Not counting a summer job at Wendy's, filled with misplaced grease buckets and relentlessly burned chicken sandwiches, or that temp job at Wells Fargo spent typing an enormous list of addresses into an earsplitting metal imprinting machine, all of my jobs have been pretty good.
In my youth, I logged a couple of stints as a photo processor at one-hour photo labs, and turned out to be extraordinarily competent at this. In fact, when I graduated from college and was offered a job at Hewlett Packard to be a computer programmer, I gave the photo lab a chance to match HP's salary offer. The near-minimum-wage-paying photo lab gracefully turned down the opportunity.
HP turned out to be a pretty great place to work, at least back in those days. They invested in their employees and I learned a ton about what it takes to work on a big project. Plus, I got a chance to develop my lunch-table smart-aleckry skills, which I still practice to this day.
After that I joined my buddies at their tiny start-up as Employee #0000000001. I spent 12 years working at home, watching the company getting bought by increasingly bigger and distasteful corporate overlords as the stock price kept dropping. Despite that, I felt privileged to work with my excellent coworkers and to do so from the comfort of my own home. Finally, in 2008, after having the last bit of joy and ownership efficiently removed from the job by our new leaders in Darmstadt, Germany, I quit to go join a start-up again.
This last job has been the very best one. I've been surrounded by smart, fun people, and I was consistently asked to do tasks that I found interesting and challenging. The office was filled with food and art, and the other companies were non-profits, which helped us keep our perspective. Plus, my title was Data Wrangler, which was pretty awesome.
Sadly, despite making software that was used by millions, we never even sniffed profitability. We posted a shut-down notice on our blog last week and were inundated with nearly 10,000 comments from our most vocal users, begging us to take their money to stay afloat. There will probably be a way to keep the software running, but it most likely won't involve any of the current employees, especially not a data wrangler.
My boss, Liz, gave a presentation to the non-profits at a lunch meeting the other day, telling the history of our company and how it got to be that we were shutting our doors. At the end of her talk, one of the audience members suggested that they all give us a standing ovation. And so it came to be that these dozens of people, who work for non-profits whose goals mostly consist of making the world a more fair and just place, stood up and applauded the failed capitalists. It might not have been the most ridiculous 30 seconds of my life, but given that I've never been caught masturbating, it was probably the most awkward 30 seconds. I grimaced during the entirety of it.
Thankfully, I do have a new job lined up. More next time about what I learned during what may have been a record-settingly inept job search.