To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
We didn’t leave San Francisco, we went to Munich.
In 2006 I graduated from college, and within 48 hours I was headed to San Francisco to work in tech. I’ve never looked back, and I have no regrets.
I had long been inspired by technology, especially that of the epic saga — Pirates of Silicon Valley. Before I knew it, college had ended, tears had been shed and there I was — working at OSAF with Mitch Kapor and a room full of brilliant software legends trying to change the world. My six month contract turned into full-time, Megan and I started spending more time together, and time did what it does. Then, five companies, a number of promotions, one unbelievable wedding, trips all over the world and a lifetime of wonderful friends, experiences and memories later, I approached another fork in the road.
In February this year, both Megan and I were gainfully employed sitting in our indescribably special cottage at the top of Russian Beach in San Francisco. She asked, did you read that article I sent you? I hadn’t, but I read it on the spot. Pretty interesting ideas, I thought — what was she trying to tell me? Give it a quick read to see what I mean.
I later found myself sitting in South Park during lunch (eating the same Cobb salad — extra chicken and extra egg) from Cafe Centro that I always had (for close to 10 years) day dreaming about what it might mean to leave San Francisco. If you’re in the software industry, it’s tough to avoid the pull of The City. You simply can’t escape the vortex of innovative startups, brilliant technologists, deeply rooted venture capital culture and entrepreneurial spirit. It would be all too easy to get up everyday, go to a beautiful startup office, eat a delicious free lunch and work like hell to build a world class engineering team. Could I ever leave this place?
I had given San Francisco start-ups all I had for almost ten years. I went to the meet-ups, consumed the free pizza and beer, learned the “new” frameworks, argued about programming paradigms, pivoted the product, hired and laid off teams during and after “hyper growth”, pulled the all nighter, and pushed to production 20 minutes before the east coast woke up to read Techcrunch. Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to convince myself that it’s okay to consider a change.
Assuming that this path was an exercise in day dreaming, I started reaching out to folks on Linkedin, and applying for some positions (just for fun, of course). If you know me, you’ve probably heard me talk about Oktoberfest or my fascination with the Germanic language tree. I was most comfortable with the idea of “someday, maybe, possibly” moving to Munich (if anywhere international). I realize some of you may be sitting there thinking, dude Berlin has all the startup! But after a number of Munich visits, we have developed a small but amazing network through close friends and the tech community. We have also optimized around our affection for skiing and the mountains, which was just a bit too far away in the Bay Area. It helped that Megan had voiced her fondness for Bavaria during our last, and many previous visits (generously subsidized by Sauce Labs).
Fast forward four months, after what felt like endless 8:00am Skype conversations and a short but intense visit to Germany for in-person interviewing — Megan and I found ourselves on a Tuesday night at Hillstone on Embarcadero. It was one of those unforgettably perfect (and rare) San Francisco nights, where the sky is clear and the air is warm — and we had three awesome offers on the table in Munich to choose from. We had also just received loan approval to purchase a home in San Francisco. It was time to make a decision, it wasn’t easy — we were both terrified and excited about where these roads could lead.
After a few martini’s and quoting the nearly endless stream of recent articles obsessing over the “unreasonable cost of living in SF”, the “slowing trends in venture investment”, and the “statistical similarities to the 2008 bubble burst” — OH NO, the WORLD IS ENDING! Never mind all that, we eventually made a decision, it was time to move to Munich. But it wasn’t really about the endless number of reasons one could dredge up to leave San Francisco, it was just time to close one chapter in order to open the next.
We spent months emotionally preparing to leave; storing, donating, gifting or trashing nearly everything we owned. It felt really strange to deconstruct a life we worked so hard to build, but ultimately we found out, it’s really all just stuff (what was all that stuff anyways?). What we found to be the most challenging about leaving, of course, was leaving our people. No amount of reading or hypothesizing can prepare you for the kind of change involved in moving abroad, but we are blessed with incredibly loving and supportive families and friends who went above and beyond to encourage and help us. Even with the incredible technology of today, it’s a lot easier to fantasize and talk about moving somewhere far away than it is to actually do it (trust me, I’ve documented the logistics here). Megan is learning German from scratch, and starting a job search in a totally new environment (outside the comforts of the bay area job market). I could not be more proud of her bravery, self confidence and sense of adventure.
Leaving was hard, but somehow gradually the allure of the fancy restaurants, unrivaled cocktail bars, and proximity to the latest Mobile Advertising Social Analytics Chatbot for Fintech company had become slightly less important to us. Megan and I have both spent our entire lives living on the west coast of the US and the opportunity to go abroad may not come around again. So we did it, we jumped — and now we live 20 minutes from the English Garden in Schwabing. We don’t know how long this will last, but right now we’re fully concentrated on being here.
Short tangent — I have a whole lot to say about my new gig (and I will), but for now I’ll just say that I took a role as Executive Director of Technology for SinnerSchrader, at their Munich office. This was through a connection to holger blank who is a Managing Director there, and also co-organizes JSConf EU in Berlin — where my interest in German was sparked in 2010 (the JS community continues to amaze me). That was my first time to visit the country, and it clearly left a lasting impression. Fantastically, the first time I ever dared to do a technical talk in German was at the HH.js meet-up hosted at SinnerSchrader in April 2012. Sometimes life carves out opportunities, far before you could possibly see them — and I couldn’t be more excited to get started.
We already miss so much about “home”, meaning our old life. And it kills us just a little inside every-time you have a party without us. But our time in San Francisco was unforgettable and is now cemented into the history of time, never to be taken away.
The apartment we are renting was chosen with visitors in mind, so come hangout with us — we would love to share our adventure with you.