Rice University – 2012

I had been working fairly successfully at Coverity for a few years, and no other opportunities came along. I had moved back to an individual contributor role, as remote management was just not working out. However, I had been doing good, interesting work in automation.

But I wasn’t particularly happy in my work.

Early in 2012, a friend of mine who worked in the Rice Computer Science Department got in touch with me to ask if I were interested in giving a little talk to current students in the department. They liked having people from industry give students perspectives they would not get from school. Also, I could get some time if anybody were interested in applying to Coverity. Coverity tended to focus on California schools, so it did not have any recruiting apparatus in Texas, so it would just be me. Hey, it got my gas from Austin to Houston and back paid for.

I presented my sitting down on a table in the front of the room and talked. I gave an overview of my career, and talked about what I was doing at the time. I talked for about 35 minutes, and then took questions. I got several questions about interview processes, day-to-day work life, work-life balance, how much actual computer science theory I used in everyday work, etc. Nothing too strange.

At the end of the presentation, several professors came up to me and congratulated me. They had started this series of alumni talking to students a few years previously, and they told me that mine had a few firsts:

  • I was the first not to use a PowerPoint presentation.
  • I was the first to ever have questions at the end.

I guess I did OK. Nobody talked to me about working at Coverity, though. Oh, well.

The friend who had contacted me could not go to the talk, but he came by at the end, and we went off and got something at the student run coffee house (man, it would have ROCKED to have that in 1988!), and then went back to his office, chatting about work and Rice and stuff, and gossiping about common friends.

When we got back to his office, he had three Amazon boxes on his chair. He opened them; they were all books that people had sent him for free to read and possibly review and recommend to his students. One of them, he was not at all interested in, and he held it up for me to see:

Learning iPad Programming by Turner/Harrington
I wonder what the latest edition of this book is…

I said, “I’ll take it”.

I left Apple in 2006. Steve Jobs announced iPhone in January, 2007. Apple opened the App Store in 2008. I was intrigued. I was also employed, and had two small children, and had almost no spare time to dig into this new world. I was really fascinated by what could be done.

The iPad came out in 2010. I bought one for my music; I used it instead of a bunch of pieces of paper on my music stand. It could hold everything I needed, and was big enough to read. Combine with a very expensive foot pedal that could turn pages, it’s been a big hit.

Stock iPad Photo
Look! A stock iPad photo!

I had not been truly happy in my jobs since Red Hat had purchased Cygnus in 2000. As a reflected on everything that had happened the previous dozen years, I realized a few things:

  • I did not really like QA or automation very much. I would rather be part of the software creative process.
  • I was pretty good at managing a team (maybe).
  • I was not good at the other things a manager had to do. I was not particularly adept at strategy. I was arrogant at times, and would tick off upper management on a fairly regular basis.
  • I was kind of at a software mid-life crisis (the real mid-life crisis had come and gone. Hopefully!)

I took home this book, and started paging through it, and decided that I really wanted to give software development another chance. And this was going to be the start. I started spending all of my spare time working through this book, typing in code, and seeing how it worked.

Starting over at 48. Scary. At least I still had a good job.


One thought on “Rice University – 2012

  1. Pingback: Rock Systems – 2012 – Recruited by Tech

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