I’ve decided to leave DEG. After nearly 10 years with the company, I’m pursuing something else very exciting and challenging for me- which I’ll share details on soon. During my time at DEG, I’ve have been extremely fortunate to work with some of the most talented, smart, kind-hearted, and successful people I know. It’s amazing to think about the journey that happened from when I started as employee #11 to over 150 employees.
This is the email my former CEO and mentor Neal Sharma sent out to the company:
FROM: NEAL SHARMA
When they named us one of the “25 Companies Changing the World,” the primary reason Inc. Magazine cited was DEG’s entrepreneurial culture. We truly encourage our associates to innovate, solve problems, and pursue new business opportunities in an effort to sustain and continually improve a place that challenges us to be the best we can be and better than we could ever be alone. Being entrepreneurs within our walls every chance we can is foundational to who we are and in creating a fulfilling place to work.
And so, when one of our own looks to stoke their entrepreneurial spirit outside of our walls, we know of nothing else to do but to enthusiastically support it. This is case with Ramsey Mohsen (affectionately, @rm) who will be leaving DEG offices in a couple of weeks to lead Everhance, a rapidly growing set of digital properties, as their first CEO.
Ramsey has been a part of DEG from almost the very beginning, joining us in 2005 – when we were less than one-tenth our current size – after being recruited by Jeff Eden straight off of the KU campus. Jeff knew from the very beginning that we were talking to someone with a great potential and incredible positive energy.
Interestingly, Ramsey started in a sales position, which did not go as successfully as anyone had hoped. But one of Ramsey’s great qualities is persistence, and even as Jeff and I guided him toward other roles, he insisted on still trying to find a way to make his original sales position work. Ramsey is one of the first models of entrepreneurially finding a role at DEG where he could be consistently excellent and create value.
It was in these eventual other roles where Ramsey’s enthusiasm, intelligence, resourcefulness, and hard work really shone through. He took on the role of Strategist, Business Analyst, Project Manager, Coordinator, and Tester for a wide array of projects and clients – oftentimes handling very complex and difficult work. Along the way, he built lasting relationships with clients and DEGers alike with his affable nature, innate curiosity, native understanding of all things digital, and drive to continually go one step further.
At one point, Ramsey let us know that he planned on strapping a video camera on his head and “life-casting” his experiences, and asked if we would support it (we, of course, said yes with a few caveats on confidentiality/privacy). I remember one of the first times he life-casted was a company outing at a Kansas City T-Bones game, and we wondered if he was the only one broadcasting the minor league game at all. At that point, we could sense that everything in our rapidly changing industry was changing at an even faster rate than we could anticipate. And alas, Ramsey became an Internet pioneer of sorts, as one of the first life-casters in the world and featured on the seminal website, Justin.tv.
From that point, he went even further, video blogging a number of his unique experiences (including many fun DEG-sponsored galas) and invited his viewers to be a part of it all right along with him. Those video blogs, the entertainment blog he maintained for many years, his reviews of the latest technology on his personal blog and on local television, his speaking on personal branding and digital strategy, and most of all, his personal magnetism, endeared him to many around the country and brought exposure to DEG in ways we never expected.
As a true Kansas City booster, the recognition Ramsey has received over the years is well-earned. One of Kansas City’s Twenty in their Twenties and one of Kansas City’s Forty under Forty, a frequent feature in Ink and Kansas City Star newspapers, a TEDx Kansas City speaker, and the MC of Compute Midwest are just some of the honors he has garnered. You must also add to these his many civic contributions, including hosting one of the largest fundraisers for Operation Breakthrough (the largest single site early education childcare facility in the state of Missouri) that was once featured on the Travel Channel.
In short, the Ramsey we all know today took a lot of hard work and talent – always hustling, ever an entrepreneur. And we could not be more proud that he is a product of the DEG environment.
Ramsey pushed DEG to create a social media offering, and it was absolutely clear to all of us who should lead it, even at his remarkably young age. After many late night conversations, failed pitches, and a few stuttered starts, DEG’s social media team is now a critical part of our offering – producing some of the most creative work we do, winning some of our largest accounts (Hyatt and Lee Jeans, for example), generating seven figures in revenue, and still growing. This is a direct result of Ramsey’s leadership. He brings that ever-maturing leadership to our manager/director roundtables, as well, offering insightful perspective on issues the company as a whole is trying to solve.
More than anything, in all his contributions to DEG and beyond, Ramsey is a creative force. Before Ramsey, there was no social media discipline at DEG… he created it. Before Ramsey, there was no marketing department at DEG… he was our marketing. Before Ramsey, there was no “big creative idea” work at DEG… he found a way to make it happen. As we now professionally scale a lot of these functions in the organization, it is hard not see his fingerprints and entrepreneurial contributions all over things.
Ramsey is in DEG’s DNA. He is part of who we are today, who we were yesterday, and what we will be tomorrow. I sincerely hope he feels and keeps DEG as a part of him wherever he may go.
While our ideal preference is to continually find new challenges, opportunities, departments, business lines, and even new companies to ask our tenured staff to help out with, timing is everything. So I am buoyed by Ramsey’s pledge to me to not be a stranger, to come celebrate with us when we win, and to help provide consultation when we need to make some changes. So in a lot of respects, this is clearly a “see you later” moment and a sincere commitment to always find ways to work together again.
There is no replacement to Ramsey in our hearts or in our history. But we are looking regionally and nationally for someone to take over leadership of the growing social media team. Change is not usually easy, but it is the only constant in life. Through a thoughtful, deliberate approach, we feel like we can find someone to continue our success in the social media channel. During the transition time, however, please look out for the social media team members and the clients they serve. Offer them help and support in any way you can. Finally, please keep this information confidential. We are working with the account management team to notify clients in an organized and timely fashion, and this news should come from them.
Given his many abilities, Ramsey won’t need luck. But he will need the continuing support and encouragement from his DEG family. Please join me in giving him that, as well as thanking him for all he has contributed to what DEG is today and what it will be. The best is truly yet to come.
Let me know if you should have any questions or concerns.
This is the final email I wrote and sent to the entire company:
FROM: RAMSEY MOHSEN
Before my obsession for social media and all things digital, I was just a kid at Digital Evolution Group. A 22-year-old who just graduated that was inexperienced, naive, but ready to tackle the real world. That was May 25, 2005. Over 9-years ago. In many ways I started the journey of finding myself right here at DEG. There were good days. There were bad days. Days I wanted to celebrate. And days where I wanted to cry. I’ve made major mistakes here. I’ve seen success here. Through it all, DEG has been a place that mentored me through many phases of my life both professional and personal. And I even found the love of my life here, my amazing wife Ali. But above all that- the people here have shown me how to live a full life. Sometimes I feel like I’m a child of DEG. The passion from the partners and leadership here is overwhelming. It motivates me. It has taught me to give back to the ecosystem here and in our community. I am motivated to mentor others as many have done for me over the years. My connection with DEG is bigger than being a place I work- it is a life cultivator. I didn’t realize this 9 years ago. I do now.
It is bittersweet to leave this wonderful place I’ve called home for so long.
I came to DEG because first and foremost, I believed in the people. That hasn’t changed. I still do. I can remember during my job interview with Jeff Eden. I hadn’t even seen the office or met the rest of the team- yet my gut told me to accept the position. So I did. It’s something I never have regretted and I know I never will.
Back in years of 2005-07, when we could basically all fit in one room, any given day felt like the wild west. Phones rang constantly, we were all managing 15+ projects, every client was high maintenance, and all with varying types of work (web, ecomm, adobe flash maps, backend management systems, ASP, etc). We would launch websites at 2AM and go to the casino ‘for a break / to relax’ and then be back in the office at 10AM. There were no tiers of positions or management like strategists, coordinators, or specialists. Everyone was a Swiss Army knife. We did it all, but we did it together. I remember thinking in those first few years here, “This is really tough.” I missed countless events with friends, family, get togethers, KU basketball games, and fun nights out. But even then, I knew the sacrifice was worth it because I was a part of something larger that we were collectively creating. Napoleon Hill once said, “Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice and never the result of selfishness.” And while our company vision at the time didn’t have the clarity it has now- there was a feeling that was palpable that we were doing this the right way. The more time passed, the more it felt right.
When the days came that we realized opportunity existed with social media as a practice area, it was recognized by leadership that I was already doing the homework on my own time and taking the needed steps to tackle the development of this service offering. Neal and the team could have easily hired externally- someone more mature, experienced, and capable. But DEG has always been a company that tries to align passion and expertise. I am fortunate to have had the support and guidance developing what we have created. And I am proud of what we have achieved within the social media group. We will have contributed in total over $4 million in revenue by the end of this year, with no more than 5 employees (and many more than 5 people were integral in making this happen over the years). The things we have done gives me chills to think about. I’m honored to think of the clients and brands we have earned the right to work with over the years; Timberland, Hyatt, Hallmark, AMC, Bushnell, Lee Jeans, Reebok, and many others.
I believe having mentor(s) throughout your life is a vital asset to personal growth. Someone smarter than me taught me this at a young age. That you should seek out and have this type of guidance in all stages of your life. I can name throughout elementary school, middle, high school, and even college whom my mentor was. These are important people in my life who challenged me to keep striving and growing. After college I was fortunate enough that Neal Sharma was mine. There is so much admiration and trust I share with him. From the beginning he very much took an active interest in my development to succeed in both my personal life and professionally. Even through my inexperience, innocence and stubbornness, he was present and cared unconditionally. He showed me how to be open for criticism and carry yourself with humility. That you should actually seek the criticism, not the praise. He taught me praise feels good, but constructive criticism makes you a better person. Our best growth experiences are from things that make you feel bad, scared, and unsure of the unknown. And that once we have gone there, you will realize it wasn’t that bad (you’ll be stronger, smarter, and wiser). He put me right into uncomfortable situations well before my time- leading meetings, projects, and interacting with clients twice my age. I’m thankful for this. Above all, Neal has helped me develop an attitude of continuous learning. It’s a posture. A creed if you will. I myself will always be the one who decides how I spend my time, where I spend my time to stay inspired and healthy in life (with my mind, body, and spirit).
DEG is an amazing place. I love this company. This is an important time of transformation for DEG. I love the bigness and boldness of our most recent bets and ones to come. And even with 150 employees, the talent here still embraces the change so gracefully. I’ve always told people that DEG is building a different agency, a better agency. And the best days are ahead. Know that you a part of an amazing team. If I give you any advice, know that at DEG nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. And if you choose to accept the challenge, the ecosystem here will enable and empower you through all the ebbs and flows. You can accomplish and achieve your dreams here, if you go after it.
While I’m moving on and starting + leading another company, I will always cherish my time here at DEG. This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I know that what I’m signing up for will be a long process and to be honest – I’m a little scared. It has been said, “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.” (Jim Carrey). I’m intentionally choosing something unestablished and unconventional- but I know it will challenge me in new ways. My patience will be tested. But I get a thrill out of thinking what is next. I’m ready to accept the challenge. And I’m only prepared for this because of what I have learned here at DEG. Thank you all for everything. You’ll forever be in my heart. And I’ll forever be a part of DEG. This to me is just another chapter. An extension of this amazing journey. See you later.