End of an era

Last day at the old job was Wednesday. I had two early calls, and then was done by nine. I spent about two hours cleaning up after myself, and by eleven, I was done done, and couldn’t think of anything else to do except look at really old wiki pages and make myself depressed. By that time, everyone in India was asleep, and I don’t work with too many people in the US anymore, so I did one last look, then shut everything down, threw my two computers in a bag, and drove straight to FedEx. I gave them the company’s account number, bought two computer boxes, filled them up with obsolete laptops and my name badge, and that was that. End of an era.

Like I said last post, no cake, no dragging me to Chotchkie’s and telling the server it’s my birthday so the whole kitchen staff comes out and sings. This job did Agile (sort of), and that means you work with everyone, and you work with nobody. If I wanted to tell everyone I was leaving, I would have had to hit 79 different slack channels. And I’ve been in our Palo Alto office maybe a dozen times in twelve years, and I currently know exactly one person who still works there. And physically, he doesn’t, until the pandemic is over. So the goodbye situation was a bit weird.

* * *

Actually, not to get too into it, but the main office at this place was a bit abnormal. I mean it was, at its peak, four different two-story buildings with the distinct architectural style known as “Silicon Valley, 2002.” They were nice enough buildings, but almost everyone had an office with a door, and it was incredibly quiet there. I’d wander the halls after lunch, and it felt absolutely dead. The only people I’d see were people I didn’t know. It always felt like when I have a dream that’s set in a generic tech office building that’s an amalgam of every place I’ve worked and a bunch of office sets from TV or movies. It never felt like my office. It’s also weird that I haven’t been there since maybe December 2019, and I’ll likely never go there again. And the company is in the process of downsizing to another office somewhere else, so I definitely won’t be back.

The place reminded me of when I worked at Samsung and had to visit developers at other companies, or when I worked for Frankov and tagged along when he pitched his start-up. In both situations, I’d go to these random tech companies, and they would look like this, like if you were making a movie about a tech company. Like they always reminded me of the office to Playtronic Toys in the movie Sneakers. It was like a strange sense of deja vu, like you could tell just by looking at the chairs and cubicles and white boards and Polycom speaker phones in every meeting room that it was a tech company, and if you grabbed a random individual (one not wearing a shirt with a collar) you could probably ask them how to back out a change in git and they could tell you. Almost all tech companies look like this, although ones that are in big cities and not in office park sprawl usually also have one wall that’s exposed brick, which tells you that they are Disruptors and Think Outside The Box.

* * *

Come to think of it, we had an exposed brick wall when I was a kid, like behind our wood burning stove. Not much Disruption or Synergy went on there. No stand-up comedy, either.

* * *

Walking away from that job was more depressing than I thought. I spent the day in a funk, which wasn’t helped by the rain storm we got. (Oddly enough, it rained on my last day at Samsung.) It was much more about leaving behind the first half of that job, all of the people I worked with on the old New York team. All of them left in 2015 or so, and that was depressing then, but it all sort of hit me again, all at once. I wallowed in that for the afternoon, but then made the decision to move on. I have a real problem with nostalgia like this, and I can either simmer in it forever, or try to do something else. So, I went to the mall, and stopped thinking about it.

I was also looking for patterns and coincidences, like how I left Samsung at about the same time in 2010, and also how I left Denver in late February 2008. And we moved to Denver around then in 2007, so my original departure from DataSynapse and New York was at almost the same time of year as the end of my second tour. Another one that popped out at me was how in March 1999, I’d left my last Seattle job and was spending a few weeks of voluntary unemployment packing and mailing boxes all day, and writing on Summer Rain at night. I probably should have spent my four days of unemployment this week frantically writing, but I spent much of it digging around the back of my desk, which I will talk about now.

* * *

I’ve been getting ready for the new job, which I start tomorrow. I spent the weekend rewiring everything on my desk, swapping things out, managing cables, getting things ready for two Macs on the same workspace. The process started with the addition of an LG 4K 27-inch monitor. It’s maybe two inches wider, and about the same height, but with smaller bezels all around. The native resolution is twice as much in each direction. That means I can keep it at 1920×1080 and have the same size as before, but incredibly clear. Or I can crank it up to like 3360×1890 on my Mac, which is roughly four times as big, but would make me go blind after an hour of reading the tiny text. Mousing across the screen also takes like a day, and I’m sure the fan will start blowing like a jet engine running at combat power. Setting it to like 2560×1440 is a good compromise, I guess. The monitor has much more rich colors and all that stuff, and a set of built-in speakers I will never use. There’s also the Thunderbolt cable thing, where I can plug one cable from my computer to the monitor, then plug my mouse and keyboard into the monitor, and the peripherals and the charging and video will all work over the one cord. I haven’t messed with that one, and just use a single HDMI.

I also bought a new KVM switch, which was a huge pain. This is the third one I’ve bought in 2021, and it luckily seems to work. Nobody even knows what a KVM is or does anymore, and when you mention running two computers in a computer forum or subreddit, everyone tells you that you should just get a second bedroom and set up another desk and monitor in there, or just use your phone for everything, who needs two computers, you’re holding it wrong, etc. Most KVM switches on the market were designed in like 1947 and don’t support monitors from ten years ago, let alone all of the crazy ultra-wide, XDR, 4K, Retina-whatever stuff out there. Don’t even try to find one supporting multiple monitors.

Anyway, after days of research, I got this KVM. It supports 4K resolution over HDMI, and supports EDID, which basically tricks your computer into thinking it still has a monitor attached when you switch to the other computer, so the first computer doesn’t freak out, uninstall the drivers to your mouse and keyboard, go to sleep, move all of the windows, and so on. So now I can run two Macs into that switch, and hook up my monitor, keyboard, and mouse to it. I then can use a remote or the button on the thing and switch back and forth between computers. It doesn’t appear to have any delay or weirdness with the computers falling asleep randomly or whatever. Famous last words.

The DST shift messed with me last night, mostly because half of our various time sources changed, but half didn’t. I had an early appointment today, and was almost late because I didn’t know if I should be looking at my desk clock (which doesn’t change) or my watch (which does). So, maybe I need a nap now.


The Deal (2021 edition)

So. It’s time to write another post like this one from 2010. It’s not LinkedIn official yet, but I’m leaving my current job, and going to a new one. And that’s always a good way to rustle the various nostalgic bits of the brain, especially when as much time has passed as it has with the current employer.

I don’t like to cross the streams and won’t discuss the specifics of either job here. But the old gig is the one I started in September of 2010. And I did a previous tour with this company from 2001 to 2007. So that’s a grand total of almost sixteen and a half years of service between the two, which is insane.

This job started almost on a lark. I was working in Silicon Valley and doing the big commute and wasn’t entirely into my gig. Joel, my old boss, asked me if I wanted to come back. I said nah, I owned a house out here, wasn’t about to move back to New York. He said I could work remote. I said, okay let’s do this, and I was officially a full-time work-from-home worker, ten years before everyone else did the same.

There are two distinct eras to the job, and the nostalgia for the first half is much heavier. I really liked working on my old products, and loved working with Joel and the old crew. All of us who were there from the start-up days had basically gone to war together, and had an entire vocabulary of our own, plus total knowledge of what was where, how things worked, how to get stuff done. We were all introverts, and a decade before Slack became a thing, we all used an internal IRC server for air traffic control and general water cooler bullshitting. Nobody ever used the phone. I didn’t even have a phone; the company gave me one in the Palo Alto office, and then promptly gave my cube to someone else when I never came in. There was a lot of general insanity, a small company running within a giant one, but I really enjoyed that five year chunk of time.

I also liked that it was a strange virtual conduit back to my old life in New York. At that point, half of the team was still at our old office at Bleecker and Broadway, and the other half was up in Boston. But I worked in New York, from Oakland. I time-shifted three hours earlier to match their hours, and kept up with all of the gossip and the general zeitgeist of working for a New York company, even though I technically worked for a Palo Alto company. I went back to New York three times during that first few years, which was always a bizarre deja vu experience. Like the first time, I came into the office at 632, went right back to my old desk, and it had been vacant for the last three years. All of my old files were still in the filing cabinet. It was like I’d never left. And on another trip, I stayed at a hotel a few blocks from my last apartment. I’d walk the same exact route from the Lower East Side to the office, and it felt like I had traveled time back to 2006.

The parent company got bought out by venture cap, and everything shifted after that. Pretty much the entire team left. I got moved to another team in Palo Alto, and a new product, but I still had the old product. But we went through a big “push to cloud” where the old product was put out to pasture, and I spent much less time on it. I also started managing people, and working on this new cloud thing. I really missed my old team, and 2015 was an extremely depressing year for me.

I probably shouldn’t go into any details of the second half of my tenure. I started managing people, and loved doing that, up until the point when I had to start doing layoffs. That’s brutal, and the only thing worse than firing people who have been very loyal is getting invited to random meetings with HR and not knowing if it’s to fire people or to get fired yourself.

Anyway, don’t want to get into that stuff.

One of the things I have liked about my work situation is that the time-shifting means I have a few hours in the afternoon to write. And I pretty much floundered and was not consistent in my writing in the 00s, and figured I needed to focus and get more regular writing done after I took this gig. I’ve published twelve books in that time, and 30-some articles, plus everything written here and in other random places. I’m not sure what my work schedule will be like in the future, and I think I’m done with this constant grind of trying to publish a book every year.

The new job is in San Francisco, but given the situation, I’ll still be home until at least the fall, and I don’t think any of us are ever going to be back to five days a week in the office. (Famous last words.) The big weird thing about this job will be that I don’t switch desks. I’ll still be in my home office, have the same chair, same monitor, same keyboard. I’ll just be swapping out my old Lenovo for a new Mac. And what’s weird about that is it’s identical to the Mac I have at home.

What’s also strange is that in the pandemic, there’s no goodbye. I mean, no cake, no lunch, or anything else. I’m not big on goodbyes, and I’ve hated that I’ve have to force myself to end conversations this last week without saying “talk to you later.” But my boss is in the UK. My workers are in the midwest, the east, and India. My teams are scattered. There would be no lunch at Chotchkie’s and gift card to Starbucks, even if we were allowed to eat in restaurants. I just realized the other day that I have never physically met any of the people I currently manage. Sarah said the other day, “I feel so bad you talk about N__ and A__ every day and I never got to meet them!” And I said, “well, neither did I.”

Anyway. Old job ends on the 10th, and new one on the 15th. So I get a four-day weekend to FedEx computers back and clean out behind my desk to redo the cables and maybe sleep a bit. Then on to the next era. Should be fun.