As Co-Founder and CEO, Ryan’s start at zu was a humble one, designing and developing for Saskatoon’s small businesses as he explored the uncharted territory of the Internet in 1995. His role today takes on many forms. Sitting on the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership Board and as a charter member of SaskTech, he promotes our growing industry and all of the innovation taking shape around us. Ryan is the steward of zu culture; he continues to make our office an inspiring place to work.
We spend an estimated 90,000 hours of our lives at work. If that’s the case, you’d better make sure it’s not boring. We asked current and former staff to look back at some of their lasting memories from the past twenty years.
Most of the funny stories that come to mind probably shouldn’t be repeated (and only half of them involve Tony). I’ll never forget my first April Fools day here. The design team was all working on the 2nd floor at the time and the developers were on the third floor. The night before April 1st, one of our developers, Kevin, went to Home Depot and bought rope and screw hooks. Late at night, he came in and strung up all the chairs in the design team area from the ceiling by himself, including a 6 foot long couch. It took us about an hour to get everything down so I can’t imagine how long it took him to get it all up. Five years later, those hooks are still in the ceiling on the second floor.
-Zach Perkins, Design Director, 2010-2017
My favourite memory at zu was around Christmas time when all the “zubies” cooked pancake breakfast for the rest of the team. It’s become a tradition, and sort of a surprise. The new people all woke up extra early, everyone was decked out in Christmas gear, and everyone’s spirits were on high! We had an amazing pancake topping bar and custom fresh lattes to top it all off. We had soo much fun that morning, it was a great team-building experience.
-Brittany Lloy, Designer, 2014-Present
I’ll always remember the times when we had epic foosball showdowns between developers (me and Devon) and designers (Zach and Ryan Stinson). Obviously, the developers dominated, but it came at a cost: I had to stop playing for a few weeks with a sore wrist due to the game’s incredible intensity (and repetitive movement).
-Michael Hébert, Developer, 2009-Present
My favourite memories are from each year’s Man’s Night. From inflatable bouncy house wars, to pool, cigars and gambling, it’s been a blast each year to set aside a night and just have a great time with all of our great employees.
-Matt Horning, Developer, 2013-Present
I was very nervous when I interviewed with Ryan. My voice was shaking, so I mentioned how anxious I was. He said something like, “Oh! Okay… um, do you want a beer? We have beer in the fridge. Seriously! You can have one.” I politely declined but he made me laugh and put me at ease. I was trying to be so proper and professional, but he made me feel like I could just be myself.
-Ginger Koolick, Project Manager, 1998-2006
I would have to say the bloopers reel - perhaps the falls down the stairs, the humorous speeches from Tony, the loud sneezes from Cam, and the rants of Albert. We are all pretty funny!
-Deidre Larmour, HR Director, 2012-Present
I remember a time where the entire company would stay sometimes an hour after work (girls and boys) to play parking lot shinny. Nobody had kids and we were all very close. The games were heated and we played in -25c no problem. We even had a standings table on our intranet. That, and the zu drive-in. Still have to find a way to drape the screen over the new stairwell. #renoproblems
-Albert Jame, Director of Strategy, 2003-Present
One of my favourites was taking the call from this potential candidate named Albert asking what he should wear to the group interviews for zu’s first ever marketing position. He talked me through the couple of outfits he had in mind and what I thought would be the best fit. It was a genius way to get noticed before he even walked in the door and I’m not sure anyone except Albert could have pulled it off.
-Kendra Raine, Project Manager, 2000-2005
I have to apologize and say I don’t really have one dominating favorite memory, but rather have several ones that stick in my mind:
- The day Saskatoon had a serious blizzard but most of us came to work anyway (bc/ prairie peeps be tough like dat). We had a new employee start on that day. He still came to work but had to abandon his car on the way, which got snowed over and ultimately pulverized by a snow plow. Later that day, Ryan offered me a ride home but we thought at one point we wouldn’t make it and considered what food we had in the car to eat if we got stuck (one Oh Henry! bar, smuggled by Lonna). However, that’s not a favorite memory, so scratch that.
- The day we let the hockey trophy that the zu team won in a local tournament get stolen during the night of celebrating the guys winning said trophy. The night was fun, but the trophy getting stolen by some dudes from the club wasn’t, so scratch that.
- The summer party where Joey did his welcome to Germany slideshow with a German accent (I would love to see that clip again).
- The Christmas party where zu paid us to get trained by a hiphop dancer to do a dance routine (priceless).
-Alex Osei-Gyau, Developer, 2005-2010
My favourite funny moment involves Albert dressed up as a schoolgirl for Halloween, it was too real :)
-Mellary Bitner, Designer, 2014-Present
My favourite memory at zu was my very first day. The whole company had gone to Amigo’s for a team lunch, and I was sitting next to Tony, whom I had barely spoken to thus far. We began talking about the company and the challenges of running it, when he suddenly said: “I mean, sometimes you just have to fire people. It’s not fun, but it happens.” At the time, I was terrified. Later, I understood that this simple throwaway comment was emblematic of the trust that zu puts in its people. Tony wasn’t giving me a veiled threat, he was speaking to me as a colleague.
-Francis Chary, Developer, 2006, 2010, 2015-2016
Seeing our CSO dressed up as Elvis in a gold sequin suit was something I’ll never (be able to) forget.
-Cameron McHugh, Technical Lead, 2011-Present
A great deal of thought and effort went into Christmas parties when I was at zu. The year my group (which included a couple of men) dressed in pink tutus and danced ballet was a highlight for sure, but I think my favorite was the year staff became rock stars. Practicing with Tony’s band in Ryan’s garage was a blast. Before the show, designer Nathan inked me an elaborate tattoo that covered most of my left arm. If I remember correctly, Kid Rock was even there. When I got in front of the crowd my backup singers had to step in a couple of times when the words escaped me, but it was a great time.
-Karen Doiron, Programmer/Project Manager, 2002-2009
Although I could go into detail of the lessons I have learned here….I’d prefer to share a few favorite memories:
1. The Interview - was intense! I was put through a very difficult exercise, then grilled (the hardest questions) by the development team! Particularly, I was asked: “What would the person who likes you least in the world say about you?” and “Explain a database in three sentences to your 8-year-old nephew” #hard #oooooook
2. Before I even started, I was able to commit to attending the Digital PM Summit in Austin, Texas!!! THEN we were surprised by being able to attend the Austin City Limits Musical Festival the night we arrived. Not only did I get to soak in some much needed and valued Project Management knowledge, I also got to listen to one of my all-time favorite bands play live and bond with new colleagues!! #doublewin
-Jennifer Korney, Product Owner, 2014-Present
My favourite memories are from our zu Christmas parties! We have the best themes and they never disappoint. Over the past three Christmas parties I’ve been part of Saturday Night Live, a casino murder mystery, and a zu prom!
-Amy Prokop, Product Owner, 2012-Present
My first impressions were mainly shock and awe – I started during “annual report season”, a fun time of year where it was all hands on deck to get online annual reports developed for clients. I think I worked my first 19 days straight? I could be wrong, but it was a lot. And a lot of fun I had never worked with such a talented, close-knit group of people before, and while online annual reports aren’t the most glamorous, it was a hell of an accomplishment to get them all done.
-Blaine Korte, Programmer, 2008-2009
Favourite moment is when Tim Hortons bought the TimmyMe app… pretty crazy feeling when a huge corporation buys something you build on a whim.
-Cory Jacobsen, Developer, 2005-2009, 2014-Present
If I find a really good article at work, I like to share it on Twitter. Typically this will elicit a few re-posts and replies from followers… the usual. One of my favourite moments was when the actor who played Chunk from the Goonies favourited a particularly insightful article that I shared about negotiation. Lesson: Social media really does hold the power to expand your network exponentially!
-Bonnie Clark, Marketing and Product Development Director, 2013-2016