Shelly Immel Owner of Obsidian Learning
Design, which I think of as the intentional creation of things to make life better, is a recurring theme in my life. I think about design at all levels, from relationships to revenue streams, from processes to living space to gardens. I had the chance to design on a big scale twenty years ago when I decided to try to create The Place I Want to Work. I knew I couldn’t do it alone (and I didn’t!). I hoped that this new company would attract people who wanted what I wanted: to do work that I am proud of and that clients love, with smart, creative people who value and trust each other, and to collectively make enough money to supply our needs and wants for ourselves and our families while giving back to our community.
At our 20-year party last week, instead of giving a speech myself, I asked everyone to join me one by one in order of hire date and tell the story of how they came to Obsidian. Some people go back the full 20 years, and many go back 10 or more. As each person spoke, we remembered together what it was like to see the company as an outsider, and to make the choice to join and to stay. The phrase “I didn’t know what I was getting into” came up a lot and always generated a lot of laughter. Over and over I heard the words “belonging” and “I knew this was the place for me.” Even words like “family.”
It means a great deal to me that Obsidian Learning gives more than just a pay check to our people, and that people choose to be here because it is the Place They Want to Work. They hold that space now. They make this culture a reality every day. I feel gratified, humbled, and honored that the company I hoped to build 20 years ago is a reality today, and that these talented, creative, hard-working, big-hearted people call it home.
My hope for the future is that Obsidian will continue to lead in defining what makes good learning, and to serve our clients singularly well. I expect that our high trust/high accountability/high success environment will continue to allow us to innovate with integrity. As our industry evolves, I expect that our values will keep us resilient and agile. After all, that is how we survived 20 often turbulent years. Here’s to 20 more.
Personally, I’ve gained a second family through working at Obsidian. Amazing people work here, people that I have come to trust, love, and treasure. Professionally, Obsidian has broadened my knowledge, provided challenges, and been rewarding in ways I never expected in a professional setting. While the responsibility of the job is huge, the satisfaction of success is immeasurable.
Many happy returns of the day! I wish for our company to continue to push boundaries, to hold its values, and to strive for new, exciting developments.
Obsidian has impacted my life in tremendously positive ways. It pulled me back onto a career path that utilizes my education and creative motivations. The willingness to support continued education in terms of professional development has allowed me to continue to progress and ensures my ability to thrive professionally in the years to come. Obsidian has provided me with the financial stability to become a homeowner and prepare my household for the arrival of a child.
In years to come, I hope Obsidian continues to nurture its professional relationships, continues to thrive, and continues to acquire the types of projects that fulfill my creative needs...and help me make it through the not-so-creative projects. Creative is synonymous with fun/exciting!
When I moved back to the United States after 20 years abroad, Obsidian provided me with a soft place to land, both personally and professionally. Though I appreciated the international environment of my previous job, after 15 years at the same organization I was perilously close to professional burn out. Obsidian gave me the opportunity to get my brain cells working again, and has made me feel as though my contributions are both desired and appreciated. My co-workers are kind, diverse, and stimulating in ways that you might not expect in such a small company. I love the ease of our day-to-day atmosphere, and equally love the feeling of getting to play dress-up for exterior client meetings. Hopes for the coming years include many completed puzzles, a gremlin-free laptop, and world domination.
Professionally, I have learned a lot (learning and software) and been reminded of things I had long forgotten about (learning and design). I have a great appreciation for what we do, and how much in the forefront of the field we are. When starting on a new project for a client, we often see courses designed by other vendors, and I am struck by how much better and more engaging our work is. Personally, Obsidian has impacted my waistline. When I’m engrossed in a project, I move around a lot less, so I’ve gained weight. 😊
I hope Obsidian continues to grow and prosper and stays at the leading edge of learning technology and design in the coming years.
When I started at Obsidian, we were just getting started with building “solutions” in house. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to plan, design, and build countless software products and to coordinate and work with a team of great people. There’s always an opportunity to learn something new, and learn from my peers – I’ve learned how to be a better communicator, a better software developer and designer, and dare I say, a better person. Thanks Obsidian!
My hope is that we continue to do great work, attract new clients, and to build a healthy and successful business that stays ahead of the game.
Obsidian@20: Congratulations: You “rock” the house! It has been my pleasure to work with Shelly and her Obsidian posse from the BP projects in the very early days to THD right now.
Always professional, always trailblazing, always compassionate, and I will always have a special place in my heart for this organization and these people. Much love.
Professionally, Obsidian has granted me the opportunity to dig into many of the new technologies associated with web interactivity. With the death of Adobe Flash the web is turning toward more accessible forms of animation and interaction. Not only has Obsidian presented me projects which validate the use of the new tech, I am also asked to learn more and create more.
Personally, Obsidian helped me to peel away a shadow of apprehension. Past employment experiences had led me to believe that trust and transparency were ideals that meant nothing. Obsidian has shown me that they do have meaning.
I am really excited about our more diverse pool of client subjects. I would also like to see more diversity in the type of work we do. We would definitely benefit, and could pivot skills to include not only the training and education of employees, but also the education of a business clients. Merging the same learning and training philosophies we use for internal training, for example, accompanied by marketing strategies for public-facing pieces.
Professionally I have learned a lot here. Not just about things that I do, but things that others here do, the eLearning industry in general! I have an appreciation for our work, and feel like we are really helping people. Personally, I’ve built friendships here in a way that I have never experienced in any previous workplace.
I hope that Obsidian continues to grow and become more successful in the eLearning industry.
After more than eight years with Harris County I decided to switch gears and start working for Obsidian. It has been a life changing experience and I have developed friendships which will last a lifetime. New beginnings are always difficult, but anything is possible when you’re surrounded by wonderful people. Thanks to you all! During these years at Obsidian I’ve gained confidence in myself and in my ability to do great work. I’m always trying to improve my skills and to become a stronger person. At Obsidian I am armed with the right tools to achieve this goal.
I am excited to see what the future holds for our company. I know we will be able to overcome any challenges we face because we have the most talented and capable team I have ever worked with. If we continue putting in hard work, the results will speak for themselves. Thank you to the best bosses and coworkers ever, and shout-out to Obsidian.
The upside of being self-employed: flexibility, loads of variety, being your own boss. The challenges of being self-employed: chasing work, invoicing clients, contracts/legal stuff, being your own boss and only employee... Obsidian has allowed me the gift of all the upsides of being self-employed and none of the down sides! I am forever grateful to have access to a fantastic team of people that helps me accomplish so much more than I ever could alone. I’m presented with challenging, fun work that has been sourced for me. Then I get to do the part of the work that is my very favorite, while a team of people does the parts I don’t enjoy as much and am not as good at. I learn new things every day AND I get to come to work with clever, talented friends in a relaxed, flexible environment. All in service to the company owners whom I happen to love a great deal. I honestly can’t think of how it could be any better – unless there were piles of puppies in the office while we worked. I am just so lucky and grateful!
Obsidian wish list for the future: puppies at work! No, really, I wish for Obsidian continued success, accolades, and growth. At least until my kids’ college is paid for and I’m ready to retire…
Working at Obsidian has impacted me personally because it made me realize that people can actually enjoy the company of those that surround them at the workplace every day. It really gives me hope that people outside the workplace can do the same. Obsidian is unique because our diversity makes the machine work. We are a collage of different cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, genders, political views, and religions all under one roof. Respect is our glue.
Professionally, working at Obsidian has given me an opportunity to expand my technical knowledge in ways not always open to employees of my age and experience. My background is in project management and education. How lucky am I to have found a place where both of these elements are involved in the successful running of the business, and are also areas where we are encouraged to enhance our expertise?
My hope for this company in the coming years is that it never loses site of the reason that it was initially started. The vision which Shelly put forth is what makes Obsidian what it is: a place that people WANT to come to work… I hope Obsidian grows and becomes the powerhouse in the learning industry that we know it is. With great leadership and hard work from the staff (we) Obsidian cannot be stopped. I love where I work!
Obsidian was my first job after graduating from college. My wife was a couple of months pregnant and I hadn’t found a job yet. Obsidian took a chance on me and I am very lucky that was the case. Obsidian has provided me with an awesome place to go everyday, a place to learn, a place to grow, and a place to help support my family. Obsidian has been with me through gaining two children, as well as losing two fathers. My personal growth has been directly influenced by my fellow Obsidianites and I am proud of where I am today. I hope that we can continue on our journey. I know we have the power and the people to make it happen and I can’t wait to go along on the ride. I think we are just beginning to find our spot in the learning world, and in the next couple of years we will be a true powerhouse of learning!
Professionally and personally, Obsidian has transformed my outlook on “change” itself. I used to be of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” belief. But we are a company of changes, and after 10+ years here, I’ve witnessed and been a part of the benefits of change. We’ve learned and failed and grown and succeeded together. Our horizons have evolved and expanded, from the types of clients we seek and acquire, to the expanse of learning deliverables we now offer. From process and system transformations and awesome software development, to the way we market ourselves in this media-led world of tweets, blogs, likes, snaps, swipes, and live presentations! With change, good or bad, comes growth. I’ve grown. Obsidian’s grown. All who are part of this organization have grown. And that’s what I wish for Obsidian’s future – continuing change, growth, and success. Together.
Happy Anniversary Obsidian!
Obsidian’s impact on me personally is pretty clear: I would never have met my wife (Sherie) if I hadn’t moved to Houston when I took the position at Obsidian. Professionally, I’ve sharpened my design skills and become proficient in a variety of design programs (Flash, After Effects, Storyline).
I hope we continue to branch out into a wider range of industries and become an even bigger name in the eLearning game.
Obsidian has introduced me to a whole new family of great people. I have never worked with as many great and open-minded people, and this environment has helped me grow as a person. Joining the Obsidian team also introduced me to an industry that I barely even knew existed. What I find most interesting in the learning industry is the process of developing creative ways of delivering what can sometimes be very dry content. This doesn’t come without challenges, and learning to overcome these challenges while working with some interesting people (clients) over the years has made me a stronger PM overall.
As we continue to diversify our client base, I hope that we’ll be working on more projects that allow us to use our creative talent to come up with custom and innovative ways to deliver content. My experience with projects over the years has been that a good number of clients start out saying they want innovative, boundary-pushing training, but either due to budget, schedule, or both, the final product might end up as a more traditional training course. When we have the opportunity to navigate the unknown, develop new tools, and try new things, everyone on the team is excited to see the project evolve.
Obsidian has allowed me to become a mature developer. The company has provided the resources, time, and opportunities to facilitate my skill development. Whether a book, an online course, a physical workshop, a conference, or a side project, Obsidian has encouraged me to continue learning in any shape or form. Thanks to that encouragement, I now produce quality, maintainable digital products faster than ever before. Recently I’ve also had the opportunity to learn a new set of skills, as I’ve been managing a project in addition to developing.
I hope that Obsidian continues to produce quality solutions to challenging problems. We continue to attract businesses of all sizes and industries. We continue to cultivate our existing relationships. Hopefully, one or more of the solutions we produce can be repurposed into a product that can be resold without much effort.