An Ending, a Beginning

A story’s end is always bittersweet. Resolution, yes, but also a farewell: cherished characters depart, leaving the reader to wonder when their paths will cross again.

After seven years, two successful exits, and a never-dull stream of technical and leadership projects, I’m closing the books on one chapter and gearing up for what’s next.

First, though, a look back. At both Koan and Fountain, developers regularly reflected on our progress, wins, and lessons learned–a habit that paid big dividends for our teams’ alignment and continuous improvement.

Since there’s a whole blog for lessons learned, let’s stick to a few of the wins along the way.

At Koan, we–

  • gave thousands of teams a beloved tool for managing OKRs and status updates
  • hired an amazing team during (and despite) the COVID-19 pandemic
  • got acquired twice in one week

And at Fountain, we–

  • closed serious funding and scaled accordingly
  • built the systems and confidence needed to 10x our release frequency
  • made good on our promise to enable global hiring teams
  • acquired and integrated a fantastic international team
  • nurtured a culture of ownership, learning, and continuous improvement

There have been far more contributions, memories, insights, and people than will fit neatly into a single post, but suffice to say that it’s been an honor working alongside the amazing teams at Koan and Fountain these past few years.

What’s next

Writer’s block. Blank page syndrome. Whatever you call it, the infinite possibilities of the next thing take time to cohere into a story arc, and in the meantime I’m trying to relax. Relaxation has a different meaning in my book than Noah Webster’s, however, and more free time means more time for:

  • Catching up on writing
  • Catching up on tech
  • Starting to explore new opportunities

Catching up on writing

Solving interesting problems? Love it.

Winning together with my teams? Even better.

But two other things get me to my desk in the morning:

  1. learning as much as possible
  2. helping the people around me grow

Over the years I’ve learned a lot. About how software is built and sold. About scaling teams and navigating the interfaces between them. About staying ahead of hard conversations–or approaching them as gracefully as possible when I’m behind.

And with the goal of helping others grow, I’m putting extra time into sharing it.

Shorter notes are starting to drop on my blog, the Growth for Software Developers eBook is available for download nearby (a longer read, but even after squeezing marketing, sales, and customer success down as far as I could, there was still a lot to cover), and additional long-form guides on technical writing, hiring, onboarding, and ethics are making their way through editorial review.

If you’d like to follow along, new content drops first on LinkedIn. My newsletter (or for the truly adventurous, an application/rss+xml-compatible RSS reader pointed at https://rjzaworski.com/notes) works, too. Whatever forum, I still read (and deeply appreciate) the thoughts and additional perspectives that collect in the comments.

See #1 (above). We’re all learning together.

Catching up on tech

And there’s so much to learn! The tools available to developers in 2023 are vastly more capable than what we had a decade ago. While a story arc towards people management has limited the time available to learn and apply them, a bit of relaxation time is just what I needed to dig back in. Within the vast sea of new languages, technologies, and frameworks, I’ve been particularly interested in understanding:

  • ML in general and LLM design in particular
  • WebAssembly (WASM) and its emerging system interface (WASI)
  • Platform engineering
  • Databases (spoiler: I’m still bullish on Postgres)

As a hands-on player/coach, cold-water dives into new technology have always been part of staying current, but with extra time on my hands the learning process has had practical benefits as well. Besides retooling my personal site at rjzaworski.com, I’ve also started a framework for inferring and codifying team practices–and dropping the useful pieces to GitHub as they become ready for public consumption.

Exploring new opportunities

Finally, I’m starting to think about what comes next.

On the low-commitment end, I’ve been making more time for consulting and advising. Coaching and mentorship have always been important to me, and with a few turns at the helm under my belt, I’ve found it very rewarding to help others navigate growth challenges proactively. If you or a founder in your network are looking to help accelerate a startup’s future state, I’d love to connect.

Over the longer term, I’ve never felt as much satisfaction as I get leading and growing a single organization full-time. This reverse job description paints a broad picture of what that next role might look like, but if you’re looking for the seasoned technical leader–the kind who thinks rolling up his sleeves and getting things done is *relaxing–*well, we should talk.

“Relaxation (n): a relaxing or recreative state, activity, or pastime.”

Maybe Noah Webster wasn’t far off after all.

An ending, a beginning

Truly, we live in a wondrous time. We may not have flying cars, but the promise, peril, and realities of technologies deployed today would have blown our grandparents’ minds. From AI alignment to data governance, precision agriculture to advanced manufacturing, digital twins to digital identities, one thing is certain–we’re not short on interesting problems to solve.

And the best thing about a blank page? There’s space for any of them.

One story’s end is the start of the next. 

I’m excited to start writing it.

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