Monday, February 18, 2008

Regaining Perspective II

So what is left after my last post? What else do I have consuming my time now that I am freeing myself of the other obligations I have built up in the last 5 years?

Well, first is a new employer. I think I have expressed in previous postings that I am quite dissatisfied and unfulfilled in my current employment situation. Not only have I spent 5 years doing what I have been doing, with no real change in the technical aspects of the work, but I have watched a lot of good people leave as the overall technical ability of the group I work in degrades. I've passed up opportunities for promotion that can hardly be considered opportunities; longer hours for less pay, with only title inflation, is hardly an opportunity. To paraphrase what my mentor told me last week, NEVER, under any circumstances, move backwards in compensation or responsibility.

I realized that I seek the opportunity to actually have an impact on organizations. It is close to impossible to have an impact on an organization that has over 400,000 employees. You're just another cog in the wheel. That's not the level I want to play at. Also, there is HUGE cultural gap between what I desire and what I have. I have worked in much smaller enterprises, and even a startup, and I like the small, dynamic, hungry environment much more than the bureaucratic, political, large company environment. I don't do politics, as anyone who knows me can attest. In a small company, you can have a direct impact on the survival and success of the organization. You interact with everyone - executives, middle management, technical staff at all levels, customers, vendors - out of necessity. I love that! So that's where I plan to return -- to an entrepreneurial, startup environment.

Another important facet of this career shift is making a move into a sales oriented role, preferably pre-sales engineering. The reason for this change is twofold: [1] a pre-sales engineering position will allow me to interact closely with customers, helping to solve their problems and really having an impact on their success and [2] such a role will enable me to be compensated at the level I believe I deserve to be compensated at. Sales is completely performance driven, and while I am not a salesperson nor do I wish to be, I wish to be involved in the sales process. Sales is the most highly compensated group in any company. However, I want to also remain technically oriented and hands on to a certain degree; pre-sales appears to be the best way to straddle these 2 worlds.

Outside of the search for a new career, the other major project I have in my life is my software company. I believe I previously described the state of this endeavor, and it is the subject of the tag entitled "The Business". However, recently I parted ways with my partner, due largely to the fallout of the personal issues (of my own creation, admittedly) which erupted last year. However, I think this is a good thing. While my ex-partner is very talented and intelligent, it is critical that whomever I work with will be willing and able to work with me. At times, the business will be stressful. It will require focus and commitment. It also requires trust, and unfortunately, she and I parted due to concerns about integrity and ethics. Thing that I did, which I had apologized for and attempted to clean up with those I hurt, did not sit well with her, and I became evil incarnate in her eyes. Such is life. However, now I have the time to focus on the vision as I see it living, and I can bring in the resources that I think are appropriate. Also, my partner was a bit inexperienced, and while that may not have been a problem given how intelligent and thoughtful she is, I do know that now I have access to very deep talent benches across the technology industry, people that I have known for years who are proven and experienced. There won't be any "stepping on toes" if I bring in outsiders; I don't have to worry about offending or disrespecting her technical ability or judgment.

This is a real "swing for the fences" startup opportunity, and its going to force me to get my hands dirty in a lot of ways - writing code; doing server stuff; negotiating partnerships, advisory relationships and the like; seeking funding; and all the other various startup type activities. But now, success or failure is squarely in my hands and I look forward to the challenge. I have a few advisors in mind, people whom I've called on since the beginnings of this project back in 2006. I also have a few contacts who might be willing to lend a hand to implementing this project on several mobile platforms. So now, I have to finish the design work and start assembling the prototype. Wish me luck!

I have a few other software projects I am working on, some of which could probably turn around very quickly and could possibly be built into enterprises -- either software product companies or consultancies. The first focus of my attention is the FIX (Financial Information eXchange) protocol. I want to try some things and see if I can get them to market to address some perceived weaknesses in both the market and the product. We'll see how this goes. Lots of documentation reading lies ahead.

So that's what I'm up to, filling the space I have created by reducing my involvement with the blood-sucking activities that have been killing me (by choice) for the last few years. Maybe blood sucking is a harsh description, but they weren't adding value to my life in any significant way, and hadn't in a long time. Sort of like corn ethanol, they have required more energy (or vitality, enjoyment, or time) as input than they were creating as output.

Anyway, its time to get back to work. I have some documentation to read. Until next time...

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