Leaving NASA

“This has all been wonderful, but now I’m on my way…” – Phish

Has it really been six years that I’ve been working at NASA Ames Research Center? Wow. That’s a long time to be doing anything. If I think about the things I’ve been doing for six years or more, the list gets short real quick after breathing and eating.

Let’s see. I started at Ames in August, 2001…

  • I had just started dating Keturah (who is now my wife)
  • I was sharing an apartment with Chris (who is now my brother-in-law) in the South Beach section of San Francisco.
  • I had never been to Europe
  • The Red Sox still hadn’t won a world series since 1918
  • I came to Ames as an accomplished web programmer who knew his way around code, web servers, and Adobe Photoshop.

And, of course, that was the pre 9/11 world

Fast forward to October 2007…

  • Keturah and I have a 14 month old son(!)
  • We live in a house in Half Moon Bay
  • I’m about to take my third trip to Europe
  • The Red Sox actually won a world series in 2004
  • My interests with the web have grown from a web production guy into a web strategist focused on helping people use the web for communicating and sharing knowledge

My years with NASA have provided me a wealth of learning opportunities and professional growth. For that, I am most grateful. There’s a ton of people I’ve enjoyed working with and getting to know personally. I’m leaving knowing that there are some excellent (& positively disruptive) people in place to stir the drink. Quite honestly, there’s plenty of shaking and stirring left to do. I wish them all the best.

So what’s next for me?

I’ve accepted the position of Senior Web Technologist at Stanford University. I will be helping Stanford utilize the web to achieve its mission of “to teach the world” with a particular focus on Stanford’s relationships with their alumni. For the record, I wasn’t actually in the midst of a job search when Stanford gave me a call one afternoon. And I didn’t even read the job description until after my third meeting with them. But it wasn’t until I made the decision to move on that I realized just how much I need a change of scenery. Six years at NASA has worn me out in some ways and my enthusiasm and energy levels were reaching some low points. For me, it’s definitely time to for a new scene and new challenges.

The Red Sox have clinched a playoff spot. Why the hell am I so worried about them?

It’s an odd feeling to be a Red Sox fan this morning. My beloved team has clinched its playoff spot so there’s at least another week of baseball to look forward. Problem is they’re hanging onto their division lead by a thread over the dreaded Yankees. Why do I care so much? The division isn’t really what matters so much. A good friend pointed out to me recently that what really matters is winning the World Series.

And while there is some truth to all that, I’m totally freaked out to read any baseball headlines or look at the slim lead the Sox have. I can’t let go of the fact that we were once 14 games up on New York, but here we are clinging to a one game lead. The old demons are stirring and I’m fearing the worst. Nightmare reminders of 1978 keep popping into my head. I was 7 years old that year and I still remember it well. I find myself saying to myself, “Thank god for 2004. We’ll always have 2004.”

Does the division mean more to me this year than the World Series? It’s probably misguided of me to say so, but I think it does. I’ve had enough of finishing second for 10 years. Of looking up to the Yankees every year. Of worrying about collapsing when the finish line is in sight. Somebody let me know when this is all over. I can’t stomach it.

Getting Up and Out

Comrade and co-conspirator heathervescent recent posted an insightful commentary about attending a recent VC panel held by the Los Angeles Venture Association. What Heather got me thinking about is the importance of getting outside your comfort area, extending your reach, and communicating upward and outward.  Heather isn’t one to run with the VC types, but there she was…soaking it all in, documenting the happening, and throwing herself into a fresh circle of folks.

Too often, it’s easy to get complacent, turn on auto-pilot, and stay within your safety zone. We get stuck in our projects and working directly with our project teammates.  But what happens when the project is over?  Do we wait until the next project falls in our laps?  Are we laying our own path or we following someone else’s path.

We have to get up and out.  It’s a key to personal growth.  In the past few months, I’ve found myself getting stuck in my comfort zone at the day job.  This is no good.  It’s unacceptable behavior on my part.  It’s not me at all.

And I’m doing something about it. Stay tuned.

Presentations Added to Google Docs

Just saw the announcement on Google presentations feature on the Official Google Blog gave it VERY quick test drive and I can already tell that the online presentations feature is going to be super useful.  It would appear that you can share the presentation URL with other people on the web and then drive the presentation from your own computer.  Web workers are going to love this. 

Can you hear WebEx groaning?