Springing into a New Adventure
This announcement comes a bit pre-mature. While those close to me, my most immediate network, and my direct coworkers know, no one else does yet; I read online it’s common courtesy to wait until 2 weeks into your new gig to tell the world. Whatever. So. For anyone who follows my blog close enough to discover this post (good on you, there’s no RSS feed, so you must have wondered by here on your own accord), you get this announcement in advance (and with a bit of an explanation too).
EDIT (4/16/22) I do now have an RSS feed!
In true Linkedin fashion…
I am pleased to announce I have accepted a fulltime position as software engineer at Spring Health.
Ok, Rob, so why?
- DocuSign is a great company (see here) among other awards/top ten lists they have been on.
- My managers have been wonderful
- The work is very interesting
- The company (except for the “outlook” which Wall Street throws a temper tantrum…) has been performing incredible!
- Paper signatures WILL lose out in the long term
If anyone is considering DocuSign, it’s an absolutely fantastic company. Would recommend to anyone (and gladly help connect you with some of the platform folks doing technically interesting things).
So please Rob, fill me in.
I’ve talked to ALOT of people in the past few months. To those of you I’ve talked to, thanks for the help! Special shoutout to my girlfriend and parents… thanks for understanding my back-and-forth-back-and-forth.
Ultimately, I made a sort of thesis on what I was looking for. It largely stemmed from the following quote:
“It is well known the drunken sailor who staggers to the left or right with n independent random steps will, on the average, end up about square root of n steps from the origin. But if there is a pretty girl in one direction, then his steps will tend to go in that direction and he will go a distance proportional to n. In a lifetime of many, many independent choices, small and large, a career with a vision will get you a distance proportional to n, while no vision will get you only the distance . In a sense, the main difference between those who go far and those who do not is some people have a vision and the others do not and therefore can only react to the current events as they happen.” ― Richard Hamming, The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn
Thus, it was time to take control of my career. But in order to take control of my career, I needed a vision.
Vision: become the world’s best performance engineer for hyper-growth startups.
From this vision I can derive some sub goals:
- [technical] understand the nuts of bolts of all kinds of complex systems (live in rabbit holes) AND how they fit together
- [technical] hack together some open source tools to accelerate performance engineering field as a whole
- [technical] give a talk about some of the super cool stuff I did at work at a conference
- [financial] buy a house in 5 years (perf. eng. are in high demand and typically do well in this regard)
But, this all comes from the primary vision. So how do I get there?
According to a conversation I had with the creator of the flamescope tool, there are three main avenues to improvement in this field (maybe we can abstract this to any field?):
This person whom I spoke with was a huge believer in (1). He pointed out his colleague, creator of flamegraphs was very much a (3). Many of my coworkers at DocuSign pointed to (2) being incredibly important.
So, Spring Health. I believe this offers the opportunity to get all 3:
- [experience] a startup with growing pains offers the opportunity to OWN systems which have performance issues
- [mentorship] will be able to work with a previous manager who’s a “wizard” in perf things (as said by previous DocuSign coworkers)
- [reading] I already have WAY too many books on my shelf to leaf through, (2) for me has provided a few reccomendations. Time to buckle down. Will probably dedicate a future blog post to however I figure out the best notetaking/knowledge retention strategy.
But Rob, Why Spring Health
Ok, ok, ok. So maybe there would be other places that could also offer 1-3. Why Spring Health?
Here is a random laundry list of reasons why:
- one of the tech leads believes in blogging
- I believe in the mission; I have dealt with mental health issues personally
- financial compensation is on par with what lifestyle I’d like to live
- company size is between Stellar Development Foundation (~50) and DocuSign (~6500) offering a new experience
- at a smaller eng. org., I can, as a mid-level eng., own things and thus grow my career faster
- culture of peer programming (my new manager has worked remotely for a decade)
- eng. org. recently turned over, chance to make a big impact as culture develops (into hopefully a great technically curious & learning community like I loved in SF)
- unlimited PTO to coordinate vacations and time off with my girlfriend
- doing my work on a MacBook (did someone say 16 inch !!!!)
- I won’t be penalized for working in Miami (and furthermore won’t be penalized for moving with my girlfriend when she starts fellowship in a little over a year)
A couple previous coworkers at DocuSign gave me further advice, other criteria I could use to consider if this was a good fit. I also will work in a couple role models.
I am blanking a bit this AM, but his framework went something like this:
- For: who is leading the company? What is the company doing?
- What: what are you working on?
- With: who do you work directly with?
Based on the number of these you can answer positively, you can determine how good the opportunity is:
1 –> good
2 –> great
3 –> dream
Here is how I’d answer:
- TBH I don’t know a ton about the founders, but I do believe in the product and the mission, so let’s give this a 0.5
- I will be able to own some perf things, so definitely a 1.
- I get to work with an old manager, and a few others that seem like awesome coworkers based on my interview conversations, thus this is also a 1.
So, we get somewhere between a 2 and 3, passing this test.
Mentor: is this an outsized opportunity?
According to (yet-another-coworker), startups offer the greatest opportunity to own the largest portion of a codebase. Thus, if I can work hard, produce, ship, and gain the trust of my peers, there’s enough work to do such that opportunities here nearly limitless (while of less scope than DocuSign for the time being).
Thus, we also pass this test.
Richard Hamming: yes, another story from Hamming… sorry, not sorry.
Over on the other side of the dining hall was a chemistry table. I had worked with one of the fellows, Dave McCall; furthermore he was courting our secretary at the time. I went over and said, ‘‘Do you mind if I join you?’’ They can’t say no, so I started eating with them for a while. And I started asking, ‘‘What are the important problems of your field?’’ And after a week or so, ‘‘What important problems are you working on?’’ And after some more time I came in one day and said, ‘‘If what you are doing is not important, and if you don’t think it is going to lead to something important, why are you at Bell Labs working on it?’’ I wasn’t welcomed after that; I had to find somebody else to eat with! That was in the spring. In the fall, Dave McCall stopped me in the hall and said, ‘‘Hamming, that remark of yours got underneath my skin. I thought about it all summer, i.e. what were the important problems in my field. I haven’t changed my research,’’ he says, ‘‘but I think it was well worthwhile.’’ And I said, ‘‘Thank you Dave,’’ and went on. I noticed a couple of months later he was made the head of the department. I noticed the other day he was a Member of the National Academy of Engineering. I noticed he has succeeded. I have never heard the names of any of the other fellows at that table mentioned in science and scientific circles. They were unable to ask themselves, ‘‘What are the important problems in my field?’’ - Richard Hamming, You and Your Research
So, am I doing important work at Spring Health?
While this question is certainly asked more in a “researchy” sense, it is a fundamental question that gives this job (and maybe even life) meaning. I do believe by helping make the Spring Health platform more performant and usable, I will be able to aid more people in receiving the mental health care they require.
Furthermore, I believe by improving my own engineering skills such that I can hop into ANY hyper-growth startup in the future and I can do some very important work in my lifetime; of course this will only happen after I see the Spring Health opportunity all the way through… I hope to be at Spring for a long while, 4+ years such that I can actually do some very interesting work… yet-another-docusign-coworker stressed nothing impressive or interesting happens until years 2+ or 3+ at a company.
Steve Jobs: ok, one last one.
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today.
While this is certainly a “day-to-day” question I must ask myself, the answer today is a definite yes. This is the best move for me, my career, and most importantly my life, the life I want to live.
So that is probably more of an explanation than I owe anyone. Maybe this is too personal to be shared online? Who knows?
This is a personal blog after all (with almost no SEO). Hopefully if someone else is in a career rut or trying to find a course for their career/life, this post can provide some guidance or at least motivation.