Being the Village Idiot

Exactly a month ago I walked through the doors of Mesosphere’s SF office (no longer! we’re moving this weekend!) having spent the past (Caltrain-commuting) hour wondering whether I’d done possibly the stupidest choice in my career.

There were plenty of reasons to give fuel to that nagging doubt:

  • I’d just turned down a Manager job at Apple which would have paid approximately twice as much in cash terms;
  • I was taking an Engineer role, which (after four years and two roles as VP Eng) won’t be an easy “story” to sell to any recruiter in future;
  • I had also turned down two other VPE roles which promised a much higher equity stake (albeit at much higher market/execution risk);
  • the job entailed a one-hour+ commute (each way) daily: and that was best-case, barring any “issues” with Caltrain (in which case, it was anyone’s guess how long it would take);
  • as the above was not enough, the role expects me to be a Distributed Systems C++ guru: considering the last “serious” C++ coding I’ve done is almost ten years ago, I have pretty well-founded doubts about my own competence…

So, one month on – was I a complete fool to say “Yes” to Mesosphere?

Let me put it this way: in my previous role (which I’ve been blogging about, and here too) I would wake up around 8:30am; take a leisurely breakfast; and then drive my Porsche around 10 minutes to show up at work around 10am.  Sweet, uh?

Now, I have to jump out of bed at 6:30am, most days skip breakfast, and then do a mad dash for the station and beat other Sunnyvale commuters to a parking spot – then I’ll be probably standing in a crowded car for the following hour; rinse and repeat in the evening.

And, yet, while before I had real trouble getting out of bed in the morning, these days most mornings I “wake up the alarm” (boy, is that a satisfaction!) and I can’t wait to get going on whatever is the problem I’ve chosen to tackle on the day.

The reason?

Well, simple, really: at Mesosphere I’m pretty much the Village Idiot!

Folks here are so incredibly smart and competent I must run to just hope one day to keep up with them; and not only the Core team engineers – everyone: Sales, Marketing, Solutions, Support… I mean, even the company Legal counsel is technically savvy!!!

The corollary is that, no matter what I do, or who I interact with, I’m learning new stuff, new ways of doing things, new coding techniques, new system designs principles, new ways of doing business… every day, every hour, every minute!

And therein lies the nugget of learning: whatever you do, wherever you do it, you should strive to work with folks from whom you can learn on a daily, hourly!, basis; folks that are, along one, or several, dimension(s) smarter than you, more experienced than you, more insightful than you – and then keep your eyes, ears and mind open and soak it all.

Obviously, one must be able to contribute back, return the favor, so to speak, and ensure others learn from whatever knowledge or experience one has to share and impart: because in the “Knowledge Economy” the more we give, the more we will all have!

So, hell, yeah – I’m the village idiot, and I’m le idiot savant, and, yup, I’m loving it!


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