Work From Home is Here to Stay

Work from home (WFH) is here to stay if you’re lucky and fight for it. I keep hearing from my customers that more and more companies are starting to reopen and call back employees to the office, except many are not coming back!

That’s music to my ears!

After dealing with the sudden pandemic shutdowns, juggling work-home duties, and dealing with the isolation, the majority of American workers powered through this hell. We did it. We kept our companies afloat and not just survived, but thrived. I don’t know about your work environment, but we accelerated our productivity over the last year.

As companies open up, they’re making demands for workers to come back to the office. They’re asking employees to prove to them why they should keep the privilege of work from home.

Say what?

We kept your asses afloat during the pandemic and you want US to prove to you that we should be able to continue WFH?

SLAM! That was the door closing on the employee exodus. Workers are not tolerating this bullshit and it’s leading to a massive talent shuffle.

Boomers Love Control

I recently shared a Bloomberg article on my LinkedIn wall and added some commentary.

I wrote:

Seven years ago I left the Civil Engineering industry where Work From Home (WFH) was frowned on. The people in charge of the companies assumed that you’d be goofing off if you did WFH. Then the Covid19 pandemic hit and those Engineering companies HAD TO ADAPT and allow WFH, after all, there was always a deadline to meet.

This Bloomberg article really nails the feeling of many professionals that are forced to come into work when a WFH scenario is in everyone’s best interest.

“…there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions.”

“They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

This article is a shot across the bow to all industries. WFH is here to stay and if you want to attract and keep key talent you’re going to have to evolve AND fast. #careers #engineering #workfromhome

Technology has allowed a massive swath of workers to WFH, except those in charge refused to let us do it. Because they were afraid we’d be sleeping on the couch.

Do you know what we did with WFH instead? We saved at least 2 hours of commuting every day. We were able to pick up our kids at school without rushing out the door of the office. We got to spend more time with our families or friends. We had a life in that fucked up work-life balance platitude we keep hearing.

And we were more productive than we ever.

Fight for Work From Home

The Boomer tyrants are going to work hard to get you to come back to the office, fight for your right to have a flexible arrangement.

I get it, some people like the office interaction and seeing their colleagues – I do too – but do you need to go to the office 5 days a week? Why not do a 2 day in the office / 3 day WFH, or so another arrangement that makes sense for you.

Whatever is the optimal arrangement is for you, the main premise is this: a flexible work schedule makes a lot of sense from cultivating happy workers AND productivity.

Hell, you might not need so much office space anymore and cut back on leasing costs. This might lead to less development of commercial real estate, which is OK in my book.

My First Week In Startup World

It was 5PM on a Friday and my first week at my first startup was over. Our small office was clearing out hitting a local bar for happy hour. I slumped in my seat, exhausted.

“What a week, it’s so frantic here,” I muttered under my breath as the CEO walked by.

He chuckled and said, “Well Tom, you asked for it. This is what you wanted.” He put in his coat and headed to the elevator.

Poof! Bad Tom whispered, “Fuck that you party pooper…

When I finally pulled myself up, I closed my laptop and packed up. I walked over to the elevator and thought about what I was going to do tonight. My Acela train was scheduled for Saturday morning and my Best Western hotel room had a lumpy bed.

At 43 years old I was debating just going to my hotel room to recover but the devil in me wanted to go hang out with the “youngsters.”

Poof! Good Tom whispered in my ear, “Just go get some take-out and chill out in your room. You’re too old.

Poof! Bad Tom whispered, “Fuck that you party pooper, go out and have fun with your team. It’s what you do in the startup world, you sissy!

There I sat pondering my dilemma. It didn’t take long, maybe 5 nanoseconds of thinking but Bad Tom won.

The waitress places a beer in front of me, I watch the foam spill over the sides.

Fast forward an Uber ride to a “hip” bar in Porter Square where I meet up with my coworkers.

“Hey!” The scream from across a table, the new AE raises his beer glass so I can see him.

I grab a chair at the end of the table as the appetizers arrive. I look at one of the beer menu cards and motion for the waitress to come over to take my order.

The AE looks over to me, catches my eye.

“Hey! I hate to tell you this but we’re going in a new direction for that account as of 3 PM today.”

The waitress places a beer in front of me, I watch the foam spill over the sides. He’s speaking words but they’re not registering in my mind right now.

“So all the stuff I worked on for the account is toast?”

He nods, “Let’s circle up Monday morning. Great job though, you wowed them at the presentation!” He slaps me on my back and goes back to a smaller group of guys.

All guys, a lot of young ones, and only a few old fucks like me.

I note it’s all salesmen and no saleswomen.

I take a long pull from my beer and munched on a quesadilla. We’re in a standard Boston bar, kind of darkish but modern with an open floor plan. It’s cool enough to attract the hipsters but too loud to have a good conversation.

I realize I’m that old, I’m more interested in having a conversation at a quieter bar. This place was built for one thing, to get you and your buddies stone-faced drunk, Boston style.

Things get loud throughout the evening as two distinct groups form. One is a group of introverted software developer types and the other is a small group of loud extroverted salesmen types.

I note it’s all salesmen and no saleswomen.

I sit there lost in thought, taking in the moment. Just over a week ago I was saying goodbye to my coworkers. They all thought I was nuts to quit my 20-year career as a civil engineer. To quit and join a startup that they didn’t understand. Machine learning? What is that? Is that like the Terminator?

…did I make the right choice?

I made one of the largest leaps in my entire life, I switched careers midstream in what would make a normal person faint.

I take another drink from my beer. I think about my partner, how she encouraged me to take the risk. She was my support, the one person who believed in my dreams and helped sail the ship when I couldn’t.

But this all made sense. I knew I was destined to break out of the chains that held me down. I knew I had to shed my anchor and get out of a job I hated.

Now I was a freshly minted Sales Engineer and a Data Scientist. A whatever you want me to be guy to help close a sale. I was always a nerd, an Engineer, a tinkerer.

I would’ve never in a million years thought that I would end up in Sales.

Never.

I looked around the table at my coworkers laughing and drinking the night away and I could help but wonder, did I make the right choice?


A lot of events have been changed to protect the “innocent”, even if they deserved it.

The Startup World is Nuts

I’ve been thinking long about whether or not I should write about my experiences in startup life or not. I have four startups under my belt, one never getting off the ground, the other I ran successfully for a year, and the last two were 100+ person startups, one of which I’m currently gainfully employed at.

Startups are the rage now, everyone wants to start one, work at one, and exit as a filthy millionaire. There are long nights, alcohol-fueled events, good and bad decisions, and in some cases a venture capital windfall.

You can hack it, you’re strong, young, and smart.

I’ve seen products get killed in their infancy and I’ve seen products that were considered a joke sell for millions of dollars.

I’ve seen coworkers come and go, upper management replaced, and middle management told to pack their shit and leave, only to be hired 5 minutes later because their replacement has no idea where anything was.

You’re probably wondering that this sounds like a job for you! You can hack it, you’re strong, young, and smart. You can’t wait to answer “how high” when the 25-year-old CEO says, “jump” and points to a cliff.

Don’t get too comfortable.

Best check your head the door first. Working at a startup requires a special type of person. It requires someone who thrives in the unknown and gets the job done. You might have the technical chops.

You might have an idea about scaling, and repeatable processes, maybe how to really move the needle, and you believe in the mission of the company.

You might be a great fit for that startup and that’s awesome! I’m so excited for you, but remember that the only thing constant in this space is change.

Don’t get too comfortable. I’ve seen a new hire arrive on his first day only to be told to go home because his offer was rescinded. His crime? Showing up after a Board Meeting where it was decided to wipe out 30 people to cut costs and he was caught in the crossfire.

Working in a startup isn’t for the faint of heart and hopefully, you’ll learn a most important skill. To work in this space you need to be flexible.

It’s nuts and I advise you to become a boring dentist instead.

I’m not the smartest guy in the room but I think I do alright, and part of my success is because I’m flexible. I try not to get set in my ways. The people that are too rigid to process, their “way or the highway” approach to things, will get eaten alive in this space.

I have seen new management come in and puff their chests out and call everyone losers because they had the right way to sell. A year later they scrapped their entire plan because it didn’t work.

I’ve seen companies triple nearly overnight with newcomers only concerned about building their fiefdoms and not fixing underlying problems. Many of those newcomers are long gone.

Just remember to be flexible and realize that it’s nuts.

I’m not trying to scare you, but the startup space is chaotic. It’s nuts and I advise you to become a boring dentist instead. Drill teeth, make money and go home every night. If you like a stable life, go do something else that works in a startup.

But, if you’re like me and thrive on challenges, chaos, and trusting your abilities to get shit done, then by all means try one out. Just remember to be flexible and realize that it’s nuts.

It’s all nuts, all the time, and will get even nuttier the longer you’re in one.

Street Photography and Startups

If you’ve been following my blog posts, you’d know that RapidMiner isn’t the first Startup I’ve worked for. My first one was straight out of school for an engineering firm in New Mexico. It was the best of times and the worst of times. I am who I am today from the lessons I learned there.

What many people don’t know about me is that I like to take photos in cities. I fancy myself a hobby street photographer and I like to roam around and capture small slices of life in the streets. It’s a very personal and lonely endeavor but I’m fascinated by the undercurrent of people interacting with places, people, and things.

It’s also very therapeutic! It gives me time to think when I roam around AND it sharpens my senses to opportunities. You have to be quick to get that shot!

I recently stumbled across some street photography tips by a prolific street photography blogger, Eric Kim. I watched this “kid” go from shooting bad street photos to shooting really good ones. He experimented, he networked, he tried new things, and dropped things that didn’t work. Now he’s traveling the world and hosting street photography workshops. He’s like this own “startup” and despite what all the haters say, I like the guy!

I gleaned a few of his tips. Some of them contradict each other, but I can overlook that. Why? Because life is one big contradiction. What ultimately matters is learning to see an opportunity, evaluate it, and then take it if it makes sense.

Fulfill Your Personal Maximum

I am certainly not a “master” myself; just a humble student dedicated to a life-long pursuit of learning.

The Startup is you and your people. Without all your brains, you’d be dead in the water. Life-long learning is important to keep all those brains sharp and creative. Always remember, your employees want to contribute to something larger than themselves and if they feel like their work becomes too rote, then you’ll lose them. Invest in lifelong learning.

Shoot 25% more than you think you should

If you see an amazing character once in your life, realize that you will never see them ever again. So live life without regrets and make the photograph.

This tip reminds me of not missing a good opportunity AND under promising but over-delivering. In the Startup world, you have gone above and beyond for your potential and existing clients. You are the reason they are taking a chance on your startup, so don’t blow it.

Kill Your Master

Remember that after learning from the masters, you need to know when to ignore them or when to go against their teachings.

As you journey through Startup land, will meet and have great mentors and influencers. I still talk to my old mentors, which I affectionately call “Tor”mentors. They will have great wisdom share but what you need to do is learn as much as you can and then chart your own destiny. You’re the captain of this Startup, you take their teachings and set out on your own into uncharted waters.

Kill Your Ego

By detaching your ego from your photos, you can judge them more honestly and objectively.

Don’t get hung up on something and lose your objectivity. I see this happen a lot when teams are formed to make new products. They lose themselves in the product that they forget who it’s really for, the customer. If you can’t honestly and objectively evaluate how good or bad your product is, well then you got a problem. Be prepared to kill your creations.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Many photographers become jaded after years of shooting. They lose a sense of their hunger and passion. This is what leads to artistic death and stagnation.

This is a tough one. At times you can get tired and things just seem to be going all wrong in your Startup. You have to be vigilant against losing your hunger and passion because it’s really tied together by a thin thread. If you feel jaded or burnt out, take some time off and detach for a bit. Then come back and be a force to be reckoned with.

By getting to know your subject, you connect with them on a deeper and emotional level, which might help you uncover some hidden truths about them, which might manifest in the photos that you take.

This is about your customer or clients. You have to get to know them to understand why they’re involved with you. Don’t be that selfish lover that only thinks about your orgasm, think about theirs. Once you build a strong relationship, everyone feels “in it together,” and that goes a long way to building your brand.

Unlearn

I want to leave you with the last lesson it would be this: unlearn.

If something doesn’t work, toss it. Start again. Don’t be tied to dogma.