At Punch Through, we encourage everyone to proudly be themselves and want you to know the people behind the work that we’re so proud of. That’s why we launched our “Meet the Team” series, where we introduce you to one of our team members each month.
Meet Mike Waddick, President of Punch Through, who oversees pretty much everything that goes on within our four walls — or, as Mike would put it, his job is to “make everyone’s lives better.” In his free time, Mike enjoys mountain biking, traveling, traveling to mountain bike, and hanging with his girlfriend and dogs.
What were you doing before working at Punch Through?
I was pretty much the first hire at Punch Through. After graduating from the U of M, I ended up doing this internship, and the experience left me wanting to do something different. That led me to Punch Through. It was only a couple months into working for the company that Colin Karpfinger, Founder of Punch Through, made an interesting proposition: Come live his life for the summer while he was on a trip to Spain.
So, I moved to San Francisco for a few months to hold down the fort, so to speak. Upon Colin’s return, I went back to working for the company in a more traditional sense. In fact, I’ve worn almost every conceivable hat at the organization during my 12 or so years here. It’s been an incredible opportunity to learn different aspects of the business and grow with the company.
When Colin decided to explore other ventures and go on a learning sabbatical, he came to me with another proposition: Take over the company. Needless to say, I said yes. In the back of my mind, of course, I was thinking that I’d never led a company. It would require me to learn again. But it also allowed me to make my own journey and help shape Punch Through into a environment where people can explore, learn, grow, and succeed.
What is your favorite thing about Punch Through culture?
While a lot of pieces about Punch Through culture really resonate with me, I think the one thing that stands out is the idea of self-identity. One of our values is to proudly be yourself. I know for me I wasn’t always comfortable just being myself in a professional setting. At many companies, they’ve established an environment where employees feel the need to put on that “metaphoric suit” when they walk through the doors.
When I first became president of Punch Through, it was entirely new to me. So, I started asking advice from leaders at other organizations. They’d advise me how to handle different scenarios. And while their suggestions might’ve been good, I kept finding myself failing — which now, in hindsight, was probably a good thing.
It forced me to take a step back and reflect on what it could mean if we, as an organization, threw out all those traditional rules around how people act in the workplace. You don’t need to be a different person at work than you are at home. I know that I’m really good at being me. It’s something I’ve had a lot of practice at, and the same holds true with others. If people can just be themselves, they’re often happier and able to get further in life.
It’s amazing watching people who have years of experience come to the realization that you don’t have to act a certain way just because that’s how you’re supposed to act. Who told you that? You can just be yourself. You can be vulnerable, and that vulnerability can help you start establishing a new level of trust with colleagues, clients, whoever.
Self-identifying is probably my favorite thing about the culture at Punch Through, not only to witness it here but see people carry that idea forward with them.
Tell me a story about your most memorable moment while working at Punch Through
My most memorable moment has to do with at least part of my self-discovery about what was important to me and involves “finding my why.” What is my why? My why, personally, is to help others have that a-ha moment. A lot of that goes back to my love of teaching people and seeing them realize how things come together.
It also ties back to me genuinely wanting people to be successful in life and that I somehow contributed to their success. I don’t need accolades or anything, but I’d like to have some level of impact in that journey. When someone I’ve worked with retires, I’d love to hear them say, “Mike, thank you for what you’ve done for my career.” Actually, it doesn’t need to be me. It could be Punch Through.
I haven’t had that moment yet, but I’ve come close. I was invited to the wedding of someone who’d worked at Punch Through for about four years. He joined the team right out of college and went through Punch Through’s journey of discovering itself. In his speech, he thanked me for the impact I’d had in his life. That moment went on my list of stories (I keep a running list of stories, by the way) that I want to remember when I retire, and I want more of those stories.
That’s my why. My why is to help others be successful, and coming to that realization is the most memorable moment while working at this organization.
What cool or rewarding things do you get to do on a regular basis?
I believe it’s important, in a workplace, to be part of someone’s life but not their whole life. That’s what we try to achieve. We try to work into our employees’ lives and support people holistically. If you’re a company that’s doing well, you have a lot of resources at your disposal. If you think about $100 or even $500, it’s not a lot of money for a multimillion-dollar company.
What that money can translate into is a lot of “buying power” to make people’s lives better. And I love to use our buying power to do just that, and we’ve developed procedures around this idea. For example, every year around someone’s anniversary, the manager gets a budget of anywhere from $500 to $5,000+ (depending on how long the person has been at Punch Through) to do something amazing.
We sit down to brainstorm a menu of five things — all geared to the individual — and ask them to pick one. Each one is an experience of sorts. They can’t have a monetary value that’s clear, like a $500 gift card. If someone is all about Legos, you can choose a gift basket of like seven Lego sets that you’d never buy yourself. It’s all about finding things to do for people that they’d never do for themselves. That is one of the many rewarding things I get to do on a regular basis.
Stuff like that is worth every penny.
What is the most valuable part of your work to you on a personal level?
On a personal level, the most valuable part of my work is seeing people succeed. I know that harkens back to what I’ve said before, but it doesn’t just relate to their success here at Punch Through but beyond. I don’t fool myself into believing that an employee’s journey begins and ends within this organization. This company will be a blip in someone’s life. Not that we don’t want people to stay, but they will inevitably quit someday.
If you were to think about someone’s career, it only stands to reason that a time will come when a company can no longer support an individual’s growth. What we want is to be part of that journey. We want to encourage and celebrate people making the most of their lives and careers. We also want people to spread our vision and mission to other companies.
We had an employee who moved across the country for another job, and our values resonated so much with her that she brought that into that organization. We were happy to be a blip in her career and see not only her succeed but bring our vision for what “work” could be to an entirely different team of people.
What is different about Punch Through versus other places you have worked?
I don’t think I’ve gone to a lot of workplaces where people feel the freedom to be themselves. That’s what is different about Punch Through. People shouldn’t be afraid that they might say the wrong thing — within reason, of course. You can show up to work as the exact same person who rolled out of bed that day. We care about the people who work for this organization.
We’re all on this boat together, and what we do as a company is what I’d ultimately like to see in this world. Almost every product we work on helps people, so shouldn’t our organization help the people who are helping others?
As much as I don’t want to fall back on cliches, but I don’t remember a time of having a case of the Mondays while working here. That’s what I want for everyone who works at Punch Through. Making sure every person feels like they can bring their true self to work is what I think makes our company different.
Interested in Joining Our Team?
To meet more of the Punch Through Team, read these interviews:
Meet the Team – Karel Kalthoff – Firmware/Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Louis Barrett – Engineering Intern, Summer 2019
Meet the Team – Erin Moore – Hiring Coordinator and Office Manager
Meet the Team – Alec Letourneau – Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Andy Lee – Senior Embedded Engineer
Meet the Team – Amanda Nguyen – Embedded Engineer
Meet the Team – Gretchen Walker – Mobile Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Charlie Kellerman – Hardware Engineer
Meet the Team – Chee Yi Ong – Senior Mobile Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Henry Anfang – Embedded Engineer
Meet the Team – Ryan Kornetzke – Embedded Engineer
Meet the Team – Julian Hays – Mobile Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Tyler Cadman – Senior Embedded Engineer
Meet the Team – Bret Hassler – Principal Firmware Engineer
Meet the Team – Emily Hinderaker – Marketing Specialist
Meet the Team – Ashish Derhgawen – Mobile Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Elaine Skaare – Project Manager
Meet the Team – Tia Hannes – Associate Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Matt Dunham – Principal Systems & RF/Hardware Engineer
Meet the Team – Matt Kruger – Senior Embedded Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Tyler Grunenwald – Firmware/Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Alex Bourdage – Associate Software Engineer
Meet the Team – Tina Hanly – Admin Assistant
Meet the Team – Matt Rengo – Executive Vice President
About the Blog Series…
Great culture builds great products. Some of the ways culture is expressed at Punch Through are through authenticity, autonomy, and experience. The individuals at Punch Through not only build great products, but they are the culture. The individual team members aren’t defined by their past or title. They’re encouraged to be true to themselves, learn from each other, and grow professionally and personally.
It’s essential to get to know the people behind the projects and to understand how culture plays a vital role in everything we do. To help get inside the heads of the genius behind the brand, we’re launching a “Meet the Team” blog post series. Each post will feature one of our talented team members where you can get to know them on a bit more personal level, and see how their contributions make Punch Through what it is today.