Auguest 8th 2013
It has been about 2 months since I left Heroku. I left a great job at Heroku to start a business with my good friend Bobby Wilson. Looking back, it was the best move that I could have made. Getting back to my entrepreneurial roots restored balance to my life. The mission of our new company fits my personality like a glove. We have the privilege of solving a variety of different problems for a diverse set of people. In the following paragraphs, I will share some of the highlights of the last few years.
Joining Heroku was a dream come true. I signed up for Heroku the day they announced. Later, I found out that my user id was 812. I signed up for Heroku because they had a feature that dramatically improved my work situation. At the time, I was in university and doing contract Ruby on Rails work. I had several customers who had trusted me with their websites. It was a lot of work keeping their sites running on Linode servers, so when Heroku offered to maintain those servers for me, I jumped on the deal as quickly as I could. It was then that I realized that Heroku –and PAAS in general– was a brilliant idea. Couple that with Heroku’s style and I knew I had to be a part.
I remember my interview process like it was yesterday. I had met Terrance Lee at a Rails Conf, so when I saw a job opening on Heroku’s jobs page, I dropped him a line. Terrance introduced me to Pedro Belo who introduced me to Adam Wiggins. My interview with Adam is memorable because he conducted it over I.M. It was after that interview that I knew my hunch was right, Heroku was the place for me. A few days after my interview with Adam, Pedro had invited me to visit San Francisco to meet some more Herokai and talk about doing a starter project. I worked with Pedro and Mark Imbriaco on my starter project. The project was to replace our customer credit card storage with Braintree. After completing the project and receiving an offer, I moved to San Francisco (another dream, another story for another time) and joined as the 18th Herokai.
It was business as usual for a while, but the day came when Heroku accepted an acquisition offer. We all gathered into our meeting room to receive the official announcement of acquisition. This wasn’t the first acquisition offer Heroku had received, but it was the best in terms of cash and integration. It was believed that Salesforce.com would be the best place for Heroku to grow and achieve its mission of being the default place to run internet software. A few months later me and my fellow Herokai were sitting in a back room at Dreamforce toasting champaign and listening to Mark Benioff talk about the one, true cloud. Being apart of the acquisition was cool. Way cool.
The years that followed were a great source of personal growth. My formal education in mathematics taught me to respect the dedication required to solve hard problems. My time at Heroku taught me how to apply dedication in the marketplace. I learned the difference between a solution and a product, a code spike and an engineering project, an individual contribution and a team effort. These aspects of my work were invaluable and I am forever grateful to my fellow Herokai for teaching me these things. One of my favorite takeaways from my Heroku days is the following quote. I use this quote to help bring focus to all of my efforts.
If you can’t find 5 people who would be mad about you removing a feature then it isn’t a product.
During my 3 years at Heroku I had the wonderful opportunity to solve a lot of different problems with a lot of good people. Pedro Belo & I worked on separating the billing code from the critical execution paths. I worked with Adam and Mark Fine on shipping Cedar by implementing herokuapp.com domain support and dyno-hour billing. I worked with Chris Continanza and Daniel Farina on handling terrabytes of billing and customer usage data. I worked with Chris Stolt in support by helping customers understand their usage and credit card data. I worked with Blake Gentry on building the DNS infrastructure for Heroku Europe. Blake Gentry, Geoff, Fabio and I worked on log delivery. I worked with Noah and Dane on building Heroku’s internal metric systems. And in my final days, I worked with Adam on helping Heroku’s top customers understand and solve their performance problems. I am sure there were a few other projects I am forgetting, but man, it was a great ride!
The highlight of working at Heroku was being surrounded by wonderful people. The experience solidified my understanding of the essence of a company. A company is a group of people. Companies have products, customers, partnerships, and offices, but a company is primarily a group of people.
I received loads of great advice from my fellow Herokai over the years, but the bit I am holding onto today is an idea from Oren Teich. He told me to figure out how I wanted to live my life and then figure out how to build a career that supported that way of living. Solid.
If you don’t know where you want to go, you probably won’t get there. The culmination of all the technical, business, and life knowledge I gained while working at Heroku helped me understand how I wanted to live and what sort of work I could do to achieve that way of living. What I realized is that I have a skill for making big changes quickly and effectively. I love to dive into the trench and get my hands dirty solving problems. This style of work supports my ideal, dynamic lifestyle. It also provides real value to companies with problems they don’t have the expertise to solve or it is simply not high leverage for their organization.