A new chapter

October 13, 2022

Last week I said goodbye to my colleagues at Globality after five years on their engineering team. It's hard to believe it's been so long. I still remember my first day perfectly - no laptop, no desk, not even a manager to greet me. I ended up writing my first PR on a personal computer in the kitchenette. 1

All farewells are bittersweet - but this one particularly feels like a chapter ending and another opening. I watched us grow from no clients to serving many of the Fortune 50. We went from a literal garage to offices in Palo Alto, London, and Tel Aviv. And for me personally, we went from no machine learning platform to a full ecosystem of models. We solved the core Internet scale problems that I had set out to do. It felt like a natural inflection point.

That meant it's time for something new. I've been putting a lot of thought into what I want to focus on next. Here's my current list.

Building

I tried to carve out maximum time in front of the keyboard over the last few years. My philosophy was to stay as close to the code as possible, to always balance the forest of planning and the trees of execution. But as the team grew my days inevitably became occupied by more ad hoc demands. Onboarding questions, client engagements, planning meetings, etc. I still got into the code but carving out time for discrete projects was a challenge.

In the next chapter I'm focused on building more. That goes for code and companies.

On the code side - I'm focused first on tackling some of my long-standing (and still unsolved) pain points with ML development. I'm working on a few GitHub projects while also sketching out the foundations for something bigger. I've been getting a lot more deep work done. It feels good to plug back in.

On the companies - I've been lucky to be an advisor and investor in some early stage companies. Some are in ML while some are more classic software plays. Whether the founders are friends or strangers it's one of the best parts of my day. If you're starting something (especially in deeply technical areas) and want to shoot ideas around - I'd love to talk.

Travel

I've never wanted to be a digital nomad, nor seriously flirted with the idea of living abroad. San Francisco has its flaws but it's an incredible place to live. But the more time that I spent traveling around this summer, the more that I recognized the benefits of remote work. Living somewhere even temporarily shows you a wildly different side of a place than vacationing there.

I got to know a lot of amazing people, tasted a lot of great food, and saw some unbelievable sights. I also felt a distinct sense of creativity while I was on the road. The unique design elements of each place, plus the fresh stimuli of new surroundings, all bubbled up to new thoughts and ideas. They also made the days stretch out considerably longer. I was only gone for a few months but it felt like eons longer than my last full year of apartment rent.

Especially after the monotony of the pandemic, pushing days for as long as they can go has been a really positive change.

Writing

I've found writing to be a great catalyst for thinking over the past year. It forces you to narrow your scope to one focus and push on that until you're done. You need to be thorough but it's preferable to be succinct. Even if you have a good rough draft, finishing up the last 10% is often the most challenging. In many ways those qualities make it a lot like engineering.

As I've been reading more and picking the brains of as many people as I can, I have a lot of thoughts and even more questions. I hope to work those out in public, primarily for the sake of reaching a firm conclusion. Secondarily as a method to be challenged and question my initial assumptions.

Closing

I'm aiming to focus on the above three things for the next year, until roughly October 2023. After that I'm gearing up to build a company around some of those ML pain points. By some metrics it's not the best time to do so. But I deeply believe the biggest pullbacks are an opportunity for the biggest change. That's an argument for tomorrow. In the meantime I couldn't be more excited about the next chapter. Thanks to everyone involved in my last one.


  1. The office had just moved out of a garage and into Palo Alto at the time. I showed up bright and early at 8:30 and the office manager didn't seem to be expecting me. After clarifying who I was and showing her my welcome email, she told me that my manager lived in San Francisco and usually wasn't at the office until noon. IT also didn't have a laptop immediately available and would have to order a new one. They did have coffees in the kitchen though so I grabbed one and read some docs until lunch. I'm happy to report the onboarding policies have been standardized since then.