Chris Banaszek, Customer Service Manager for cPanel, Inc., started with the company almost 10 years ago, and he has seen the company through many changes. Through all of this, Chris has been a mainstay for our Partners and clients, lending a familiar face and voice to our users. Read how he got started and a small taste of what he’s seen – all in his own words.
As I approach my 10 year anniversary with cPanel Inc., I thought it would be fun to reflect on how I got my start with the company. I began with cPanel October 2, 2002, only the company was called DarkORB Communications Inc. (I have pay stubs to prove it)! We didn’t have a jobs site boasting all the awesome benefits, there was no new hire orientation, and brothers, Nick and Dave Koston, handled just about everything from development and support, to licensing and customer service.
My “interview” was basically a conversation about the job, followed by Nick extending a job offer (on a one week trial basis) – no pressure! The “office” was actually one of the rooms in Nick’s house, in Scranton, PA (and later, the 3rd floor of Nick’s house in White Haven, PA). Add to that, the locations in White Haven, PA, on Kirby (in Houston), and now, W. Alabama, and this marks the 5th location I have been at with cPanel (not counting all the floor moves within the current office).
After the first week was over, I remember feeling a bit out of my league, and since I was on a one week trial, I felt I wasn’t going to be qualified enough to stay on. If I remember correctly, I started to thank Nick for the opportunity to work for him and his response was totally not what I expected! He wanted me to stay on and continue taking care of things. I am extremely thankful he not only gave me the opportunity to work for him, but also gave me a chance to learn about the exciting web hosting industry.
By 2003, cPanel began to grow in size, and my role started to take shape. I started taking phone calls shortly thereafter (Nick purchased a cell phone, placed the number on the website and told me to answer it when it rang). It was definitely “learn-as-you-go” training. I had no idea what types of customers would be calling or what questions they would have, but it made for an interesting learning experience, and before too long, I was on a first-name basis with most of our Partners.
I eventually started processing orders and payments for One Time Licenses, which were, at the time, the only termed license package we offered. That same year, we added 1, 2 and 3 Year Licenses for dedicated servers, which allowed a lot more customers to buy. Initially, all orders were handled manually via manual emails, sending links for payments via credit card or PayPal and manual email reminders for renewals. It definitely makes me appreciate the automation (such as the cPanel Store, automated renewal reminders and better payment options/methods) we have added since then!
Another one of my new responsibilities was processing Partner NOC applications. The application and process was much different in those days. We had a very short application, prices were determined by volume, as well as level of support that was purchased and we ran credit reference checks!
The increase in Partner NOCs, license orders, tickets and phone calls allowed us to hire additional people. By this time, we had moved the office into Nick’s larger house. The bigger space was great, but traveling became a bit trickier in the winter. For those unfamiliar with White Haven, it’s a very small town surrounded by hilly, wooded areas. Nick always made sure I could get to work though, going so far as to have someone pick me up in one snowstorm. There were several times I just stayed at the office until the roads were cleared. It became evident to me that cPanel was a sincere, caring and unique company to work for.
A couple of years later, we moved the office to what has historically become referred to as the cPanel White Haven or Pennsylvania office. The White Haven office building was split up into two parts: The office for cPanel was on the upper floor, while the downstairs was to be turned into a restaurant (what became Forks Club & Bistro). Before it could become Forks, a lot of demo work needed to be done – which meant a lot of ongoing construction. With the way the building was designed, you heard and felt everything!
One wintery day, they decided to replace the steps leading up to our offices on the 2nd floor. We arrived to work with the old wooden steps still in place, and left with the steps having been removed. This meant having to leave work by way of a ladder that was left for us. Keep in mind, it was winter and icicles were hanging on the ladder, and I am terrified of heights. Thankfully, the new stairs were installed soon after, so the ladder was a very temporary solution.
The growth of the company, and access to a larger technology talent pool, is what brought cPanel to Houston, TX, back in 2005. We began hiring more and more people, from a small handful to about a dozen or so employees. That’s fast growth when you have such a small employee base. There was a lot of activity with the transition to Houston, the opening of Forks and the growth we were encountering. Around that time, I was going through a lot in my personal life as well, so most of that time is a big blur.
It was also around that time we brought Brenda Gehringer on board to help out, and she has been a tremendous help over the past 7+ years. In 2005, I attended my first HostingCon show, in Chicago. I wasn’t scheduled to go initially, as we were still a pretty small company and we needed to make sure operations were running smoothly. I remember getting a phone call from Nick, when he was in Chicago, asking if I could be on a flight that evening to make it out to Chicago that night. I had worked with all of our Partners, so many of them knew me by name and had been asking for me or wanted to talk to me about their accounts. That was quite an honor, and it was a great opportunity to meet our customers face-to-face.
I had never flown before, so the thought of flying solo my first time and having it be a last minute plan definitely freaked me out a bit. To make matters worse, Philadelphia had some pretty bad storms that night, so all flights were cancelled. Nick made me last minute hotel reservations, and by the time I arrived at the hotel, I only got about 2 hours of sleep. I eventually arrived near the end of the conference, but it was still a great experience for the short time I was there.
Between 2005 and 2008, business continued to grow and the company changed to keep pace. We attended more conferences, we started holding our own cPanel Conferences, we began offering a 1 Year VPS license package, our One Time License package was discontinued and there were several Partner NOC Agreement re-writes. All the while, we maintained a small remote staff in White Haven, PA., and the company continued to ramp up operations faster in Houston.
During those last few years in Pennsylvania, I began to feel a little reminiscent. The company continued growing and changing, yet our White Haven office remained small – similar to the “old days”. It was almost like there were 2 cPanel worlds, which made things challenging at times. The offer was always on the table to relocate to Houston, but at the time, I swore I wouldn’t move to Texas. Part of that was due to my misconceptions of Houston, and I didn’t want to live in a big city. But I think part of it had to do with my reluctancy to change.
But as I’ve learned, change is inevitable. I finally took the plunge to move down to Houston in September 2009. That was another crazy time in my life. I was about to purchase my first home in Pennsylvania (I ended up canceling on it just 10 days before closing). A few weeks later, I fell while playing tennis and broke my wrist pretty badly. I needed to have it surgically reassembled with plates and screws. I moved to Houston a few weeks after that – another blur!
When I came to Houston, I felt a bit out of place initially. It wasn’t due to anyone else. Everyone at cPanel was extremely friendly and accommodating. I think it was mainly due to the change in environment, both living and working. I was seeing/experiencing how everything operated in Houston for the first time, and it was a bit of an adjustment at first. It was also around that time that I began to question my role at cPanel. Mostly, I just wanted to reassure myself that I had made the right decision in relocating, plus having been with the company for 7 years, I wanted to see what growth possibilities there were and what direction the company was moving.
I eventually took over as the Customer Service Manager, late in 2009. This was around the same time the White Haven office closed. Over the past 3 years, there has been a tremendous amount of growth with the company, with the Customer Service department and with myself. As a department, we have gone from just three employees to six (and three more to come soon). We’ve also gone through some major restructuring, adding levels and redoing our department procedures from the ground up to improve levels of service and efficiency. We are always changing and looking for ways to improve here at cPanel.
Over the years, I have been a part of many exciting endeavors and changes with cPanel – early Enkompass product development and final release as a new product, office relocation to Houston, getting about 400 Partners to sign a new Partner NOC Agreement (which was a huge project for our department) and all the staffing changes and growth. It’s been a tremendous adventure.
Through all the change, some things have remained the same. cPanel is a company where employees can share ideas and be a part of a product and industry that is constantly changing and growing. Feedback is encouraged, everyone is amazing to work with and the benefits are truly top notch. Nick cares deeply for cPanel’s employees and customers, which has always been apparent. He (and by extension, other executives and managers) built a company that is great to work for and is filled with employees that have that same passion about what they do.
In closing, and if you made it this far without getting a glazed look, I applaud you, working for cPanel for 10 years has been an amazing experience. I don’t know what the future has in store, but I hope I can continue to be part of cPanel for many, many years to come. It’s been a ride of ups and downs, change and more change, but it has been rewarding in so many aspects. I never expected that I would be at cPanel this long, or that I would have gained as much knowledge and experience. And now that I have, it’s something I wouldn’t trade for anything. Here’s hoping I can write another article 10 years from now, so I can share more of my experiences and bore more people to tears!