A Look Back: 18 Years of Proving What Humanity is Capable Of
Kelly Manthey, CEO
For nearly two decades, Solstice has been on a mission to prove what humanity is capable of. Over the years, Solsties have done some remarkable work not only in the end-user’s world, but between one another and within the communities they call home.
There’s something great to be said about owning your past, in knowing where you’ve been, before taking the leap forward into what’s next. That’s what I did this month and in the spirit of a new decade, a new year, and some incredible work to come in 2020, I wanted to take a look back and share with you our Solstice history.
Founded by J Schwan, we joined the Chicago tech community as “Solstice Consulting”, a small business with a big vision: to change the way the world does business through emerging technology. .
A few years later, I joined in July and, coincidentally, also joined in Holy Matrimony a few months earlier that May with my husband, Paul. I have never forgotten either anniversary.
Apple launched the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter went global, Kindle and Android were released, and IBM created Watson.
We thought Google Glasses would be the next big thing. 😉
There was a LOT happening for tech, specifically in the mobile landscape. But at that time, few were thinking about enterprise mobility. And despite the fact that only 5% of our revenue was coming from mobile services, we redefined ourselves to stay ahead of the curve and focused the company around iOS and Android development We were a scrappy, entrepreneurial team that was ready to take on the big challenges Fortune 500s were facing in the mobile space. Many thought this was a risky bet, but we knew society was on the precipice of a new wave of human computer interaction. Welcome, Solstice Mobile!
2008 - 2012 –
I embarked on my next great adventure: becoming a mom. I had my first son, Jack, in 2008 and second son, PJ, in 2012 and life has never been the same since. I continue to be proud and grateful to work at a firm that allows me to balance career and motherhood with flexibility.
The Manthey Boys enjoy Solstie Life on Bring Your Kid to Work Day
Solstice quickly grew past the start up years, from just a handful of employees to over 100 Solsties sitting elbow to elbow across 3 floors in our office at 641 W Lake St. It didn’t take long for us to realize we needed to find ourselves a more permanent home. In November of 2013, we moved into a new 31,000 square foot office inside 111 N. Canal St, a tech-hub of downtown Chicago.
From 641 to 111 — these spaces bring back the best memories!
2014 was a year of expansion for the business. As demand for our mobile design and development work grew, we began to think about ways to better serve our clients needs across disciplines and regions. Ultimately, this led to the opening of our second and third office locations in Buenos Aires and New York City.
The culture of Buenos Aires is contagious and mirrors a lot of the forward-thinking environment that we had known personally. The people in Argentina are remarkable and brought new ways of working in strategic and inclusive ways.
Jennifer, from our New York office, visiting her Buenos Aires teammates, Fernando and Victor. 🙌
The vibrancy of New York was a no-brainer. Our clients not only needed our work, but our culture was welcomed into their ways of working. New York City offered the opportunity of a new market that hadn’t been explored by us as a firm. This team, since 2014, has hustled in a way that only a New Yorker would know how to do.
A look inside our New York office🗽
We launched new emerging tech service lines such as IoT and conversational UX, expanded our technical expertise into new verticals, and began evolving small mobile projects into large strategic digital programs. Because our clients could now tap into more value from us beyond our mobile expertise, we decided to drop the “Mobile” from our name, but held onto the heart and soul of “Solstice” to lead us towards the future of incredible opportunity.
The launch of "Solstice" with a trip to the beach. I was so surprised that we managed to all fit in one picture!
That same year, we were also acquired by Kin + Carta, a firm in the UK that brought with it the promises of a global network. At the time, we had not yet recognized the full potential of our joint network, but I personally, loved the opportunity we gained to learn from a large number of folks from different backgrounds and experiences across the globe.
Team members from the UK visiting our New York office.
A defining moment for our firm: Solstice integrates Slack. By making this transition, we were able to continue to foster the culture we know and love and more easily create new traditions with the team through better firm-wide collaboration.
The Awesomeness Award winner even gets their own office for the week. They're the only person to have an office!
One of my favorite moments of those days was when our “Awesomeness Award” began. What started as a too-large email chain recognizing great work soon became what we celebrate weekly here at Solstice — a weekly peer-nominated award that celebrates awesome work. With the Slack integration, we can see and react immediately to all of the awesomeness happening globally. This fundamentally has made an impact on how we have been able to connect with, grow, and continuously learn from one another.
We hit a milestone — 300 global Solsties.
In this year, we also began one of my favorite Slack channels that has connected us across the world, no matter where we are: #social-twinning. Almost weekly I get notifications from this group of over 200 Solsties, committed to capturing photos of ‘random acts of twinning’ (aka matching outfits) that happens across our offices, client locations, and work spaces.
The Solstice Fashion Police is always on the lookout for new twinning in our offices.
The beginning of what we call “the transformation era,” for both our clients and ourselves.
For our clients, cloud transformation quickly emerged as the forerunner of what many businesses need — an update to their antiquated backends to allow for automated and seamless workstreams. To ensure that we’re meeting our clients where they were at, we officially launched our cloud-native practice, grew our partnership with Pivotal, and stepped up our cloud training programs internally.
We also experienced a change with our team. As J accepted a leadership role with Kin + Carta, I was humbled to step into Solstice’s ultimate servant leader role as CEO. And in stride, Solstice officially became Solstice | Kin + Carta, signaling to the external world that we’re apart of a larger, global Connective.
A look inside our hallways in Chicago
Shortly thereafter, we experienced our second office move in Chicago, up 2 floors to occupy the entire 7th floor.
A big year for us — we’ve surpassed 500 Solsties across the globe, and reached over 100 in Buenos Aires. A few of our sister companies even moved into our office on the 7th floor. It’s been great to work alongside you in Chicago, Loop & AmazeRealise!
Buenos Aires's party to celebrate 100 Solsties!
In 2019, FleXP was created — a direct response to the needs of our employees. FleXP ensures that we are bringing the best of scrum and the best of XP into how we sell as a firm and how we show up to work alongside our clients. Like in our founding years, we’ve remained committed to both the future of technology and the well-being of our employees. These can complement one another and deliver amazing work.
Here we are looking forward to the next few decades — defining ourselves in a new way. Solsties are now joining our fellow Kin to become a dynamic, global ecosystem of over 1,600 technologists, strategists, and creatives, across four continents. Using specialisms to transform the world while remaining deeply connected, always courageous, and instinctively compassionate. We’re dropping the Solstice name for something bigger. Something better.
Our family will continue to grow, to adapt, to make a transformative impact upon the world around us. In my role as servant leader for the Kin + Carta Americas, I’m still committed to putting our people first and growing together, and I am so extremely excited to see what comes next. Cheers!