Rod Hilton's rants about software development, technology, and sometimes Star Wars

Moving On...

Two weeks ago, I gave notice at OpenLogic to take a position with a new company in Boulder.

Normally, when I quit a job, people want to know why I was unhappy at my company. And normally, I have more than enough to say in response to that question. For the first time in my career, however, I have nothing negative to say about a company I’m leaving.

OpenLogic is great. OpenLogic is a company full of bright people and I applaud and support what they are trying to do: spread open source into enterprises. OpenLogic’s business goal was what attracted me to the company in the first place, and it still excites me today.

It’s strange, because the last company I left, Acxiom, felt like breaking up with an abusive girlfriend. She was nasty and treated me poorly (the company, not my immediate coworkers, who were great), and I was happy to dump her. OpenLogic is more like the really nice girl that you really want to be happy, but she just isn’t right for you. The girl who you tell “it’s not you, it’s me,” and actually mean it.

The main problem at OpenLogic was simply that it had changed a lot since I joined, and the more recent version of the company wasn’t as great fit for me as the previous version. The team was a bit too small for my comfort, and we had abandoned Java in favor of Rails. Neither of these things were OpenLogic problems, they were me problems. OpenLogic SHOULD be small right now, and Ruby on Rails is the right platform for its products.

The lack of a comfortable fit had been wearing on me for months, but I had trouble figuring out if I was actually unhappy since the main indicators (people, business, products) seemed fine. I could have probably stayed at OL for a year or two longer as a relatively happy developer, but the fact that I felt like something of a square peg in a round hole led me to look around at other jobs, just a little bit.

Then I found Rally.

What made Rally stand out to me? To answer this, I want to talk about OO. I’ve been writing Java for a long time, starting in college. I came from a heavy procedural programming background and I transitioned to Java while preserving my procedural style. My early Java applications were an OO programmer’s nightmare: public static void main followed by thousands of lines of procedural code. I used methods like functions, and rarely used inheritance except when I had to. One day, after I had been working on an inherited large-scale Java application and struggling with its OO design, Object Oriented programming hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, I got OO. It was eye-opening and career-changing. I still remember the instant that this happened.

There have been few times in my career where I experienced an eye-opening epiphany on such a level. Most recently, I experienced an epiphany of this magnitude this when I first got agile software development.

Previous employers never followed any sort of real process, but OpenLogic introduced me to agile. The experience was definitely as life-changing as grokking OO. Software can be written quickly and still work well? Developers can react quickly to changing requirements? Managers can keep track of progress noninvasively? Holy crap! Agile was, in a word, awesome.

So when I saw Rally and looked at their company, I started to feel jazzed. Rally specializes in Agile. Much like OpenLogic, Rally helps companies become better by embracing something that works. In OpenLogic’s case, it’s open source software. In Rally’s, it’s agile development. Both of these topics fascinate and excite me, putting Rally on equal footing with OpenLogic.

But in the end, Rally has a much larger development team and works with technologies I find interesting, getting me back to Java land. Rally is just a better fit for me and for my career. Rally is a good cultural fit, a good technological fit, and a good business fit for me. I couldn’t resist the opportunity.

It is with a great deal of remorse that I leave OpenLogic. I still want the company to succeed. I still want enterprises to adopt open source software. I still want all of the people who work there to become ridiculously wealthy when the company makes it big, and it’s weird to feel that way while knowing that I won’t get a cut. OpenLogic introduced me to agile, the very thing that interested me about Rally. In a way, it’s even worse than dumping the nice girl, because it’s going on to date the friend to whom she introduced me. I’m a bastard.

Nonetheless, I have to do what’s right for me and for my career. I sincerely wish OpenLogic the best of luck, and it would elate me to no end to find out that my OpenLogic coworkers all got to retire early, even as I don’t. OpenLogic may not be right for me, but it’s right for the industry, and I believe time will prove that out.

It definitely not them. It’s me.

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