Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Onwards! Upwards!

I'm doing some thinking about my future.  So this post is about me, my desires, my fears, my conceit.

Thinking Out Loud

Knowledge is power.  Now that my employer is being acquired some quantities have been fitted to previous unknowns: I have more knowledge.  This gives me more power.

Where to go from here?

Running the Numbers

Now I know exactly the (cash) value of retaining my current position and can compare it against that of pursuing other opportunities at any given point in time.  Clearly this analysis neglects the intangibles: professional growth, loyalty, potential.

About those intangibles.  I value and respect my coworkers.  I value my role as a lead.  I value the resources I have to work with.  I value my freedom in choosing compelling projects.  I value the cooperation.  I value the teaching opportunities.

But unfortunately I have little faith that my current trajectory will lead me to achieve my long-term goals.

Who am I?

I'm a software developer, a teacher, a friend.  An entrepreneur?  A leader?

I marketed and sold my first serious application program when I was 13, Term 80.  Sure, it's a bit laughable now (only 20,000 lines of assembly with lots of rough spots) but it's hard to ignore all of the supportive letters that I received from people who sent me $15 for each copy.  It's also hard to ignore all of the enthusiasts who still apparently use it!  It's 15 years old for pete's sake!

That means a lot to me!  I built something people wanted.

It's also hard to ignore the fact that I seem to be able to motivate others to achieve their best.  Passion is infectious.  I don't hog center stage: I showcase the excellent work of my peers.  I teach and I learn.  I learn and I teach.  Mentoring is one of my favorite activities.  (And I married a teacher.)

But I've been off doing these things on the side.  I haven't participated much in the wider community.  Why didn't I go to DevTeach?  I certainly wanted to.  I did go to ALT.Net in Texas and had a thoroughly mind-blowing experience.

Meanwhile I'm working with some really smart people on Gallio and MbUnit trying to build a diverse and inclusive community of toolsmiths, testers, and the people who love and work with them.

Returning the Favors

When it comes down to it, I'm a very social guy.  I think I can do a lot of good with others and for others.  I believe I do this everyday on a small scale.  But I want a bigger force multiplier to work with.  I want to positively impact the lives of as many people as I can.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to those who have supported me, challenged me, disciplined me, and led me on to greater heights.  I feel the best way to repay it is to pass it along.  How do you create leaders?  I don't know, but I keep trying.


I'm drawn to entrepreneurship.

My father runs his own business.  One of my uncles runs his own business.  Several of my friends and peers run their own business.  And I've always wanted to run my own business too.  I certainly have no shortage of ideas.  I've given plenty of them away and I've even marketed a few...

When it comes down to it, starting a business does not seem all that difficult.  Choose your partners, set an initial heading, start moving in that direction, get funding, build a product, see what sticks.  Work hard, be persistent, and see what happens.  Worst case?  You fail and try again.

That's really no different from how I developed my current competence in software development.  I spent my whole childhood on it.  My intuition as an architect came from building systems end-to-end out of diverse parts.  My persistence came from repeated failure and eventual success.

It's not about getting rich.  It's about acquiring the resources to invest in my dreams.  It's about attracting talent.  It's about bringing out the best in myself and in others around me.  And it's about doing damn cool things!

Long-Term Goals

Here they are:

  • 6 months: Get out into the world.  Teach.  Lead.
  • 1 year: Become a father.
  • 2 years: Start a company or join in at ground level with someone else.
  • 5 years: Be the founder, chief technical officer, or architect of a successful startup company.
  • 10 years: Help someone else get off the ground.
  • 20 years: Retire.  Keep learning.  Keep investing in the new leaders of the world.


I am but an egg.

While I continue to refine my skill as a software developer, my current position is mostly teaching me about leadership, management, and business.  It affords me access to the insight and expertise of others in domains I have not yet mastered.  The workings of the business are being laid bare.  I'm reading books about management.  I'm learning to effectively delegate tasks to others.  I'm studying politics.  I'm learning to be a little selfish.  I'm learning to release the outcome.

However, I realize this position will never enable me to achieve my goals.  I will need to move on.  Others who mean well have tried to convince me otherwise but I recognize how they are protecting their immediate interests.  Just the same, I know they will support me if I left just as they do now while I stay.

The longer I stay, the more I can learn (and the more my options vest.)  But the longer I stay, the more I defer investing in new possibilities.  There is value in persistence and repetition.  There is value in change and novelty.  So hard to choose.

I could easily go elsewhere with a higher salary and with new challenges.  I'm sure I could learn a lot there too.  It would be fun.  I might have more influence.  I might have more guidance.  I might grok more of what I need to know.  Or I might not.  It's a gamble.

Cutting Loose

It feels like I'm just waiting for my next guide to shove me out of the nest.

Eventually I have to cut loose, find a partner, and try to fly...

When?  Now?  6 months from now?  A year from now?  Surely not much longer than that...



Anonymous said...

It looks like you know what you want.

Good Luck!!!

Julián Hidalgo said...

I already wished you luck, but it doesn't harm to do it again: good luck!
I've wondered a few times why aren't you having a more important role in the community, and the only reason I can think of is that you just haven't wanted it (not badly at least =D). Now that you do, I'm sure Gallio will open the door you need.
It's understandable that the people that love you and care about you will always try to make you make the safest decisions, but sometimes you simply have to go ahead and follow your instincts.
I did it once (I dropped college) and I'm very please with the consequences.

Anonymous said...

I know a start-up SF company that's looking for a software developer. I think you've got the *spark* that they're looking for! If you want more info, drop me an email. scastro [at] tier1staffing [dot] com