a node at the edge  

October 03, 2002
ConnectingOf Value

I have never had a job I disliked so much that I would want to have revenge on them. Reading Dorothea Salo's description of a job she left two years ago leaves me a bit in awe at the passion of her dislike. No, I've never disliked a job that much, but I have loved a job with equal passion.

I've written about my job at Skyfish.com before; specifically in an article for O'Reilly, Death of a Dot-Com. I was reminded of the company again this week when some legal issues associated with the bankruptcy arose in addition to making contact with several people for references during my current job hunt.

I loved that job with a passion that most people reserve for their lovers. During the development of the first released applications, I worked four straight months, 16 hour days, without taking a break. I took a $100,000 dollar a year cut in pay to take the job as technical architect and senior technical lead (and weren't those the days to be making that kind of money). I absolutely and totally loved that job.

If you ask me why I loved the job it wouldn't be because of the surroundings (condos in the Leather District, desks crammed up next to each other, poor ventilation), or the pay, or the fact that the work was overly innovative. It's true we were working with an environment I particularly liked: J2EE, WebLogic, EJBs, Java, Oracle, Unix, and so on. However, the tools and the applications we were building weren't enough to make me love the job.

I did like the people. The Skyfish.com group was one of the most eclectic and interesting groups I have ever worked with. My CTO was an Australian named Michael, and he is, without a doubt, still the best boss I've ever had. We made a very good team, each of our strengths complimenting the other. And the others I worked with: Lisa the web page editor and my closest friend, Enza our content editor (who was a natural born weblogger if there was one), the other developers such as Peter and Brian and Joe, and Ichiro and Mauro our SysAdmins, and lovely Lena, serious/comic Jim, and Tim our finance guy-with-a-heart, and Sebastian, especially Sebastian - a true Renaissance romantic living in modern times. All special people, and I adored them.

But the people and our enthusiasm couldn't overcome the problems. The management team, very conservative, had offices in Connecticut, while the very ecentric technical team (included the CTO), worked in Boston. You can't split management from technical in that small a company without problems happening. Serious problems of credibility and trust. They needed us, but we needed them just as much and neither party recognized this at the time.

And within the management in Connecticut, one officer sleeping with the wife of another and everyone knowing this. Well, I knew this when one of my co-workers called me up at 3:00 in the morning before I was to take a train to New York to try and sell our company to yet another bunch of conservative investors. This was among the tid-bits of information he let fall.

In the end, our organization deginerated into petty fights and rumors and disagreements and continuous worry and disappointment with each other, and desperate attempts to maintain a facade of composure whenever we walked into yet another mohagony paneled office in the halls of finance, hat in hand, begging to be allowed to live...as a company.

But the industry is small and rumors were large, and no one would touch us, even with the business alliances we made. You might say that skyfish.com was brought down as much by sex, as it was by the dot-com implosion. You might say.

But why, with all this, did I love that job so much? Why?

Because for the first time in a position, I was allowed to release my full technical creativity and build something really special, from the ground up. Because it was the only job I've ever had where the only thing that mattered -- the only thing -- was my technical abilities. Because my boss believed in me, but more importantly, because all my self-doubts and insecurities were swept away and I actually believed in myself.

And then one day, it was all gone.

Posted by Bb at October 03, 2002 10:49 AM

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If I hadn't loved that job so much at first -- and for very much the reasons you cite -- I wouldn't hate the place now as I do, believe me. Betrayed love is very scary stuff.

My current job I will simply shrug and leave. Five years from now I won't remember my coworkers' names, and it won't bother me at all that I don't.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo on October 3, 2002 11:10 AM

The job I'm currently in has similarities.

For over 2 years I was unique here. I worked with web-related projects. I was respected, worked with all tiers and pretty much designed each application from scratch. I was in my glory.... doing work I always dreamed of and being paid a nice buck to boot! When one project was finished I moved on to the next, leaving the support to others.

A year ago we purchased a large SAP implementation. I'm now one person in a large group. Writing reports in something akin to COBOL and clunky screens that feel like they are based on monochrome lines. Needless to say, I've lost my love for the place. I'll stay for a year or two for a few reasons.

(1) I'm realistic above all. The decision to replace a web (pun intended) of 45 legacy systems with one system is a sound business decision. How can one argue with that?

(2) The economy - both nationally and locally - stinks and hey... at least I have a job.

(3) I've come to realize that THE only way to fall in love with my job - and be assured that it won't change - is to strike out on my own and develop my own products.

I know exactly what you mean Shelley. They say it's better to have loved and lost. But it's also true that ignorance (of things lost) is bliss.

Posted by: DD on October 3, 2002 01:12 PM

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