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Arne
Arne

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Becoming a full stack developer - Part 3: Closure & a new beginning

Life sometimes takes unexpected turns

Few months ago, I made a decision to set myself up for a different future. What happened immediately afterwards you can read if you’re interested in details. To cut a long story short, I was hoping to join a company around June this year. Well, Christmas came early in 2020!

What has happened? A timeline

  • Early November
    Decided to end my corporate career and double down on software. Buckle up and do a Fullstack Nanodegree on Udacity and join a startup afterwards.

  • Late November
    After my first DEV post had like 100 views, this one unexpectedly took off. One of colabel’s founders sent me a message showing a traffic spike on their website, originating from DEV. Got invited to their Slack, a bunch of tools and to their Github to have a first look around.
    In all fairness I should mention that we were not strangers to each other. We met while still in university and I had been watching their progress for some time already. So there was a certain level of mutual trust already which definitely helped. However, I had not considered it a viable option and we never had “the talk”.

  • Mid December
    First serious meeting with colabel. Realized that there were a few things where I could really help them out. Not on the tech side though.

  • Late December
    Hackathon with @thilohuellmann surrounded by the worst Christmas holidays I’ve had in a long time. Was not mentally present, felt really bad for my wonderful girlfriend and family.

  • Early January
    Second serious meeting. Put together a really solid strategy for 2020 with one of the founders. Not that they didn’t have an idea but it had to be formulated as clear goals and in writing. Sealed the deal afterwards.
    Yes. That's where we agreed that I would be joining colabel. In case you have read my previous articles, that was part of the original plan, just a lot later down the road. So

  • Mid January
    Read a bunch. Started to understand how SaaS works (excellent introduction, despite the focus on growth topics: The big book of SaaS, recommended to me by @reichhardtalex 🙏

  • Late January
    Understood the actual magnitude of the product. Brought my affairs in order with my current employer. Developed go-to-market strategy based on the new(ly understood) product vision. Listened to tons of Techno in between all these insane conversations – hell yeah!

... but wait, what about the plan?

This is indeed a major deviation from my previously outlined plan: I have been hired primarily for business-related projects and this will likely consume the majority of my available time.

Having said that, I’ve spent a great part of the last four weeks in Webflow, making a bigger contribution software-related than in the last 6 months combined. And there’s more to come as we will tackle those topics that are most pressing on our plates. If this requires me to undust PyCharm: Humans of Stackoverflow, I am hunting you down!

Besides that, I really like the company (people-wise) and I strongly believe in the product's potential. Throughout the whole decision process, I have been repeating a quote from Sheryl Sandberg like a mantra once wrote “If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on.” And as it turns out, I couldn’t be any happier at this point and that’s what it’s all about. No BS or fake assignments that reward me with another badge, just pure flow.

Why am I writing about this?

In all honesty, I was and still am so overwhelmed by all the positive and constructive feedback I have received on this platform. And since I’m a man who needs closure, I feel like I owe a few people a cohesive story that I have initiated a few months back.

Besides all the support I have received, there was a surprisingly large number of people who seemed to be in a similar spot as I was at the time I wrote a piece: Learning something new but not being into the task. I am in no position to judge, all I want to say is this: Listen to that inner voice. Is this resistance just a normal form of procrastination when building something remarkable or would you be better of doing something (slightly) different?

I noticed that the strongest when I worked on the Nanodegree. It’s still the thing that annoys me the most, in two ways. One, I really wanted to get through it because I had made the decision. Two, I despised it because I didn’t see the point in doing these exact projects from which I would not gain any substantial value. When I do something I want it to deliver value for someone. That’s where a large part of my motivation comes from.

That being said, I know that the program will do lots of good for many people and had that opportunity not come along, I would have still learned a lot of new stuff. But having worked on this one project - colabel - for a few weeks now, it has become ever so clearer how important it is to work on something that you deeply care about. WHATEVER ON EARTH THAT IS!

Apart from the task at hand, here is a bit more food for thought: Throughout this whole process I’ve learned for myself that it matters who you work with. I too had heard it a thousand times on the same podcasts you’re listening to and read it in Paul Graham's essays. So I knew what’s right, I just didn’t act in that way for too long. This is not to take away anything from my remarkable colleagues turned friends that I’ve made over the past years. But I’m simply observing what a difference it makes when you are shooting for the exact same goal with a bunch of like-minded people in a similar life situation.

What we are working on

To get that out of the way: DEV is not the place we want to go fishing for customers. So turn off your anti-spam-filter for a moment if you like. But since at least some of you were interested in the company, I guess it makes sense to speak a little bit about the present and future. Besides, it will simply take us some time until we get it all nice and clean in conversion-optimized marketing lingo on our website. So here is a first take:

We are building an end-to-end automation platform that essentially allows users to build complete processes inside of the platform, one neural network at a time and with business rules in between. This will allow users to "build one customized image classifier" to "chain seven neural networks with business logic in between" – all on one platform.

In our mind, this will greatly commoditize the technology underneath – and that's a good thing: We believe that non-technical people should to be able to realize their own ideas, even if they require the involvement of deep learning. Unless this happens, a large amount of smaller companies and departments will be left behind because hiring a deep learning engineer is something most companies will simply never be able to afford.

Sounds crazy? Well, we are not the first to come up with an idea in that space but the the race for real nocode / self-service automation hasn’t been decided yet. So it’s still a good idea to pull out of the pits. Two things get my hopes up: First, we have much of the really complicated stuff already out of the way – high performance models, super flexible data pipelines, about every cloud integration one can think of... Stitching all this together will be a hell of an exercise. BUT: Second, money is not an issue at this point – that gives us plenty of time to do what we want to do. The only thing we need right now is one more really good backend developer and if you consider yourself as one, let's talk. Python is the spoken language.

Resources

Almost entirely unrelated but I have been reading way more than average over the past 12 weeks and a few pieces really stood out.

  • Steven Pressfield: The war of art. If you are a creator, procrastination is probably a known topic for you. This book has become my definite go-to resource for dealing with that topic.
  • Jason Fried, David Heinemeier-Hansson: Rework. Albeit alreadya decade old, this book is as current as on the day it got released. I read it prior to joining colabel and was glad to find many principles already being applied. Especially for those coming from more traditional work settings who are trying to break into technology, this is a good starting point.
  • Ryan Singer: Shape up. Same Basecamp squad, different topic: This book is a great all-in-one tool for product development. Very execution-minded, no-BS approach to getting stuff out of the door. Refreshingly different in some areas.

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