Getting Back to Work


One of the things I found myself doing during this most recent trip was thinking a lot about the last year and trying to plan and prioritize the next few months. I’m now six months into this sabbatical, or as I’ve been calling it my long-delayed gap year, and it’s only been the last couple of weeks where I’ve realized I’ve started to miss working on a team with others on something that matters.

So I’m starting the process of preparing to jump back in the job market. That means its time to rewrite the resume, update LinkedIn, etc, etc, etc. Get all of the paperwork in place, that sort of thing — although in reality, I have recently applied for a couple of moon-shot positions; things that were pivots in different ways into new areas that would have been fascinating if they happened, but no, neither went anywhere. But I would have regretted not trying… And this week, there was this Apple job (marketing writing) that really tempted me, but I decided I need to be further into the preparation and focus on that first.

This isn’t something I’m in a hurry to do, I want to make the right decision, not a fast one. So if something comes up in a month, that’s fine (and I’d be stunned), but if it’s another six months? Well, it is a gap year, right? But it feels like time to get started.

This is where you come in

This is where all of you come into the picture: I’d like your ideas and advice. I’d like your help finding the right position with the right people at the right company. I’ll note upfront that I’ll pay a finders fee of some really nice wine from Cakebread Cellars to whoever connects me to wherever I end up (or some equivalent thank you if you’d prefer something else). So if you know of a position you think I’d be good in, let me know, let the hiring manager know, forward my linkedin, help me make the contact. I’ll be much appreciative, and you’ll have some nice wine to drink for dinner.

I honestly think the best outcome of this upcoming search is to end up in a role I hadn’t considered doing, at a company I didn’t think to pursue, with a group of people I can both mentor on my strengths and learn from on my weaknesses, doing something that’ll make a difference to the people it impacts. That’s not something I think I can do alone, so I’d like your help to find it.

What I’m good at (and want to do)

I’ve been a lot of things over the years and spent a lot of time in the high tech industry, starting with coding Fortran and doing SysAdmin work to helping found Apple’s first tech support group (for A/UX, back in ancient history) to Perl and PHP and MySQL DBA geeking to writing and web site design and implementation to what I’ve been the last few years as the person interfacing from inside a company to outside via many communication tools from blogging to Twitter to Youtube to sitting down 1:1 or in a group with developers and talking.

But if I had to explain the one thing I thought I was best at, it would be communication, especially bridging the gaps between inside and outside, and between the nerd technical people and the rest of an organization. It’s less about the tools than the message, and that’s why the last decade of my career has been a slow shift away from the seeing the geeky things as the important part to understanding that it’s the message and how it’s crafted and communicated, and of creating a conversation with the people you’re trying to connect with and impact.

If I know the tools, I can teach you to use them; if I don’t know them, I can learn them (and then teach you to use them). The tools are that: tools, important, but they support what’s important, which is communication. And what I am and want to do is be a communicator, whether it’s managing the blog and social media or writing the marketing copy or being a tech writer for a manual, or doing all of those at once.

And if that means setting up and running a WordPress site (or Slack, or Jive, or Confluence, or vBulletin, or Drupal, or.. or…) or managing a twitter stream or editing video for the Youtube channel or producing a podcast, those are all things I can and am doing today, but they are all supporting tools for what we’re really doing, which is communicating.

I’m a communicator, whether as writer, editor, twitter-er, podcaster or whatever, and I want to do is find a place where that skill is valued as much as, or more than, my ability to manipulate the tools that allow me to communicate.

Seems simple, but in Silicon Valley this can be more difficult than you might think, because the geeky types fall in love with tools, and they end up being the important thing, while the message gets lost along the way.

How can I improve your company and make a difference using my skills as a communicator, and my technical background to enable that?

What I’m looking for in a role

I’ve been based in Silicon Valley since I moved here in the 1980s, and right now, relocation really isn’t on the docket. My preference is to avoid long commutes, so my primary hope is to find something in the area roughly between Milpitas and Redwood City, centered around Sunnyvale. I typically don’t consider San Francisco roles unless it’s a situation that would allow work from home much of the time. I love working with remote and diverse teams, so remote working full time would definitely be of interest — and I have some background building and fostering remote teams.

I prefer limited or no travel, which is the main reason I pivoted from developer evangelism to more of a community manager role. I work fine in real life, but my best work is online in the virtual environment and it’s where I want to put my focus. I haven’t gotten on an airplane in a decade, and I’m not in a hurry to change that — but I love driving and that puts me in reasonable range of more than you might think: Seattle or Vancouver or Salt Lake or Phoenix are at worst two day drives. At Palm, in fact, I’d been talking about doing a cross-country run involving scheduling meet-ups with developers along the way, but the company blew up before we could seriously plan it (but still, I’d love to do that some day, for someone).

I don’t code for a living any more (and don’t want to go back), but I still like code and coding, which is why I started my “learn Swift” project during the sabbatical — and I like writing about code and technical things as I did doing the initial REST API tutorials at Infoblox — in Perl initially, and a Python version started when I left for Cisco. I’ve done a lot of marketing-oriented or general user writing as well, from building out web sites for companies like Laszlo to writing the monthly newsletter and running the blog at Cisco; if you need it written, I can write it.

If you need it, I can create and manage the tools we need to do the communication you need, but I don’t have to: if you have people who already do that, that’s awesome. Or if we need to find them and build a team, that’s awesome.

Much of my career has centered around communicating to the geek community and I like that, but I’ve also done a lot of work into the consumer and enterprise areas, and those would be great, too. And one of the things I’ve been considering the last few months is whether now is the time to take a step back, make a big pivot, and shift into a new kind of role or into a new industry, or even step into a non-profit or NGO situation, especially since those are things where I feel there are ways to make a big difference in the right environment.

Let’s TALK

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to hear me out.

If you have a problem I can solve and you think from the above it might be of interest to me, I’d love to talk. If you’re local, I love sitting down over coffee (and I’ll buy), because it’s a great way to understand the details.

And if you know someone who has a problem I can solve, help them know about me and get me in contact. The new Cakebread Rubiyat is delicious!

I’m easy to find: just email me at Or you can connect with me on LinkedIn if you prefer, but if you do, please mention this blog post if I won’t recognize your name, because I routinely ignore those generic “please connect” spam requests LinkedIn loves to send over. I’d love to see what I can do to solve your problems for you.