50 Most Admired Companies of the Year 2016

Nerds at Work, Orchestrating Digital Transformation for Businesses: The Nerdery


“Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” – Bill Gates

Being nerdy takes on new meaning as more and more nerds change the world. A nerd is more than an intellectual; nerds are propelling innovation, driving change and changing the world. To imagine the brainpower of 500 nerds, look no further than The Nerdery, a custom software design and development company headquartered in Minneapolis. “When I joined this company more than a decade ago as a software engineer, it was because our founders were more interested in creating great software than making money,” said Tom O’Neill, CEO of The Nerdery. “It was about the craft, and seeing the impact of our work in making a difference for our clients.” The Nerdery empowers its people to work beyond their comfort zones, grow their careers and – in turn – contribute to the company’s growth. It’s been a win-win situation for The Nerdery and their Nerds, and brought success to Nerdery clients.

“Our vision is to be the best place in the world for Nerds to work – and the three key words there are nerds; world; work,” said O’Neill. “Nerds: Our vision statement wouldn’t be complete without explaining what it is to be a nerd. Nerds are people who are passionate. About anything. Whether it’s data science or science fiction, or just about using tech to solve problems. Nerds are driven by what they care about. World: We’ve expanded to Kansas City, Chicago and Phoenix and something special is happening in all those cities. We’ve taken this seed of an idea of focusing on a culture that is all about creating huge value for our customers and feeling the gratification of that success and positioning nerds to be empowered to do that. These teams are engaged and spreading that vision. I believe we can take that all across the world. Work: Our work is all about making a difference for our clients. We’re all about outcomes and solving big problems. When these nerds go home and talk to their spouse or partner about what they do, they’re not talking about zeros and ones in code, they’re talking about the impact they made for our customers, and how they’ve made people’s lives better.”

 A brief history of The Nerdery: The path so far
The Nerdery began in 2003, with its primary business as integrating legacy computer systems with the web. In response to customer needs, it broadened its capabilities and began helping ad agencies implement their creative digital campaigns. Customers began seeking out The Nerdery to solve complex business problems through technology, and the company broadened its focus to encompass user experience (UX) design, quality assurance engineering and software project management. The team expanded its capacity to include skills in digital strategy, interaction design and visual design, during which The Nerdery worked to provide user research in an array of different industries and the company’s UX designers learned to work closely with its developers to create unified, human-centered systems.

Digital orchestrators
Business leaders are realizing that tech is not just a necessary evil, but a catalyst to change their company or even disrupt their industry. Today, every company is a tech company – or needs to become a tech company to keep pace with their competitors and give their customers the customer experience they expect. “As our clients’ challenges become more complex and they become more empowered by technology, they need a strategic partner who can orchestrate digital product development, design innovation, business consulting and systems-integrator skills,” said O’Neill. “We’ve earned a seat at the table to design and develop strategic technology initiatives with enterprise-level customers who count on our strategic leadership role as digital orchestrators.”

 Service offerings and target areas
The Nerdery applies technical consulting, user experience design, analytics, software product development, project management and quality assurance to its core services of mobile and web applications, websites, systems integration and digital consulting. Its industry breadth is wide and varied, spanning entrepreneurial ventures to Fortune 500 companies, and beyond – but their expertise is strong in verticals like health care, manufacturing, retail and services industries.

Positive impact on community
Through The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge, volunteers in communities where Nerds live and work have donated more than $6 million in professional services to 175 nonprofits. At the company’s signature community-service event, web pros help nonprofits create custom software solutions they couldn’t otherwise afford, all pro bono. To advance The Nerdery’s philanthropic work and community impact, Nerds created the Nerdery Foundation, whose mission is to activate the passion and skills of technologists to better our world.

Meet the Key Executive

Tom O’Neill, CEO – Tom joined Nerdery as a software engineer in 2004 and soon became the cultural leader at the custom software design and development company. He launched The Nerdery’s Chicago branch as VP of Development and returned to Minneapolis as COO. In 2013 Tom succeeded the late Luke Bucklin to become The Nerdery’s President. He took over the role of CEO from co-founder Mike Derheim in 2016. Tom leads a team of 500 software engineers, UX designers, QA engineers and other nerds whose purpose is to redefine what’s possible through technology; he personifies The Nerdery’s belief that passionate nerds are the driving force behind business breakthroughs. Tom is a perennial volunteer for The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge, a 24-hour event where web pros donate their time and talent to help nonprofit organizations.

“Our work is all about making a difference for our clients. We’re all about outcomes and solving big problems.”