WisdomGroup is a software company. We create software for the web and for mobile: iPhone, iPad, and Android. We run conferences for our fellow developers. Clients choose WisdomGroup to solve problems and seize opportunities.
How did we get here? It didn't happen overnight! Overnight success is a myth. Lasting success is a journey with twists, turns, laughter, and lessons learned.
WisdomGroup was founded in 1994. Originally we planned to write software on the Linux platform in the C programming language. But our customers had a better idea. They wanted networking on the Microsoft and Novell platforms. Networking made the phone ring. That's how we learned our first business lesson.
Lesson Learned: Cutting-edge technology is fine, but listening to clients is more important. Listen to clients, meet their needs, and the business will grow.
In our early years we acquired the major network certifications: Novell Certified Netware Engineer (CNE), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), etcetera. We quickly realized that the Microsoft juggernaut would clobber Novell, so WisdomGroup joined the Microsoft Certified Solutions Provider program. Having a relationship with a larger software company can make you comfortable and... complacent. Just over the horizon, the web began to grow. We realized that the world would be changing soon, so we took aggressive steps to prepare ourselves.
Lesson Learned: Keep abreast of current technologies, and remember that new technologies may one day rock your world.
We built our earliest web sites in 1995 using raw HTML. Our first web server ran on an early version of Windows NT. Later we created a custom content management system (CMS) using Microsoft tools like ASP. And yes, we dealt with Sharepoint at one time. As the limits of the ASP platform became apparent, we returned to our open source roots: Linux and friends.
Lesson Learned: Experiment, experiment, experiment. Future products come from successful (and "unsuccessful") experiments.
What is Ruby on Rails?
True learning, the type of learning that can flip an entire industry on its head, comes from many unanticipated sources. Our first exposure to Ruby on Rails came through an intern in 2005. The intern mentioned that he was experimenting with a new framework called Ruby on Rails. "What is Ruby on Rails?" asked the company president. Our next adventure was about to begin.
Lesson Learned: Listen to your interns. The youngest members of your team might unveil your future.
Open Source User Groups & Learning
User groups are a wonderful way to learn and master open source software. If you care about great software, join a user group and get involved. WisdomGroup joined two Ruby user groups soon after we discovered the Ruby language. In August 2007 we assumed leadership of one group and changed its name to ChicagoRuby. A few months later we created the group's first annual conference, WindyCityRails. In July 2009 we merged ChicagoRuby with the other Chicago-area group (Chirb). The result: ChicagoRuby is a highly effective learning machine with over 1,200 members, 15x larger since WisdomGroup took the helm.
Lesson Learned: Get involved in open source. When smart people challenge each other to grow, great things happen.
The professional person must be a continuous student. Members of WisdomGroup devour books and blogs and conferences and podcasts and anything else that smells like learning material. When NoSQL databases hit our radar, we created WindyCityDB to explore the pros & cons of the newer database technology. When mobile apps became attractive, we created WindyCityGo to give our fellow developers a place to share ideas. WisdomGroup enjoys learning and we are eager to share what we learn with others.
Lesson Learned: The world contains limitless resources for learning, especially when you are willing to share your learning with others.
Teamwork Moves Mountains
No one of us is as smart as all of us. WisdomGroup attacks hard problems with an outstanding team of professionals. Professionals well versed in business processes, object oriented programming, user experience design, database engines, mobile devices... all of the key areas clients need for outstanding software. As a result, clients call us back for repeat engagements and they refer us to their colleagues.
Lesson Learned: When dealing with big challenges, teamwork is a force multiplier.
Today WisdomGroup is a software company that develops apps for the web and for mobile. Our client list spans a wide variety of industries including financial services, travel, health care, education, real estate, event management, and not-for-for profit. Our clients are aggressive entrepreneurs who use our technology to solve problems and seize opportunities. Our business model has always been driven by client relationships. The needs of our clients will always determine what we do next.
Lesson Learned: Best expressed in a quote from Peter F. Drucker - "Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action."