I started a new job at a startup called Voltron Data in July of this year! For anyone who follows me you may remember I only just moved jobs in 2020, leaving Kitware to take a position at Brookhaven National Lab. Moving jobs and house during the pandemic was a lot, I went pretty quiet, the pandemic was hard on many of us. Things didn’t work out as I had hoped and I did a lot of soul-searching over the last few years too.
I had meant to write about the new role sooner having started blogging again just before switching jobs but time sometimes gets away from me. It has actually been a lot of fun throwing myself into a new role, immersing myself in the new work, new challenges and getting to know new people. This is not my first startup, and after my first experience during my undergraduate studies I had always hoped to find the right role at a startup.
What Am I Doing?
It is a fully remote role at a remote-first startup working on an exciting technology stack. We recently announced the theseus engine that I work on, I didn’t know the details when I interviewed but poking around I had guessed around 70-80% of it and was excited. After I joined we started publishing the composable codex which is really what I have been trying to find since I really started working on bigger open source projects in and around science.
It is shocking to think that I am already six months into this new role! It was another pretty big pivot with lots of risk but at a time when I was ready to take on some additional risk. I am able to work on technological issues I feel are truly limiting science and society tackling problems with big data. I have danced around many of these issues and worked on solutions building upon data frameworks but the tools I had available were lacking.
I was really sucked in by the Apache Arrow project which was something I had encountered in my previous role while thinking about how we could better move around and process large binary data. I had also started exploring DuckDB and a whole ecosystem of libraries looking at data in new ways. The opportunity to work within this ecosystem in a startup with a bold mission excited me and after a fair bit of consideration I decided to take the leap.
Despite being a fully remote role we have some opportunities to get together in person, such as at a WeWork space in Manhattan. I think I have been in once every month or two since starting with some months hitting twice a month. I have also had the opportunity to meet with three teams at different in person events since joining and we just got together for dinner and drinks on Friday.
What About Open Source and Science?
Part of what attracted me to this position over some of the others was the opportunity to keep working on open source, although likely less than I had in the past. Over the last few years I have not worked much on open source, and I wanted to change that but I mentioned that soul searching too didn’t I? At my core I love developing technology and working on hard problems. When they intersect with open source and science I am even happier.
An old friend wrote about free software and paychecks and it really got me thinking. Not to harp on but I grew up poor, there is no family money, no help with the down payment on a house or car and there is no inheritance coming. It helped to focus my thoughts and acknowledge that it is OK to be selfish and get paid well for a set of skills I have worked hard to develop. I really enjoy working with talented people I can learn more from and interviewed with several companies getting a feel for what was out there and where I was positioned.
In truth I had intended to interview more widely but between the caliber of the people I interviewed with, what I had guessed about what they were developing and the intersection of my skills and their needs I decided to take this position. It is the first job where I was offered equity, something I have always wanted. It motivates me knowing that I have a stake, before you explain how small that stake is I know and I am not planning on using it to pay my bills anytime soon but it is still something I have wanted from previous roles that has the potential to possibly be worth quite a bit in addition to my salary.
Passion and Work
More than anything I wanted to dive into a role where I could combine my passions with work. As it happened I ended up with a few opportunities but this is the one that felt right with a good offer on the table. If I am honest I loved the company name, and unlocked the achievement of first name email address after going from a very formal first.last to first initial last and now just first name. What can I say I can also be vain!
As we wrap up the year I am excited to see what the new year brings now that we have announced what we do. I have a list of projects I want to work on, and I want to get back to some open source work again on my own terms. I look forward to getting to know the Apache projects a little better, and really moving the needle on the data stack available to the world.
From the start of my career I have consistently been sneaking off to write better software as what I had was never good enough to do what I knew needed doing. This is a more extreme case of that same tendency and to do it with an extremely talented team. Best of all they think I have made an impact already, and I have enjoyed doing it! I am extremely grateful to my wife and children supporting me in this journey. Be well!