I can’t really tell you what came over me, but this morning I woke up wondering if I’m proud of my career, the things I’ve done, the positions that I’ve held in the various jobs I’ve had. And that wondering has me reviewing my journey so far and reflecting on how I feel about it.
My career is really broken into two major segments. First I created a software development consulting business and grew it, then I went to work for other companies as a software engineer.
For those of you who want to skip the details, scroll down to “HELL YEAH!” below.
For the first 15 years (or so) of my career, I was a business owner, VP of Engineering for a successful software development consulting firm. It started as a partnership with two college friends back in 1986 and then two of us incorporated the company in 1990 when our third partner headed off to work at IBM. We had our ups and downs, we had our great projects, we had our duds. We were lucky to get some high profile jobs with companies like Berkeley Systems (Flying Toaster screen savers) and Rand McNally (consumer travel software). We grew the company to about 25 people, we were doing a great job for our customers, and we were super busy.
Then I burned out.
We spent a number of months wrapping up our projects with customers, we gave our employees lots of notice and help finding new jobs, and then we let everyone go.
I took some time off to regroup.
After my break, I started the next phase of my career where I reconnected with my roots went to work as a software engineer. I worked for two startups in a row: a social media company as a back-end coder and a kids 3D social web site as a front end coder. I was at those two companies for about 4 years combined and I learned a ton and I’m grateful to have been chosen to be a part of both.
Simultaneous with the above two jobs, I was also working, with 3 co-founders in my spare time, on a sweat equity company building enterprise software for the golf industry. Slow going and lots of fun — and it was ours. We couldn’t wait until we could work on it full time. That day came, thanks to my partners, when we were purchased and became part of SkyGolf. You might think this was phase three of my career, but it really turned out to be a continuation of phase two since I was mostly coding on the product. That being said, I did spend a good amount of time working with my colleagues to figure out things like revenue model and marketing plans. We were definitely running a small business but I was still coding most of the time. The management skills I had honed in phase 1 were being used as a collaborator on a self-organizing team rather than having any direct reports. Even though I live in San Francisco, I spent a lot of time in Mississippi at the parent company offices so I was also able to work with the great folks there and to form bonds and working relationships as we integrated both personally and technologically.
In 2013, I joined my good friend’s consulting firm in Palo Alto. We work on software development contracts, we pitch new customers, we haggle out architectures, and build server APIs. We get our customers to their next level. Still coding, but adding elements of customer acquisition, customer requirement gathering, customer relations, product design, project scoping and more. Great times!
So now that we are back to present day, let’s get back to my original question. Am I proud of my career to date?
After reflection I have to say, “HELL YEAH!”
Let me tell you why.
I’ve built or helped build some pretty cool software. While I don’t have a continuous string of successes, I do have successes that I’m very proud of. I’ve helped doctors and physical therapists. I’ve helped small businesses. I’ve helped travelers find their way. I’ve caused entertainment and laughter. I bet I’ve facilitated new friendships. Some great software exists now (or in the past) because I started a company to build it or I worked at a company where I helped build it.
I’ve made a difference to people in my life. As a business owner, I nurtured employee relationships. I worried about their ability to pay their rent. I gave them responsibility. I gave them my trust. I protected them. I took my employer responsibility seriously. As an employee, I brought my full self. I dedicated myself to the company, to the team, to the product. I freely gave them my loyalty and my trust.
I’ve built life-long friendships. The greatest thing that I’ve gained in my career is strong relationships with people I’ve hired and worked with. I’ve been privileged to work with all kinds of people, every one of whom has taught me something. I’m proud to say I’m still in contact with a large number of key people from my career. Now I’m looking forward to seeking out a reconnecting with more.
No matter the job, the position, the success rate, the stress, the happiness, the whatever, I’ve come to realize that we should be proud of what we’ve done and where we’re going. We are working hard, doing our best, bringing our full selves, and that matters.
So after my morning exercise of thinking about my past, my journey and how I feel about it, I can move on now to bring this proud feeling with me into my daily journey. I can take with me that I know I’m building great stuff, I’m affecting those around me and I’m gaining new life-long friends as I move down my path. I matter and I’m proud of what I’ve done and what I’m going to do.
Now I think YOU should reflect on all that you are and all that you have accomplished. You should be proud of yourself. Keep that with you always. You matter. Pull your shoulders back, stick out your chest a little, look up to the sky (rather than down at the sidewalk), and be proud of yourself for a little while.
Then go buy an ice cream to celebrate.
To all who know me already, I say thank you for the time we have spent together, thanks for taking some of your journey with me. I look forward to connecting soon.
To all who don’t know me yet, I say get to know me! Leave a comment, give a call, email or a tweet. I look forward to meeting you and connecting sometime soon.