I first met Dan while I was still a student at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. Thanks to Brandon Brown who invited him to come talk to our soon-to-be graduating class, we were lucky to see one of those very rare sightings of Dan speaking to a crowd. Anthony Colangelo, Alicia Brooks, and Tyler Matthews, and Zachary Nicoll were there watching Dan talk about community, about passion, about sharing. He exuded kindness and care and so did Cherrie who was also sitting in the room.
The best part about this moment was that Dan was terrified. He was visibly nervous since the limelight isn't really his thing. He's just so good at finding the right people to learn from and give them the floor.
After we graduated, we met up again at Front-End Design Conference 2011. We met great friends, future co-workers, and heroes there. I had the chance to learn from and talk to some of the people who inspired me the most in this community and I even discovered lesser known folks who inspired me even more through kindness, generosity and good spirits.
I hate dancing, and although I'm quite the shower singer, it's really hard for to enjoy performing in public but for the past four years there are few things I look forward to more than karaoke night at Front-End. Hanging out and letting lose with old and new friends there has been the beautiful red thread that has held the beginning of my career together.
In 2012, Anthony Colangelo, Tyler Matthews and I had landed gigs at Happy Cog, Full Sail and Code School respectively. We were booking our tickets and since we wanted to be funny in the hopes that Dan and Cherrie would see it, we used the "Special Request" section to ask for "Teddybears with lasers for eyes" or something silly like that. It was a joke. Something to make them smile.
When we got to our room in St. Petersburg the day before the conference, this is what awaited us on our beds:
Three teddybears with a badge for each of our companies and little laser pointers around their necks. We were confused for a moment, and then we remembered our silly little request. I remember being torn between being floored and sheer hilarity. It was amazing. It was the kind of little touch that Dan and Cherrie put on everything. Now that I'm lucky enough to work with Dan, I can tell you this is something that permeates everything this guy does. An insanely great care about the tiniest of delightful details.
If it weren't for the things Dan and his family taught me, either directly or through the voices of so many good people, I wouldn't be were I am today. I can promise you that. It's our turn to pay it forward now.