Personally, I'm Thankful for Startup Culture

The startup culture as of late has been taking its lumps on Hacker News and other places, and that’s fine. There are a lot of different perspectives, and I’m not here to tell you which one is right. But I will tell you that being in a startup again is the best thing that has happened to me for a long time.

This isn’t a post defending my position or any other. For me, it just is. I wanted to recap things I am happy about; this post is more for me than anything else. Life is short and we shouldn’t be settling. This is a list of why I am not:

Startups are dynamic I never know what the problems of tomorrow might be.

But never once have they been political; they’ve been strictly technical/process related thus far and none have been life-threatening.

Its fun We put together a Hubot last month just to play around with the idea of a robot that did our bidding, which led to messing around with node.js and a host of other things. I installed a host of things in the past few months: MongoDB (using it), CouchDB (not as much), Redis (want to use it), Memcached and Elasticache (like it, but not sure we need it yet), Simple.Data (fights too much with MySql) and so on.

I probably would not have done so at a larger established corporation. I remember that I gave a primer on CouchDB once at my last job, and the DBAs left the room in disgust. Here, you push and get pushed. You must be faster and better tomorrow than you were today. You cannot survive without staying in the pit and it seems I rather like the all the pushing and shoving.

Its hard Developing software is hard to begin with; but, at least I can concentrate on those hard bits, and not sit in meetings all day. Most times the things that frustrate me the most are figuring out business processes or customer problems; normally I want to get back to the code. Its about that point where I remind myself that software isn’t always the solution and understanding the problem before writing a line of code is generally great practice.

I realize I’ve seen this problem everywhere I have worked, the nice thing in a startup is that you’re sitting right next to customers at all times and its far easier to speak with people this way and when you’re a small company. A lot of developers seem to hate this step and unfortunately, there are few jobs where you just sit and code and ignore these types of things.

And why would you want to in the first place?

Its annoying We tried TeamLab and it was okay, then on to GitHub’s issues and they were fine, but they felt very “tasky” and lacked any context. We all felt the same way, so we moved to Pivotal and forced ourselves to write good cards. We probably should have done this prior, so yeah, we were annoyed with ourselves.

But we changed and we did so in a day. All because of two bitchy standups in a row. Something smelled funny and a small group of people crowded around a smell isn’t going to last. I guess Pivotal was like spritzing ourselves with Febreeze.

I’m me Hey, you know, I’ll dress up when we need to, but around the office, can I please be me?

We yell, we’re honest, and we get a lot of things done in a week. If something I implement sucks, I hear about it.

But you know what? That’s what I want on my team. Brutal honesty, like an office linebacker, but not quite so hulking and scary.

My time Yes I work more than I had prior, but I no longer have a long commute so I think they equal each other out. Plus I do things I need to do on a personal level without question and regardless of the time. I get the work done in my private and work life and get on with things.

I get treated like an adult again. I actually like so much what I am doing right now, that I rarely think of things as a “job”. I get out more and I go more places. Double win. Which is sort of odd, because I’m without a car for an extended period for the second time in my life. On that point, just try to be greener than me.

Now do I bitch and moan sometimes? Sure. Do I get stressed out? Yep. Do I totally flip out sometimes when things go totally awry? Absolutely.

But I’ve always done that. That’s me. I’m actually going to work hard on stopping that, because it isn’t awesome and it isn’t positive.

So read what you want about startups being a con or a place where people are overworked. Maybe that is the case. Perhaps some places are very much like that. I’m thankful for where I am right now and through the ups and downs that come with a startup, I couldn’t say 2011 was anything less than an up year. I found my home and my place to be awesome.

I’m looking forward to an awesome 2012, and I hope you are too.