Dare to Dream

September 11, 2019

Before I go any further, I just want to thank everyone I’ve had the chance to interact with since starting these posts. Since starting this, I’ve spoken to many people of various walks. I have spoken to people who are in the same position as me, who tell me they are reading my blog; I have spoken to people who are no longer in this position, but they told me that they can relate to everything that I have said, which I’m finding very cool; and, I’ve spoken to various HR personnel who have not only encourage me in many ways, but are also telling me to check out their company’s sites. To everyone who is reading this in someway or another, all I can say is thank you! I appreciate all of you more than you realize. Most of all, I appreciate the support of my children as well as my beautiful wife, Nichole. All of you are the wind beneath my wings! However, there’s one person I purposefully left out, which is the reason for my blog post.

The Question

This post has been inspired by one of the interviews that I recently had. The hiring manager asked me a question which started triggering a chain reaction inside of me making me realize why I develop software in the first place. In other words: what made me. It has reshaped the story I am now telling interviewers and I owe it all to this one question that he asked me: “What is it about this job that excites you?” Admittedly at the time I offered a pretty shallow answer. I only answered in context of what I did to become a full stack developer. However, the real answer was brewing deep inside overnight, only to burst out in the morning.

What Made Me

College was where it all started. Part of our electronics engineering technology study was CPU theory. Within this part of our studies we learned how to input machine language into a CPU and have it execute it. I thought it was the nearest thing on earth, not only was I communicating with the CPU in its own language and on its own terms, but it was executing something precisely to my design. It had me to the point where I was both excited and fascinated that I bought a computer, a modem and a macro assembler and learned its machine language. My frustration with the terminal program that came with the computer gave birth to new possibilities. I wanted to use any terminal program with this modem, so I learned how it communicated with the modem by disassembling the terminal program and I then learned how drivers are made on that computer. It wasn’t long before I developed a set of modem drivers for that modem. I say a set because Hayes Smartmodems were all the rage back then. So, I added Hayes command emulation to the driver, allowing any program to believe it was talking to a Hayes modem. So, not only was I talking to my computer. I was talking to the devices connected to my computer. Even more so, I was talking to other computers through my computer. After releasing the drivers into the world someone reached out to me, and wound up collaborating on writing a cutting edge bulletin board system. Now we were inviting other computers to talk to us. It was also my first experience with “database technology” as we had to figure out ways to efficiently store and retrieve messages.

My desire to communicate with more devices in order to extract their data grew when MIDI came out. Again the possibilities arose from a need: I didn’t want to lose my synth patches should they have gotten reset. Writing programs to talk to my synthesizers and drum units, I downloaded all of the patches and saved them to disk. In time I managed to figure out how to edit the patches in real time on the computer and audition them on the synthesizer. From there came a primitive sequencer that I could use to record the drums and synths on my reel-to-reel multi-track on a couple of tracks while I recorded my guitar on another. I was talking to all sorts of devices and getting data in all sorts of way. This was way more than fun!

Then, the Internet went public with the World Wide Web. The big question that lingered in my mind was, “what can we do with this?“ That question drove me to write an e-commerce system. All of a sudden, I was talking to computers all over the world and taking money on behalf of the clients I wrote e-commerce apps for. Many years, languages and technologies later, everything that I have written boils down to a single point: I dared to dream.

Change in Story

Realizing all of the above. I stopped telling interviewers my accomplishments in a shopping list sort of way. Now, I’m telling them how I started talking to computers and how it grew from a peripheral to the internet. I’m telling them in terms of my desire to create a dialogue with a computer and the devices they are connected to by giving it code and have it provide me with data in exchange. I tell them that envisioning the possibilities is what dared me to dream.

This has become a big deal to me because until this morning, I’ve been thinking too small. I have only been thinking in terms of what’s been on the screen in front of me. Well that’s important and someways, it’s just one small part. I have a larger obsession with data… all kinds of data. I love to get data and figure out how to make it meaningful to us humans.

The Bigger Picture

One of the jobs that I applied for employs robots. What are robots? They are specialized computers performing specialized tasks. They have an operating system. That means they have data. Before, I only thought of things in terms of getting some input and displaying it on a screen. Now, I’m looking it at as using a computer to talk to these devices in various ways and to grab all sorts of data. Not only can we display this data, but perhaps figure out what the data now means and how it can be used to make more intelligent decisions. I believe before that question was posed to me, I probably would have hard a harder time understanding why this job appeals to me so much. Now, everything is far more clear. I don’t just see devices. I see a bunch of possibilities now. It has dared me to dream once again and it’s setting fire to the rest of my life and music.

Thank You!

Now, I couldn’t be more certain that things had to happen this way. Having been afraid to dream, due to the huge rollover in my life over the past four years, I was dragging my feet and not thinking so big. It’s no surprise that everything was suffering. Now everything has changed and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the hiring manager who sparked the question that lit the fire inside.

Getting up and moving on

September 7, 2019

Well, I made it through the first week and I’m in to the weekend. The initial pain and shock wore off quite quickly. That probably has more to do with the fact that I am experienced enough to know that something fishy was happening in the company throughout the summer, despite not being able to put my finger on it. So, this is probably good that I am willing and able to move on as quickly as I am. However, in order to move on, I had to identify items that were holding me back. Again, I am no success coach or corporate executive. I just happen to be someone stuck in the trenches, and have found a few things that are helping me. They are keeping me motivated and encouraged. This is important if I’m going to be able to land a new position. If there is anyone in the same position that is reading this, and finds anything useful that helps and encourages them, then again it is all worth it. Again, don’t expect a well written blog post. I write code.

Healing myself

The hardest thing so far, has been the ability to sleep at night. It’s not so much the worry of everything that has been keeping me awake, but the memory of the incident that just keeps looping in my head and feeding my negative emotions. Sometimes it drives me to tears and makes me angry. I’ve discovered for myself that this is unhealthy and is holding me back. So, in order to move forward, I needed some healing. Thus, in order to heal myself, I needed to take care of that endless loop. Otherwise, I will be stuck and things will only get worse. Fortunately I had a trick up my sleeve to take care of this. In June, when all of these things were starting to happen, I had decided to go through my old Anthony Robbins Personal Power courses (been using them for almost 30 years). One of the things he covered in the course was what he referred to as the “erasure technique”. This is where you take those endless loops that are negatively affecting you, and perhaps holding you back, and start playing them in all sorts of ways that scramble the video in your head to the point where it is no longer recognizable. The source for the materials that were used to scramble this video we’re provided to me courtesy of my wife, Nichole, whose twisted sense of humour is something that I am truly grateful for. Before we went to go grocery shopping she decided to take me out to make me feel better, and get a clear game plan. So, blindly, I let her drive me to wherever we were going. Once we got close, she goes, “are you afraid yet?” I wasn’t sure what to think until we got into the parking lot. Once I saw that we were turning into the parking lot where Angel’s diner is where I figured we were going for some breakfast. When we parked the truck, she goes “we’re going to the Stag Shop.” Knowing that this is so unlike her, it made me laugh really hard. Honestly, he gave me a smile all through breakfast. Yes, we went to Angel’s diner. I’ll get to that below. However, for the purposes of my endless loop this was enough of a pattern interrupt to get me started. Immediately, I started playing the loop using material from the Stag Shop injected in. I started doing anything fun from placing French maid outfits on the HR personnel as well as my former boss, to leather teddies. Then it got really fun adding in the whips and chains. Whether anyone reading this is smiling or shocked, I don’t care. This work for me. I’ll play this image in church if I have to in order to keep grinning (it’s not a sin). For now, this might be one of the first nights I get a good night’s sleep since getting laid off.

Treating myself

Yes, Nichole myself went to Angel’s diner this morning. We’ve been thrown in a tough situation, and this was a little something to help us get moving. We had lots to do, and couldn’t let something like this stop us. We are human. This was a time for us to appreciate what we do have, and that was each other. Besides, it’s not like we spent an exorbitant amount of money. Both of us had the breakfast special, and that was more than good enough for me. It helped me to feel grateful for what we do have. And, if anything, I learned a long time ago that the key to happiness in moving forward is gratitude. Going to Angel’s diner helped me feel that gratitude. It was a little thing, but those little things are the big things.

Challenging myself

A lot of the new job prospects are asking for Angular and AngularJS as a requirement. So, while Nichole stepped out for a little bit this afternoon, I decided to see what Angular was all about. So, I fired up my NodeJS server and installed Angular. An hour later, by the time Nichole got back home, I was programming in Angular. The byproduct of the was that I was also programming in Typescript. This was an extreme boost to my confidence, as once again I had proven to myself that I can grab almost any technology and use it with a sense of familiarity within a short amount of time. This is also feeding my hungry brain for some extracurricular programming for some of my music. Logic has a real geeky feature that allows you to program MIDI effects in JavaScript. If anything, this is opening up some possibilities as far as music goes. I’m also wanting to get back into programming in Native Instruments Reaktor. If I can challenge myself to play with a bunch of frameworks, then I can challenge myself with some cool DSP algorithms. For me, music and math go hand-in-hand.

Permitting myself

I have to keep telling myself, “this is the weekend.” If anything, I have been sending out resumes and answering technical challenges. Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoy the challenges because they prove to myself what I can do, alongside proving to others what I can do. They are helping me to think. If there’s anything that I love to do, that is think. However, this is the weekend. I’m allowed to rest. That’s what I did when I was working. That’s what others are doing, Looking for a new job is work. If anything, I’m proud of myself for the number of resumes that I sent out last week. I am prepared to do no less for the week coming up. However, I need to teach myself that resting is not something to be guilty of doing. When I was working, I would take the weekend and play some guitar and write some songs. I need to do the same now. In fact, I’m going to do a shameless plug to show you what I’m about when I’m not working. For me, the work life balance was very important, especially for the past four years. It should not change now, and I will not punish myself because of a situation I could not control. So without further ado, feel free to have a listen:

And, if it moves you to help support independent musicians, and you find that my music reaches out and touches you in some way, I would be greatly appreciative. I have never been one to ever asked for a simple hand out. I always like to give something back of value and these songs are more than just songs. They are stories of my life. In fact, one of the songs in this album documents was inspired by not only the mass layoffs happening at BlackBerry, but was also a twist on their campaign slogan at the time. And don’t worry, I don’t plan on living like a rock star. Anything that I have ever made from music was re-invested back into music, such as DAW upgrades and new drum libraries. If anything, however, I love the programming life as well as the music life. They help me to feel balanced, and I hope to get back into it very quickly.

In conclusion

As I have said previously, these are things that are helping me to move forward. For those in the same situation as me, and I know that I am not the only one, read beyond my words define the meaning of what is going to help you move forward. Here’s to a new week, filled with new hope and new possibilities.

The day after the bomb drops

September 4, 2019

Let me start this blog post by saying that I am not any type of employment consulting coach, nor am I a hiring manager or professional recruiter trying to tell people how to live their life after they get laid off from their job. In actual fact, I am nothing more than a fellow wounded soldier in the trenches. I got the idea for this blog post by the turn of recent events in my life. I’m calling the series “Diary of a laid off employee”. Yes, I got the news yesterday, and it was like the dropping of a bomb. However, I got the inspiration to do this thinking that if anything that I am writing brings any encouragement to those in the same boat as me, then it will be worth it. I won’t profess that anything in here is correct as to what one should do, nor will it be eloquent. All things considered, I am a software developer and my writing usually consists of code and my heart goes out to those in the same situation that I am in. So, let’s begin…

Don’t Linger

As soon as I got called in, and saw the HR rep in the board room, it was totally clear as to what was happening. I am not ignorant to this. I’ve been working long enough in my life to know what it looks like. I’ve even been situated outside of the offices that these were carried out in. They’re not pretty to look at from that side either. So, as soon as I knew what was about to happen, my first decision was to make it quick. The fact is that the relationship is over between me and the company that I worked for, and it was no use trying to discuss or reason with it. The decision at that point was final. To think that they would reconsider would be nothing short of foolish. So, in order to leave with any type of composure and dignity, and get out before the shock sets in, it had to be fast. It was also important to make sure that I had left on a positive note. There should be no scene, and no show of emotion. Just get it over with and leave quietly as well as quickly.

Process, not Panic

If anything, getting called in and receiving this news is a huge deal. I won’t lie. My first thoughts when I left the building to crawl into my vehicle were shock, anger, disbelief and heading towards panic. It was then I thought not to start making my way home just yet. If anything, I took a good 15 to 20 minutes to vent. I figured making my way home too quickly might impact my judgement on the road. I needed the time to get emotional and get it out, so that I could take it all in and figure out my next moves. I want to know that all sorts of thoughts came in fast and furious. Rather than try to rationalize them, I figured it was just best to let them happen. And I’m glad that I did. This allowed me to process everything that was happening. It was necessary to take it all in, and not figure it out yet. Making myself aware of the situation and accepting it was an important first step. Did I have my moments of panic? Of course! I’m not going to deny that I had trouble sleeping last night. However, processing everything that took place helped me to figure out what was next.

Plan towards the Goal

Let’s face it. The ultimate goal is to get a new job. How are you going to do that? Well, you have to have a plan of action. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in any of the goal setting workshops that I have done, it’s that no goal is possible without a plan of action and executing that plan. That said I put forth a plan of action to put out 20 resumes daily. It could be more, but never less. So far, I am keeping up with that plan. My take on it is that the wider the net, the greater the chance. Of course, I’m keeping everything real. I’m only sending out applications those positions that I am absolutely sure that I can be productive and enjoy it. This way, I am not creating any false hopes.

Challenge Yourself

As I was starting to send out resumes yesterday, one of the prospective employers had stated that the only way they will consider you is if you have answered their challenge. So, I decided to roll up my sleeves and rise up to the challenge. It was a coding problem, and I was determined to solve it. One of the side challenges that arose was figuring out how I could run this within the IDE so that I could debug it. As I decided to answer the challenge in JavaScript, I discovered that the IDE could run the code using Node.Js. If anything I had never used Node.js before. So, what did I do? I downloaded and installed node on my laptop. I was determined to figure it out and run it. By the end, I not only had an answer to the challenge, but I also figured out how easy it is to program with Node.js. This was an extreme boost to my confidence, demonstrating that even in this situation, I could rise up to the challenge of not only creating a working solution but creating it on a new technology at the same time. It might take me a bit of time to master, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that I can use it with confidence.

Taking Comfort from Others Around You

Again, I’m not going to lie. This is a loss. I’ve been through many losses in life, some of them are far greater than this, but that doesn’t mean that this is any less of a loss. In a way it has similar qualities to a bereavement. With that, expect others to come around and try to give you comfort. However, know that there are never any right words to address the situation. My son last night came over to see me because he didn’t want me to go through it alone. He even picked up a treat for me. However, he didn’t really know what to say. I told him just the fact that he was here was enough.

Do Something

I knew that the night was going to be long. However, my son had one good point: do something that makes you happy. For me, that was picking up my guitar and just playing. It wasn’t anything meaningful. Mostly, it was just noodling, but it was putting my fingers to the fretboard in an effort to have some sort of peace. Considering that the guitar is a very emotional instrument for me, it made perfect sense to put my emotions to music.


So there you have it. This is what I did for me. I’m hoping that you can see beyond the words and find the meaning of what it all means for you. I will try to keep going as the days go by, But I hope that you will be patient with me. Like I said, this is not easy. However, I hope that you will get something out of this as much as I am putting into it.

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