll discover, however, while Smashing Magazine is a German company, the team lives — or has roots — all over the world.
Iris Lješnjanin is our senior editor on the magazine, and does an amazing job maintaining communication between our many authors, editors, and reviewers. She also does the majority of the subediting work on the magazine, trying to maintain the individual voices of our authors while ensuring the articles are easy to read for our worldwide audience. She has been part of Smashing since 2010, helping to develop the brand, mentoring in-house interns, and developing the process for working with authors and editors that keeps our daily publishing schedule rolling!
Iris grew up in Abu Dhabi, UAE, after the Bosnian War broke out, and moved to Germany to pursue her degree in linguistics. As I was gathering information for this article, she explained:
“I grew up multilingual, so it’s difficult for me not to love languages. Everything from the differences in tones, melodies, rhythms and cultural undertones of various languages is what will never cease to amaze me. Since I currently live in Freiburg, German is obviously the predominant language in my daily life alongside my mother tongue (Bosnian), but I try my best to learn new ones by listening to music, reading books and newspapers, watching TV series, and so on. One thing I find funny and interesting about languages is that, at the end of the day, they’re out of our control. Just like you can’t control who you meet in life, you can’t control which languages you learn. You meet them, get to know them, and fall in love with them.”
Unless you write for Smashing, you may never encounter Iris, however, her work is a key part of everything we do — a true behind-the-scenes superstar!
Another person who does a lot of work behind-the-scenes is Cosima Mielke, who joined Smashing in 2012 for a six-month long internship and is still working with us. Cosima is our e-book producer and editor, but gets involved in far more than that. She is behind the posts in the newsletter, and the ever-popular monthly wallpapers post, and many other editorial tasks that crop up.
Cosima loves being outside in nature, riding her bike, and creating things. Her background is not web development, and she told me,
“At Smashing, I’ve gained an entirely new look at the web which I only knew from a user’s perspective before I started working here. What fascinates me most is the strong community sense in the web community, that people are so open to sharing their knowledge and the tools they build to make life easier for everyone else — without asking for anything in return.”
As we cover such a wide range of topics here at Smashing, no one person can be an expert at all of them. Therefore, Iris and I are assisted by our subject-matter editors, some of who have been with us for a very long time.
One such editor is Alma Hoffmann. Originally from Puerto Rico, she moved to the USA to study for her MFA in Graphic Design and now teaches at the University of South Alabama. Like so many of our Smashing crew, Alma is bilingual, though I believe she is the only one of the team who can claim to have been a ballroom dancer!
Alma first became involved with Smashing Magazine when she wrote an article in 2010. We perhaps didn’t have the editorial process then that we do now as she got a surprise when her first draft showed up live! She remembers,
“I emailed Vitaly thanking him and since then we have been in touch. He tested the waters by sending me articles to review and in 2013, he and Iris asked me to be the design editor. I wear that title like a badge of honor. Later on, in 2017, I was invited to be a speaker at the conference in Freiburg. I had a blast and met so many interesting people!”
Another of our editors is Michel Bozgounov. Like Alma, he originally became involved with SmashingMag by writing an article. After writing a second article in 2010, Vitaly asked him if he would like to edit a section of the magazine dedicated to Adobe Fireworks. Michel wrote an article when Adobe ultimately ended work on the product, however, he now edits articles about the newer tools that have filled the gap — such as Sketch and Figma.
In his spare time, Michel loves to draw:
“It all started a few years ago, with a notebook, a fineliner, and a few watercolor pencils that I stole from my wife. Turned out I couldn’t stop drawing and for the last three years or so I imagine and then draw on paper small bits of a strange, but kind of fascinating world that I see in my mind — the world of Monsters & Carrots. For now, this world exists nowhere else but in my notebooks, and I showed only some small parts of it on Twitter.
Michel said that through working for Smashing,
“I learned how to be a better editor, and how to be more careful with words. I consider my experience at Smashing Magazine to be invaluable. I got in touch with so many people from all over the world and developed good online and offline friendships with many of the authors, experts, and editors that I worked with. Definitely, I can say that my job at Smashing Magazine opened many new doors and changed my life in a good way.”
Yana Kirilenko helps with preparations of articles to be published and talks to all our Smashing TV speakers to arrange the formalities, so they can connect with our wonderful community.
Next, we have Inge Emmler who has been on board since 2011 and keeps us all on track with our expense receipts, and requests to spend money! In addition, she helps out our community when they get in touch. If your book order didn’t show up, then Inge is probably the person who will help you. She loves to be able to make our customers happy and remembers an anecdote from her time at Smashing where she sent a free e-book to one person, brightening their day despite the fact they had just lost their job.
When not helping our the Smashing community and chasing us for our expenses, Inge loves to do things with her hands, be that refurbishing her house, gardening, cooking, and more recently taking photographs of flowers.
Jan Constantin has been part of the team since 2012, between then and now has fulfilled a number of roles — office manager, event manager, junior editor, and fullfillment manager! The nature of a small team is that we all sometimes end up doing something quite different than we originally imagined. Jan enjoys rock climbing, tabletop games and Sci-fi/Fantasy. He confesses that despite working for Smashing all these years he still doesn’t know more than basic HTML.
Ricardo Gimenes is the creator of the Smashing mascot, and therefore is the person we all go to with requests for illustrations of cats involved in a variety of non-catlike activities. Ricardo told he is:
“A half-Brazilian half-Spanish designer who loves graphic and motion. I’ve been a kind of "gypsy" for the past 20 years since I’ve lived in 6 different countries working as a designer (Brazil, Italy, Germany, England, Japan, and now Sweden). I love board games — I have more than 80 games (and counting) in my collection. Every week, we have a board game/beer night with friends here at my home. I’m a big fan of football (and weekend player). I love to play guitar, blues, and rock and roll.”
Ricardo has been with Smashing since 2009, however, he didn’t meet Vitaly or the rest of the team in person for five years as he was based in Brazil. You can see his work all over the magazine and also at our conferences, as he designs each of the conferences to match the location and theme of the event.
I was lucky enough to speak at the very first SmashingConf in Freiburg in 2012. Marc Thiele brought his expertise and knowledge of conference organization to that event. It was a great success and the SmashingConf series has gone from strength to strength, with events happening in Europe, America, and Canada. Marc is still involved with Smashing, offering advice and experience as a friend of the team and also serves on the Smashing Board, helping to shape the direction of the company. He also takes photos at many of our conferences — such as the one above. Marc told me that,
“Working on the Events team, it’s exciting to bring Smashing Conference to all those different places and many people. Creating the Smashing Conference in old town halls, in beautiful theatre and music venues, this is exciting and wonderful to see the outcome and the effect it has on many people attending the event.”
The conference team has grown since those early days. Amanda Annandale joined the team three years ago, and now produces our New York event and has also produced events in London and Toronto. Originally from a theater background, Amanda was a professional stage manager in the USA for ten years.
Producing SmashingConf NY has created a strange turn of events in Amanda’s life,
“For 10 years I was a professional stage manager in New York City, working on musicals, new performance pieces, dance, you name it. One place I worked in was the New World Stages. It was working an event at this venue that I met my husband! Now — nearly 8 years later, I’m back working at the same venue, but this time on the other side when we hold our SmashingConf NY event every year!”
Amanda has the help of Charis Rooda, also an experienced conference organizer outside of Smashing, who runs WebConf.asia and was involved running conferences in The Netherlands before moving to Hong Kong. Charis makes sure that our speakers know where they are supposed to be and when, and also takes care of much of the social media and website content around the conferences. When not working, Charis loves doing art puzzles, and tells me that,
“With 1000 pieces you think you’re never going to finish it, but when you start and keep on going, you will make it. Pretty much like running a conference!”
When asked what surprising thing she had learned while working at Smashing Charis told me,
“I learned how to use em dashes — the punctuation mark which can be used instead of a comma, not to be mistaken for the en dash or hyphen — and my life will never be the same.”
Mariona Cíller was part of the conference team but this year her role is transitioning to more broadly lead the Partnerships and Data side of the business. She has been part of the team since 2015 at SmashingConf Barcelona.
Mariona is a former web designer and developer, and describes herself as, “in love with science and technology, the open web, open-source hardware, and software”. She lives in a laboratory at her grandfather’s 1920’s embroideries factory which she remodeled over the past 5 years. Today, it is a digital fabrication laboratory (FabLab) connected to 1700+ labs from all over the world via the Fab Lab Network and the Center for Bits & Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated from the Fab Academy in 2015.
Mariona is currently studying for a Ph.D. in computer science and human-computer interaction at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). Her research focuses on digital social inclusion programs for the neighborhood youth and community in Barcelona. She manages to find time to be a Mozillian and volunteer her time as a wrangler for MozFest2019!
I’ve learned a lot about many of the Smashing team while researching this piece, however, someone very familiar to me is Bethany Andrew — as she’s my daughter! Bethany has been doing some work for Smashing for a little over a year, first brought in to do some video editing work on the conference video. She still edits many of our videos and has also run a Smashing TV session. A trained dancer and singer, Bethany is part of a gospel choir in London, a true crime nerd, and a lover of Indian food. She said about her time at Smashing,
“It’s so lovely to now be working with everyone at Smashing. So many people have known me since I was a kid through my mum, or she’s always spoken about them. It’s nice now I’m all grown up (or trying to be) that I get to work with this lovely lot and develop my own friendships with them.”
The newest member of our team is Esther Fernández, who has joined Mariona to work on Partnerships and Data, and will be meeting the team for the first time in Freiburg at SmashingConf. I asked Esther to tell me something about her life outside of Smashing, and she said,
“I’m a very curious person. I love the sensation of having learned something new by the end of the day. I get part of that knowledge through books — I’m an eager reader — but also through films and any kind of artistic expression. I have a self-taught knowledge in psychology and I really enjoy hiking, riding my bike, and having conversations with other inquisitive people.”
Then, there is me. Editor in Chief since October 2017, however, I felt part of Smashing long before that. My first Smashing article was published in June 2010 and I was part of the review panel for several years. In addition, I have had chapters in a number of Smashing books, and have spoken and run workshops at SmashingConf since the beginning. Smashing has been part of my own journey as a web developer, speaker, writer, and editor. I love to work with people who are committed to doing the best they can do, dedicated to the web platform and the community who work on it, which is why I’m very proud to be part of this team.
I hope that you, now feel you know us a little better. I certainly found out a lot about my colleagues while writing this. I love how much everyone feels a part of Smashing, whether they work a few hours a month or full time. And, the reason we do this at all? That should be left to Vitaly, who describes best how all of us feel about working on the magazine, conferences and all the other things we do.
“One incredible thing that keeps happening to me all the time is that people come to me and tell stories of how Smashing changed their lives many years ago. Maybe it’s just one article that really nailed it and helped a developer meet the deadline, and sometimes it’s those certain encounters at a conference that simply change your life. I vividly remember stories of people whom I’ve met at conferences when they were students, and who now have companies with dozens of employees. These stories change everything — we don’t hear them most of the time, sitting everywhere in the world and just writing, publishing and curating events, but there is always impact of our work at people around us. And that’s something we shouldn’t take lightly.”