Most Thursday mornings, a few dozen software developers from Faithlife Corp. gather in front of a movie screen at Pickford Film Center to share their projects with colleagues.
Some colleagues are there in the theater, but a few are participating from a satellite office in Tempe, Ariz.
Masses of computer code fill the screen as the developers explain how they tracked down bugs and inefficiencies in their constant effort to make the company’s Bible-focused software products and internal operating systems run faster and better.
Among other things, Faithlife’s exhaustive Bible study aids make it possible to cross-reference each Greek or Hebrew word in ancient biblical texts, tracking down each occurrence of each word. At a recent Thursday session, one developer noted that the system was not catching the word for “tribe” when it occurred in the apocryphal book of Tobit, and he explained how he fixed the problem.
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Another developer showed how he improved the loading speed for the Every Day Bible app that provides daily Bible readings, study and worship aids on mobile devices. Still another staffer explained how he tuned up the online forms that company reps use to track sales.
Those sales have shown steady growth for many years.
Faithlife, formerly Logos Bible Software, has become one of Bellingham’s largest private employers since founder and CEO Bob Pritchett moved his staff of about 30 from Oak Harbor 12 years ago. Today, the company reports 419 employees in Bellingham, with another 30 in Tempe or in sales positions elsewhere around the country.
Besides platoons of people fluent in the 21st century language of software developers, Faithlife’s payroll includes experts in the languages of ancient biblical texts.
Faithlife bills itself as “The worldwide leader in electronic tools and resources for Bible study.”
Employees say the company fosters a culture that makes them feel appreciated.
“I really like the amount of trust the company puts in its employees,” says Dustin Masters, a 24-year-old development lead who oversees three other software developers.
Developer David Garrison says employees have constant opportunities to share their work with colleagues and get feedback, with the weekly Pickford sessions being just one example.
“Everyone is super-smart and super-easy to work with,” he says. “We have awesome people who get things done and take the initiative.”
Bradley Grainger, director of software development, is a 14-year veteran who moved from Oak Harbor when Faithlife was less than a tenth of its current size. He says the company can continue to grow. After focusing exclusively on aids to biblical study, Grainger says Faithlife is now using its vast resources in ancient languages to branch out into offerings for broader humanities research, including Latin and Greek literature.
“We had the content,” Granger says. “We had customers who were interested in it.”
But the focus remains on being the top resource for pastors and interested laypeople who want to study the Bible in depth.
“I was here when there were two of us in a basement,” Pritchett says. “In my mind, we’re still a scrappy little startup that has to work hard and succeed every day. There are new competitors emerging all the time.”
The company’s downtown location is part of creating a work environment that appeals to young software developers.
“We’re in downtown Bellingham because downtown is the place to be in Bellingham,” Pritchett says. “It’s sustainable, it’s responsible, it’s fun.”