Tag: Career

An open letter to my son on the eve of starting his first summer internship

IMG_1086Well, Justin, high school graduation is behind you, you’ve landed in San Jose, and tomorrow morning you’ll wake up in Mountain View to start your internship at Mozilla, your first real world, paying job that’s aligned with your career goals.

I am so proud of you for all that you’ve accomplished and I know you’re going to have a great summer. But I have this fatherly need to impart wisdom, and I couldn’t fit it all in at the airport drop-off this morning, so I’m putting it here and linking to it from Twitter where you’ll be more likely to read and absorb it…

1. Don’t stand around with your hands in your pockets.

In every business there is always work that needs to be done. Don’t literally or figuratively just stand there doing nothing. Jump in and contribute value.

2. There is something to learn in even seemingly crappy tasks.

Every project has less desirable tasks and someone’s got to do them. If that’s you, don’t get discouraged. Take the grunt tasks on with a smile, knock them out quickly with quality, and find a lesson those tasks offer. Learning something new makes any task worth it.

3. Learn something new every day.

Speaking of learning, try to learn something new, no matter how small, every day. Actually, this applies to the rest of your life, not just your work life. If you get to the end of the day and you can’t answer, “What did I learn today?” that’s a day wasted, and it’s on you to fix.

4. Be confident, but practice gratitude and humility.

You’ve contributed countless hours to Mozilla, you’ve honed your skills, and you’ve successfully navigated the vetting process. So be confident that you’ve earned the right to be there. But something to reflect on daily, maybe as you walk to work in that gorgeous northern California weather, is how fortunate you are to have this day, this opportunity, in this place, and what you will do now to capitalize on it.

5. Have fun. Live in the moment.

This summer is going to fly by. And you’ll have your whole life to work. So my biggest piece of advice is to have fun, try new things, and to savor every single moment. Seriously, it sounds easy but it is so hard to do. When you are with your friends, standing on that hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, I hope you’ll pause, take a few breaths, and really just soak it up.

So there you go. Hopefully, I’ve been working these in to your brain over the last 18 years so maybe it didn’t need to be said, but thanks for letting me say it anyway.

Oh damn, I almost forgot: Dress in layers, Facetime your Mom, Snapchat your sister, keep your wallet in your front pocket on public transit, if you’re on-time you’re late, be discreet and watchful at ATMs, always wear a helmet, be a thoughtful and considerate roommate, and stay away from the Tenderloin.

Three watershed moments in my career (Hint: One just happened)

I’ve recently made a big shift in the career department. But rather than tell you what it is right off, I want to build up to it. I think it’s kind of a cool story, so if you’ll bear with me, here are the three watershed moments of my career thus far…

Watershed moment #1: Specialization leads to consulting

In 1992, I graduated college and went to work for Texas Instruments working on mainframes. Somehow, I got exposed to Lotus Notes development. I loved it. I dove in deep, eventually leaving for a job where I could be completely focused on Notes. Notes taught me a lot about managing unstructured data and how people collaborate to get work done. I learned that, for me, interesting IT problems are those where humans and systems have to work together to get something done. And it taught me a lot about what a passionate technical community looks like. Ultimately it led to a job at a small, but up-and-coming consulting firm where I would spend the next nine years. That decision to focus on Notes development was a watershed moment.

Watershed moment #2: My blog gets me a job in open source

Fast-forward to 2001. My content management practice was making a shift. Notes was falling out of favor and many of our clients were looking at WCM and DM solutions from large proprietary vendors. We started looking at open source technologies as well, but it was a tough sell to our traditional clients who had never heard of open source, and if they had, were skeptical or even fearful. We started implementing Documentum-based solutions and did that for the next three years, but I continued to dabble in open source. A revolution seemed afoot, but I couldn’t figure out the best way to jump in.

I started blogging in 2001, stopped, then started again in 2002. My rationale was simple: Writing helped me learn. And, for virtually no added cost, I could multiply the benefit by sharing what I learned–particularly with coworkers, but if others got value out of it, that was okay too. The idea that if my writing helped enough people it might help the open source movement in some tiny way was a romantic notion, but seemed remote.

Then I came across Alfresco. In October of 2005 I wrote my first Alfresco-related blog post. It said simply, “Alfresco is an open source enterprise content management solution¬†founded by one of the co-founders of Documentum,” and then included a lengthy excerpt from a Gilbane post on Alfresco’s release candidate. A month later I published a more detailed review of the product. After three or four years of blogging, I was starting to find my voice. Little did I know that I had also found a passion.

By 2006, my firm had been acquired and Alfresco was starting to look like it had legs. I looked back on my past Documentum projects and realized that Alfresco was a viable alternative as the underlying repository in every case. Open source had been around for years but it had been sneaking quietly in the back doors of my clients in the form of operating systems, developer libraries, databases, and tooling. Alfresco, and other commercial open source companies, were poised to crash through the front door with business-facing open source applications. I wanted in. I left my firm to join Optaros, an open source consultancy I had discovered through fellow content management blogger and then Optaros employee, Seth Gottlieb. My blog had gotten me a job working with a technology I loved. That was the second watershed moment.

Watershed moment #3: Wait for it…

My four years at Optaros gave me the opportunity to focus on Alfresco full-time. Not just implementing projects, although there were many. Just as important, I was able to fully-engage with the Alfresco community. I wrote blog posts and tutorials. I created add-ons and integrations and released those as open source projects. I wrote a book. I conducted code camps. I attended every event Alfresco ever put on and gave talks at most of those. I didn’t set out to be an evangelist, but that’s what I became. Did it benefit me, Optaros, and later, my own start-up, Metaversant? Of course it did. But, here’s the kicker: Acting in my own self-interest turned out to be a huge benefit to the greater Alfresco community. And I’m not alone. Many people all around the world are participating in the community in all kinds of ways to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Which brings us to the next watershed moment: Alfresco has hired me as their new Chief Community Officer. My mission is essentially to make the Alfresco community an example for all other commercial open source companies to follow. It’s a significant challenge, and I’m going to need your help. Alfresco may sign my check, but I work for the community. Therefore, you’ve got to tell me where we should take this thing. We have our ideas but yours are critical.

What this means

I’ll give specifics on how you can help in a future post. I expect that the specific strategies we undertake together will fall roughly into these buckets:

  • Motivating community members, regardless of skill set or relationship to Alfresco to engage more deeply in the community
  • Enabling the community with tools, resources, and product enhancements that leverage community contributions
  • Exposing the greatness already existing in the community, whether that’s in the form of contributions that have been made that people just don’t know about or shining a light on community contributors doing awesome things

And, of course I get to continue to work on my own community contributions like my work with Apache Chemistry, my Google Code projects, the blog, and new stuff I haven’t even thought of yet.

It was a tough decision to put the growth of my content management-focused consulting firm, Metaversant, on hold, but when Alfresco approached me about this opportunity, I had to take it. My career and my passion are already dovetailed. I do what I love, and for that I am very lucky. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to make that an even tighter fit?

I am very excited about what this means for the community and the importance Alfresco places on its growth and well-being. I hope you are excited too. Actually, “hope” is the wrong word–I need you to be excited. Who’s with me? Ready to pitch in?