SparkFun is 20 years old this year! We’re lucky enough to have a bunch of employees that have been around for over 10 of those years, and we wanted to share their reflections on their time here with you. Today you’ll be hearing from Chris McCarty (you may know him as One Chris Two Chris Red Chris Blue Chris).
SparkFun is 20 years old this year! We’re lucky enough to have a bunch of employees that have been around for over 10 of those years, and we wanted to share their reflections on their time here with you. Today you’ll be hearing from Chris McCarty (you may know him as One Chris Two Chris Red Chris Blue Chris). Read below to see his full answers!
Tell us a bit about your background.
I am the Product and Supplier Marketing Manager here at SparkFun and have been for the last couple of years. Before that, I served in a litany of roles, including Product Marketing Assistant, Catalog Curator, and Assistant Manager of Receiving, but it all started 12 years ago when I was hired as a Packager after just moving to Colorado. I am originally from California, San Francisco to be exact (Go Niners!), and I have a penchant for writing, building giant mecha models, painting small miniatures, and running a slew of different tabletop role-playing games!
What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on at SparkFun?
This is tricky for me because there are quite a few to choose from. I once 3D printed a set of open-source dungeon tiles with incorporated lifting and traps for the game I was running at the time. I also tore down an IR-controlled light effects wristband from an International gaming event I attended in 2016. If I had to choose my favorite, it would likely be my LED Skateboard project since it was the first build I ever completed while working at SparkFun. I had a custom RTFM deck made (which I still own) and equipped it with a few weight and light sensors that would turn on Super Bright LEDs when I stepped on the board at night. It allowed me to skate around Denver pretty quickly in the dark without worrying about large cracks or rocks on the ground!
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen a customer make with our products?
This will likely show my age (then again, this whole post will provide that very effect), but back when I first started at SparkFun, the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters was still on the air and there was a single shot of the late, great Grant Imahara standing in front of a stack of red SparkFun boxes. After a little more investigating into the show, you would see red boards and other SparkFun products popping up all over the show in builds that he and the Build Team were working on. It was amazing to see our product incorporated into projects and builds to help prove whether an urban legend or hearsay with myth or fact.
What brought you to SparkFun?
I left California in 2008 when the first “once in a lifetime” economic downturn hit. I was actually a store manager at Blockbuster Video at the time, but as we all know, the days of video rental stores were near over by that time. When my store finally shut its doors for good, I decided to move out of state. I moved around a little before ultimately deciding on Colorado after falling in love with the state on a trip. I felt like I needed to start fresh somewhere and work from the bottom up. That’s when I found SparkFun, a friend of mine knew a (still current) co-worker of mine, John Trepke, who helped me get a job in Receiving as a Packager. Thanks to this start, I feel like I can look at almost every product we have in our catalog and know how it works and what sort of shenanigans people can make with them!
Who is SparkFun?
SparkFun is for anyone who wants to make. SparkFun is anyone who looks at a $5000 product and confidently says, “Nah. I can make that for a quarter of the price and fix it myself without buying a new one in a year.”
How has SparkFun evolved during the time you’ve been here?
After being with SparkFun for over a decade, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it has changed significantly. I’ve seen people come and go. I’ve seen products disappear into the ether (I still miss the helical GPS antenna). But I’ve also seen advents of new tech like GNSS RTK, new wireless capabilities, and 3D Printing!
Do you remember your first day?
It was a bit of a culture shock! SparkFun in 2011 was like a whole new brand of skunk-works. We were experimenting with new technologies that were just being introduced to the consumer market. Think SparkX dialed up to 11. If I recall correctly, I arrived a bit early, and my boss at the time brought in breakfast burritos for the team to enjoy. I was run through my daily and weekly duties and shown how to operate the packaging machine (which was all still manual at the time). The most prominent memory I have about my first day was how loud it was, and it wasn’t because of any machinery; everyone was talking like they really knew each other, and that’s because they did. It wasn’t long before I joined in the conversation and pranks. Heck, I think it was my second week here that I was pranking one of my bosses by hiding in a giant box.
Favorite spot in the building?
There is a deceptively comfortable orange chair outside of my office. I love sitting in that chair because I can talk and catch up with my team. We usually don’t talk about work when I sit there. We talk about ourselves and each other. It even has a fun ice cream sandwich plush buddy to keep you company!
How would you describe SparkFun’s culture?
Oh, wordsmith time! Rhapsodic. The passion and emotion that people put into their work here has never changed. People work for SparkFun because they enjoy creating this that can change how people interact and learn from electronics. This all translates to our culture, and we work here because we believe in making electronics more accessible to anyone who might be interested.
What is the best part of the work you do?
I am able to work with every department in and out of the building. This is something that I learned I loved from an early stage in my career here when I just delivered mail to everyone. I love knowing who is working on what, when a board will be finished being produced, and any issues we might have acquiring something as simple as a voltage regulator. As SparkFun’s Product Marketing Manager, it’s my job to know what’s being worked on and when it will be released. Information is critical in my position, and I am happy to share it with everyone inside the building and all of you reading this blog!
We’ve been celebrating our long term employees all year – check out the other interviews we’ve done: