You know that satisfying feeling you get when the moment arrives to put the last piece of a puzzle into place? That is exactly how Extract Labs felt when hiring Duncan Burke. Before Duncan, our website and digital presence were handled by an outside agency. The company made the decision to begin moving everything in house but feared we would be hard-pressed to find someone willing to wear many hats in supporting the growth of the business since many web folks seemed to have little diversity in their skillset.
Enter Duncan, a New Jersey transplant turned native Boulderite.
Duncan moved to Boulder in the late 90’s to pursue his dream of being a climbing bum. He spent most waking hours at the local climbing gym, and making a point of climbing just about every square inch of exposed rock under the sun. This was right around the time the internet was taking off, with websites and tech companies shooting to the top of the business world. Duncan saw the opportunity the industry held, and decided to take some web design courses at CU. He put his newfound skill set to work for a local outdoor retailer, finding it to be the perfect mix between his passion and a career with seemingly endless opportunity.
Duncan would eventually go on to work at local design agencies, like Vermilion, where his work on brands including Izze and Action Marketing won him a prestigious Webby award. When the opportunity arose to serve as Creative Director of a Denver start-up, he didn’t hesitate. This experience gave him a stronger sense of design, leadership, and business savvy.
Duncan’s next move looked to incorporate all these things as well as his technical background. He spent many years bouncing between side gigs and corporate contract work, yet the whole time he was growing tired of being pigeonholed to the narrow tasks that are common in his field of expertise.
Years of soul-searching and slowly building up a decent portfolio of work led me on the hunt for something more diverse than just churning out code. I interviewed at tech agencies, software companies, even looked into project management positions and entry-level writing gigs. I took corporate contract jobs to pay the bills, but felt life getting shorter and shorter with each 1.5hr long commute. Wanting to leverage my technical background, but also be useful in more diverse ways yielded very few opportunities. Nothing felt remotely right. So, when I saw the position for an inhouse web developer at a CBD company, my interest was piqued. I applied, and heard nothing back.
At the time, Extract Labs was in the midst of looking for someone to take over the website and help grow the ecommerce side of the business. While the first round was unsuccessful, Duncan’s persistence paid off in round 2.
One week later I went back to my old stand-by – Craigslist – the dark alley of job searches. To my surprise, there was the posting again! This time I wasn’t messing around. No mobile application. I sat down at the old laptop and took my time writing a convincing cover letter. To this day, my manager randomly quotes lines from that cover letter like, “…when I’m not busy maniacally applying CBD cream to my elbows….” We get some chuckles out of that, but clearly I made an impression that got me through the door to an interview. I guess it’s true what they say: always write a cover letter!
Perhaps the most ironic part of Duncan finding his way to Extract Labs is both he and the company were looking for the same thing while believing it didn’t exist. But somehow, each party found exactly what they were looking for. These days, you can find Duncan working away at his desk, bouncing between writing code and perfecting a graphic in photoshop, pausing only to lend his expertise to a coworker or chug a sparkling water. However it all lined up, Duncan’s personality, wit, and work ethic have had a major impact on both the business and the lives of the people around him. We are grateful to have him.
Q&A With Duncan
Q: What is your favorite Extract Labs product?
A: There are so many! I use the Muscle Cream every day, so we are very close at this point. My lower back feels weird if it’s not tingling from menthol. I like taking the lemon tinc in the evenings, and I’ve been enjoying a pull on my vape pen every now and then – GDP and / or Sour Ghost.
Q: Name a book that had a major impact on you.
A: Hmmmm… I mentioned I was an English major right? I’m gonna need to divide this into 3 stages of my life. I would say that modern poetry, particularly the poems of W.B. Yeats and Walt Whitman have had the greatest influence on me – intellectually and emotionally – during my college years and beyond. As an adolescent, I was deeply moved by the Prince of Tides, which was one of those epic stories that a movie could never come close to conveying. I didn’t read much as a child, but was mesmerized by the novels of C.S Lewis whose idea of writing was to present an alternative realm in which our imagination was enticed to explore beyond the gaze of the “watchful dragons” protecting the usual claims to authority. I mention this because I think of it now in terms of our own watchful dragons we’ve internalized as adults. That so long as we are unable to steal past them, are kept from discovering a realm of possibility beyond the familiar forms we’ve constructed.
Q: What’s the best thing you’ve ever watched on Netflix?
A: Well I can’t recall if it was on “Netflix,” but The Wire is probably my all-time favorite series. Obama’s too, for what it’s worth.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to start working in the hemp industry?
A: Read C.S. Lewis! Just kidding… Find a solid company that’s truly invested in their enterprise, and who values their hard-working employees. A lot of CBD companies are in it for the wrong reasons – because it looks hot right now – but they will most likely fizzle out amidst the over-saturation, and you don’t want to be a part of that. What’s great about this industry is the feeling of potential. Hemp has so much potential to change lives for the better, and there’s so much potential for companies to grow and adapt as the industry matures. If you feel it and your colleagues feel it and you find the support you need, you can truly make things happen.