The Road

It was around the end of 2006. Having spent most of my life living in the New Jersey - New York axis and close to my family, I bought a one-way ticket to RDU, packed my bag (yeah, one bag) and came down to North Carolina looking for a new job. Leaving my wife (who was expecting our second child) and young daughter while I went “job spelunking” wasn’t easy for me, but I was determined to quit the rat race once and for all!

The first couple of days were spent hanging out at Weaver Street Market and the coffee joint at the UNC book store, reading all the local newspapers and trying to network with the locals as much as I could. By the end of the second day I was invited for an interview at a Duke research department, but other than that, there wasn’t much going on yet.

On the fifth day depression and frustration set in. I also missed my wife and kid a lot… My sister, who back then was finishing her Masters and lived in Chapel Hill, convinced me to attend a poetry reading session early in the morning. I figured that I needed to clear my mind a bit and poetry was probably a good way to do that. But I also knew that I couldn’t let myself be depressed for too long, so I convinced her to accompany me to my very first TRILUG for a bit more of networking.

Right around noon I received an email for another job interview… but in New Jersey! Now, it’s true that I wanted to make North Carolina my new home, but when your money reserve starts to dwindle before your eyes, beggars can’t be too choosy. As the interview was scheduled for the following Monday, I bought a plane ticket back to New Jersey for Friday evening so that I could spend another day looking for a job before returning home for a few days.

The decision to drag my sister to attend that Thursday’s TRILUG meeting proved to be one of those lucky strikes that life throws at you every now and then. I don’t remember what the main topic that night was, but I remember meeting Daniel Chen and the conversation that, little did I know, would turn my life completely upside down. It was Daniel who said:

Since you want to work with Open Source and Python, you should send your cv to the guys at rPath

… and so I did…that same night… at around 11pm… The very next day I got up at 8am and there was a reply in my INBOX from Ken Vandine from rPath, asking about my availability for a phone interview that same day. We settled for a phone call at 9am which, turns out, would lead to an invitation for an interview at their office in Raleigh… Monday morning! As I couldn’t cancel my plane ticket without paying a steep fine AND not feeling totally comfortable with cancelling the interview in Jersey that same Monday, we decided to schedule it for Tuesday at 8am.

I flew back home with renewed energy and even though my bank statement showed a scarily low balance, I bought another ticket back to RDU for the last flight out of NY Monday evening, right after my interview. The interview itself went really well, but deep in my heart I was looking forward to chatting with the rPath folks. One interesting thing that came out of the Monday interview was that for the very first time in my life I felt the power that having a blog in a highly visible news aggregator can do for you: at the end of the interview I was told that some of the engineers knew of me from my blog and my advocacy for Ubuntu (yeah… I was young and inexperienced)… and wanted to meet me! So I was “paraded” in their engineering area like a rock star, shaking hands and exchanging information. A very interesting experience for sure.

From my interview I drove straight to LGA (or was it JFK? Can’t remember…) and waited forever for my flight that got delayed several hours due to a storm system that had settled over RDU. By the time I arrived back in North Carolina, it was almost 1am Tuesday and I was hungry, tired and with a pounding headache. Around 4am I finally fell asleep only to be awaken by the alarm clock at 6:30am. Shaving, shower and a quick breakfast was followed by a (always) tranquil commute to Raleigh, where rPath’s HQ is located.

The interview process was a grueling, 3-4 hour long marathon, where I was interviewed by several different individuals (I remember jtate, yeliaB and bpja… maybe msw, smerp and dugan?) asking me varying questions of equally varying levels of difficulty. When I was done, I felt exhausted and almost missed my exit on my way back to my sister’s modest 1-bedroom apartment. I had barely plugged my laptop and gotten on IRC when I received a message from kenvandine inviting me to meet Erik Troan, one of rPath’s founders, the following morning. I immediately accepted it, knowing really well that it would be the final and decisive interview, one “for all the marbles” as they say.

My meeting with Eric was all but what you’d expect from a “last stage, meeting the CEO” interview. At 8am sharp, in walks Eric wearing Bermuda shorts, a t-shirt, flip-flops, sipping on a apple juice box (like those we give to kids) to greet me and escort me into his office. For the next 35 minutes, Eric comfortably settled on his chair with both of his feet resting atop the desk, we talked about beer, coffee, travelling and Europe… in other words, everything but the job itself. And just like that, he got up, shook my hand, thanked me for coming in and walked me out of the office. I was dumbstruck!

Not knowing what had just happened, I called my wife in Jersey and I remember telling her: “Have I got the job? I have absolutely no idea what just happened, but if he is planning to open a bar of coffee place in Europe, I may have a shot!” This easy going and relaxed atmosphere would be a constant reminder for me for the years to come that companies should make sure that their employees feel welcome and comfortable at work if they want productivity and loyalty.

When I got back to my laptop at the UNC coffee place, I had a job offer from the place in Jersey (they would send me another email 1 hour later cancelling their offer, citing a technical glitch from their part that made the previous email get sent erroneously) and an offer from rPath via IRC!

On October 2nd, 2006 I walked into my current job at rPath and what has proven to be a life changing experience. As someone I know recently said, an awesome roller coaster ride with more twists, turns and air time than I could ever have dreamed of! Early on, for the most part, it felt like drinking from a fire hose as I struggled to switch to a fast paced startup environment and using an enormous variety of different technologies and tools from those I had grown used to at my previous employers. Through the many ups and downs that we’ve gone through, one constant has remained with me at all times: my unfaltering, unshakable commitment to the company, to its goals and my love for conary, their next generation software package management system.

The culmination of this love/passion is the birth of my personal pet project, Conary Recipes, a web site compendium of conary “recipes” for those who, like me, understand and appreciate the beauty and power that a conary-managed system can offer to power users, and want to learn by example how to leverage it to package software for their own use. It is also a place where seasoned packagers can show off their skills and let other people vote for their favorite recipes!

Conary Recipes is the fruit of my adventures into the wonderful world of Django and is brought to you thanks to the hard work of Elyézer Mendes Rezende, Evandro Pastor and Pawel Pogorzelski, who willingly jumped at my invitation to work on my new project and selflessly devoted their free time to help me get it off the ground! As we’re still working out the kinks and workflow for the web site, access is by invitation only until we feel that we’re ready for public usage. If you’re truly interested in taking the site for a spin and helping us improve the overall user experience, drop me a line and I’ll get you started. Also, feel free to file bug reports or feature requests using our issues tracking system.


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