My dream is to do things I love with people I like and feel good about what I’ve done at the end of the day.
For me, 2012 began as a contradiction. It was literally the best of times and the worst of times. I had just told my family I wanted to drop out of college and abandon my degree. This brought with it the expected feelings of failure and shame, as dropouts are stigmatised in our culture (fortunately in the tech industry less than in other industries) and really disappointed my parents, who really value a college degree for reasons of their own. But it also brought a huge sense of relief; the education system and I never really saw eye to eye, and I constantly found myself the exception to the rule, getting held back by the very programs put in place to help me succeed. After years of constantly struggling with a system, it was nice to know I was free of it. Like I had escaped.
I’ve grown a lot as a person in the last twelve months, and this is my way of celebrating that. I understand most people write these posts on the first of the year; I chose to wait until the sixth for convenience. Because while I am proud of the progress I made in 2012, I’m more proud of the progress I made since being employed by Iron.io. The first day I billed time to Iron.io was 1/6/12, so it seemed silly to celebrate 2012 and the first year of my career within a week of each other.
When I started with Iron.io, they were hiring to fill a software engineer position. I told them I wanted to apply to be a software engineer intern. I had written software that was used by thousands of people, but I still hadn’t worked with a team, and this was my first “proper” foray into the industry. I knew I’d need to grow into my role, and it didn’t seem fair to ask a company to consider me a full employee while they were still teaching me the basics. The thing I wanted most from Iron.io was to be in an environment where I could learn. To gain enough experience that I could call myself a professional software engineer with a straight face.
It started off simple, with me writing examples and software to bring myself up to speed on the platform. When I look back on how I thought and the software I wrote then, I’m glad I asked for the internship; I wasn’t ready. I’ve learned so much since then, it’s painful to look back on. Which is exactly what I was hoping for. I feel comfortable in the industry, and am proud of my accomplishments in the last year.
My job quickly (as in, less than two months later) turned into a documentation position. This happened subtly; nobody ever asked me to do it, and I never asked if I should. I saw in the course of my work that our documentation wasn’t good enough, so I fixed it. And people liked it. So I kept fixing documentation. Then I built a new documentation platform. I slowly wrote less and less software and more and more documentation.
Then I attended UBHacking to represent Iron.io, for no reason other than because I was already in Buffalo and knew the organiser. And then I found myself attending more hackathons and conferences, speaking to developers, and working on outreach. Six months in, I took on the title of Developer Experience Engineer and became a full-time employee. At this point, I started looking into moving to San Francisco.
I’ve always loved San Francisco. It’s a great city. It feels right to me. I’m always happier when I’m there visiting. Iron.io is headquartered in San Francisco, and they expressed interest in having me located out there. I was excited. Unfortunately, the housing market in San Francisco is pretty competitive now, so it was hard to find an apartment. I tried on and off while I lived in Buffalo, but I opted not to renew my lease when it expired at the end of August. I moved back to Syracuse to live with my parents for a month or two as I searched for a San Francisco apartment. And still, my search suffered. Every time I went out to San Francisco to visit the office or attend an event, I’d search for apartments and listings and put in my application, to no avail. As the weeks turned to months, I began to get antsy. My parents had told family friends I was moving to San Francisco, so everyone I spoke to asked why I was still here and what was going on with San Francisco. I considered my stay in Syracuse temporary, so I didn’t bother setting down roots; I effectively just lived in limbo, without bothering to make new friends in the area or establish myself in the community. What’s the point? I’d be gone in a couple months.
Finally, I got frustrated enough that I made a reservation to stay with an Airbnb host in Palo Alto for a few days, paid for a flight out there, and spent two days on public transportation travelling all around the Valley looking at apartments and putting in applications. I submitted dozens of applications, got some good leads, and flew home optimistic.
Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances cropped up. While I can’t go into too many details here (they aren’t mine to share), I would no longer be able to afford to move to San Francisco. It’s simply too expensive. The day after I learned this, of course, my first choice for the applications I submitted called me to tell me my application was approved. Irony’s a bitch.
I, of course, hadn’t thought to make a backup plan, and now I’m not sure what I’m doing next. I have a couple options I’m investigating, but I don’t really have a solid plan of action laid out in front of me anymore. Which is starting to get to me. Between the constant questions about why, after six months, I’m still living at home, the state of limbo my life is in in regards to setting down roots, and the number of San Francisco-themed gifts well-meaning relatives and friends gave me for Christmas, I’m starting to get restless. I need to do something in the next month or two, but I don’t know what that is yet.
This year is a year of guilt for me, in relation to Second Bit. Why? Because absolutely no new software was rolled out this year. None. Zero. Zilch. 2cloud has not been updated since I joined Iron.io. This is not at their behest—we had a very good conversation about it when I joined the company, and set up very clear boundaries. They generously permitted me to do my own thing in my own time, and I’m grateful for that.
But the changes 2cloud is undergoing—the changes it needs to undergo—are so all-encompassing, it’s really hard to get any traction working on it a bit here and a bit there. I’ve tried so many things, written so many iterations of small pieces, and learned so much. I know, intellectually, that the company has made great progress in the last year. But we didn’t ship anything, and that really bothers me.
Comparatively speaking, the amount of work remaining to be done is pretty little. It’s achievable. I can do it. I just don’t know how long it’s going to take, or how many users will hold out until then. I feel as though I’ve set myself between Iron.io and my users, and no matter what I do, I’m being unfair to one or the other. But all I can do is my best.
Several times I toyed with the idea of striking out on my own and trying to make Second Bit into a full-time job for me. Especially during the periods when my job at Iron.io loses the balance it has between technical writing, engineering, and outreach, and starts to become too much about the technical writing. These periods are brief and infrequent, but they remind me that I never wanted to be a technical writer. Two things hold me back, every time: I love Iron.io and the people that work there, and don’t want to leave them unless it’s the best thing for both of us; and I’m not convinced that I can persuade enough users to pay me for my software that I can sustain myself on it.
If I were one for resolutions, my resolution this year would be to ship the next version of 2cloud, and find out what it can be. It would also be to find the appropriate balance between my users and Iron.io, a balance that everyone can be content with.
I don’t know what 2013 is going to hold for me. I don’t know what city I’ll be in, who will be around me, or what my career and work life will look like. But during the soul searching that followed my dream of moving to San Francisco being crushed, I stumbled upon exactly what I want in life:
“My dream is to do things I love with people I like and feel good about what I’ve done at the end of the day.”
And in 2012, I did that. In 2013, I hope to do it some more.