Who the hell are you?
I get that a lot. As a born New Yorker, I’m usually inclined to let the pointed — and often rude — question slide by. For much of my career the answer was simply “I’m the guy who’s here to save your ass from something you screwed up yourself.” With the exception of the occasional comedic interludes, I won’t be discussing those situations in this blog.
Professionally, I am a program manager with experience in a wide variety of technologies, using both agile and waterfall methods of development. I’ve also done my share of infrastructure and I’m even pretty handy at pulling wires through walls and reviving ancient hardware when necessary. I’m certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). I have a BA in computer science (not engineering), an MBA in operations and technology management, and a small pile of continuing education certificates from the finest universities in the land. I don’t expect to be discussing those things much either. Except, again, where the stories are appropriate as comedic interludes.
I worked for a large cloud services provider in Seattle whose name starts with “A.” [Ha! Got ya! There are two of those!] Seriously, it was AWS.
After two years in my initial role working on capacity management for our load balancing solutions including the hardware solutions used by internal teams, I moved on to a role working on a feature called Private Link that allows customers to connect to our services without ever encountering a public endpoint. Lots of customers really like this, especially the ones that spend a ridiculous amount of money to be fiber-connected to us directly and would prefer that making a call from one of their servers to one of our other services did not go through the public internet. Finally, after a brief hiatus during Covid, I returned to AWS, working on billing solutions. This final role was a mistake for all the wrong reasons: wrong professional focus, wrong manager, wrong kind of organization. In fact, I left there thinking I must have been working for a different company than the one my original teams were part of.
As of this update, I’m taking a bit of time off. My final role was frequently menial and always burnout-inducing and I needed to disconnect. Beginning to explore some opportunities back on the infrastructure and possibly security side of things.
Some recent pivots
Like many future project and program managers, I started my career as as a programmer. We didn’t call them “software engineers” back then and think that helped us maintain some level of humility that is lacking today. I was working on “Wall Street” — actually an uptown office — developing systems and algorithms to enable and streamline growing global capital markets. It was fun, interesting allowed me to be extremely productive almost from day one.
Had it not been for a poorly-timed market meltdown that forced me and most of my colleagues to look for other options, I might still be there. In the years to follow I’d get my MBA at UCLA, move into project management, move to Silicon Valley, leave Silicon Valley, move to LA in the midst of another recession, get contract work, start my own consulting firm, focused on cloud transformation/transition, and eventually find myself wondering what would it be like if I were still writing code, or at the very least, managing projects that to do that?
Looking around, I found myself drawn to the world of data science, machine learning, deep learning and related technologies. As I was discussing this with a younger friend who is deep in the world of biochemical analysis, she said “you should really learn Python and see what you can do.” So I did.
I mixed that experience into my existing work on cloud transformations and architectures and spent a further two years at the junction of cloud, analytics and managing customer operations.
In 2018 one of my biggest customers retired and broke up his business, and I got a call out of the blue from a recruiter at AWS saying one of his hiring managers was interested. It went well and I moved to Seattle within a couple of months. The rest is history.
Time to write about it
Most of the journey has been undocumented. When it was, it was usually at the darkest moments, in since-deleted Facebook rants about the pointlessness of cloud and data science in specific, technology in general, and modern society overall. Learning is like that sometimes, and nobody ever said it would be easy. Other than a few wishes for the immediate gory death of unspecified individuals at some software companies, I take it all back.
The purpose of this blog is twofold: to continue documenting the journey, and to occasionally look back and comment on the things I’ve seen and done but did not comment on productively at the time.
I hope you find my journey informative, or at least cautionary.
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