Today is my last day at Big Nerd Ranch (BNR).
To truly understand how meaningful my time at BNR has been, I have to take you back to 2011. It had been 3 years since I graduated from Georgia Tech. 3 years since I decided to turn my back on my degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering to pursue a career in consulting. I had just accepted an offer to move from a Big 4 consulting firm to a smaller firm. I was excited - I had successfully negotiated a nice pay bump, and I would no longer have to worry about traveling for a project since this smaller firm operated a local project model.
However, it wasn’t long before the euphoria of the new job was replaced with dread. The name of my employer may have changed, but I ended up doing the same unfulfilling management consulting work for huge corporations. When work got slow, as it ultimately does, I was still trapped in my cubicle from 9 to 5.
Not surprisingly, I looked forward to the end of the work day. Not because I got to veg out on the couch, but because it was the beginning of my 5 to 9. I had been working on a side project with my brother and a couple friends for the past year. Little did I know that this side project would lead me to my new career.
Our side project ended up growing into a full-fledged startup called Body Boss. In an effort to build Body Boss, I spent nights and weekends learning how to build web applications. The challenge and frustration of coding was addictive. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I had discovered my passion for software development. When those nights and weekends bled into days and weekdays, I knew that it was time to make a career switch. By the end of 2011, I had begun applying to software engineering positions, but it would be months before I would find the perfect role at BNR.
It was March of 2012 when Charles Brian Quinn, CEO of BNR (formerly Highgroove Studios), took a chance that “Consultant Don” could also become “Lead Software Engineer Don” and “Team Manager Don”. Big Nerd Ranch offered me a bridge between my 3 worlds - consulting, entrepreneurship and software development. I would build products for clients, and a lot of my clients happened to be startups. Furthermore, I’d be working in a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE™) meaning that I could work wherever and whenever I wanted as long as I met my results. No more 9 to 5. No more sitting in an office unless I wanted to. I was absolutely thrilled for this amazing opportunity and also terrified because I had no idea what being a professional software engineer meant.
When I first started at BNR, I had a serious case of impostor syndrome. Could you blame me? Up to this point, my only serious coding experience was on Body Boss. Now I was surrounded by amazingly talented and smart software engineers. I was certain that it was was only a matter of time before I would be exposed. Fortunately, my new coworkers were not the types to exploit a very green engineer. In fact, they made a concerted effort to help me become a better software engineer.
Taking the time to help each other grow was ingrained in BNR’s culture. My coworkers patiently and diligently coached me, pair-programmed with me, and code reviewed me. They taught me that software engineers are comfortable being uncomfortable because we are always asking questions and, as a result, always learning. With their help, I transformed from being someone that hacked things together to a craftsman that took pride in building well-designed software.
I donned many hats during my time at BNR. I was a…
- consultant - advising and helping CEOs and CTOs define and implement their strategic vision.
- lead engineer - driving the technical development for clients big and small.
- team manager - leading and advocating for an amazing team of developers.
- tech sales engineer - estimating projects and helping potential clients understand the technical requirements of their project.
- backup dancer - featuring in my first (and probably last) music video.
BNR was the best place I’ve ever worked. By far. It’s not even close. I worked with some of the most brilliant, most hardworking and kindest Nerds. As you can see in the above video, we had a lot of fun too. We would go from seriously discussing a software design pattern to posting hilarious GIFs of cats in our company chatroom to putting on silly masks in a team Google+ Hangout.
To put it simply, I’ve made life long friends. I’m going to miss them dearly. That’s why it’s with mixed emotions that I bid farewell to The Ranch. I depart to undertake a new challenge at Kevy with a confidence instilled, in large part, by my time at BNR. I’m not an impostor anymore. Thank you, Big Nerd Ranch.
Thanks to Daryl Lu for his keen eye on previous drafts of this post.