I’ve had a number of things just sort of happen recently that I think portended where I plan to go. A little over a month ago, I brought an extra car to CarMax and got rid of the note. I got rid of cable TV and a bunch of other duplicate bills.
I didn’t consciously know it was coming, but part of me knew. My mom was over visiting the morning I got the call that my company got bought out and that I was being laid off immediately. To be honest, I never liked the job. I need some sort of interaction and excitement, and many of my coworkers I had talked to said something to the effect of things will never change, and so I’ll just collect my paycheck and enjoy things outside of work. I would fix major problems with the code that had been bothering everyone, mention it in chats, and it would just kind of disappear into the ether. This after, for example, I had to talk someone down from throwing his computer because the environment was so difficult. I should have quit myself.
Mom said it’s likely the only way I will work in the environment I want is to own the business. Moms know things.
I did small business consulting for a good while before Hurricane Katrina hit. Looking back, that was me at my happiest. I always had this sense of inadequacy as though maybe I was throwing away my potential, but I got out of the house regularly, made friends with clients, had a social life, and just felt a sense of fulfillment.
But, I was very flagrant financially, and Hurricane Katrina showed me total failure for the first time. I had to drive my brand new Corvette and Dodge SRT-4 Neon to the dealership to be repossessed. I was flat broke and declared bankruptcy because that asshole George W. Bush signed that bankruptcy law that made it next to impossible, and it went into effect 45 days after the storm. And I had a ton of back taxes.
So, I was up in South Carolina where my sister ended up moving after the storm. I was looking through job listings and thought how cool it would be to make consistent money like the entry level developers were making. No more feast or famine. I went back to school and finished my computer science degree.
Incidentally, the company to which I had dropped off the only job application I put out in New Orleans called me and said they wanted me. I started on my first job as a web developer and drove home to school when I needed to. I got promoted to senior and got my own office pretty soon afterwards.
After that company closed, I ended up at a Navy contractor. Among other things, I built the virtual installation test environment and wrote much of the installer to put one of their personnel systems on the ships.
Then, I started as a regular developer on a site that had a billion dollars a year revenue. I got promoted to senior there and eventually became new features lead. You understand stress when you sit in a meeting and hear that $600k was lost in a couple of days after one of your features launched. Finding out it was a vendors fault makes it feel a bit better, but I got to working on some pretty high stakes stuff.
Then, after some management idiocy, I moved on to another company and eventually to being lead on 2 $100+ million a year sites. They were the biggest of their type in the country.
Both of the tech lead jobs I’ve done were supposed to be rotating, but I was asked to stay on indefinitely. I have a long list of team members for references on my leadership ability.
The point of this is I’ve proven I can do it. I went to the interviews at a top 5 tech company, and although I didn’t get that job, they said it was very close, and they contact me to come back and try again regularly. I came back thinking I could definitely study for that process and beat it if I wanted to.
I’ve reached a point where I’m comfortable in my own skin, and if I go back to freelancing and don’t have some lead title to my name, I’m okay with that. I’m about 80% convinced that’s the way I’m going to go.
The programming industry has turned into some sort of frantic cult of stupidity. I wonder if doctors sit there with stop watches on virtual surgery simulators to see how quickly they can do an appendectomy. People are being hailed as visionaries for finally coming out and saying the bullpen layout is counterproductive. Really? Did you just get that? I asked to have the computer moved to my bedroom when I was 8 so I could concentrate. Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?
A friend of mine consults on web development and programming. He seems to be one of the most comfortable people I know. I’ve always struggled somewhat with my confidence selling it because I haven’t been strong on design. I’ve decided to concentrate on getting there.
Before I took the Navy job, I was working freelance and damned near didn’t take that job because money was coming in fine and I was happy. I don’t know that I could have shaken that feeling of throwing away my potential back then , but I feel better about it now.