Entry 5 – Visiting Ashland
I took a hiatus from travel blogging for a couple months as, happily, my travel schedule was light over the summer. That respite ended as the summer waned with a two week trip to Oregon that included a stop at the new FlowJo headquarters in Ashland, Oregon.
Ashland is a small town just north of the California border, made semi-famous by it’s Shakespeare festival. Every summer the Shakespeare festival makes Ashland a popular enough tourist destination to place it on a few “things to do before you die” lists. Aside from that, its a nice looking town surrounded by enough open space to provide access to all possible outdoors activities. Since my last visit, FlowJo moved to a new building and more significantly, acquired new leadership as founder Adam Treister retired and Dr. Mike Stadnisky assumed the role of CEO. I was curious to see our new home, reconnect with my co-workers, and push forward a few projects I’d been working on.
There’s no airport in Ashland so I flew, with my family in tow, into Portland and drove south to Ashland, taking a small detour to spend a weekend at Crater Lake National Park. I can’t say enough about Crater Lake, it was one of the more beautiful places I’ve ever been. The weekend was full of spectacular hikes, swimming in the lake (short swims - the lake is made up entirely of snow melt so its brisk even in August!), taking a boat tour of the lake and climbing to the summit on Wizard Island, food and drink at the quaint lodge, and terrific sunsets from a variety of summits.
From there we drove south to Ashland. The new headquarters is huge relative to the number of employees we have. We’re only 20-some people depending on the coming and going of interns from nearby Southern Oregon University, but the new building is big enough to house an indoor basketball court. We have a great office environment; upon arriving at work Monday morning I was greeted by friendly faces I hadn’t seen in awhile, and met some folks whom I’d only previously spoken to over the phone. The work started with the weekly Monday morning engineering meeting. Mike and all of the engineers gather in the conference room and discuss the progress made on writing the next version of FlowJo, and the tasks to be accomplished in the coming week. Our main focus this September was getting version 10.0.8 into rock solid shape for release. A lot of what we talked about the week I was in Ashland pertained to what absolutely needed to be in 10.0.8, and what could wait. In the end we decided that a set of bugs needed immediate attention, the cell cycle platform needed additional controls for the 1-dimensional model, kinetics needed to be added, and we needed to put in an improved user interface for the R-tools. Proliferation was too far away to hold up the release for, and a suite of brand new tools would all have to wait.
I spent much of the rest of the week pulling aside various members of the team to collaborate on one project or another. A little time with Maciej working to improve our XML outputs from the table editor, a little time with Aaron writing a script for indexed data sorting, a little time with Seth working out the operation of server based FlowJo, a little time with Jay learning some cool tricks that he’s built in, and so on and so forth. We did that, and spent more of the rest of the time sporting. Mike has really engendered a health conscious office, and almost everyone at FlowJo is an athlete.
Mike is a world class ultra-marathoner and has converted a substantial portion of the office to LONG distance running. Other folks are avid hikers, skiers, surfers, or basketball players. Most days at lunch we put the basketball court to good use. You may know Eric, Joel, James or Jasper, from calling in for support. Those gentlemen can all really play! And it wouldn’t be a week at FlowJo without some kind of endurance-based competition. Knowing I just can’t compete with the runners in the home office, I challenged all-comers to race in the weekly aquathlon hosted by the local pool. My plan worked as I came in third, using the swimming portion of the race to build a big lead that I managed to hold onto (barely) versus the competition, save Mike, who passed me a mile and a half into the run at warp speed!
While in Ashland my family and I did take in a couple of plays at the Shakespeare festival, saw the Green Show, the science museum, did a good deal of hiking, and stayed at the Pelton House (a really nice B&B in Ashland). The week in Ashland ended with the official grand opening celebration of the new building, complete with giant scissors, a pig roast, and a band. Good times for all!
From Ashland, we took the scenic way home, traveling up the Oregon coast and partaking in all sorts of adventures from sandrails, to cliff diving, to high ropes courses. But that’s a story for another day.
John Quinn, PhD