Name: Jeter Cotton
Position: Project Manager
Job Description: I provide client communication. I also have a couple of positions within Jira: a scrum master, where I lead a daily meeting to check team progress on projects, and a sprint planner, where I plan the work week for everyone on the web team.
I went to South Plains College in Levelland and got my degree in sound technology along with a couple of other certifications in live sound and enforcement. Basically what that means is I got a degree in how to record and produce music, and how to run sound in a live setting. Then after that, I got a job at Indiana Avenue Baptist Church running sound, recording and producing music, editing videos, installing sound systems, maintaining them, and putting quotes together for those things. So that was my first job out of school.
How have you grown since your previous jobs?
I think the job at Indiana really taught me the basics of good work ethic: how to be on time, how to make sure your projects are done when they need to be and a lot about handling money. One of my big tasks at Indiana after I was there a couple of months was to put together a quote for the installation of a new sound system. That really taught me a lot about making sure you get the most bang out of your buck, and how to justify what you want to do when it comes to a large amount of money like that. It also taught me to be flexible because working at a church, you don't have normal 8:00 to 5:00 hours. It taught me to go on the fly, in some ways.
Tell us how you started at Primitive Social.
I was involved in another church in town called Redeemer Church. Eventually they approached me about a job and hired me on over there. Really the doorway into Primitive came through that, because I met Trey Woodward in my first couple of months while working at Redeemer. He was working at Primitive and one day he gave me a call and told me he thought I had a good skill set for a job at Primitive. He asked if I had time for an interview, so that’s how I was lead to this. I started out as the project manager for the web team and it’s basically stayed the same for the most part. I’ve also started doing a little wireframing and a little coding here and there.
What made you eager to learn how to fill this position at Primitive Social?
I think it just goes back to what people have told me my whole life, which is the people who are the best to work with are continuous learners. That’s something my parents and teachers in college have taught me is that college is just like a springboard...it gives you a base knowledge of things. So once you graduate and get out of it, that doesn't mean that you’re done learning. So I think that one of the keys to success is constant education and always being willing to learn new tools and skills. That was something familiar to me in past jobs. I was constantly trying to learn new programs or use new tools to accomplish my goals in better and quicker ways, so this new aspect of a job wasn't too intimidating to me. I think it was attractive because that’s the kind of thing that I like - learning new things rather than doing the same things over and over again.
How to you stay organized to manage all the projects?
I think a lot of that came from this book that I read called Do More Better. It’s this short little book that really talks about productivity and organization in the workplace, and that molded a lot of how I stay organized still. Basically what the book talks about is a couple of really useful tools that everyone needs to stay organized. One is a file management system, which would be like Google Docs or Google Sheets. I use those to collect and store information on projects and to help remind me of where I am in different phases of each project. The next would be your calendar, which is extremely important to me to stick to it. I check my calendar every morning before I go to work, just to make sure I have a good idea of what to expect with the day. That way no meetings slip off my radar or fall off the tracks. Then, the last thing that I use to stay organized would be a task management system. Some people like to use a to-do list on pencil and paper, and that works great. But I use a program called Todoist and that’s basically an electronic to-do list. So I use that to help me to keep in track of and remember day-to-day items.
How does this impact the efficiency of the teams?
I think how my role is useful to them is it allows someone to only focus on the tasks at hand. So if they know they have x, y and z to do this week, they can focus on those things and not look at any other projects coming on. I feel like it helps them put on blinders so they can just sit down and focus on their tasks in an controlled environment, because I’m talking with all of the clients and making sure all of their projects are in progress. I hope my role creates an environment where a developer can say, “Oh yeah, I'm working on these two projects this week and that’s it.” Then they can really stay focused on it.
What is your secret to good management?
Something I've personally felt is how I try to treat people in a situation. Whenever I’ve had jobs where I was doing projects and someone's directing me and telling me the goal, the method I’ve enjoyed the most is when they tell me what the goal is but they don't necessarily tell me how to get there. That is what I hope I’m doing with everybody on the web team. I hope I’m clearly able to tell them, “This is what we need to achieve and this is what we’re trying to do with the project.” I don't want to tell them, “Hey, make this box green or make sure that you write your code in this specific way.” I'd rather just tell them, “This is what the client asked for. I'm going to give you creative freedom to find your way to that result.”
What are some of your favorite projects the web team has worked on?
I really like Warrior Technology because those clients are just so great to work with. I was excited to work on their project each day. I also enjoyed the design, look, feel and the functionality of the site. Another one of my favorites would be Edge Homes. Again, really great clients to work with. Also, the design and feel of the development aspects of the site came together really well and made a fantastic looking website.
Have you learned a lot about web development since you started at Primitive Social?
Web development was something I began to have an interest in even before I found out about the job here. I started doing this tutorial online called Code Academy, and I was trying to learn more about HTML code and CSS. But ever since I started the job, it’s been an exponential amount of growth. I’ve had to try and learn at an exponential rate, and it’s just a whole new world to me. I've had to try and keep up with our developers and understand what they mean when they say certain things, but it’s starting to make sense now that I’m around it constantly.
What do you enjoy about seeing a project grow from an idea to a finished product?
It’s really cool because you're with it every step of the way, so it doesn't feel too different all at once. It grows from just being a sitemap or a wireframe of a site all the way to being a developed, launched website. I think what’s also really cool is looking at the launched website and then thinking back to the beginning, and looking at old notes to see how an idea started and then how it changed and evolved. Lots of times we’ll have an idea of what we want the site to be and then it grows into something that's usually a little bit different than when we first started. It’s a more realized, practical version of what we were trying to do the whole time.
How have you seen teamwork at Primitive Social?
There’s a whole lot of collaboration that goes on, which I think is really cool. In each phase, I think everyone does a really good job of trying to ask each other questions - like if Morgan is designing a website, she’ll often run things by Dillon and ask, “Hey, if I design it in this way, is that going to work well on a development level? Is this going to be valuable on a website?” So I think everyone does a good job of collaborating to make sure that the end product is the best it can be.
Would you say Primitive Social allowed you to shape yourself into leader?
Definitely. It’s been the longest and shortest six months of my life. It’s kind of crazy. I feel like I came into the role and saw a need for my position, and the opportunity was just sitting there right in front of me. I think really when it happened was at one point when I needed to step up and take care of things. I saw those things needed me, and I thought I would do them.
You’re in the Lubbock office nearly everyday. What do you like about the culture at Primitive Social?
I really like that everyone is willing to help out, not even just on our team, but between all the teams. If I have questions that I need answered, I can go to anyone on any other team and they’re going to help me out. People are very dedicated to their projects, but they’re also very relaxed and easy going as well. So if someone's not busy, you can just drop by their desk and talk to them about whatever. I feel like there’s also a good culture of all of us here wanting to hang out together and do lunch, or even do different things at night like grab drinks and go to trivia, movies or that kind of thing.
Why are you committed to Primitive Social?
I think what helps keep me motivated is that I don't feel like I have a roof over my head in terms of where I can go. I feel like Primitive Social is dedicated to us in the way that I think we are almost expected to grow and to expand our abilities as much as we can all of the time. I think it would be very discouraging to be at a place that doesn't promote growth of your own skills. So I think being encouraged to push myself and to grow keeps me motivated.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to in Primitive Social’s future?
I'm definitely looking forward to our next team meeting in October. I was here just in time for our last one, and that was a great time to meet for the first time some of the remote people who work at Primitive Social and then spend time with the ones I had met. It was really fun. Also during that team meeting, we had a hackathon and that was like the highlight for me. You were able to see on a smaller scale a project go from an idea to completion within seven or eight hours. So that was really cool. Another thing I’m looking forward to is the constant growth and change of the company. I think things would get boring if this company stayed the same constantly, so I’m glad that we’re constantly modifying the way that we do things.
Okay, now let’s talk more about you. What’s your daily routine?
It usually consists of me waking up at about 6:00 a.m., and then I’ll either go for a run or do some weight training before work. I feel like that helps me to wake up and really get my mind focused before I roll into work. So I’ll do that and then shower, get ready and then go to work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Usually after that, I’ll go home, change, eat some dinner and then I’ll have something going on with either friends or family.
Now you are in charge of the music at the office. What’s on those playlists?
So that changes everyday, and what’s interesting is a lot of my favorite stuff I don't usually play at work because I know most people wouldn't enjoy it as well. That’s just something I’ve learned through being a sound technician back in the day: you have to play to your audience. You need to read the room and figure out what most people like so you're covering the largest percentage of people's taste. So at work I’ll usually play some calm stuff in the morning. A lot of the people like Americana or country, so I'll play some of that. Sometimes I'll even play some pop, especially on Fridays when everyone is a little more lighthearted.
What if your favorite type of music?
One of my favorite genres of music, which is why I never play it at work, is metal music. So that's something I used to listen to a lot in high school, and I still listen to it as almost a nostalgic thing. I also listen to a lot of rap and pop music.
You actually had involvement in the music scene yourself?
Most of my involvement was running live sound like you would see at a show. So I used to run at a couple of different places: the O Bar, Jake's Sports Bar, and Bluelight. I also would hire out to different churches around town if they needed a sound technician. I've done sound at summer camps and smaller coffee shop level shows at Sugar Browns or Yellow House. It was a lot of setting up equipment, placing microphones, making sure it’s hooked into the sound system correctly, making sure the sound system actually works and running the sound and making them sound good. That sort of thing.
What made you interested in music?
When I was in high school and even before that, I played piano. I had taken lessons and then in high school, I considered the idea of trying to go to school to refine my skills in music and make that into a living. But the more I got into it, the more I got interested in recording music, capturing a moment and making it something that people could enjoy. Through that I found South Plains College and the sound technology program. When I started attending that, the main focus was recording music and capturing those moments. That morphed into me kind of dipping into the live sound field, and whenever I found that it was similar to music production in ways and different in others, I enjoyed that more than I did recording music. So that’s what lead to it.
Do you still play piano?
Yeah I have a Baldwin piano that I really love. It’s a great sounding piano, so I play that and try to keep up with it and learn songs.
What do you like to do outside of the office?
Outside of the office, I really enjoy hanging out with friends and family. One of the things I like to do is having cookouts with people. I really like the activity of cooking and enjoying that food with others. I also enjoy playing board games with people, like fun party games as well as long-form strategy games. I really enjoy going to the movies and I probably go once every other week to see something new. I really enjoy grabbing coffee with friends and having good conversations with them over a cup of coffee. Then, spending time with my family doing basically all of those same things.
What are some of your favorite movies?
I really like sad movies, like 500 Days of Summer was a really good movie. Interstellar was another good one that I enjoyed. I also like light hearted movies as well as comedies. I really enjoyed the Lego movies that have come out...those have been great. And, of course, I’ve enjoyed watching all of the superhero movies and going with friends to see them. I’m not too picky about what I'm going to go see as long as it's with people I like being with.
How do you balance work and family life?
Usually everyday when I go home, I go to my room and am alone for almost an hour. Part of that is because I’m actually a pretty introverted person, so being at work surrounded by people and talking to people all day kind of wears me out. Then I’ll do something like cook dinner or go hang out with friends and actively go do something that I know I’ll enjoy - whether that be hanging out with friends, playing a video game, going to the movies or that sort of thing.
What about favorite types of food?
One of my favorites would have to be pizza. You just can't go wrong there. But other than that, I usually eat the same two meals everyday. Usually I eat a sandwich for lunch, and then I’ll eat either fish or chicken with rice and vegetables for dinner. So I don't know if those are my favorites, but I eat them all the time.
What is something not everyone knows about you?
- I have two middle names. The first one is John, my dad’s first name. The second name is Caldwell, my mother’s maiden name. So my full name is Jeter John Caldwell Cotton.
- Then, for about a month, my family and I lived in a nursing home when we were moving. At the time we were moving, my mother's parents lived in a nursing home called Carillon here in Lubbock. We were good friends with someone who was higher up in Carillon, and they knew that we sold our house a month before we could move into our new house in San Antonio. So in that interim, they let us come live in the nursing home on the same floor as our grandparents. It was actually pretty cool and some good, concentrated time with the family. I could just walk over to see my grandparents and if they were busy, I could attend a program or sit down with a table of people playing dominios. There was always something to do.
Who do you admire?
My father for sure. He has taught me everything, like how to have a good work ethic and how to treat people. One of my favorite things he taught me was to treat friends like your family, which I think fosters a better relationship and is the way it should be. He's taught me how to follow through with things and how to have attention to detail. So he’s taught me all of the important things.
How do you stay motivated?
Remembering that life is equally as important as work makes me be more intentional with the people around me and the things I’m doing with my free time. I would hate to look back on life and think back to me just watching Netflix all day after I get off work or whatnot. I’d rather have memories of things I’ve done and places I’ve gone, so I think that helps me stay motivated to excel in my personal life as well as my professional life.
What is your secret to success?
I don't know if you could ever boil it down to one thing, necessarily. The one thing that my father kept on telling me over and over was that success is in the details. If you focus on the details and work those out, everything is going to take care of itself. He’s always told me to work harder than the person next to you and that you're going to excel. So I think doing everything you can to do a good job and taking care of the details leads to success, along with being on time and owning your mistakes.
Any other words of wisdom you would like to pass along?
Love others and treat everyone like family. That’s one of the main themes in my life so far.