Saturday, April 05, 2008

Changes

Well, you just never know where you may end up.

A few weeks ago Paul and I received an offer for the purchase of Just Three Words in the midst of several RFPs (Request for Proposal) for website and Facebook application development. We began to juggle the prospects of consulting work that would keep our rent paid through June at least and selling Just Three Words & proceeding to create a new product for our business.

After much discussion weighing our options, Paul and I decided to accept jobs at Slide.com.

I was resistant at first
If you'd asked me in mid-January whether I'd consider employment anywhere, I'd have scowled at you. I love being independent, and running my own company - both the technical and non-technical challenges were what got me out of bed in the morning and kept me out of bed until early the next morning.

Having said that, it was becoming increasingly likely that we'd have to take various consulting jobs in order to keep the startup afloat. This is exactly the situation in which I found myself in the early days of Gearhead Music, and was wary of making the same mistake twice - I.e., once you start to make money contracting it is very difficult to stop; and while you're working on someone else's project, you're not working on your own product. Neither the consulting nor the startup excel from the benefits of your undivided attention, and in the end consulting proves to be a trap since you really can't ever turn down a job.

The excitement kicks in
But a "real" job? I couldn't think of a company working for which I'd be happy. But in a casual email exchange a while ago, a friend at Slide.com mentioned that when I was ready to consider a job, come talk to the engineers there.

I know a few of those guys, and not only like them but really respect them professionally and personally and respect the work they do & their approach to solving difficult technical problems. "Hmm", thinks I, "this could be interesting, and worth the consideration".

So I agreed to an interview, flew up to San Francisco from Los Angeles for the day, and over the course of several conversations, started to get excited about coming onboard. Not only are the engineers at Slide sharp as hell and extremely knowledgeable, but also very hard-working. And on a personal level, I liked everyone with whom I spoke.

And the prospect of learning a lot more about python, about solutions to challenging problems of scale (when you serve as many widgets and apps as they do the challenges of scale become very interesting), and about creating products and solutions that just don't exist yet is what really got me fired up about considering employment with them.

By the end of the day I was on the fence, but very seriously interested in working with this excellent group of engineers.

And, in music if you want to get really good go work with people who are better musicians than you are. The same applies to engineering - work with people whose knowledge and ability surpass your own and so inspire you to achieve and improve.

Why this is a great opportunity for an engineer

Man, these people know their [EXPLETIVE DELETED]. It's been only one week and I've already learned techniques that make me a better engineer. There are few better ways to improve than when surrounded by other very smart people solving problems.

And the technical challenges the company faces with regard to application development, infrastructure, database and so on are red meat for any True Geek™. I obviously can't talk specifics here, but if you thrive on solving problems that few companies are required to solve and for which there are very few out-of-a-box solutions, send me your resume and I'll pass it along.¹ Slide does more than make pretty widgets - there's a lot of engineering going on in the boiler room that's just way too damn cool.

Why this is a great opportunity for an engineer with entrepreneurial tendencies

First, the obvious - Slide is run by Max Levchin who is one of the founders of PayPal - one of the few tech startups to survive and thrive through the tech crash. So not only is it very safe to bet that he and his executive staff know what they're doing, but he's a top-notch engineer himself with an intense entrepreneurial drive. A good kung-fu master to learn from if there ever was one.*

Second, this is a new market - social networks are still in their infancy, and it is probable that the speed of progress and opportunity will cause the landscape of the market to look different a year from now than it does currently. For any business-minded soul, the internet space in general is a once in a lifetime opportunity (analogous to what the chemical industry was to 19th century minds**), and within this space the social network market an opportunity within an opportunity rarely seen, as the reward v. risk is higher than in other sub-sectors of the larger market.

Conclusion
So, I'm very excited. I didn't come to the decision to join Slide lightly, and now that I'm there I'm very happy to be a member of the team. I'm working on the Top Friends application, and am just now finding where they put everything. I've been working in my own kitchen (so to speak) for a year and know where everything is. Now, in someone else's, I spent most of my time last week finding where the hell they put the can-opener. But soon, I'll have my technical, geeky mise-en-place all set and I'll be geeking-out in your Top Friends.

¹python, AS2, AS3, C++, java, whatever - the ability to solve problems and possessing intelligence are most important.


*Max is short for "Maximum", so you will work your ass off for this cifu (teacher) and frog-jump up and down the figurative temple stairs until your technical and entrepreneurial -fu are the best anywhere. My apologies to the Shaw Brothers for this analogy...

**And if your interests lie in additional areas but you still want to get involved in the interwebs, remember: both Brahms and Borodin were chemists, and they did some nice work in other fields ;)

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