Archives for June 2008

Goodbyes. They Don’t Get Easier Just Because They Get More Frequent.

I guess I am at that stage in my life where I start losing friends, and mentors.  Just last month a dear friend died, and today I get word that another is gone.  In this case, it wasn’t just a friend and mentor – this guy actually saved my life

It was 1981 and I was stationed in San Diego, CA.  We were at a beach party on Coronado Island when I swam out to a friend’s catamaran.  It was nearly dusk, and it had been a long day on the beach.

I was tired, and I quickly fell asleep on the boat.  It was a gorgeous relaxing evening on the bay.

Suddenly I found myself tossed into the water, struggling to breath, or even determine which way was “up”.  About the time I gained control over my circumstances the hull of the catamaran came crashing down onto my head – I didn’t know it had flipped, and that it was falling back on top of me.

I don’t remember anything from the next 15 minutes or so, but it has been recounted to me many times by others.

My apparently lifeless body was caught in an undertow, and being dragged further and further from shore (I DID have a loosely tied life jacket on).  Since it was getting dark, my friends back on the shore were very concerned that I would be lost at sea at night.

So my boss at the time (by request of his widow I will not share his name) swam nearly a mile out into the bay and grabbed me – and dragged me back to shore.  I came too many minutes later, and all I remember from the first moments is throwing up salt water all over someone’s beach towel.  I was 20.  He was probably 40 – and he was a big man.  But he had a large heart, and he cared for the people that worked for him.

My next recollection was crossing the Coronado Bridge in an ambulance.  I woke up just briefly – long enough to realize that I was in trouble.  I spent the better part of 24 hours on a ventilator – I was pretty sick.  3 days later I left the hospital.  I had a concussion and had inhaled/swallowed a LOT of sea water.  Sea water has a way of messing with the electrolyte balance in the human body.  It took time to get back to normal.

He was my boss, he saved my life, and he taught me a lot – mostly he taught me how to make work fun, and to keep it fun.  He could party, he could be friends with his employees, and he demanded the best of each of us while we were on the job.

He was a leader, a friend, a boss, and a buddy.

And he saved my life.

I learned that later in his life, after he had “retired” from the Navy, he helped others adopt children from China, and Russia, and Vietnam.  He adopted three himself.  He was always doing more, giving more, and caring more than almost anyone I have known.  And he never stopped.  Until he could no longer continue.

To his wife, and children – I owe my own children to this man – this giant of a man – I owe the last 26 years of my life to this man.  He had a personality that entered the room ten minutes before he did, and it will last long after this loss we have suffered.

He was my friend.

One of the People Who Convinced Me to Move to Rackspace (Mosso)

I “met” Major Hayden on Twitter.  I think it was after the Scoble visit to Rackspace.  I invited Major to lunch, and we met a couple of months ago.  I also started reading his blog.  His posts are pretty technical, so I had to really study them (I am NOT a developer).

What I learned was that Major is a really smart guy!  We met again once since then, at a Tweet-up.  And we have chatted online fairly often.

It is people like him – smart and passionate people – (and him in particular) that convinced me that Rackspace/Mosso was where I needed to be.

Thanks, Major 🙂

From his “About” page:

I’ve been a Linux system administrator for about 6 years, and along the way, there have been many influential people who have taught me best practices, problem solving skills, and patience. I feel that this blog is a way to give back to those who have helped me, and to those who are still learning.

Currently, I’m a Linux Senior Systems Engineer for Rackspace Managed Hosting, a full-service dedicated hosting provider in Texas. I am a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and a Certified MySQL Database Administrator (CMDBA) (#6520).

V8 is Stealing Saturday (and Ripping Me Off!)

 

V8

Weekly Pack?  Really?

“Get a Full Serving of Vegetables Every Day” is what they claim.  “Every day”, and “Weekly” lead my to believe that V8 is ripping me off!

There are 7 days in the week.  6 cans of V8 in the “Weekly Pack” – even the calendar on the package shows only 6 days in the week! 

V8 is stealing Saturday!

Why Saturday?  I *like* Saturday!  Why not Monday?  Nobody would care if they stole Monday!

And the Winner Is… Me! (and Mosso)

I have just accepted a position as Director of Software Development for Mosso.

Mosso is based in San Antonio, and is part of Rackspace.

So, why did I choose Mosso?  From the web site:

We started Mosso because we knew there were web developers who wanted a reliable platform for their applications and email–without being the ones responsible for all the technology.

Basically, Mosso does, on a much larger scale, what I have been doing as a consultant for the last few years – stripping as much of the technology details as possible out of the lives of people that have an idea and/or dream – they want to build the idea, not manage the server, or the databases.  They want to be able to focus on building what they envision.  I’ve helped people focus on that – Mosso lets thousands of people do the same.

That’s what Mosso does.  And more.  And in very cool ways.

Mosso also passed all of my test points:

  • I need to build teams.
  • I need to work with smart people.
  • I need a voice.
  • I need responsibility, accountability, AND authority.
  • I need the security of a larger company with the atmosphere of a startup.
  • I needed a company that is nimble – it can quickly adjust to change, and new ideas.
  • My work must have value to me, and to others.
  • The impact has to have a large footprint.  I like building big!

So, how did Mosso do on this list?  Extremely well.  I will not be building one team – but several teams.  I have met some of the smartest people – all in one company in downtown San Antonio.

My position is a senior one – I will eventually have a large team – and many of them I will need to hire.  That is important work that is important to the company, and to my new coworkers.  I’ll be allowed to run my teams and do my job – I’ll be helping grow/invent/implement some very cool technology.

The work environment is amazing – we have real humans at Mosso 24/7.  We have developers on call 24/7.  We work 24/7 (so you don’t have to!).  Developers build their own schedules for covering “on call” – they don’t need a “manager” – they are managing quite well right now :)  So I will focus on improving our processes and hiring more talented people (call me if you are interested – 210-845-4440).

New employees get their choice of computers.  You want a Windows desktop? – no problem.  One monitor, or two?  You want a 17” MacBook Pro (I Do!) – that’s cool as well.  One monitor, or two?  It’s really up to you.  Since we are building computing for the cloud, the systems we personally choose don’t really matter (except for where you feel most productive!).

Like any startup, you have a lot to do – your job description might as well read, “Succeed”.  I like that.  But we’re also backed by Rackspace – a very strong company (and a very cool company to work at in their own right – they’ve won a lot of awards for being a cool place to work).

I first met the Mosso crew when I invited Robert Scoble to come to San Antonio – I was just introduced to a couple of them – I didn’t get a chance to talk to them.  But a few weeks later I looked into what they were doing.  I became a customer.  I was (and am even more so now) impressed.  Those blog posts started a conversation that eventually led to here.  It was not planned.

But I am very pleased to be in an exciting position at Mosso – and am very happy to be part of the Rackspace family.  I am a Racker, and already proud of it 🙂

I won’t be able to talk much about what I am doing for a while.  But once I can, I’ll be sure to share my experience with you.

But as I learn more about Mosso, and what my teams look like – I’ll share that with you. 

Because I wouldn’t go to work for a company that didn’t excite me   And challenge me.

This one does.

Lightning Does Strike Twice

It has been about four years since I first decided to step into the consulting lifestyle.  In that time one of my “children” has completed High School, and then his first year of college.  Next year my daughter will finish High School as well.

It has been an amazing four years for me – I have been able to spend time with my kids as required – but mostly I have been able to spend an inordinate amount of time learning.  Ten years ago I learned by reading books – today I learn more by surfing the Internet – it is still reading, but it is so much faster, and so much more available (and “find-able!”.

One of the things my time in consulting has taught me is that I miss people.  I miss the challenge of building teams – not just hiring people, but building functional groups that work well together to build more than any single persons could have done.

So, taking stock of my life, as I am often wanton to do, I asked myself, “What is next”?  In a year I will have two kids in college, and perhaps neither of them left at home.

It was time for me to answer the question, “What does Rob want?”.

So I looked back in my life experiences and tried to zero in on what made me the most happy – what did I love to do so much that I could do it for the rest of my life?  Raising children certainly tops my list – but I can’t raise them forever – in fact, I am already being outsourced in that position – by my children themselves.

Raising children is like building good teams – the end goal is that eventually they won’t need depend on you anymore.

I decided I needed to go back to work with people – preferably young, energetic people, and certainly people smarter than I am.  I have always been lucky in surrounding myself with people smarter than I am (and please – PAUL! – no comments that this should be easy – it isn’t).

This realization came over a several month period – I didn’t wake up one day having come to this “epiphany”.

I missed building teams.  I need to work with smart people.  I MUST work for a company that understands that I am a unique person – I am opinionated, passionate, determined, outspoken, opinionated, and outspoken.  And I am sorry if I repeated myself.  And I am sorry if I repeated myself.

I need a company that doesn’t exist outside of startups – I needed security, because I will have two kids in college.  It must be nimble.  It must be willing to listen, and learn – even as it teaches.  But I also needed the excitement that keeps me engaged.  I need to constantly invent.  I need to work with smart people that will make me smarter.  I needed to be someplace that allows me to make a difference every day.  I needed to build something that affects a lot of people, because after helping build WiFi – it takes a big project to be a “big deal”.

And most of all – I need to be able to help.  My work must have value – to me, and to the people I work with.  And to the customers – who I never shy away from or refuse a conversation with.

In the next day or two I hope to share with you the company that is all of that, and more.  How much more is something I expect to find out soon – and something I hope to grow over time.

But don’t worry – I won’t change my blogging style/habits.  I wouldn’t work for a company that thought they could control my freedom of expression outside the office.

The list of companies I wouldn’t work for is rather large.  So I’ll save you that and instead share with you in the next couple days who I would work for – and I will tell you exactly why I made that choice.