The Observation Deck

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Month: July 2019

When I was first interviewing with Joyent in July 2010, I recall telling then-CTO Mark Mayo that I was trying to make a decision for the next seven years of my career. Mark nodded sagely at this, assuring me that Joyent was the right move. Shortly after coming to Joyent, I became amazed that Mark had managed to keep a straight face during our conversation: as a venture-funded startup, Joyent lived on a wildly accelerated time scale; seven years into the future for a startup is like seventy for a more established company. (Or, to put it more bluntly, startups with burn and runway are generally default dead and very unlikely to live to see their seventh birthday.)

But Mark also wasn’t wrong: again and again, Joyent beat the odds, in part because of the incredible team that our idiosyncratic company attracted. We saw trends like node.js, containers and data-centric computing long before our peers, attracting customers that were themselves foward-looking technologists. This made for an interesting trip, but not a smooth one: being ahead of the market is as much of a curse as a blessing, and Joyent lived many different lives over the past nine years. Indeed, the company went through so much that somewhere along the way one of our colleagues observed that the story of Joyent could only be told as a musical — an observation so profoundly true that any Joyeur will chuckle to themselves as they are reminded of it.

During one period of particularly intense change, we who endured developed a tradition befitting a company whose story needs musical theater to tell it: at company-wide gatherings, we took to playing a game that we called “ex-Joyeur.” We would stand in a circle, iterating around it; upon one’s turn, one must name an ex-Joyeur who has not already been named — or sit down. Lest this sound like bad attitude, it in fact wasn’t: it was an acknowledgement of the long strange trip that any venture-funded startup takes — a celebration of the musical’s exhaustive and curious dramatis personæ, and a way to remember those who had been with us at darker hours. (And in fact, some of the best players at ex-Joyeur were newer employees who managed to sleuth out long-forgotten colleagues!) Not surprisingly, games of ex-Joyeur were routinely interrupted with stories of the just-named individual — often fond, but always funny.

I bring all of this up because today is my last day at Joyent. After nine years, I will go from a Joyeur to an ex-Joyeur — from a player to a piece on the board. I have had too many good times to mention, and enough stories to last several lifetimes. I am deeply grateful for the colleagues and communities with whom I shared acts in the musical. So many have gone on to do terrific things; I know our paths will cross again, and I already look forward to the reunion. And to those customers who took a chance on us — and especially to Samsung, who acquired Joyent in 2016 — thank you, from the bottom of my heart for believing in us; I hope we have done right by you.

As for me personally, I’m going to take slightly more of a break than the three days I took in 2010; as a technologist, I am finding myself as excited as ever by snow-capped mountains on a distant horizon, and I look forward to taking my time to plot my next seven-year expedition!

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