Sunday, October 31, 2010

Moving On

About 10 years ago, I was invited to become employee No1 of a new software startup. I didn’t know much about startups back then, besides that they were supposedly cool, and employees weren’t treated like small cogs in a giant machine. Indeed, it felt really fun to build our first product in my 5 year-old laptop, running FreeBSD, of all things. That, and getting praised by our users, too.

Things got even better as time went by: interesting projects to build, exciting technologies to explore, new colleagues to work with, new challenges to face. I felt my work was making a real impact, getting the team to follow new and exciting technological paths, often far away from the mainstream. I became partner, pushed for launching our first large consumer product, coded, mentored, planned and dreamed about where to go next. I had a 27-inch Mac, a big desk and a great view from my office window.

And then I left.

When is it a good time to leave? When everything is over, it’s obviously too late. When things are just starting to take shape, it’s definitely too soon. I used to say, ‘when you are done’. But it turns out that, in real life, you are never done. There are always more things to do, unfinished businesses to attend to, and existing plans to follow through. Perhaps a better answer is: ‘when you are too comfortable, almost on the brink of getting bored’.

A friend asked me why would I leave this company in what appears, by all accounts, to be the pinnacle of our accomplishments, ‘now that your work is being recognised and respected’, as he put it. Another said that we’re all going through some pretty hard times, and it wouldn’t be wise to take risks. A rather unsettled family member asked: ‘aren’t you afraid?’

Of course I was.

Afraid of leaving behind the tried-and-true for something new and unknown; afraid that the new gig might not live up to the initial impressions; afraid that my work-life balance might deteriorate. However, I’ve learned long ago that fear isn’t something to be afraid of. As Eleanor Roosevelt said once: ‘You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.’ What I wanted to do, is to become even better at my craft. To have an impact on even more people’s lives through my work. To inspire and be inspired. To be afraid and excited again.

So, as of a few days ago I’ve taken up an offer to work for Golden Deal. It’s a product company, something I’ve always been keen on, with a great track record and an awesome crew that is rapidly expanding (are you a senior dev or admin? we’re hiring!). I’m still getting to know the place around here, but it feels good, and I think we have a shot at becoming one of the greatest Internet companies in Greece.

I know that my former teammates will continue to rock on, and I’ll be cheering from the sidelines for their future accomplishments. As for me, I just might find more time to blog again.

P.S.: For folks contemplating a career move, here are some tips for choosing your next gig. This is not how I approached my own case, since I wasn’t really on the market for a job. I was more like seduced, from some pretty persuasive folks. However, had I been looking for a new employer, this is what I would have looked out for:
  • Product company: this is where you have a better chance at learning the ropes of modern technologies, without doing pure academic exercises that have little to no importance for the business.
  • Startup mentality: you want to be a part of a group that fights as a whole for the success of the company, not a bunch of bureaucrats isolated in their silos.
  • Experienced team with a good track record: so you can learn from people better, smarter or wiser than you, and improve your skills.
  • Teams not afraid to experiment with new and unproven technologies: because innovation is the name of the game, at least for startups and product companies.
  • A ‘getting things done’ attitude: because success apparently only comes for the right kind of people.
  • Honest presentation: this is rather obvious.
Bear in mind that people have a tendency to present a rosy picture of their situation, because, if nothing else, it makes them feel better about themselves. Be a little pessimist and assume things are a tad worse, and you’ll be closer to the truth most of the time. Also, do some research on what you’re being told, don’t trust their sales pitch blindly.

I know I did.


graffic said...

I got to know your post from a retweet. Let me congratulate you for your new job.

What I really admire is that you were able to find a nice place to work in Greece while getting better at your craft. That's not something you can read these days.

If you don't mind, I'd like to add one bullet to your list: Go to a place where you're needed. Where they expect you to focus, and where you see yourself filling a spot rather that trying to cover a big hole.

past said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree that it's nice to be in a place where you are considered a piece that was missing from their puzzle. It makes you feel wanted and gives you context and focus right away. I don't think getting hired to fill a big hole is necessarily bad however, unless they expect you to work around the clock to cover up for their lack of resources. Most managerial and lead roles are broad by definition.

Anonymous said...

good luck!

"We lose the fear of making decisions, great and small, as we realize that should our choice prove wrong we can, if we will, learn from the experience.", says Bill w.

past said...

Hear, hear!

Dimitris Andreadis said...

Inspiring blog, well done! All the best with your new endeavors.

Salih Emin said...

Indeed an inspiring blog post.. in these cloudy times of uncertainty...

past said...

Thanks for the kind words everyone!

Giorgos Keramidas said...

Hi Panagiotis,

Thanks for a very insightful post!

I noticed the link through the sharing feature of Google Reader and adamo's list of interesting stuff.

Good luck with the new job! Have tons of fun, enjoy the new challenges and keep us all updated with the cool stuff you are working on :-)

past said...

Thanks, it may not be as radical as leaving your country, but it's a change nonetheless! I'll keep you posted on my work and I expect nothing less from you, too :-)

Θ.ΚΑΡΟΥΝΟΣ said...

Let me congratulate you on your next job, even though it was more challenging when you were an active participant than now with you leaving...

past said...

Thanks! For whatever it's worth I plan to keep participating in my former public and open-source activities, and even bring along new experiences. The new, different perspective might prove beneficial.

Anonymous said...

I should be starting my RSS reader more often :-) Congrats & kali arxi!

past said...


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