Note: ebay was a full time position, not a consulting gig but has played a role in Omega Ortega regardless as you’ll see.
As a computer nerd, I longed dreamed of heading to the mecca of Silicon Valley. I had lived and worked in Seattle, so I’d lived in a tech city before, but nothing held up to what I envisioned Silicon Valley was like. I pictured computer nerds everywhere, meetups going on 24/7, people hacking in the streets on laptops. While the valley isn’t 100% like that, it’s closer to that ideal than anywhere else in the world.
I was working at a mortgage company when I read an article that said, “If you’re a programmer and you’re working at a bank or mortgage company, you should quit right now or you’ll never be happy.” It was a harsh statement, but I took it to heart. When a chance email came my way regarding a job at ebay, I jumped at the opportunity.
At ebay, my funnest job was building the front end user interface to their grid computing backend. You could bring down the ebay site and bring it back up through the UI that I built. To get our first working version, we did what was called a Tiger Team. What that meant was that the entire demo team sat together for a month or two. I was the UI, Ashish was java middle tier and someone else was the C++ backend guy. It was the only time that I can remember where 3 different layers stayed in synch throughout a project. I normally tell clients, “The UI is easy, it’s integration with services that is hard.” Not in this case. The proximity allowed for constant dialog and daily checkins insured we stayed in sync. It was fun and we delivered an amazing amount of work in a short amount of time because of it.
However, more so than what I did during work, what happened outside of work is what was important to future clients. I started my first meet up (they were called User Groups back then) around the Flex technology. The group was a success. My manager was very open to me not only hosting the group, but using it as a platform to train internal employees as well as external members of the Flex community. It was during this time that I learned I could play a role in a tech community.
The user group then led to my first real company, 360Conferences. I started it with John Wilker. We used it as a community building vehicle around various technologies, Flex and iOS. It was great fun, but I realized after a few years that I’m really a programmer at heart. John continues to run the business with his wife and they do a stellar job. Check out their events if you have the time.
The other thing about ebay was that to me it was sort of magical. I remember walking around campus saying to myself, “The world changed because of things that happened here.” I think what I really was thinking was “My world is changing because of things happening here.” Silicon Valley changed my life for the better and I’ll always be grateful to ebay for helping me finally get to the mecca.