My name is Chamira Young and I have been using Zenfolio for a little over a year. When I received an email from Zenfolio inviting me to fly across the country and work alongside them at a photography conference in Phoenix, I thought perhaps I’d had one too many cups of coffee that morning. Cautiously, I refreshed the email in my browser to make sure it wasn’t a figment of my imagination. Excitement began to take over in the form of my mind jumping into overdrive.
I’m going to get to meet the Zenfolio crew! Seriously? They’re real people?
By the time my flight date rolled around in mid-January 2014, I was a nervous wreck, but ready to roll nonetheless. Months spent planning and freaking out now boiled down to a brief flight from frozen Detroit, Michigan, to sunny Phoenix, Arizona. For a few days, I would be moonlighting as a “Zenny” at the Imaging USA convention, a huge expo that attracts photographers worldwide. Sporting official company swag, I would be one of the bodies in the massive company booth explaining the Zenfolio website hosting solution to passersby.
Meeting the Zenfolio crew for the first time was a rush, to say the least. It’s one thing to be familiar with a company’s product (I’ve been a happy customer for a while now), and it’s another to create a third-party site to complement that company’s product (which I had done in the form of Zenjoyable.com), but it was altogether different shaking the hands of the actual people who made the magic happen on a daily basis. I met them for the first time in our hotel lobby, and, to be honest, I can’t remember a single thing that came out of my mouth. I do recall marveling at Jae Le, the face of many of their online tutorial videos, who was actually standing next to me that first evening. I had to resist the urge to poke him to see if he was a hologram.
Evan, one of the customer support managers, must have noticed my flustered state because he immediately stepped in and engaged the group in a lively round of “the name game” for my benefit. After that, we left the lobby and took to the streets of Phoenix to eat, chill, and relax before the events of the next few days.
My first impression that night was that they were overwhelmingly approachable and down to earth. One might even assume them to be a laid back group of friends. It was immediately clear that their experience, creativity, and love for improving the lives of photographers had forged a close bond among all of them.
Work Hard. Play Hard.
Over the next few days we worked, and we worked hard. On the trade show floor, we were 17 Zennies strong and ready to roll. Talk about getting to see them in action. It didn’t take long to realize our booth was the place to be in the convention center, and for good reason. We had a constant flow of inquisitive photographers stopping by to ask about Zenfolio website services, as well as happy customers just wanting to drop by to let us know how pleased they were, or to troubleshoot specific technical questions they had. If anyone so much as slowed their pace while shuffling past our booth, you could count on one of us pouncing on them and enticing them with our free bags. At any given point in time our booth was pretty much packed.
Over that three-day time period, I got the distinct feeling of hanging out with my close siblings. I learned that if you didn’t order a beverage quick enough at dinner, someone would surely choose one for you, and that the food on your plate was fair game if left unattended. If you requested a quick group shot with your camera phone, you could expect someone to dutifully supplement the surrounding ambient light with a lighting app from their own phone, and with all the seriousness of a true lighting assistant. If you came down with a headache or a cold, you could count on someone to quietly make a trip to the gift store to buy you some medicine, and that unexpected, impromptu dancing was encouraged on the convention floor. But most importantly, I learned that if you were going to hang with the crew, you had to have a solid opinion on onions, the most controversial of vegetables (lightly sautéed and served non-aggressively on the side for me, thank you).
Needless to say, the time went by too quickly. Before I knew it, I was saying goodbye and boarding a plane back to Detroit. I had a blast meeting the crew and working alongside them, and truly appreciated the unexpected cross-country invitation. It’s not every day you get to hang with such cool, ambitious people. Seriously.