This is me, last year, just after moving in to my new apartment. Yup, I painted the wall .. then dressed in contrasting colors and posed for the camera holding a book a friend gave me. I was doing my best ‘yes, your book indeed enlightened me! thank you!’ impression for the camera.
I wish my place was still that clean! Almost makes me want to get storage for some of my furniture. That was only ½ the couch for example. There I go showing off the new editor again It does autocorrect for things like 1st 2nd ½ etc and other gems. Notice the new Smiley Set?
Anyway, yeah, I moved back to the SF Bay Area last year. I live in Mountain View, CA, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley. This is on the peninsula, a bit more than halfway between SF and San Jose. I’m walking distance to Google, NASA Moffett Air Base, and lots of startups & tech companies like Mozilla (Firefox), 23andMe (the DNA company), LinkedIn and others. Google is buying up more and more nearby offices though, and the employees are driving up rent like crazy. A two-bedroom was $1650 when I moved to Mountain View; now I’m paying $2400 for a one-bedroom apartment with kind of thin walls.
It is expensive to live here, but worth it for the kind of tech-oriented life I life. Other areas just don’t “get” tech the same way. The lessons I’ve learned here could potentially help revive MindSay, for what that is worth. Like the passion around metrics and the new chart in the MindSay footer.
It has been a crazy adventure to get here. I’m going to write in multiple posts to get out the story of where I’ve been. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” and I think he was right. Writing is powerful, and can help us make sense of our past, the way one smooths out the wrinkles when pulling a sheet tight on a newly made bed. Maybe not as elegant as Socrates, but you get the idea. Writing heals. Writing is powerful.
Part 1 – Working For The Man
After college (University of Maryland, where I met Adam), around 2004, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend about 6 weeks at home – working on nothing but MindSay – before I had to look for an actual job, you know, for income and such. I got hired at an enterprise software company in Virginia, which brought some stability. The job was very demanding and didn’t leave much time for MindSay, but paid well. I ended up buying a house (end unit of row home) with Jen, and we lived happily together with three cats and a back yard with BBQ grill (used frequently). We made good friends with a work buddy of mine and his wife and played a lot of drinking games together. At work, we made interfaces (UI) for Business Process Management software. It was a weird world. I worked on the 20th floor of a 21 story building, I wore a suit and tie every day, and there often was a harpist or pianist in the lobby (they rotated). At first it was great, we made some really interesting, complex software. Every year they would take the entire 300-person company on a 7-day long cruise, typical destinations around the Caribbean. I was the PM for the “Rapid Response Team”, and would meet with reps from Homeland Security, Army, and more. But eventually they had me onto projects (Sarbanes Oxley compliance) that abruptly killed my interest in the company.
But I made a huge mistake. When I decided I wanted to leave this company in 2006 – but before I had lined up new work – I told the company what I was thinking. You see, I chatted with one of the company’s founders a month or two earlier where he informed me he knew the plans of several other employees (he mentioned by name) and when they were leaving. The founder gave me the impression it was normal practice for employees to tell management these things (at this company, at least). I trusted that, and got laid off within a week or two after that! Never trust an employer – ever. But I was young and had to learn the hard way. It was a panicky kind of situation since we now had sizable mortgage bills and most all of our cash was invested into the house in the first place. So on paper we were looking good... but it meant we couldn’t just scrape by anymore, and needed real $ coming in the door for the mortgage.
I ended up finding work .. in California.
I joined a small, sexy startup just south of San Fransisco. I was their first full-time employee, in fact. The company was PBwiki, and we made wiki’s “as easy to make as a peanut butter jelly sandwich”. The site was massively popular and I learned quite a lot. I also learned what a Taco Truck was and how they are a gift from the gods. Sick of the corporate life, I threw my suits out and dyed my hair blue.
Jen and I moved into a 2 bedroom apartment, and sold our home back out East. It was a major change going from a nice spacious home with a backyard to a smaller home in the more expensive SF Bay Area with no air conditioning, none of our friends, etc. But we made it work. Back in Virginia, we didn’t have good job options, all our money was tied up in the house, and we didn’t exactly fit in the conservative culture out there.
Jen joined Google, which happened pretty quickly after we moved to California. She aced the interviews and quickly moved up the ranks, too.
Then, my buddy from work and his wife moved out to the area! A few months prior, a Google recruiter called me up as they sometimes do. I told them I wasn’t looking for work, but I suggested my work buddy instead. They interviewed and hired him. So Google relocated him and his wife, so we got to hang out with our old friends once again.
I stayed with the company I was at for four years. I ended up running and managing the engineering department, around eight people. I developed an impressive software release cycle, we deployed a new version of the software to the site twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday. We named each release after a type of cheese. We made good software, but low and behold, this sexy Valley startup got into enterprise business sales after all that! I like making software end users like – not software that some corporate drone buys and forces his entire staff to use. Simple as that. So I left.
But in the meantime, I had started something else interesting. To be continued.