Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's not you, it's me

A conversation from this weekend:

"So how's the new job going?"
"Great, Wednesday's my last day."

There is no sarcasm there. It has been great. And today is my last day.

Wait a minute... Didn't I just start here? I sure did. And it's good here. Pretty much everything I said 3 months ago is true. This is a sharp group of people. They're providing a valuable service that's going to make them a lot of money. It's just not quite the thing for me.

I can't point to any one thing. Nor can I say there's anything bad. I can't even say it's been a mistake, even if I am hitting undo. I've learned too much and gotten to know some really good people. Nevertheless, it's out the door with me. It comes down to a few different factors. Some of it's stuff I should have known from the beginning, but I failed to ask the right questions. Some of it was discovering what was right for me in a way I could only have done by experiencing something that wasn't quite there.

It's too webby. I wrote my first web application in 1998. That's 10 years. I've done a lot of web stuff since then. I'd like to think I've gotten pretty good. I've also gotten a little bored of it. When I talked to HomeAway, we talked about working on the "back end." I interviewed with a developer who worked on their search infrastructure. What I did not realize until later was that "back end" meant something different to them, and that developer wasn't on the team I would be on. I came here to work on those interesting things and with this team. It turns out I couldn't have both at the same time.

I have to think about a career, not just a job. I've learned a lot of useful things in the last 3 months. I don't think I would learn nearly as many things if I stayed another year. It's too much like what I've already done. It's not just about boredom, because I was engaged even if a lot of it was old hat. A job isn't just a job anymore. It's an investment in a career. HomeAway didn't offer many opportunities for me to develop my soft and hard skills in any fundamentally new and valuable ways. I would get better at what I already knew, but that's all.

There's also the related issue of seniority. I got "senior" added to my title when I started here. Problem is most people here have "senior" in their title. That's not title inflation; it's just that most people here are experienced. I've been the youngest (though not necessarily least-experienced) person on just about every development team I've been on. I'd like to think that reflects well on me, especially since people usually over-estimate my age (I'm 23). That doesn't offer me so many opportunities to take a leadership role (leadership != management). I have no idea whether I'd be any good at that. But I want the opportunity to be there, and it just isn't there at HomeAway.

It's too far. I had a job in South Austin 4 years ago. It wasn't a problem. Jessica used to live way down south, too. That wasn't a problem either. That was then. I don't choose my own schedule anymore. Uma and Kieran decide that. Now I have to care about rush hour, and boy, it sucks.

It's also tough for me to be a backup if it takes me 40 minutes to get home. Things happen with small children. Sometimes the only appointment you can get with the doctor is in the middle of the day. So I have to drive all the way back up north, go to the doctor, and then go all the way back down south. Things like getting the car fixed become a major hassle. It's wearing. I have no flexibility. If I leave work at 3:55, I can get home smoothly. At 4:05, MoPac is a parking lot.

Working from home could help with all of this, in theory, but with our house and the kids the age they are, there's just no realistic way I can work from home on a regular basis. I need to get away to be effective. Just not that far away. And it would only get worse, because we're likely to move further north* in the next year or two.

* Two words: school district.

It's too far along. HomeAway is well on its way. They raised $250 million in new capital last month. Think about that number. In the worst environment for any kind of finance in decades, this company raised the biggest round of venture capital in 9 years. The amount of money they got is bigger than the market capitalization of many successful companies. It's 10 times what would be considered a healthy third round for a 4-year old company. That just goes to show that they've pushed the big ball up the hill, and now it's rolling down. And I had nothing to do with it.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of work here. It's a different sort, though. They've already done most of the hard stuff. They're extending, not building. They've achieved a level of maturity that's pleasing and inspiring; they're a smooth running machine that's inspiring to see. I've discovered that it's not enough to have that; I have to have helped to get it there. If I'd started here two years ago, or even one year ago, I'd feel differently. At the stage where the company is now, I just don't think I'd be able to achieve the level of personal investment that I want in my job.

There are worse problems to have. I could easily live with all of these flaws, because the overall package is still pretty compelling. The team is great, and the agile process they follow is effective and satisfying. I'm certainly going to miss my MacBook Pro. If I didn't have a compelling alternative, I would have been quite content to remain. It turns out I have something of an embarrassment of riches. I went back to "Iota," to see if there was still a place for me. It turns out they filled the spot I talked to them about, but they opened up an even better one. So that's what I'm doing.

Now my job will be helping you find a job. And I don't refer (just) to my ongoing series of irregular posts on the subject. One Search. All jobs. Starting December 1. It's a smaller company at an earlier stage of their evolution. They have some sophisticated problems to solve. They're still building the core. They want to make their development environment more mature. They have a less experienced team where my diversity of experience may prove valuable. And they're only 3.5 miles from home. I could even bike it.

And I'm definitely not staying in a hotel on my next trip.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It took me 90 minutes to get home yesterday. At 4 pm. Not even rush hour. My life is wasted on I-45.

- seema

December 12, 2008 at 12:20 PM  

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