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My very first programing job out of college was building websites at a high-end web development agency. By project two, I noticed that most of the work was rote and repetitive. I had heard of programing frameworks that prebuild code for you, so I suggested to our leadership that we explore using such tools.
I was told to not bother. I understand now, from a business perspective, I was interfering with billable hours, but all I saw at that time was leadership that didn’t understand our work.
With my third project, I got bored. So I picked up a book. It was War and Peace. And I started to read it instead of doing the project. The book was long to begin with, but since I was reading it in the original language, it took me twice as long. By the time I finished, the deadline for my project was looming and there was no way I could finish it on time.
Except, the work was repetitive and I had thought it could be automated beforehand. So instead of building the project, I wrote a source code generator that would build most of the files for me. I got the project done on time. And kept perfecting my source code generator. I didn’t tell anybody about it–nobody asked either. I just kept using it and getting projects done in a fraction of the time.
With all the free time I had, I started freelancing. I did craigslist gigs. Some other work here and there. And within six months I had more work coming in from my freelancing than I knew what to do with. I quit my job and focused on building my very first business.
This started me on the road of entrepreneurship, where I had to learn everything by trial and error. I knew nothing about business. I was twenty-two years old, with questionable ethical judgment, barely a year of real-world programing experience and with my marketing and sales skills boiling down to answering craigslist ads.
What could go wrong?
Everything did (and I’ll share the details of that in subsequent posts). Part of the reason is not only because I didn’t know how to run a business, but because I didn’t develop relationships with mentors. My mercenary approach to only thinking about myself and optimizing my time for dollars didn’t endear me to anyone.
If I would have to do it over again, I would do something completely different.
– Work all my hours and give all my creative energy to the company.
– Fight to ensure my ideas were adopted and recognized.
– Build relationships with business leaders
– Tell the business leaders upfront that I wanted to build my own business, and that I wanted to learn from them and I wanted their help in starting my own business down the road. Promise to give them my very best all the time that I was with them,.
This is how a few of my own colleagues did it when they worked at the companies where I was a co-founder. I am now an investor in their companies and a friend for life.
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It took me more than 35 years to figure out how to do the best work I could possibly do.