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So many times, it happens too fast...you trade your passion for glory. Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past, you must fight just to keep them alive.

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Software Engineer

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Somewhere in California..

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Antifragile

Posted by BoMToons - August 8th, 2018


A lot has changed in the last 4 months since I last posted... basically every aspect of my life has been touched.

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It's been, hands-down, the most distressing time in my life, I can't even really delve into the full extent of it all here. The take away, though, before I go on, is best-summarized by a book I've been reading called "Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder" - basically, my life has improved in many significant ways because of being pushed through some tough challenges. I'm amazed by the way things turned out and feel deeply grateful for the experiences. There are still quite a few challenges to overcome, but I'm in a good place mentally and spiritually - a place to rebuild on a more secure, self-aware, foundation.

To be honest, circumstances combined to push me out of my "comfort zone" (by a long shot) and that instability REQUIRED me to re-evaluate my life and goals and potential in major ways which, in the end, allowed me to reach a level in many areas that is much better than I was planning for myself. Many people (friends and family) had seen my potential and encouraged me to "go after it," make sacrifices, push myself, etc., but I was, honestly, playing it safe. With the safe option removed, my best came out. Frankly, that lesson, alone, is revolutionary to me. I have immense gratitude for what happened, even though it felt "forced" at first, I now see it as a huge blessing and am trying to embrace the opportunities provided by it. Despite the improvements not originating with my own agency, I am NOW using my agency to build off the foundation provided externally.

One of the big stressors was my newborn son being in the PICU for a week:

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I also got in a scary accident on the freeway and the insurance company ended up "totalling" my car... which seems pretty trivial looking back on things now.

The biggest change is in my career! I am now a software engineer at a company called TreeRing. It's a funny story because, when I was teaching, I was my school's yearbook editor. We used TreeRing to design, print, and ship our yearbooks. At the time, their product was all built in ADOBE FLASH, which I totally understood and chuckled at when I first saw it because of my background making Flash games. However, I was a bit surprised that they were using a "dead" technology.

Later I started getting emails about their upcoming new product version which would be completely based on modern web technologies like HTML5. Again, I could totally relate because I have been involved in a few companies that have had to swallow the tough pill of switching away from Flash. I ended up printing 2 yearbooks (over the course of 2 years) for my school with TreeRing and their customer service and final product was impressive to me. Plus I admired their business model and history with Flash.

So, I happened to get a notification on LinkedIn about TreeRing having an open Software Engineer position and I felt compelled to apply. Their specifications were obviously for someone who could jump into their new HTML5 product which, at the time, was not totally in my skillset. However, my brother-in-law recently went to a code bootcamp for all the necessary skills and had been working at a company for a couple years with a similar product... so I asked him to give me a crash course!

Over the next couple weeks, I worked around the clock on updating my web-dev skills. Javascript frameworks was my main focus, stuff like jQuery, Angular 2+, React, SASS css, GreenSock, etc. Check out my website bling updates:

http://www.pestoforce.com

I learned A TON [ good thing because I had included all of those skills on my resume... >< ]. Eventually, I got a call from the TreeRing CEO and did a phone interview. We commiserated about Flash and Steve Jobs' big mouth and he said I was the 1st engineering applicant that had also been a customer. He moved me on to a phone interview with the CTO (chief technical officer). I was really intimidated at not being able to answer technical questions in that interview, so I tripled my preparation studies.

That interview was not as "ecstatic" feeling as the one with the CEO and I was pretty convinced I wouldn't get a call back. However, a few days later they asked me to come in to San Mateo CA (6 hours from my house in NV) to meet their dev team and see if I was a good fit. I drove in and met with their team for... 4 hours!!! Longest job interview ever!

Personality-wise, I did pretty well, but their main code wrangler had some tough questions that I had to punt on. The funniest, and most unexpected part, was that when I met with the CTO in-person he asked me a question about how I would approach problems without a clear solution and that required dismissing past assumptions... basically, how would I overcome my in-built biases when approaching code problems... we ended up talking about The Black Swan, Antifragile [books I'd been reading], and a few podcasts I'd been listening to also. I would never have guessed that all my "for fun" reading and listening would help prepare me for job interviews!

Because of the "punted" questions, I was not very hopeful at getting another callback, but I didn't give up! Their main code wrangler had mentioned a product called Fabric.js so I decided to create a demo of their yearbook application using Fabric (after I learned it of course). I ended up sending this to their main code wrangler, the CEO, and the CTO:

http://pestoforce.com/fabric/

They offered me the job the next day :-)

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Pros: Literally more than 3x my teacher salary + benefits, California weather, job that I love in my wheelhouse

Cons: They wanted me to start ASAP

So, we did a mad dash to pack up our home, list it for sale, secure a rental in CA, and move [ amidst tons of other stressors - what seemed like layer upon layer of challenges ]. I struggled with feeling helpless/powerless/a "victim", but knew that would be a downward mental spiral and decided to roll with the punches and come out on top. I also eventually concluded that my troubles were, mostly, of my own making - facing that fact was the healthiest course to overcoming.

We ended up making the work start deadline! Though we had to choose a place about 1 hour outside the Bay Area because of the costs of homes in the area. That means what should be a 1 hour commute, but Bay Area traffic makes that potentially MUCH longer...

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Followup amazement: On my 2nd day at work, they took me out for Burmese food as part of their "New Kid Lunch" tradition. We talked about how I was adjusting, my commute, etc. When we got back to the office, the CEO called me in to a private room and gave me a SIGNIFICANT raise! He explained that he's afraid of me burning out with the commute and that hopefully this will help us move closer... which it will! Once our previous home sells, we'll be able to move right next to the Bay opposite San Mateo, making my commute ~30 mins in heavy traffic. (!) Still pinching myself about that one.

To end off I'll link you to another post about some significant dreams I've had over the last few months.

I love Newgrounds for a lot of reasons (and I still hope to get back to making games some day, but software dev is a close rival), but the reason I love NG today is because it's given me a place to blog over the last decade of my life and I'm really grateful to have everything recorded in a more intimate format than Facebook/Twitter. Optimistically proceeding.

Leave me a comment yo!

--Nick

 


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Comments (8)

Wow, what a ride! I'm glad all is seemingly going well. Its funny, you say you have an hour+ commute and honestly, how do you deal? One thing I've always thought about and been vehemently against is having a commute to a job that is far away. Like, we spend SO MUCH TIME IN CARS, and I find it just a waste of time. I know sometimes its just "part of it", but i dunno, its just a pill I could never and still cant swallow. Do you actually find it worth it? Or is it something you're just used to?

How long did it take your to pack up your own? Did you have to sell anything or donate stuff ?

hows the newborn though? Better I hope?

I totally agree on newgrounds being more intimate than facebook and twitter.

My boy is healthy and happy now (thank goodness!).

The commute isn't bad. I listen to podcasts and other audio content. I enjoy it actually and it gives me time to think. Think about how much time in a day we waste on social media or watching tv or playing video games. A couple hours on the road is a drop in the bucket.

That's beautiful man, I hope things work out for you! Hope someday we still get to work on that game together. Sounds like your life is in a great place right now :) keep on man! Congrats!

Fingers crossed!

That's awesome about your job, you must be really hard-working and also really good at your job if you were able to learn so much about programs you hadn't even used (much) before. I guess all that Newgrounds experience paid off. That TreeRing place also sounds awesome, what a cool place to work! Good luck, and I'm glad that despite so much stress, you came out better.

My education in computer science is anything but traditional, but hopefully I bring some stuff to the table you can't get in school.

That's a jam packed four months! Glad your family is doing well and kudos for the poise and hard work in proving yourself to your new workplace and probably even yourself. Sometimes stubbornness isn't such a bad thing. Sounds cliche but I think especially nowadays you just have to want it more than others.
Looking forward to catching back up later in the autumn. Cheers

Yeah, I had to do everything possible to get the job. My life was on the line and that tenacity I think played a big role in getting the job. I <3 you Luis, always remember that!

I'm happy to see things working out, you deserve everything good that is coming your way! It's been great to watch your journey over the years, with designing a portable arcade cabinet, becoming a teacher and making your own game on Steam. Thank you for sharing all that on your NG blog, it's the sort of thing I was hoping to see when we added them.

There are so many ups and downs in this age of rapid change but you've been adapting better than most people. TreeRing made a great choice bringing you aboard!

Thanks Tom, as usual, I give you props for recognizing my budding talents and encouraging it back in the day of experimenting in Flash. I owe a lot to you. Newgrounds 4-eva! True blue (orange?) thru and thru.

Really love hearing you succeed and overcome shiz. You deserve it completely, and your son is adorable.

Thank you, it's been a real roller-coaster.

So much events. I glad to see that you still unbound, unbroken. Still in positive mood.

I like your use of adjectives there. :-)

@BoMToons Glad to hear it!

I guess when you put it that way, commuting in a car isn't too bad then...