Galwegians reach a 20 year milestone!

We recently celebrated Jef Bell and Mark Tullsen, Galwegians who have worked with us for 20 years. For reference, Galois was founded in 1999, so a 20-year tenure is the bulk of our existence as a company! In addition to celebrating these wonderful humans, we wanted to take a moment to gain from their experience and perspectives, and share with our community. 

Twenty years is a long time to spend in any one place. What has kept you going at Galois?

Jef: More than anything else, the people. Galwegians tend to be brilliant but humble, well-intentioned, supportive, and curious. I’ve been very privileged to grow up as a leader working with this group of folks. Also, there’s the wide variety of things I’ve had the opportunity to do over 20 years because of working in an environment that’s driven by the offers people make.  It hasn’t felt like working for a single company, either – there have been enough changes in size, people, approaches, and focus that it’s felt like several different companies along the way.

Mark: What drew me initially were the great people and this crazy mission of using Haskell to change the world. What has kept me here has been … the people. The mission has broadened to something more like, “Using cutting-edge technology to make the world a better and safer place,” and that still works for me!

What are you most proud of (so far) in your work at Galois?

Jef: Being a part of the invention, evolution, and growth of the Collaborative Web, particularly as it’s been realized in the Engineering team. I was only involved in the creation of a small slice of the principles, standards, and practices, but I’ve had the opportunity to influence the refinement of a wide swath of them and participate in the later invention of quite a few. It’s rare to have an opportunity to positively influence so much about how an organization works together.

Mark: Tough one! I can’t say I don’t feel some proud ownership of a few projects that I personally saw through vision, proposal, project execution, and a satisfied client. But those pale in comparison to what I’d consider my personal “hero’s journey” at Galois: doing right as a person (friend, customer, performer, employee, what-have-you) in the face of challenges and failures. Galois has had ups and downs over these 20 years, and definitely some difficult times; such times are when it’s hardest to “do right”—keep your promises, respect individuals, give others the benefit of the doubt, let go of the pride, and do what’s best for Galois.

What lessons have you learned working for one company for 20 years?

Jef: So many things from our “Foundations” materials—like the workflow model, building and relying on trust, and listening for concerns—are useful in all areas of life. Also I’ve learned how to lead through influence rather than authority, how to use concerns and principles as a starting point for problem solving and invention, and how to approach each situation and person as unique, rather than by following a playbook.

Mark: First, change happens! A lot more than I ever imagined. Galois in 2023 is hardly recognizable as the same company I joined in 2003. Some change is inevitable, some is good, some is … less good. You learn to deal with it. 

Second, people skills are important too! From the get go, Galois was doing workflow training. This was an amazing opportunity to learn an approach to “working together” where the goal was an effective business and which also had some rigor (philosophical and linguistic). But it was only in some challenging years that followed that I had to really put it into practice by changing thought patterns from “Leave me alone so I can do the technical work! I don’t want to deal with …”  to “Every workflow I have implies a relationship which I can’t take for granted.”

What’s one of your favorite Galois memories or events? 

Jef: Lots of small moments rather than one big: square dancing in a barn at my first Galois birthday party, the declaration that there would be no more managers at Galois, discussing an early draft of Collaborative Web Citizenship principles, the whole company rallying to offer build during a challenging period for the business, arrivals and departures of particular friends and mentors. Also: The time my three-year-old (who now has just graduated college) pulled the fire alarm (which was for some reason mounted at toddler height two feet above the floor) and the whole building was evacuated.

Mark: I have this mish-mash of multiple “all engineers on deck” meetings in Galois’ early years, with less than 20 of us; memories of Andy G. disagreeing with John Launchbury, of Andy A.M. admitting he “screwed up” (not much really), of consultant Gloria K. making pointed observations. I remember how it felt to me: privileged to be part of this (whatever may come), extreme honesty (we couldn’t afford not to be), and all of us knowing we were going to sink or swim together.

What advice do you have for incoming Galwegians or earlier in career engineers? 

Jef: Be intentional about finding a balance of humility and confidence. Everyone on the engineering team is exceptional at what they do, and one easy reaction to that is imposter syndrome, thinking you can’t possibly be as talented and skilled as everyone else. But we think you are, that’s why we hired you. But also, maybe your skills aren’t developed in all areas, and a successful career elsewhere (academic or otherwise) may not have fully prepared you for our unique environment. This isn’t necessarily about technical skills, it could be about working on teams, or taking initiative skillfully, or navigating the network of the Collaborative Web, or…

Mark: First, figure out what you most want out of life, then make choices daily that align with that. Second, learn the power of “low time preference,” i.e., is there something you can do today that will contribute to being better off tomorrow, next year, or 20 years from now? For your technical career, it could be expanding your areas of expertise or developing new skills. For you as a person, it could be developing healthier habits, keeping to a budget, becoming a better investor, building relationships, etc.