The Last Shark

For the last several years I’ve been an embedded software tester on a highly performing team. My beloved team, nicknamed the White Sharks, has been the source of much pride. As a tester, I obsess over producing quality code, and have been very proud of a team of great developers who bought into an approach that developing quality applications mattered. We had a strong Definition of Done, Quality Gates, and informal Working Agreements that allowed us to deliver good software at a fairly fast pace. In December of this year, the fabric of that team began to fall away.

In December, our Senior Architect left for another job. A couple months later, I think sometime in March, another great developer and architect left for greener pastures. Shortly thereafter, a third senior developer left. Weeks later, our Senior Devops Engineer left – and finally today, another dev left. This last developer had only been on the team for about a year, but he was the last team member remaining on a team that I have been a member of for many years. Finally, I am The Last Shark.

When people have departed, they have been replaced by some great guys and gals – smart, sharp and friendly developers and testers who have worked their guts out to pickup the pieces. These have been internal replacements, from other teams within our company (save one new-hire). While they’re amazing men and women, they don’t have the requisite domain knowledge to keep us going like we once were. I have been thrust into a team leadership role, I’m here trying to grab the helm of this fledgling ship to pull her away from the rocks and steer her into the deep bays, and, finally the open ocean.

I could talk about the technical challenges, but I’m writing this to talk about the personal challenges this has presented. When the third developer left I literally cried at my desk. Luckily, I work from home, because I would’ve cried in the office too. I knew it was an end of an era. I felt like things could never be the same, at least for a long time. More, for years I have shared the story of my life with these folks – they knew my kids, they knew I loved cats, and of the many personal trials and victories I’ve went through in my life. They knew I shouted in glee when I found a bug, and that I made a lot of noise during the course of the day, mostly talking to myself. I’ve tested their code, they’ve fussed at my intense drive for quality – but more than anything, I miss the people behind the code. I miss the people who wrote the code – not their knowledge, passion, and love for their job – but the people I shared my life with.

Those friends are gone, working with some other tester, sharing their lives with someone else – and I miss them. The absolute hardest part of my job the last 6 months has been losing people I’ve grown to love. There won’t be anymore work lunches, or chats about our families, lives or happenings of the day. Those days are gone, forever. We’re building a new team. I’ll get to make new friends and have new relationships, we’ll deliver some good code. They’ll get to know my kids and my quirks and that I love cats, if they stick around long enough. I’m hurting, and sad, and devastated – work relationships are important. I find myself feeling like I’ve been dumped, over-and-over again. However, it’s a job, and we’re all professionals – it’s not personal, and I know they didn’t leave me, or even because of me. But that doesn’t stop the pain or the hurt, or the feeling that I too should leave. But that feeling of wanting to leave, that’s the feeling of a quitter – and I’m not quitter, at least not yet. Most days, I’m pretty happy with the technology, my bosses, and the chores of the day. But everyday, I miss my Sharks. Farewell and following seas to my team: Greg, Thomas, Michael, Henry and Caden. Someday our paths may cross again. I’m forever grateful I got to share my journey with you, and you, me.

From Kentucky to Florida – and Back

I have some big news to share! My family includes 4 boys (3-16 years old), two grown-ups, 2 dogs and 2 cats – and in the next couple of months we’ll be moving. On July 1, 2011 my family (then including only 3 boys aged 7, 4, and 1 and a single cat and two grown-ups) moved from Kentucky to Florida. I remember that move because it was so incredible, you probably wouldn’t believe me.

Coming into the summer of 2011, my wife and I made the decision to move to Florida. I was harshly under-employed, we were still struggling from the recession of ~2008, where we lost our home to foreclosure. Things were tough, to say the least. In search of a better life, we put almost everything we owned into a storage unit and rented the smallest uhaul trailer you could rent, and packed some toys, clothes and a few other household goods and headed south. Well, we did have a plan, but it was very concerning, especially looking back. My wife had been a nurse for a number of years at this point, so she took a job as a travel nurse. Our first 3 month stop would be in Panama City, Florida. This job paid her well, and even would pay for housing for all of us. It was a chance to improve our conditions, and a chance for me to find work in the field in which I was educated. The plan was for her to work, and when we found a place we liked, I’d look for employment. Meanwhile, I home-schooled our oldest son (then in second grade) and cared for our other two boys while she worked.

I’ll never forget that first night arriving in Panama City – we literally arrived with not much more than the clothes on our back. We were counting on the agency who hired my wife to follow-through, there was no backup plan. We pulled into this small apartment complex on the east side of Panama City and got the keys to our very small, fully furnished, 2 bedroom condo. It was probably 800 square feet, if that. Later, after requesting a larger unit, they moved us to Panama City Beach into a 2 bedroom apartment that was much larger. After three months in PCB, her next position was in Hudson, Florida. Hudson was just outside of Clearwater, near Tampa. This time we decided to handle our housing ourselves, and found a house in the country, if you can believe this! I have really fond memories of this house, it was really secluded, the only other house nearby were the folks who rented this really nice double-wide trailer (it had a wrap-around porch in the middle of many large oak trees, you never would’ve guessed it was a double-wide).

The “drive-way” to our new home was at least a mile long, I think longer. While my wife was at work, I home-schooled our oldest. Daily we would take walks along this road on our “lunch break”, along with the other two boys (and our cat, who would walk with us and still does today in our neighborhood). There were cranes and other beautiful wildlife nearby. One of my lasting memories of this place was how incredibly dark it got at night – and being secluded, it was uncomfortable, but comforting at the same time. We spent our first Christmas in Florida in this house. It was a beautiful ~70 degrees that morning, and it was wonderful. My wife’s next assignment would bring us to Pensacola, Florida. We moved there in February of 2012, and once again rented a nice home outside of a little town named Gulf Breeze.

Since my wife and I thought we’d enjoy the area, I started looking for work almost immediately. In March of 2012 I was hired by a company that made Software as a Service to do some Project Management type work. We rented a home on a permanent basis (which meant another, short, move). We enrolled our oldest in school, and found a daycare for the other two. We have been here ever since, embracing the life that has been given to us. Since then, I transitioned to a role as a software tester more than a few years ago, and LOVE doing this job, I think it’s what I was meant to do all along.

In January of 2020, my wife and I returned “home” to Kentucky to visit family. When we arrived at our hometown, both of us commented that we’re so glad we moved and couldn’t imagine moving back. By the end of the week, I mentioned that I might be willing to move back, if the circumstances were right. We discussed this in depth on the car ride home. When I returned to work, I told my manager I wanted to work remote full-time so that my family and I could return to Kentucky. I wasn’t hopeful, but submitted some paperwork and updated my resume, just in case.

This spring, right before COVID-19 really struck and forced us all into quarantine, my full-time-remote status was approved. Since then, we’ve been adjusting like everyone else. But as we come to the reopening of society gradually, we’re starting to make movements towards our destination, returning our life full-circle and moving back to Kentucky. This weekend I pressure-washed the house and did some other work to get it ready to list. I fully expect to be living again in Kentucky by July, pending selling our home and buying a new one, and all the work associated with that. I’m worried, concerned, scared and looking forward to our new adventure together, again.

New Domain Name New Me?

I migrated all of my personal blog to my new domain name today! Thanks to SiteGround for making this process super easy – I stood up the site and added SSL in just a few minutes. Next step, I exported all my WordPress personal blog-posts from JasonOfFlorida.com and imported them to this new site.

With my personal blog detached from the brand, I think it will empower me to share more and without having to think about SEO or any of that business non-sense. I’m extremely happy to have finally made the leap, it’s been on my to-do list for a while. This is going to be another amazing and fun adventure!