Written by Sean Valant
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
We had another blog post that we were planning on posting today, however late last night there was something in the air here at the HostGator Houston office. There was an undeniable rhythm permeating throughout the building. Deciding that we should seize the moment, we did the only reasonable thing that we could possibly do: we made a Harlem Shake video.
It’s worth noting that this was created very much in a “flash mob” style; there was no premeditation and no one in the video knew that they were going to be in any video when they arrived at work last night. All props were gathered from throughout the building and from employees’ cars out in the parking lot.
We sent out a broadcast via out internal IM system, stating a time and place and requesting the presence of anyone within the building who was available to participate. And this is what happened:
Written by Sean Valant
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Please see Part I, right here. As our story continues, I am now on the chat floor speaking primarily on the phone with Customers, though also taking random chats as well between calls. Starting to get into the swing of things, but still not completely at ease. I’ve managed to not break anything or anger anyone, so I figure I’m doing well enough. Many of our Customers are familiar with the email@example.com email address, which is directly read by Management and is intended for use any time anyone has any complaints or praise about anything at all related to their HostGator account or the related support they’ve received. Thus far, I have assisted a few Customers who took the time to email in to let my Supervisor know about the quality of my work. It’s always nice to have nice things said about you by strangers.
Having never provided technical support to the general public in any capacity before, those first few days were interesting and full of constant learning. I wanted to do the best I could and maintain HostGator’s stellar level of support, but at the same time I lacked the actual experience which is what ultimately leads to complete confidence. Time would solve this circumstance, but time takes time. I can honestly say that working on the chat floor was fast-paced and exciting and there was truly never a dull moment.
I decided to query some veteran Gators on their initial impressions from when they were brand new Hatchlings, fresh out of training. The consensus seems to be pretty similar to my own experience. Presenting, in alphabetical order, some initial impressions from my fellow Gators:
Cody (presently a Linux Admin): “When I first started as a Chat Tech, I was kind of overwhelmed by the huge amount of information, but very excited by the huge learning opportunity in front of me. I did all I could every day, studied the KnowledgeBase, and life got easier and easier each day.”
Dominic (presently a Sales Representative): “It felt like my first time swimming. I was scared, splashing around trying to quickly find answers to questions I just learned. As I was flailing wildly, I held on to whomever was there: Quality Assurance, Level 2 Chat Agents, Supervisors… whoever didn’t mind that I had a deathgrip on their arm”
Kristi (presently a Retention Specialist): “I was so nervous. Fortunately the resources, tools and overall assistance provided allowed me to quickly grow to where I became much more confident and comfortable working directly with the Customers.”
Russell (presently a Linux Admin): “I felt overwhelmed at first, but the more I worked with customers, the more knowledgeable I became and the easier and more enjoyable the job became to me.”
Zach (presently a Linux Admin): “It was like playing that lightening reaction game: each time you start a new chat it’s panic until the Customer describes the problem… and then you realize that yes, you can actually fix this.”
It seems that almost all of us start out with a certain degree of cold feet, but ultimately we have all risen to other positions within the company and made room for dozens and dozens of new Hatchlings that will follow in our paths. Speaking of new Hatchlings, this is a picture of our Austin Training room on the day this post was written. Behold, the future generation of HostGator, likely presently feeling that initial nervousness of which we’re speaking:
It should truly go without saying that most of our interactions with our Customers are overwhelmingly pleasant, but anyone providing front-line support will always have an interesting or unusual interaction. One of the Customers that sticks out for me was an individual who initially took a shine to me and began requesting me each time time they called. This particular Customer wound up calling up to discuss a myriad of topics, including their recent doctor appointments and on-going health issues. Another call was to request my assistance in repairing a hardware issue on their home computer. We have a very soft “scope of support” here at HostGator, but troubleshooting home PCs (or doctor appointment visits) is simply not a service we can really provide, with our apologies.
Before too long, I would be promoted to a position where I no longer actively accepted telephone calls, thus was the end of my interactions with that particular Customer… at least as of this writing, but one never knows. As for the position to which I was promoted, we will certainly come to that as we further speak on this topic.
Once again, if you have any questions at all about our front-line Agents, or anything at all that has been discussed up to this point, please leave your question in the comments section and I’ll be happy to elaborate.
Written by Sean Valant
Monday, December 24th, 2012
As the year comes to a close, not only should we all reflect upon the successes and any failures of the year in order to grow from the lessons contained in each, we should also set aside some time to simply celebrate. Celebration has manifested in multiple forms here at HostGator this year, and we’ve had a lot to celebrate. It had been a truly great year, full of very positive change and we’re all looking forward to what the new year will bring.
We had our annual holiday party recently, but before we get into those pictures I wanted to share with you the tree that was set up in one of our Houston buildings last week:
Every tree needs a topper; some sort of symbol or designation that sets the tone for the season and for the tree itself. Apparently for a HostGator tree, that symbol is Darth Malgus, of “Star Wars: The Old Republic” fame. It’s starting to look like this tree was decorated by, well, nerds. There’s the aforementioned jack-o-lantern again. Also, we see an Ethernet cable and a network switch; further supporting this nerd theory. And is that a telephone receiver? Let’s take a further look:
Yes, that is indeed a telephone receiver. We also now see a couple of HostGator lanyards. No tree would be complete without Snappy, but is that also a more realistic gator there on the left? Yes, it does appear so. Below, we’ll find a rubik’s cube and a keyboard:
And what nerdy tree would be complete without a couple of O’Reilly books underneath; always give the gift of learning:
Now that you’ve seen this amazing tree, we’ll move right along to the company party. The Houston party was held at Dave & Busters, a Texas-based restaurant and entertainment complex.
The series of pictures will best tell the tale of the company party; we ate, we drank, we played games. It went something like this:
It’s safe to say that a good time was had by all. We came together as a company to celebrate our successes and share some time together. Thank you, from the bottom of our collective heart, for allowing us to have such a great year and we look forward to serving you for many, many years to come. Have a safe and happy holiday and new year from all of your friends here at HostGator!
Written by Sean Valant
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
HostGator.com was registered on October 22nd, 2002; Ten years ago today. A lot has happened in that time, but we have remained true to the initial vision for the company throughout. It is with great pride and a strong sense of achievement that we acknowledge this anniversary.
Customer Service remains king here at HostGator. It is the foundation upon which the entire company has been built. We have had our growing pains, and learned the inherent lessons therein, but we have never wavered from that initial desire to provide outstanding Customer Service.
As we leave our single-digit years behind and walk confidently into our double-digits, we are stronger and more ready to take on the future than ever before. We thank every single one of you who have allowed us to serve you over the years, and we welcome everyone to continue walking with us on this amazing journey.
Do you follow us on Twitter and Facebook? If so, you could win free hosting or even one of our infamous and coveted plush Snappys! We will be doing random give-aways all day today in celebration of our anniversary. Like us on FaceBook and follow us on Twitter for your chance to win! In fact, leaving a comment on this very blog post could potentially be worthwhile as well, but be sure to use a valid email address.
And without further ado: Happy Birthday, Snappy!
Written by Sean Valant
Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
This year’s annual cPanel conference was held October 8-10 in Houston, Texas. Being that Houston is home base for HostGator, there were many Gators prowling about the conference. An excellent time was had by all, from the exhibitor floor and the myriad of speakers to the daily meals and nightly outings and events. You will be hard pressed to find a conference that can top cPanel’s; they do it right!
The festivities kicked off with a dueling piano show at local nightspot Howl at the Moon. Howl at the Moon is quite an experience on any given night, and the cPanel party was no exception. Songs and drinks flowed freely, the open bar may have had something to do with that, and the dueling pianists did an excellent job of taking requests from the crowd and otherwise playing hit after hit:
Keeping in mind that all of this happened before the doors had actually opened on the conference, one of the highlights of the evening would have to be the spontaneous on-stage “Gangnam Style” group dance. This pic simply doesn’t do the actual event justice, but shall nonetheless be shared here for posterity’s sake:
The first day of the actual conference found Snappy wandering around the exhibition floor and posing for pictures with conference revellers, including Bluehost founder / BetterLinux CEO / all-around ping pong champion Matt Heaton:
Matt actually had a standing offer at the BetterLinux booth; anyone who beat him at ping pong won a laptop. It can pretty much go without saying that no one was able to win that laptop. Here’s Matt taking on one of our very own Admin Supervisors:
Snappy somehow snuck away long enough to play some Guitar Hero in the conference arcade, conveniently located right next to the HostGator booth.
Speaking of the HostGator booth, here’s Brian and Joe holding down the fort:
Those white squares you see on the big Snappy there aren’t bandaids. They’re actually QR code stickers that were related to a convention activity. Have no fear, Snappy didn’t cut himself shaving or get into a fight with any other mascots or anything like that; he was simply participating in the festivities.
We had a great time meeting everyone, talking and handing out HostGator items like the adorable and somewhat infamous plushie Snappys as well as the smaller, squishy stress-ball Snappys. Regarding those stress-ball Snappys, we happened to come across a rather interesting one. Now, we aren’t trying to alarm anyone with talk of an impending zombie apocalypse, however we did find this one Snappy that was, well, slightly different than all the other Snappys:
As day one of the conference wound down, we all prepared for the second night out with our fellow conference attendees. The venue for night number two was a club called Roak. Once again an excellent time was had by all. Roak is an indoor-outdoor club; inside featured a live band, the Spazmatics:
The outdoor section of Roak has a swimming pool, which you can see there in the middle of the picture below. At one point, a couple of conference attendees did go ahead and take the plunge, actually jumping into the pool.
Towards the end of the night, quite a few folks found their way onto the stage, joining the band for their final encore:
The next morning found us back on the conference floor, bright and early. Snappy, being an ever-popular Gator, wound up hanging out at various other booths on day two. It seemed anywhere we went in the exhibit hall, there was a Snappy in view. Here’s Snappy at the BetterLinux booth:
And here’s Snappy sitting pretty at the ServerHub booth, who were our very kind neighbors for the duration of the conference:
Before it was all said and done, Snappy even found time to get in a game of ping pong. And no, he didn’t win the laptop:
As the conference began winding down, we couldn’t help but to reflect on the entire experience and what exactly it all meant. Yes, cPanel throws an excellent conference and we’re already looking forward to next year’s in New Orleans. Yes, Houston is a great party town with a vivid nightlife. Yes, our industry is exciting and any time we come together will undoubtedly be good times. But how exactly to sum all of that up? Well, I think this picture essentially does exactly that:
We simply cannot conclude this blog post without sending an enormous thank you in particular to cPanel, but also to every single person we interacted with at the conference. We hope you all had as good of time as we did. See you next year!
To see even more pictures from the conference and the nightly parties, check out our official Flickr photostream.
Written by Sean Valant
Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Please gather ’round as I tell a tale to rival the greatest tales ever told! Think of it as Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Flies mixed with Don Quixote with a hint of Robinson Crusoe and a splash of Gulliver’s Travels. Pretty much exactly like that, anyway. More or less.
Our story begins, not unlike The Canterbury Tales, with a job interview in early February of 2010. Was that The Canterbury Tales with the job interview thing? I forget. At any rate, I have a discussion about websites I had previously built, the related technologies, and how I might handle different interactions with different types of Customers… things of that nature. I pass the interview and am informed that I would begin training the following Monday.
So on that sunny Monday morning in February of 2010, I began my career at HostGator as a front-line Technical Support Representative; officially referred to as a ChatTech at the time. ChatTechs no longer exist, they have gone extinct and evolution has provided us with Jr. Admins to fill that role. Granted, this may just be semantics, but I was hired and spent my first seven months at HostGator as a ChatTech.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will state that I had virtually no real webhosting experience at that point; I’d never heard of cPanel, WHM or WordPress. I have now grown to become a huge fan of all three of these fantastic tools; a process which began on that fateful first day of training.
Training was very educational; it’s a ton of information in a relatively short amount of time and serves the dual purpose of ideally teaching you, if not everything you need to know then at least a solid foundation, while also conditioning you to most effectively find answers to the questions that you don’t know. As an aside, our training program is constantly being refined and improved upon and remains very dynamic in terms of staying abreast of the constant change that is fundamental to this industry. Our trainers are like highly skilled knowledge ninjas who judo chop knowledge into all those who would join their fellow Gators here in the swamp.
Or maybe they’re more like Jedis… though Jedis are kind of like just fancy, space ninjas. Please don’t barrage me with emails about how I misrepresented Jedis, I know how territorial you Star Wars fans can be. I digress.
I remember a distinct feeling of needing to absorb all this new information as quickly and thoroughly as possible. We are not only taught general troubleshooting for a myriad of technical issues, but also the ins and outs of HostGator policies, procedures and Terms of Service. Truth be told, I did a fair amount of studying over the weekend between the two full weeks of training. Ultimately I completed training and found myself on the chat floor taking real live calls and chats from real live Customers.
When next we speak on this subject, I’ll talk more about my early days at HostGator and some of the more interesting Customer interactions I had at the time. Also, the path I’ve followed since those early days and hopefully share a lot of what the actual experience of being a Gator is all about. Perhaps, along the way, I can talk some genuine brand new Hatchlings and some other veteran Gators into sharing their thoughts about their first few days as well.
I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments section about our Jr. Admins or the hiring/training process, really anything at all related to what we’ve addressed thus far. Also, if there is any aspect of HostGator that you would like for me to expound upon as I tell this tale throughout additional posts, please leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to oblige.
Written by Sean Valant
Monday, June 11th, 2012
HostGator is proud to have presented the 2012 Tour Du Rouge, benefiting the Gulf Coast chapters of The American Red Cross. The ride traversed five hundred and twenty-six miles, beginning in Houston on May 6th and ending in New Orleans on May 11th, at an average of 88 miles each day. HostGator designed the awesome jerseys visible in the images below, as well as t-shirts and lots of other event graphics. Allan, one of our Admins who participated in the ride this year, was kind enough to share some of his experiences with us.
The morning of the ride began with a performance of The Star-Spangled Banner, followed by a group prayer. After the ceremonies, a police escort (complete with horse-mounted officers) accompanied the riders from the starting point in Northeast Houston through to the first major freeway, about five miles away. Beaumont would be the destination for day one. Allan completed this 88 mile trek in just under 5 hours, despite some rough patches of road along the way. The image below is from the starting line, with Allan front and center, notice those stylish HostGator jerseys!
Day two would take the riders from Beaumont through Port Arthur and ultimately over the bridge, across the state border into Louisiana. The group stopped for lunch on Holly Beach before hitting the road again and enjoying the scenic Gulf Coast view; finally bedding down in the city of Sulpher, Louisiana. Allan would traverse these 93 miles once again in just under 5 hours.
Day three held the longest single stretch of the tour; just over 100 miles, from Sulphur to Abbeville. The day began around 6:30a, in order to get a head start of the inevitably blaring sun. Unfortunately, Allan experienced a flat tire around mile 3 on a particularly bad patch of road. This day would turn out to be his most difficult, as he also suffered a knee injury fairly early in the day. Things began to turn around during the lunch stop in Mermentau, though and Allan was able to finish the day strong. He made it to Abbeville in about 6 1/2 hours; 30 minutes before the pouring rain. The weather would prove to be more of an adversary as the tour continued, though.
Day four would deliver the riders into Morgan City, Louisiana. Breakfast at a local café that morning included an a capella performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by the café owner’s son. Later in the day, the riders paid a visit to Avery Island for a tour of the famous Tabasco factory and it’s attached store, which reportedly had some rarely-seen, but absolutely amazing Tabasco chipotle raspberry ice cream. Allan spent just over 4 hours on this 78 mile trek; by this point, the riders had now covered a total of over 360 miles.
Day five took the riders across the Mississippi River and into Gonzales, Louisiana. All told, this would be the least eventful day for the tour. The highlight was the lunch stop at St. Joseph Plantation that included some log cabin style, old-timey school houses. In hindsight, it would be the calm before the (quite literal) storm that would rain down upon the riders on the final leg of their journey.
The final day of the ride would prove to be a fitting end of a long journey. Destination: New Orleans, Louisiana! Following a slightly confusing (and last minute) re-routing of the riders’ path, Allan and the others would battle fierce wind and sudden downpours as the weather finally decided to let loose on the riders after many threats earlier in the week. Allan would cross the finish line having spent just over 4 1/2 hours on the final 84 miles of the tour.
With the ride now behind them, and the riders now in dry clothes (at least temporarily), the group gathered at the New Orleans Police Department for an escort into downtown ‘Nawlins. Despite the continuing wind and rain, the riders were warmly greeted by not only a cheering crowd, but also an impressive live band.
Clearly at this point, the only reasonable thing left to do was spend the evening on Bourbon Street in celebration of a ride well ridden. We’d like to share a picture from Bourbon Street, but to be honest, they’re all a little bit blurry for some reason or another… All told, Allan’s GPS reports a total of 532.7 miles covered, with a total ride time of 29hrs 43mins 30secs over the course of six days. The 2012 Tour du Rouge was now in the history books.
Our sincere appreciation to The American Red Cross and all those who took part in the 2012 Tour du Rouge, especially the riders themselves and our very own fearless Admin Allan who was kind enough to not only share his experience with us, but also the following pictures: