A Message from John Holt – Giving Thanks

message from john holtIn very cold Seattle it’s the morning of the day before my favorite holiday.  The Saturn is packed for an early ski trip to Whistler;  Gemma has retired from ski racing so we’re going to have a normal holiday for the first time in years.  Friends are joining us tomorrow for the weekend and one way or another we’ll gobble together a Thanksgiving feast.

Though most of us are pretty far removed from the effort and activity of growing things, Thanksgiving still celebrates the blessings of the harvest.  Joined by friends and family, and perhaps someone who has nowhere else to go, it’s a day without appointment, one where the clock moves at a different pace.  Without a schedule to race around, there’s simply nothing to do but cook and prepare the meal, sit with people you like, and simple pleasures.

I love the fact that the world has forgotten about Thanksgiving, leaving it alone for the meaning we want to give it.  As I watch the folks around me head off to see their moms and dads, it’s easy to fast forward and think about my daughters, coming home to wherever Susan and I are.  Perhaps someday with children of their own.  It makes me think I should be heading east to see my mom.

Apart from my family, there’s nothing as important to me as Cobalt.  The enterprise has fed, clothed and roofed my family for 15 years, and I am enormously thankful for that.  The company provides these same benefits for more than 1,000 people and their families and friends, and of course we help create commerce for thousands of dealerships and tens of thousands of their employees – a pretty big impact.

It’s been a twisty, turny year and we’re still going through lots of change and challenge as we adapt to life inside ADP, but the big picture view seems A-OK to me.  I feel like we’re almost through the initial steep learning curve and vocabulary lessons, and I can see a path forward to assemble all the various digital marketing assets and initiatives we now own and provide even more value to our customers.  As important, I see ways we can create considerable value for ADP that I didn’t necessarily understand when we agreed to the transaction.

As I think ahead, I have tremendous anticipation for what’s coming next.  Moving to our new HQ will be exciting. The views are great and it’ll be good to be back in the downtown core. More than anything, I am going to like having so many of us under one roof.  It will draw our community even tighter, making us even more defined and forceful.  I love the fact that the folks on the phones talking to customers are just a few stairs away from the folks making the stuff their customers are using. Apply agile methodology to real-time customer feedback and it may be hard to go home at night to sleep.

More important is the opportunity we’re going to have to understand how, why, when and where advertising works, then multiply these findings times millions of shoppers on behalf of thousands of dealers.

When we announced the sale to ADP, I told Steve Anenen we would be the fastest-growing part of ADP Dealer Services.  I absolutely believe this today, exactly 100 days later.  We have some very good things going on, and that’s before we harness the true power of our combined assets and the breadth and width of ADP’s industry knowledge, scale and access.  We’re going to do our bit and more.

I think we’re getting through to the other side where the water will be smooth and flat, like the leeward side of the 520 on a stormy day.  Knowing it’s still pretty choppy, I will give my biggest Thanksgiving THANKS to the men and women of Cobalt, for their patience, their steadfastness, their optimism, their integrity, their thoughtfulness, their effort and their maturity.  We have kept our eye on the prize in the midst of considerable change. That’s the right thing to do, but not everyone is willing to rise to that standard.  We have and are, and that’s my Thanksgiving thought.

I hope the next few days are great days.  When you smile, stretch your cheeks.  When you exhale, lower your shoulders.  If you’re walking, stop, pause and turn 360 degrees.  Look up.  Think a thought, and take it a step further.  We have much to be thankful for, and it would dishonor our good fortune to not acknowledge the plenty we enjoy.  If you can, find a way to share it, extend a hand and pull another forward.  Goodness creates goodness.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group


A First Look at the New Digs

view from cobalt´s new headquartersBack in August, Digital Mileage first told you about Cobalt’s new planned headquarters in downtown Seattle. Since then, the floors Cobalt will be occupying have been demolished and built up again. Even though construction is not yet complete, last Saturday, November 13th, Cobalt employees were invited to tour the new building. For most, it was their first opportunity to see inside Cobalt’s new home.

Many came to see what had been constructed so far, bringing friends and family to share the experience. SEO Specialist Harmony Wallender was thrilled to visit the new office and brought her roommate along with her, finding freshly-painted walls and newly-laid carpet.

“The office is just cool,” recalls Wallender. “It has low cube walls and unfinished cement ceilings, lending it a modern cave feeling. The carpets were an excellent choice: dark grays sliding together in simple patterns. The porch off the lunch room is spacious and will be awesome in good weather and the cubes are flooded with natural light.”

karen and steve cobalt employees

Melissa Satterwhite, senior operations analyst in Cobalt’s Lynnwood office, describes her awed reaction, when she stepped out of the elevator. “It was amazing to see Puget Sound out the window,” she said. “I was astounded by all the light. The design of the new space places conference rooms in the interior areas, assuring that natural light is available for all workstations.  The open cubicle layout should encourage teaming and communication, too.”

Michael Villanueva, a Cobalt Diehard with over ten years with the company, also remarked on how teams could utilize their work areas. “You can tell that the space was laid out to encourage collaboration. The new office represents taking the next big step in our history, and I’m very excited to be a part of it.”

cobalt new headquarters breakroom

The new building will combine two existing Cobalt offices – everyone in Cobalt’s current HQ in Seattle’s Sodo district is scheduled to move in the last week of 2010, while the Services teams from the Lynnwood office will be moving into the new building in January of 2011. This will present new commuting challenges, but the new building is in a prime location.

“I especially like how close the train and bus are – only steps away,” said Gail Johnson, an SEO specialist currently working in Lynnwood. “If it’s raining the only time I’ll maybe have to get wet is when I’m crossing the street to catch the Sounder train.”

John Holt, Cobalt’s senior VP of digital marketing services, can’t wait to move in either. “Between the light and airy space, the fabulous views, the new 4,000 square foot gym, and the easy access to public transportation, it’s going to be a fantastic workplace.”

With all this change, the best part for many will be working together with old friends, as Wallender concluded: “But out of everything, I am most excited to be reunited with all of my wonderful coworkers who are in Seattle, and to all work as one company once again.”

The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group

Competing for the Truth

Web Analytics Wednesday

The tables were laid out with clean white tablecloths, pens and USB drives. The room was warmly-lit and inviting. It was Wednesday, November 10, and all was ready for Web Analytics Wednesday with Cobalt playing the host for the evening.

Web analysts from Expedia, REI, Nordstrom, POP, Amazon, Disney, Ascentium, Corbis and other local companies met at the Arctic Club Hotel in downtown Seattle for a meeting of the minds in the Dome Room. As the event started, about 40 people were gathered there, talking to old friends and acquaintances and meeting new ones. After the mingling and networking and food, Joe Megibow, VP of Global Analytics and Optimization at Expedia.com, was there to give a short presentation about how to create a data-driven culture.

“I didn’t want to be an accountant,” Megibow said as he spoke to the crowded room. “Counting stuff? When I was a kid, I wanted to build stuff. And then blow it up.” He descr

ibed the business of web analytics as “competing for the truth,” trying to find the best way to accurately measure results and put those measurements to use in making changes for the better.


He talked about the challenges they faced at Expedia, such as measuring the frequency of users getting to specific error pages, the data received from formfields, and using that data to improve the user experience and Expedia’s profitability. In one case, the d

iscovery of a single form field that confused users led to the quick removal of that field and more successful transactions for Expedia – to the tune of about twelve million dollars per year.

“We paid for a few of our own salaries that day,” he quipped.

His conclusion? Being able to measure results, both successes and failures, in today’s market is not just a useful tool, it’s a critical one. Data analysis for web applications isn’t about accounting. It’s about building stuff and blowing it up – then finding out how you can build it better. This was a message that resonated with everyone in the room.

After Megibow’s presentation, Debbie Pan from Ascentium won an Amazon gift certificate in a drawing, and most in the room stayed a while longer to talk and get to know each other. It was a successful evening with an important message – when you’re competing for the truth, everyone wins in the end. Cobalt is very proud to have hosted Web Analytics Wednesday and hopes to do so again soon!