02 August 2018
I'll never forget it. I was sat at my desk at the offices of Shopzilla in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California talking to then Spring Integration lead (he now runs the Riff project) Mark Fisher about some code I'd contributed. I'd been working with, and for, him for a while on Spring Integration since I was enamored with enterprise application integration and, it seemed to me, Spring Integration was the technology to learn and invest in. A propos to nothing, he volunteered that there was this new job opening for a "developer advocate," and suggested that I should perhaps apply. Now, I'd only ever known James Ward in this role and it seemed to me that I could never do what James Ward did. His wisdom and patience were matched only by his charisma. The guy's a rockstar!
By this point, I was already a pretty outspoke Spring fan. I'd spoken at different conferences (almost entirely on my own time and dime.). I'd already written two books on Spring. I was, clearly, a big ol fan of Spring. It'd helped me deliver better software for the better part of a decade, at startups and in the enterprise, and I couldn't be happier to see its expansion from the core Spring Framework around 2005 to extension projects like Spring Security, Spring Batch and Spring Integration. But still. Me? Be like James Ward? NO WAY NO SIR NO HOW! That sorta thing wasn't for me! Thanks anyway! I knew my limits. So, I thanked Mark Fisher profusely and walked away from my desk (for what reason I don't remember? Lunch? Coffee break?) and got all of ten paces before it hit me: WHAT AM I DOING?? OF COURSE I WANTED TO WORK WITH THE SPRING TEAM!?? I ran back to my desk and said "I'll take it! I'll do it! Sign me up!"
So the interviews began. I talked to the hiring manager, a gentleman named Adam Fitzgerald, a SpringSource co-founder, Keith Donald, and of course Mark himself. I'd tricked them all! They seemed to like me. Or at least, not hate me. I felt pretty confident about the opportunity. I just knew the phone was going to ring any day now. I'd be their guy! So I waited. And I waited. During this time Craig Wall, who was and is infinitely more qualified, joined the Spring team. I was gutted. That was the dream job I'd wanted! He was going to be the Spring developer advocate! Well, tis better to have applied and lost than to have never applied at all, or something, I told myself. But then Craig tweeted about his daily work. He'd joined as an engineer. Not as a developer advocate. I think since he was already a famous public speaker they figured they'd just let Craig do his own thing and leverage him as an engineer. Smart! So, why hadn't I gotten the job? What happened? I could have understood Craig Walls getting the role. He's a freaking legend! I'd even sheepishly asked if I could be his friend on Facebook a year earlier. I didn't, and don't, even use Facebook!
So, what happened?
I reached out to Adam who explained that everyone liked me and that the job was everything but mine because there'd been a hiring freeze! I can deal with a hiring freeze. I wasn't looking for a new job. I loved my old job. I loved the team and the company and it had waaay better benefits than the job to which I was applying. But this was the Spring team darnit! I loved the Spring team! They were heroes, not just employers. Inspirations, even. If they would have me, I'd love to work with them. Just think of all the things I could learn! So I waited.
July came and I got the email of a lifetime. The opportunity was open, and the job was mine if I wanted it! I practically flipped out of my chair. I was super sad and super happy at the same time. Shopzilla was the best job I'd ever had. Some of the best people I'd ever had the privilege of working with were there. I'm still friends with a ton of them. And the folks that worked there ended up in the Los Angeles tech disapora and continue to dominate the direction even to this day. I was sad to have to leave a great thing, but I wouldn't be able to sleep if I passed this opportunity up. So I gave three weeks notice. (which is a week longer than is normal in the US. I did it as a courtesy). My teammates even helped me. My friend Rob Rolland helped me configure the new MacBook Pro VMWare (where Spring lived at the time) had sent me! Truly, it was bittersweet. Then the big day. My first day on the job.
I started August 2nd, 2010. Today is the eighth anniversary of my working (officially) with the Spring team.
When I joined I was the first (and only) Spring Developer Advocate. The epic Mr. Peter Ledbrook was the Grails Developer Advocate. A year later we reworked the team a bit. Patrick Chanezon came in and helped us grow the team, with a focus on Cloud Foundry. Beyond Peter and me, there were specialists focusing on Rails, Node.js, PHP, RabbitMQ and more. It was an exciting team and and even more exciting time!
Poor Adam. He did the best with what he was given. I knew nothing! (I'm not much better now..) He mentored me. Guided me. Spell-checked me, for Pete's sake! The man was one of the busiest, most in-demand human beings I've ever met but he always took time to try to guide me. Adam's a consummate professional. He helped me see that developer advocacy was more than just "drinking and knowing things," as one internet meme about advocates jokes. He's since moved on to lead developer advocacy worldwide for a small up-and-coming company in Seattle called "Amazon" who, as far as I can tell, sell books. He keeps saying they're going to be big one day :) I think about Adam once a week at least. Every time I step on soil in some other corner of the planet, connect with some soul making their way to production with tools I love, or see a smile-inducing Tweet, I think about the risk he took in hiring me, in giving me the opportunity to work for him. Thank you Adam.
Patrick has since moved on to Microsoft (in a leadership role for developer advocacy) and now Docker (guiding strategy). Whenever I go to India, where Patrick, Chris Richardson, Rajdeep Dua and I had the privilege of spending a lot of time, I think of Patrick. Thank you Patrick.
When we spun out and created Pivotal, there were some organizational changes and I ended up reporting to Brian Dussault, the engineering manager for the Spring team. Brian didn't owe me a thing, but he took me in and assured me that he'd try to find funds in his engineering org for me in this new, scrappy Pivotal world. Brian, you're a live safer my friend. Thank you Brian.
Then came Andrew Clay Shafer. Andrew deserved better! But he got me. And he built a team with Pivotal's nascent marketing budget and community at his back. Andrew is a wonderful and strange cat. He built up a team and let us loose. He's been there to help, unfailingly, whenever we had questions or concerns. He is sometimes shockingly authentic. It's easy to be authentic when your manager is so forthcoming. Good, bad, or ugly, Andrew prioritizes the truth and expects nothing less from us. Andrew in turn hired Tasha Isenberg, our events manager who is sort of like air-traffic control. I work with Tasha almost daily. She's the most valuable person at Pivotal for me. I could not do what I do without her. It is entirely thanks to her that I am able to sardine pack hundreds of distinct talks, cities and meetings per year into the schedule. Andrew and Tasha make it so that I can do more while simultaneously wasting less time. I have more time off while getting more work done. Thank you Andrew and Tasha.
The Spring team are my friends. I've been through a divorce and a some health issues over the years and the Spring team always looked after me. We started a new company together, Pivotal, which you may have heard IPO'd in April of 2018 (earlier this year). I bought my first home in 2014, and my second in 2017, all thanks to the stability of working with the Spring team. In short, they've helped me grow and exceed my ambitions. I tend to richochet between cities and countries in my never ending quest to bring Spring to the world, to meet developers where they are literally and metaphorically. This means I get confused about things at the oddest hours and days relative to most of the team, but they always try to help. When I occasionally fail, it's entirely my fault. When I succeed, it's a shared privilege and effort. The Spring team are the real heroes here. They deliver boss-sauce software and I, the messenger, collect the hugs. I have grown with the Spring team, as a part of the Spring team, and I look forward to continuing to do so.
And of course, my work is pointless if I'm just speaking into a vaacuum. It's only thanks to you, the ever indulgent community, that I've gotten any traction at all. Thanks for making this work the thing that I feel privileged to do, day in and day out. Thank you.
I can't believe it's been eight years! Time sure flies when you're having fun..