Time to do my own thing

Today, I step out to be on my own.

I’m leaving the world of W-2 employment to become a full-time independent software developer. I’m making Hsoi Enterprises my full-time gig.

I’m excited, happy, and yes, scared. But very much looking forward to this.

Why am I doing this?

I’ve primarily worked for someone else all my life. But for over 20 years I’ve done side-project work to help scratch my own itches. Four years ago I got more formal with it when I founded Hsoi Enterprises LLC. So I’ve always been semi-indie, and one could say today’s event is just the next step in the evolution. But certainly my primary income came from being a salaried employee in someone else’s company.

There’s multiple reasons why I’m doing this. I’ll share two: one business, one personal.

My Own Road

Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.
– Eric S. Raymond

I like to create useful, meaningful software that enriches and improves people’s lives. Throughout my career, things I’ve done on my own usually happened because I had an itch to scratch, a need to satisfy. The best software always is the software that the developers themselves use regularly. But often, the direction of a product is pushed by people that don’t use the software, or care more about selling the software than about the use of and users of that software – this often leads to less than good software (and the users are left unsatisfied). Long ago I came to terms about the balance between “good” and “good enough”, the need to ship even if it’s not perfect because we need to make money to keep the lights on in our ivory tower so we can keep working towards “good” (thanx, Doug!). So I grant all the realities of business. But by the same token, I firmly believe if one writes excellent software, it pays off greater dividends in the long run. This is not only in the form of revenue, but also in reputation and goodwill. Conversely, if one keeps shipping shoddy software, if users are constantly frustrated and hate your product, that just isn’t a solid business model.

I’m tired of compromising on this front. I know you can make good products, have happy customers, and still make money. Look at Apple, which is probably why I’ve been an Mac and iOS guy all my life but also why I believe you can have gorgeous, user-satisfying products, good reputation, and succeed. Look at Liberty Bottleworks. Look at EliteFTS. No, you cannot please everyone, nor should you try. But you can ensure you please yourself, that you hold yourself to high standards, and work to build a solid reputation with satisfied customers.

I want to make awesome software. I want to make more useful things. I want to make people’s lives better. And I won’t get to where I want to be unless I travel my own road.

My Family – Along for the Ride

[I] do not believe in quality time but quantity time. I do thinking creating great memories is important but not as much as “being there”. Because of this I work a lot of strange and odd hours.

– Dave Tate, owner EliteFTS, talking about his kids and who he is

When I was growing up, my Dad wasn’t around much. It was just due to the nature of his job, and his dedication to it. As a kid, I resented this because while it was nice to have money and nice stuff, what I really wanted was my Dad. So of course I did what all kids do regarding their parental shortcomings: swear to do better when I’m a parent! For me, that meant being around for my kids. (BTW, I got over my resentment many many years ago, because I came to understand Dad much better as I got older… but a story for another time).

Early on in my professional software development career, I saw how this was a job that could be worked remotely. This is not a job that requires being on-site; yes there are benefits to being on-site, but it’s not a hard-and-fast requirement. I also saw how due to this fact, you could have a bit of a non-standard life (I’m looking at you, Robin Mair and Greg Dow). This greatly appealed to me, and I set about making full-time remote/telework a hard-requirement for any job I took in the future.

Due to that dedication and focus, I was able to spend 12 years working full-time out of my house. One way I can sum it up is that when Oldest took his first steps, I learned about it via a phone call from Wife. When Daughter took her first steps, I got a phone call. But when Youngest took his first steps, it was right to me because I was home. 🙂 Over those 12 years, I got to be deeply involved with my family on a daily, even hourly, basis. That’s precious to me.

People keep bringing up those death-bed regrets, and no one says they wished they worked more, that they wished they had less time with their family.

See, much of life tends to boil down to two things: time and money. I can always get more money, but I can not get more time. Time is the more precious of the two.

After the 12 years at home, I took a job in an office. I spent 2 years there. It was an educational experience in many regards, and I’m happy I went back for the experience because I learned much from the good and from the bad. But the biggest thing I took from it was that that was not the life for me. The precious time wasted being stuck in traffic every day. The orchestration of life around a time-clock and someone else’s notion of what “productive” meant. It just wasn’t working for me. This isn’t a slight against any employer in specific, it’s regarding that sort of life in general. It is not for me and does not enable me to best satisfy myself and provide for my family that which is most important — me.

Working at home gives me the ability to be around my family all day every day (helped in part because we homeschool). Yes, some people think, as a result of our work/school situation, we live an insular lifestyle. No, we just are a tight family. This work setup, the ability to have a more flexible work schedule, allows me to provide my children what I believe is right and best for them, including mentorship as they embark on their own business ventures. What’s funny to me is I’ve thought about having daily “stand-up meetings” with the family. Yes Dad, your daily asking of “Son, what did you do today that was productive?” has come full circle. 🙂

Yes I know. The life I’m leaving is the life many of us live with. Understand this is a personal preference for the road I wish to journey down. I have friends who prefer working in an office; it’s just not my preference. I have friends that consider commuting to be a useful endeavor; I don’t. I know what my priorities are in life, what I want out of the life I have left on this Earth, including what I wish to provide for my family, and well… tho I’m scared and have no idea how this will work out, I’m closing my eyes and taking the plunge.

What’s Ahead

For the immediate future, it’s about getting established. I have infrastructure to firm up.

I already have some projects to work on, and I actually will  be contracting back with my (now) former day-job for a time and helping them find a replacement for me and transition to that replacement person. For the record, I am thankful for the support and mentorship I’ve received from Lee and Carrie Little, founders and owners of Bar-Z Adventures.

If you or someone (some company) you know is looking for a solid software developer, drop me a line. 🙂

Meantime, I forge ahead. I don’t know how this will work out, and honestly while there’s much about this situation that I’ve done before, there’s much that’s new and novel — I don’t know how it will go, or even if it will wind up being the right road for me to travel. But still, I look forward to the challenges, to the new experiences, and the hope for the life I wish for myself and my family. If nothing else, it’ll be an interesting experience, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.

14 thoughts on “Time to do my own thing

  1. Yes! I made a similar decision under similar circumstances almost three years ago, and left a seemingly secure position at a large established company to go out on my own. At the time it seemed like the next step in a direction I needed to go, yet I was also concerned and unsure of what the future might hold.

    I think when we make a decision like this we stop living according to the scripts that others give us and start writing our own. This opens up a world of possibility that we most likely couldn’t see existing before.

    Three years into full time independence and no regrets. In fact, I get job inquiries almost every week asking if I’m interested in going back. Occasionally one comes in that is kind of interesting and I run the numbers only to realize again that there is no reason to go back and many not to.

    • John, that’s awesome! I’m glad it’s worked out so well for you.

      Yeah, I don’t know precisely what the future will hold, but I’m quite motivated by what I want out of life and know what it will take to get me there. You’re right — there’s a lot about it being the “script of life”. I always liked doing my own thing, so this is really just a logical continuation of that.

    • Good! My facade worked! 😉

      Careful consideration? I don’t know. I have thought about it for a long time (years). I know what held me back, I know what I want, and I know that now is a time when those fears, those concerns well… they’re still there, but they’re more managable now. I’m a planner, and I have a plan here, but I’m sure someone would look at my plan and think I haven’t planned enough. That’s ok — it’s my plan, not theirs.

      It’s possible this may not work out, and that’s ok. I have to try. But I have so many reasons to make it work, so much motivation to do so.

      Thank you.

  2. Great choice and I wish you all the success in this endeavor. I know you will be happier when you walkl to the beat of your own drum. Having recently retired from the corporate world, it’s a nice feeling when you are ‘steering’ your own boat. Maybe you’ll find the time to sit back and enjoy a good cigar from time to time 😉

  3. Thumbs-up John. I just took the plunge in February. A project that has been whirling around in my head all the way back to when you and I worked together is finally seeing the light of day. I have enough funds to last through this quarter, and then I’ll demo or die. 😉

    • I noticed that and wondered if you too had done such a thing. Congrats!

      When you’re ready to show your work, let me know. I’d love to see it (especially if it’s been swirling in your head for so long).

  4. Best of luck Hsoi. (I work in IT. Systems administration, Network monitoring and management.) I recently took a serious pay cut to move into a position where I work from home 90% of the time. Although I still work for ‘The Man’ I totally get where you are coming from.

    Go forth and spew code man. 😉

    • See? Money matters, but only to a point. There are some things more valuable. Or at least we could say that compensation isn’t purely a money matter — there are other things in the “compensation package” that can be haggled because they too have worth and value.

      Thanx for the support!

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