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Featured on Aug 29, 2011

Matt LeMay

"Art == Work"


I am the platform manager at bitly, which means that I have the pleasure of working with an amazing community of developers both inside and outside the company. I've been writing about music professionally for 11 years, and spent 5 years fronting a touring band. I studied Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where I wrote my senior thesis about Sex and The City. I also wrote a book about singer-songwriter Elliott Smith for Continuum's 33 1/3 series. I appreciate good coffee, inadvisably spicy food, intuitive user experience, and counterintuitive solutions to complicated problems.

What inspires you?

I'm hugely inspired by the work that goes into making something appear simple. It's true of music, writing and product design. A truly clever chord progression does its work without sounding "clever." A clear, well-written sentence can make a difficult concept easy to understand. Incredibly complex information systems can power beautiful, elegant interfaces.

Seeking out recognition for hard work is a basic human urge. When you pour time and energy into something, you want that time and energy to SHOW in the thing itself. But one's best creations tend to take on a life and a logic of their own. Almost any gesture that explicitly emphasizes a creator's effort, creativity and/or intellect will work against that logic. Ego is the enemy of great work.

Say a hurricane were to hit New York City, what food/drink would you stock your cabinets with?

If a hurricane were to hit New York City -- hypothetically, of course -- I would order egregious amounts of Chinese food and feast upon leftovers for several days. I was born and raised in New York City, so Chinese take-out is the ultimate comfort food (chicken with broccoli and cold sesame noodles, in particular).

How did you end up becoming the platform manager at bitly?  What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of your job there?

I found my way to bitly through dumb luck and serendipity. My background is primarily in writing, and I saw an opportunity to help out by communicating with developers, users and platform partners. bitly is simple by design, but we also offer some very cool advanced features that many of our users don't even know about (yet). A lot of my job involves telling people about the awesome stuff that my awesome colleagues build. It's pretty great.

This is my first job in tech, and I had a lot to learn when I started. (I've been doing extremely hacky freelance web development work for about a decade, but I certainly don't have the chops to work as a software developer.) For a couple months, I was terrified that I would be revealed as a charlatan. I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia, looking up technical terms that I knew very little about and trying sound way more knowledgeable than I actually was. But I've found that curiosity and interest beget curiosity and interest, and I'm doing my best to ask good questions -- even if I feel like I should already know the answers. Some of my best ideas have started out as what I assumed were inexcusably stupid questions.

Where have you found the spiciest food here in New York?  Any dish recommendations for fellow adventurous eaters?

I went to Chao Thai in Elmhurst with a friend from Texas whose family has a generations-old hot sauce recipe, and their food did us both in. I asked for "Thai spicy," and the waiter refused. I assured him that we knew what we were asking for, and he still refused. "Most places' Thai spicy is our Thai medium," he told us, "you won't like this." After I once more assured him that he had done his due diligence in warning us, he finally relented and agreed to "Thai spicy."

About ten minutes later, he brought out a plate of Som Tum (green papaya salad) that was flecked with bird's eye chili seeds. The first bite was one of the most vivid taste experiences I've ever had, and from there on out it was just merciless. We must have gone through a gallon of water, and even that didn't seem to do anything -- I felt like there was a forcefield around my tongue instantly vaporizing any substance that could've cooled it off.

There are lots of restaurants I love in the city, and I'm always looking to put together groups for food-related adventures. Interested NY techies should drop me a line!

Platform Manager