This time last year, I took a last long walk down 4th Street to the Powell Street BART station.
I worked at BabyCenter for 9 /12 years. A long time! Time enough in a man’s life to be significant. Long enough to deserve a blog post.
When I left, I was full of raw emotion. I told myself not to blog about it for a year. I wanted perspective. Space. Good idea!
I still think about BabyCenter a lot. Too much. I wish it was safely behind me by now. Time does heal all wounds. But you need a lot of it. A year, clearly, is not enough.
Wounds? Well… When I left, I had reasons. A year later… Let’s say this: I had reasons for leaving. They were valid. I am happy now. It’s all good.
* I miss the high-quality people. Something about BabyCenter attracted high-quality people. Some left, some stayed. I really appreciated working with all of them.
BabyCenter is in the heart of the SOMA startup community. But the staff is composed of people who don’t want to be at startups. Older, experienced, professional, serious about the craft. We didn’t have a programmer under 30. No one wanted to work overtime. But no one wanted the business to suffer either. There is a balance. The staff at BabyCenter grokked that balance. (er… mostly)
* Not everyone was great. I danced on more than a few graves. That’s part of the fun though. I out-lasted those losers, and told bawdy stories about them at the bar.
* You can’t go back. I ran into an old colleague one day, on the way to work. He’d been gone for just a year, yet most of the people he worked with had left as well. It was a sobering realization. Last month, I talked to another colleague, one who kept in touch. It turns out that a bunch of significant people left in the last year. I’m not minimizing the friends who remain. It’s just that it wouldn’t be the same if I went back now.
* We were really, really good at process. I wish my current day job was half as good. At the same time, we became slaves to that process. We started worshiping the rules, and not the meaning behind the rules. We turned into a software factory. I never want to work at a factory again.
* I learned a ton, from outstanding people. And I learned a bit from ridiculous people. The ridiculous people make great cocktail-party stories. But I love those outstanding people. They made the whole thing great.
* Before BabyCenter, I was an arrogant SOB. I was the smartest guy in every room. Or close enough for hand-grenades. I had friends and admirers, sure. But also enemies. Enemies wore on my mind. When I joined BabyCenter, I made a conscious decision to re-invent myself as a nice, accommodating person. Enemy free! Mission accomplished, I think. The problem is, I was wearing a mask, playing a role. Every day for a decade. It wears on you. When I left, one of the things I hoped to accomplish is a reconciliation between my Jekyll and my Hyde. Can I be nice, but also awesome? So far, so good. Still working on it…
BabyCenter made me a better person.