Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
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 eccentric 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 tidbits of information he let fall.
In the end, our organization degenerated into petty fights and rumors and disagreements and continuous worry and disappointment with each other, and desperate attempts to maintain a façade of composure whenever we walked into yet another mahogany 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.