I work for the Home Depot Techshed. I am non tech person growing in the tech world known as Silicon Valley. As I grow, learn and develop over the months and years, I will post my experiences. First question is, why am I here and what motivates me?

Getting Angry… Again

Matthew Oehler

This is the start of my new journey. The life I was living, the fun I was having, and the direction I was going — it’s all history. I’m not where I want to be, I have had too many delays, and it’s all on me. The new journey begins right here, and it’s time to get find my passion — my anger — once again.

I am currently the product researcher at the Home Depot Techshed. My role currently is to assist the product managers in their work. That may be my title, but I do so much more. The Director of User Experience, Michael, simply calls my work “ad hoc.” This position has included everything from performing UX research, running surveys, interacting with local Home Depot stores, and QAing an app to testing out unique flow from competitors, assisting business operations with their call center, being a front line for customer and Home Depot associate response, and much more.

You may ask: Why should I get angry? I obviously do a lot, and the company must respect me to allow me to do so much. But it’s not about that: It’s about the approach I must take. I know the company and my fellow employees respect me and understand the work I do. But I want to be the leader, the innovator, the risktaker. It’s not about meeting any challenge or completing any tasks. It’s about pushing myself to new boundaries and seeing what I can really accomplish with this brain. The anger is my driver — it lets me look at a situation in multiple ways, and it allows me to have minimal hindsight on my decisions. It is about me reaching the potential I can reach.

Why am I at this point?

Anger has not always been the driver. I always thought of myself as an adventurer, a person that would randomly go and try something new. For the person outside a social, work and school world, that’s true. I would take my Grand Voyager or my Grand Prix and randomly road trip anywhere and take nobody with me. My favorite trip was driving up Highway 1 from San Francisco to Portland and back. When I was by myself, I was truly unstoppable. I call these Loner Adventures: They are times where I just get lost and interact with random strangers. These adventures were fun, and they defined a free-spirited person.

For the person that is in the social, work and school world, I have not been that person. I have been the good ol’ honest boy, always wanting to do things the right way. The worst I ever got was being a smart ass, but never the risktaker, never a person completely fearless. I don't know why really; it could be that I was always in a comfortable place. Maybe every minor risk has never paid off and the worry of taking a major one would bury me. Whatever it is, I clearly didn't take enough risk, and I found myself buried anyway.

In the school world, I thought I was playing it safe and setting myself up for success by going to Santa Clara University. This institution at the time was in the top 1% of all schools in the U.S. for business, so it was a safe bet in getting a job with good pay right away. It took two years after graduation to find a good job and not really anything I went to school for. Actually, it felt like I could have gone to a cheaper school and still had the same success.

The social world is weird. I fell in love with a girl and put 4+ years of investments in her. I gave her the world, thinking that we were destined to live our lives together. What I didn’t realize is the more I hung out with her, the less I saw of my other friends, until I essentially had one local friend left. Then, when she didn't need me anymore, I found myself completely alone. I eventually moved in with Mom (love you, Mom) to save money, and that was the dagger for my social life.

The work world held the most promise. I took a few risks and got myself promoted within Home Depot a few times. Two years ago, I got called into the tech company, but it was on the coattails of my Home Depot reputation. One of my goals was not to get into a job because of Home Depot, but on my school. This job has provided opportunity after opportunity and I took them. I failed to realize one thing: I didn't take many chances along the way. I worked in an environment of innovators and entrepreneurs, and I just worked hard. I feel like I am behind where I should be.

About Work

I came into this tech company with no tech experience. How did I get it? On the coattails of my Home Depot experience. They didn't need a tech guy — they needed someone to monitor our contractors. My interview was a formality. It took 15 minutes, and I was hired. This seemed awesome. I was now a part of a startup called Redbeacon. I had to make sure I didn’t blow this, so for the first time in my life I created a long-term game plan: Year 1: survive, Year 2: learn tech, and Year 3: be amazing.

Year 1: Survive

My first office job was interesting. Walking in and meeting the people here was intimidating, I was in an office of doers and dreamers; talking to everyone, it seemed like they all had long-term plans and goals. They worked their asses off and went to school to get their jobs, and I was some guy that was a good associate. Surviving definitely was going to be hard.

Redbeacon is one of the many companies attempting to connect service providers with homeowners. This marketplace is cluttered with competition, and everyone is trying to do something unique. Redbeacon’s edge was it wanted the service providers to bid on the customers. My job was to go over those bids and grade them on whether they were good or not. I would do between 300 and 400 bids a day. For those contractors that did not meet our requirements of a good bid, I would message them on how to improve.

I concentrated hard on my job and survived. I literally did nothing to improve my career, I looked only within my own boundaries. Day in, day out I bid grade, and my boss Nate was satisfied with the result. The office was fun and startupy with fun every week. Yet I did not really improve myself in any way. I would do other minor tasks like help the customer-support team monitor their call centers, but nothing really techie. I did what I set out to accomplish. I survived year 1.

Year 2: Learn Tech

Redbeacon decided to change directions with their bid platform and eliminate it. The goal was simply to connect the customers and the contractors. It looked like my value was about over with the company. Luck came my way and Home Depot decided to give Redbeacon their pro-technology business. The office at this moment transformed into the Home Depot Techshed.

This was great for me, because the lead researcher, Dave, needed assistance with his soon-to-be-overwhelming projects. I gladly took my place as his Vanna White and started doing any task needed to ensure he got his job done. Along the way I took some tips on how to perform research and write reports. Nate recognized the research potential and made me the product researcher. As I was starting to get semi-acclimated to helping Dave out, he decided to leave the position.

There was no option. I had to do Dave’s job without his experience or instinct, but it had to be done. Over the next few months, I would be scrappy and figured a way to either perform usability research or research what our competitors were doing. I listened to anyone along the way that could give me advice, and I would spend my nights looking at YouTube watching how UX professionals performed their research. I would have plenty of conversations with the head of UX, Michael, who would tell me what I was and wasn't doing right. He was valuable because he forced me to do things the right way in research and learn the hard way a lot of times, digging into every issue whether it was relevant or not.

My biggest opportunity to prove my work was when had a team trip to Seattle, which is my home city, in the summer of 2014. I knew this is a time where I could create a good reputation. Over the next two weeks, I worked my ass off, performing tons of research with Seattle contractors. I felt satisfied with my work and felt like I grew more on the trip than at any other point in my career. I would work 8–10 hours and be in the office two hours before anyone else. I still wasn't the most qualified researcher, but I got significant results.

We would eventually hire an excellent UX researcher, Denise, to take command of the projects, another researcher named Thomas to perform analytics, and ambitious career-driven person in Cristianne. The research team had filled up and by this point could perform any UX research necessary. My talents were definitely improved with the help of the new team, and the insight Denise and Thomas brought from the outside. As my second year came to a close, I was a competent employee with a full team.

The second year was valuable. I learned a ton on how the process of how the business worked. I understood the different types of research we would perform. Something still wasn't right in my gut as my second year wrapped up: I enjoyed the hell out of research, but it wasn't where I wanted to be. It was, however, an essential part of the process to building a product, but I wanted to be the process.

Year 3: Be Amazing


Becoming Immortal

No one and nothing can ever be immortal. Even our universe has a predicted end, trillions of years from now. When I say “becoming immortal,” it is an attitude that I need to have. Before I went to school I was a Home Depot supervisor on the rise through management. I was unstoppable in business, social and eventually school. I would wake up and ensure my departments were succeeding, I partied nightly with five different groups of friends, and I was getting A’s in school. I hardly ever slept, and I never felt tired. I felt immortal. This was all driven by an anger at the time, an anger that I wasn't far enough in life. For some reason I lost that passion, that fire, that anger.

Now I am a person who hardly hangs out with people, whose college hasn't paid off and feels behind in a career. I'm mad as hell that I am where I am. I let too many enjoyments of life slow me down, and to be real, I am lucky to be where I am, but I could be so much further. I have always worked hard and tried doing the right thing and doing everything the way they are supposed to be done.

I work in a great company with a lot of people that support me. If you follow my blogs, I'll bring you on the journey of the research I performed and my development into bigger things. But I am not passive anymore: I am becoming that person before college, the immortal person with anger. The anger is making sure I don’t let up this time, the anger is making sure I don’t let opportunity slip by the wayside. I am going to break the rules, I am going to take chances, and “fear” is only a word in the dictionary. I have a goal: I want to be a Product Manager. There is a lot to learn, and I am going to kick ass as a researcher along the way and support my team along the way.

I’m getting angry again, and at this moment there are two kinds of people in this business: those who are with me and those losing to me.