2008: Year in Review

Editorial Update: Removed a couple of unnecessary stories from this post – they served no purpose and I decided I didn’t need them to get my point across.

Though it is past April 15th and I missed my “taxes” deadline for this post, I still wanted a chance to share some of the events from 2008.  It was another big year, so I’m sticking to the ordered/chronological list like last year.

  1. Continue working for Clearspring
    The job had me working day and night, with frenetic pace that only a startup can impose.  Back then I thought I was thriving in it – somehow having convinced myself that the “world” would end if I didn’t crank out whatever feature I was working on.  Unfortunately it was wreaking my health.  My weight has skyrocketed and I was eating badly.  I also developed a lesion on my face, around my chin.  More on that later.
  2. Shaily arrives on March 20th
    We waited for four long months after our marriage for Shaily’s visa to come through (it was 11 months after we filed for it).  In many ways our marriage didn’t really start until Shaily got here and we were living under one roof for the first time.
  3. Clearspring gets more funding (read more here and here)
    My life and my work are inextricably connected.  I somehow feel like “I” got more funding when Clearspring did.  Again, only the koolaid a startup can offer. My health is still in decline but I’m gung-ho about the company, my future, and our lives in Arlington VA.  When I am at work I am feeling guilty about not being at home with Shaily; when I am at home I feel guilty I am not working harder at work.  This is a recipe for disaster, I just didn’t know it then.
  4. Wedding Reception in Portland OR
    My parents throw us a wedding reception in Portland.  It was a great ceremony and we were so happy so many family members could attend. Took one week off from work (the maximum allowed at one time – yay startups) for the reception and for a really fun road trip down the west coast from Portland to LA with my cousins.  I had to leave from LA to get back to work, but Shaily got to enjoy LA, Las Vegas, and more.
  5. The Bit Flipped
    If you know me then you’ve probably heard of me talk about this moment before – it has happened to me before in other teams, at other jobs, in relationships.  It is the moment of clarity that has been brewing in your subconscious for weeks or months that finally comes to the conscious. The picture becomes clear. I no longer want to work for Clearspring.The new funding had raised my hopes for a chance at more equity in the company – especially considering what it was taking out of me.  For twelve Tuesdays in a row during the summer I was at work at 4am to deploy software.  For example, on my birthday, I worked from 4am to 9pm. It had become increasingly clear that more stock options were not being issued to anyone in light of the new funding.

    The work environment that once seemed electric seemed strained and unnecessary.  The constant “fire drill” of chasing after immature web 2.0 APIs with hopefully slightly less immature technology seemed like a cruel joke.  Though in my first professional leadership role I was struggling to find vision/direction/focus in the engineering organization.  I felt strongly that the executive engineering management was not providing  leadership to the organization and was not nurturing the growth of the team.

    Before finalizing my desire to leave I asked to be moved to a different team in engineering – to work on the advertising platform work Clearspring was doing.  I have a lot of respect for the lead of the advertising team and felt I could learn a lot by being on his team – both technically and from him.  My request was not granted with an explanation from my boss (the VP of engineering – not the one that hired me – Clearspring was on its 3rd VP of engineering during my tenure at this point) that my knowledge in my current team was too valuable to be lost.  I was done learning new things on the current team, tired of the work environment and the lack of leadership, and disappointed that no more stock options were going to be available. I decided it was time to leave.

  6. Clearspring Acquires AddThis (read more here and here)
    Another opportunity for Hooman and the Board to issue options comes and goes.  No options are issued.  My mind is already made up about leaving.  I ask to no longer lead a team and am quietly being a developer that works much closer to 50 hours a week instead of what I was doing earlier in the year.  This gives me the time I need to begin the job search and do phone interviews.  Shaily and I decide to relocate back to Seattle WA.  My parents had decided at the same time to spend more time in Portland OR so Shaily and I moving back to Seattle seems natural (moving back for me, moving for the first time for Shaily).
  7. Accepted a position at University of Washington
    To my pleasant surprise the university worked very quickly from cover letter to phone screen to phone interview.  I had already scheduled a trip to interview with other companies in the area and my team was able to work me into a spare day I had on that trip to interview me in person.  I accepted the day the offer was presented.  Since we had an open workspace in Clearspring where very few of us had office phones I had to walk out to my car to negotiate my offer. I wanted to make sure Shaily and I got a break between jobs (something I didn’t do between Microsoft and Clearspring) so I asked for a start date of December 1.  This gave Shaily and me the month of November to drive cross country.
  8. Road Trip Cross Country in November 2008
    I will write separately about the road trip – here I’ll just mention that it was memorable, enjoyable, and worth doing. We got to see: Philadelphia, New York, relatives in Zanesville OH, Kent State, UMich Ann Arbor, Chicago, Minneapolis (well really Mall of America), Bend SD, Mt Rushmore, got stuck in a snow storm and spent the night at a rest area in Chugwater WY, Park City UT, and finally Salt Lake City UT.
  9. Started work at University of Washington
    I’m a senior software systems engineer working on migrating a paper certification process to an electronic one (read more here and here).  This means retiring the mainframe that has been used since 1970s and building a new enterprise system.  The team is just finishing the first major milestone of the project – migrating folks off of the mainframe.  Part of an excited team that is nothing like the stereotypical professional staff team at a university.  Ramp up in ASP .NET development and designing the next major milestone of the project. Lots of learning, and 40 hour weeks. I am visibly more relaxed every day – Shaily notices immediately.

    As a note, Cleaspring had their first major layoffs in December (see here).  I was sad to hear this happened because many of the guys I worked with there were underutilized and overall I felt the team could have produced so much more under the right leadership.  I was glad to find out that many of the team members I knew who were laid off landed okay, some in situations far better for them than Clearspring.

  10. Relocated to Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle
    Shaily and I rented an apartment below our friends Brian and Miriam (and Cam) in Capitol Hill.  Brian and Miriam were scheduled to move to Hawaii in January so being right next door meant we got to hang out every day in December and until they left.  The snow storms in Seattle around Christmas were fun – everyone’s travel plans changed and we all spent Christmas together.  Brian and Cam made a turkey. (Shaily and I made ginger cookies from scratch.)  We all partied on New Years together, ringing in 2009 with fake confetti while watching fireworks and dancing till 3am on tunes spun by Cam.

The year brought several significant changes to my life. I changed jobs and moved cross country – AGAIN.  I started living with my wife.  I learned first hand what it was like to work at a startup.  The year ended with me in a very different mental place than when it started.  Maybe it’s maturing, maybe it’s living a married life, whatever it is I am glad it happened.

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