Any way I look at it 2017 has been a fantastic year. That is not to say it has been easy or that I haven’t suffered. Life is suffering. Still, at this point in my life, the struggle is all at the margins of an enormous pile of good stuff, as I wriggle toward an even better future. Before next year takes hold, allow me to give you a glance back at 2017.
For most of the year, I worked at Guidewire Software. One prominent theme for the year was Guidewire’s “journey to the cloud.” Pack your bags, everyone – we’re going on a journey. To Guidewire’s credit, the company consciously chose to stay current with technology and to keep renewing its products, rather than milking its position as the leader and lazing into complacency. It also has continued to grow through acquisitions, that is, by gobbling up smaller companies in order to get bigger as a step function. The purchases have made logical sense because Guidewire can do more things for customers on its steady march toward world domination (among insurance software vendors). The downside for me was a decline in influence over the direction of the operation. I like running software teams, but I have never enjoyed working in big organizations. I tend to tap out at about 2,000 employees.
Although I was a strong proponent of Guidewire’s move to the cloud, I was not a fan of the way the changes were made. So I tried to resign. The idea of trying to resign might seem odd. Don’t we see in the movies how it’s supposed to work? The hapless employee gets increasingly frustrated, throws up his or her arms, and storms out of the office shouting “I quit!” Well, I didn’t do that. Instead, over the next few months, I essentially tried out a different management arrangement, and when that didn’t work, I requested, and was granted, a return to programming. At this point, we are up to May of 2017.
Within a month in my new position as Staff Software Engineer (that’s one of the corporate boxes software people are put into — it’s a nice box, quite luxurious in fact, with good coffee and a bright work space), the first effects of the latest acquisition hit the cloud team, and we were reorganized. The reassignment came with trips to Dublin, Ireland, to work with our new managers and team, some truly wonderful people (some of whom follow this blog, but that’s not why I am being complementary). A few years prior, I was responsible overall for Engineering in the Dublin office, so this was an interesting, topsy-turvy arrangement for me. Aside from the natural issues of working across time zones, I enjoyed the work.
What I enjoyed less were the side effects of the struggle that others were going through. Our little team of four (not counting the folks in Dublin) was held under suspicion of incompetence and unruliness, until we were able to show that we were doing good work and were quite amenable to what was requested of us. It was sort of like asking the San Jose Sharks to prove they know how to play hockey. No big deal, but why was that necessary? From other angles, normally reasonable and good-natured individuals turned nasty due to pressures from the changes, previous experiences, their own deep-seated insecurities, and who knows what other reasons.
The bottom line is that the situation wore on me enough to reconsider why I was spending up to three hours a day commuting to the office. I worked more and more often from home, since most of my direct coworkers were somewhere else anyway, so on average, the commute improved. Now we’re up to about September.
When October rolled around, three things happened. First, our annual Christmas caroling group kicked off practices. I am a tenor and have sung with that group three times now. It’s a blast. Second, my 11th anniversary at Guidewire was approaching, and I decided that it was time for me to move on. Third, I went to Dublin for quarterly product planning and had the worst experience of my dozen trips to Dublin over the years. That sealed the deal – I would leave in December as soon as caroling was over.
Speaking of caroling, this year we managed to prepare Corre Caballito, a Venezuelan Christmas classic in 5/8 time (yikes!), challenging and fun once you get the hang of it. Our fearless leader, Jay, pushed us for the past three years and had to pull it from the repertoire in previous years. Jay provided a great example of the power of persistence.
During the final seven months as a Guidewire programmer, I managed to ship a fair amount of code. My focus was on using React and our homegrown UI framework to building the user interface for applications used to buy and manage insurance (property and casualty, not health or life – it matters, sort of). So my programming skills were polished and ready to go by the time I left Guidewire.
And now I am the “Chief Creative Officer” at Happy Spirit Games, which is my way to poke fun at the corporate world that has gone mad with inventive “Chief” executive roles. In the good old days, one chief was enough, the CEO. Now we’ve got Chief Revenue Officers (head of Sales), Chief Success Officer (head of Services), Chief Satisfaction Officer (head of Support), Chief Communications Officer (head of Marketing), Chief Product Officer (head of Product Development), Chief Customer Officer (head of talking to the biggest customers who want direct access to a chief), and so on. I made a few of those up, and it can be our little game for you to guess which ones.
In any case, Happy Spirit Games is still a hobby, albeit it’s exactly what I want to be doing. Did I mention that I have already launched StoryTime? As my first generally available game, StoryTime is certain to be one subject of next year’s look-back. Lots of work ahead, of course.
That’s my work life for 2017. Shifting our attention to the home front, hockey is the number one topic. In March, my son’s team won the Peewee B division at the state level (California) in a series of movie-perfect games to cap a movie-perfect season. They started as underdogs, the team that other teams scoffed at and looked forward to pounding for an easy win. Through the positive influence of their awesome coach, who focused them on fundamental and steady improvement, they finally started to put things together late in the season. Once they learned how to shutdown their competitors using teamwork, they became unstoppable.
During the playoffs, they won or tied almost every game, but were always at the brink of defeat. Each game was close right to the end, with multiple over-time wins, even down to a shoot out once (or maybe twice). The other teams couldn’t believe what was happening to them, that this “loser” team could be beating them over and over. Brings tears to my eyes even now.
My girls did well, too. The oldest plays JV during the regular season and for her high school club team, which won the “pure” hockey series (against other high schools in the area) for the second year in a row. That final game was not as satisfying because the coach decided to play to win, rather than giving everyone a chance to play. So the victory was a bit hollow for us, but it teaches a good life lesson. That is, possibly losing as a team is more fulfilling than riding the coat tails of a couple of “heroes” to a definite win.
On the other side of the age range, my youngest was a “Mite,” and if I dare say, she is dynaMite. Great skating, laser-sharp passing, knows where to be, knows how to strip pucks from the other team. Now that I know something about hockey, I can appreciate how she is developing. This year, she is a “Squirt,” and her team is poised for the playoffs, which are in March. We will see over the next few months how they do.
My wife is happy with her own hobby to work on in between organizing everything the kids are doing. Also, I found a new landscaper to fix our irrigation system and replant the yard where things had died off. We replaced our grass with drought-tolerant plants a few years back. The water utility reports that we are beating the pants off of our neighbors in water conservation.
And last but not least, I decided this year to make my contribution to the green movement. No, that’s nothing to do with politics. Rather, I made the dual purchase of solar panels for the roof and a Tesla (Model S, D75 – let me know if you are in the market for one; I can give you a referral). Between the two systems, I have virtually erased my carbon footprint. No scientific measurement has been made, but the roof definitely covers the car and all of our household electricity. Not sure about the CO2 generator inside my own chest. Anyway, sounds nice for the environment when I put it that way, right?
In fact, my motivations were somewhat different. With the solar panels, I am effectively prepaying all of my electricity charges for the next 7 to 9 years, after which the panels will be paying straight into my bank account. That’s a win. With the Tesla, what else can I say? Vroom, without the engine noise. The occasional glitch aside (it is made of software after all), the driving experience has been terrific. The last few months of my commute were blissful. Someday everyone will have an electric car, once they become more affordable. Thanks to my time at Guidewire, I could afford it.
And now for the year topper, the cherry on the sundae, the hood ornament on the Rolls Royce, the summit of Everest. My daughter was accepted early decision to the university of her choice. Isn’t that the point of it all, to see the next generation through to maturity where they can make their own choices and thrive in independence?
In summary, it’s been a great year. How was yours? Leave a comment.