It’s been quite a while since I last made a legitimate blog entry and that entry was about my struggle to figure out how I should move forward with my career. I had reached the point where I was burned out and not interested in development. This blog post isn’t much different.
I’m still seriously burned out on development. I’ve spent 22 years building LOB (line of business) apps and it’s boring. I had the bright idea of moving into management (something I never wanted to do). The goal was to move up as quickly as possible and eventually land at a start-up as CTO and cash out early.
This plan started off well. I secured a director position with one of my clients and spent 2 years in the position. I think I did very well on the technical side, which is to be expected as that is where my talents are. But, I learned a lot about my management and people skills. My style and personality don’t work with people who are not like minded. I’m a very to-the-point and blunt person. Facts, data, decisions; no drama, no feelings.
I would have weekly meetings with the CEO. We had a good relationship and were like minded which was nice because we could make significant progress on projects and issues alike. During one of our meetings, she brought up a few complaints from my dev managers. The complaints were that I didn’t coddle them enough. Those were their actual words. Listen, if you need me to tell you that you’re doing a good job every hour, then you obviously have concerns about your own abilities and I’m betting that you’re probably right. Now, I could see if these were junior devs who need to be assured they’re doing the right things in the right ways, but these were “senior” developers who were in management positions! If I’m not telling you otherwise, you can assume you’re doing a good job.
Anyway, that really threw me off. Granted, after some retrospective thinking, I could have avoided those complaints by doing a few simple things that I should have done anyway, like weekly one-on-one’s with the managers. I won’t make excuses, I hate doing those and I was really busy trying to fix major issues so we didn’t lose our three biggest customers, but I could have made the time and it would have gone a long way I think.
That, however, was not why I left. I resigned due to an ethical conflict that I couldn’t overlook. So, I axed the idea of the management route. Knowing that I was growing old, I had limited options. I could always go back to consulting on my own. This path made me quite a lot of money, but the long hours, taxes and stresses of self-employment were not something that I, or my family, wanted to go through again. No matter how much money you make, killing your self in the process isn’t worth it.
At this point, I had the means to change into another industry. I have always been an avid car enthusiast and I had built a reputation and following in the automotive world doing the same things that got me where I am in the tech world. I was able to turn that following into a customer base and started a company providing performance parts and modifications. I designed and manufactured several products which became popular.
The business makes enough to support itself, but not nearly enough to stop development work. I had planned on a 2-3 year transition plan including opening a shop. The obvious goal here was to try and match my development income, or at least have more than 60% come from the business.
The problem here is that I’d need to scale which means hiring staff and purchasing additional inventory and equipment. This could have been doable, but I also had another company that I started back in 2007. This was an IT company, providing printer service and maintenance. I ran the company for 6 years until I finally had enough and hired someone to do it for me. This thing was on auto-pilot for almost another 5 years which was nice because I spent a few hours a month, but collected the income like normal. Unfortunately, I left this person to their own devices and didn’t check in or evaluate their performance often enough and an incident occurred that ultimately cost me a customer that we had been serving for 10 years.
Now the profits from the automotive company had to go to make up for the missing profits from the IT company. That got me thinking, and realistically, I couldn’t see my transition plan working. I was discouraged and back in the same boat that I was in before.
I like writing code, don’t get me wrong. It’s just the products that I don’t like and my enthusiasm for learning is all but gone in this area. I used to write code for the sake of learning, and trying new things out just so I could blog about it. But that doesn’t have the allure it once did. Technology has gotten to the point that almost anything is possible by almost anyone. When I started out, everything was mysterious and it was like the wild west. Today, it’s more like a major metropolitan city. You probably think I’m crazy and backwards, and I should be excited that anything is possible, it means I can build whatever I wanted! My response to that is, “meh”.
I’m currently leading a team on a green-field project for a global company. The role has a good balance of management and technical requirements which is good, so I’m content for now which is nice because I don’t have to waste energy being unhappy about it and instead focus on moving forward with other plans.
So what about the future? I’m not sure, really. I’ve been reading a lot of CEO stories where they started at the bottom and ended up at the top. Pretty inspirational and I’m probably in the best position to make a run at that path. I never wanted to be in management or even work for a large company (let alone a global one), so seems counter-intuitive but things change. Priorities change. Thought processes change.
But, as I tell every recruiter that calls me, I am always open to new opportunities. You never know what they lead to or what might result. I built my reputation on random opportunities that lead to all sorts of interesting things and it’s been a fun ride.
However, if running my own consultancy has taught me anything (and also caused a ton of stress), it’s that you need at least one contingency plan. You can’t wait until you need it to make it. Sometimes it takes years to build that plan and getting in motion. Sounds about right, but what am I doing about it?
Well, in the last few years, I’ve discovered a new world. In this world, people earn a living by playing videos games. Yep, I’m talking about Twitch and streamers. I enjoy watching speed runs and challenge runs for Dark Souls and Bloodbourne. I usually have these playing just as background noise while I’m working. What I’ve learned is that there is a whole world built around video games. Conferences, events, services, income opportunities and much more. The community is what interests me. Ultimately fascinating.
Um, alright, so what does this have to do with anything? Ever since my first, “Hello World” program written in ANSI C, I have always wanted to do two things. The first is write a tech book. I always wanted to share my knowledge with others. Having met and befriended many tech authors I have learned that writing a book is not as glamorous as I thought and so I’m content with sharing my knowledge through blogs, articles and videos. So I consider that goal achieved. The second, was to build a game! For some reason, I never completed that goal.
If you look hard enough, I have plenty of game related content floating around out there, but nothing that was a playable game. I am not sure why. Maybe the bar to entry was too high, lack of discipline to stick with it, whatever it was, a game never happened.
Fast forward to modern times and you have guys earning $50k/day from a game they wrote over the weekend. The tools are there. The knowledge is there. The audience is there. There are no excuses any more. What is holding me back? Nothing!
So, I’ve been studying and working with Unity3D over the last 2 months. I bought some books on Unity3D and Blender and I also purchased a bunch of Udemy courses. I would love to work on a team developing an RPG style game like Diablo or Dark Souls. My goal is to approach the game development community just like I did the development and automotive communities and try to build a name for myself. At the end of 2018, I want to have a game released and in the market place. My ultimate goal is to build a classic Diablo style RPG.
So, as you’ll see in the coming weeks and months, plenty of new content in this area. I will still provide new tech content, but it won’t be as technical or in-depth as it used to be unless I’m feeling particularly excited about it.
It feels good to be blogging again.