Earlier today, I was having a conversation with our UX Lead. She mentioned how some people who ended up hiring me from our previous job commented that me sticking with this industry gave them hope. It was meant to be a compliment considering I’ve been doing this for a while. But another thing she was wondering was how I managed to stick to it for this long. The short answer is money and hunger.
Back when I worked for the people search company out in Playa Vista, I met a DBA who was pretty condescending towards the developers. You have to understand back then, DBAs had significantly a lot more power since many companies were using Oracle for their core backend. A good DBA usually were certified and could command a fairly decent salary just because they were responsible for the uptime and tuning of Oracle (or other major RDBMS’s). We didn’t really have AWS with autoscaling and the documentation that would allow developers to focus more on the business code side of things. Anyway, he told me something that was both hilarious and somewhat common sense regarding his ideal database.
One of my favorite companies I worked for was the aforementioned race parts ecommerce company over in Irvine. At the start, it was friendly, had a sense of work/life balance and low pressure. That began to change once the company’s investors began pushing to hire big time with a target goal of around 200 people. As with any company where more people enter, certain personalities start to dominate. But that would manifest down the line in a very chilling manner.
After the race parts company, I ended up doing some contract work for a person search site. This was probably around the height of the dot com boom in terms of how much money was floating around and companies were in no slow down of finding people to flood their ranks with the enormous competition to grow big and take advantage of this growing market. Sometimes though those decisions weren’t necessarily for the best as many didn’t screen candidates heavily enough.
If you’ve never heard of Randal Schwartz, you’ve probably never had to deal with Perl. But if you’re an experienced Perl programmer there’s a good chance you would have run into this guy’s name at some point in your career. He’s one of the original Perl gods and famous (or infamous) for the Schwartzian Transform. Of course, there’s other aspects he’s well known for but the main thing is his skills with Perl. Years ago at the race parts company, we managed to get a phone conversation with him one night as part of our little OC Perl Meetup specials.
After working at the shady warehouse over in Irvine, I switched to an ecommerce company dealing mostly with racing parts. The margins were higher (according to the CTO and founder) which would make the business a little more profitable. Regardless, these parts were being cataloged by a team of data entry people located on the floor above us in this building along Bristol. Because data entry is pretty menial the pay is low and people would try to find other means to increase their salary…even nefarious methods.
One of the first jobs I worked where I was trying to build up my resume was a small chop-shop over in Mission Viejo editing simple HTML for an online document system. It was my first “real” job outside of college where I would get to sink my teeth into doing something semi-related with the five years of studying at UC Irvine. But it’s always funny trying to finagle what you learned into what you ought to be doing.
The title seems quite obvious. Experience tends to trump being too idealistic. But for some reason that doesn’t stop the mad people entering into the tech field who have little to no technical background from starting a business. Sometimes a few get lucky and manage to scrap together a team that creates an unbelievable product. However, most probably stagger and just fall straight out because there’s no business plan, no marketing strategy and little vision beyond build something and praying that people will show up to click on ads or whatnot. Well, imagine back in 1999 before all the decent tools, systems and whatnot came out and think how much harder it was!
So while driving to work today, I started realizing that I simply have way too many stories from working in the tech industry for the past 18+ years. I’ve been musing over how to disperse them in some format. Should I write a story? An autobiography? Snippets to Scott Adams?
Of course, the best answer is obvious: this blog!
Earlier, I read an article that talked about how Medium will do a pretty big layoff and close a few offices around the country. Medium describes itself as a publishing platform and allows people to “have their voices heard.” Yet from a superficial viewpoint, I can’t see what their platform does that a simple WordPress blog cannot do. Nonetheless, the company has (had?) roughly 150 people to support this system. I don’t know what roles existed that required 150 people for a content based system (beyond writers and maybe sales people) but it baffles me. That said, even with 50 people gone, the remaining 100 still seems like a huge number to me for the type of business they support. With that in mind, why are content businesses more or less doomed?