Unicorns And Superpowers: Erich Nickens’ Pursuit Of The Impossible

By Sally Masten Aug 04, 2016

Erich Nickens, an Interactive Designer at N2 Publishing, is pursuing a unicorn. Over the past several years, he says, “We would catch a glimpse of it, but we couldn’t ever reach it before.” 

But now, that long-awaited unicorn is almost here.  It’s a brand-new platform that will “bring together the variety of systems our company used into one stable solution,” Nickens says. 

So what, exactly, allows a group of people not only to catch sight of but even capture such a unicorn? To realize a vision that once seemed improbable, if not impossible? A killer team, of course.  But in thinking about a spectacular team, one key factor can’t be overlooked:  Nickens’ own superpowers. 


Nickens is, after all, an inveterate comic book reader with an extensive knowledge of superheroes, and so it only makes sense that he would develop his own superpowers after 10 years at N2.  One of those superpowers is growth — not so much the Bruce Banner kind of growth, all green and Hulk-like, but more like a constant, steady acquisition of skills and education.

Nickens started working with N2 as an intern, while he finished his college degree. Over the past decade, N2 continued to present him with new challenges, encouraging his personal and professional growth.  In short, Nickens says, “I love tackling problems. And when people know you like a challenge, there’s a lot of opportunity to grow.’”  

In tackling those challenges, Nickens has expanded his repertoire of superpowers; he takes online courses in coding, and he stays in the loop with people in the technology department.  He explains, “I’m constantly trying to learn.  Technology changes so fast that it’s important that I keep myself educated. Often I meet with the development team to improve the relationship between the UI/UX and the architecture.’” 

That continual development led him to his latest position in the technology team, a shift from his previous role in the design team. “This has been one of the most exciting years for me at N2 with the change in roles,” he says.  And, of course, Nickens isn’t stopping here; this new position as Interactive Designer has set him on a path for new opportunities in the next decade, as well. 

Super Culture: 

Another key piece of Nickens’ success is N2’s culture — a culture that emphasizes family, teamwork, and each employee’s well-being.  “It sounds cheesy,” he says, “but N2 really is a family.  They aren’t just my coworkers.  I have friends here.

In other words, they’re a lot like his 3-year-old son’s favorite supergroup, The Avengers, though without all the ego.  As N2 emphasizes, there’s no room for brilliant jerks (looking at you, Tony Stark), but there’s lots of room for collaboration. 

That team-first attitude is true for both the home office and for their representatives nationwide.  And Nickens has experience on both sides.  When he worked remotely for several years — perhaps the reason he lists teleportation as the superpower he’d most like to have — he kept up with people throughout the company.  And when he returned to the home office, though it had grown exponentially, he explains that reintegrating wasn’t all that difficult because “the environment is so welcoming.”  

The welcoming climate even includes N2’s CEO, Duane Hixon, who comes to the office fist-bumping and smiling, and who is always on the lookout for ways to better his employees’ lives.  He is, as Nickens says, “just being Duane about it.” 

Hixon and N2 keep on building that environment, incorporating everything from in-house exercise classes (employees working on Batman abs) to social gatherings at a local brewery, as well as ensuring that everyone has lots of time to spend with their families at home.  For Nickens, that means great relationships with the people he works with, and it also means time to hang out with his wife and son, to run, surf, play video games, and, of course, expand his comic book collection.  

And just like those superheroes he’s been reading about for years, Nickens has found his powers at N2.  They have enabled him to make huge leaps in his career, to create previously unimaginable applications and platforms, and to help the company he grew up with bound confidently into the future.  

And just maybe, with the support of N2, he’ll be the first to figure out how to teleport to the home office. 

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