Tag: authentic engine

Life one year after leaving Mozilla

A year ago tomorrow was my last day as a Mozilla employee. Quitting was the one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m working for myself and I love it.

Here are some projects that I’ve been working on:

Building a wood bookcase from scratch.

Bookcase I built from scratch.
Bookcase I built from scratch.

Watching and photographing the birds that visit our yard.

Pine Siskins have words at the feeder.
Pine Siskins have words at the feeder.

Recruiting and on-boarding several new Stumptown Syndicate board members.

Driving to California (accidentally during a snowstorm) to visit family. One of the things we did on the trip was visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which I had never been to.


Starting a consulting practice, Authentic Engine. I have a few client projects now, and am looking to book more work for the Fall. Know an open source project wanting expert help with participation, leadership, or governance issues? Get in touch. I’m also available for contract programming (python, php). If you like stickers, I have those for sale too.

No endeavor is truly launched until it has stickers.
No endeavor is truly launched until it has stickers. And so it is with Authentic Engine. Buy some!

Learning audio recording and engineering and launching the Recompiler Podcast.


Handing off the organizing of Open Source Bridge to two new co-chairs!

Taking Bertie to the beach for the first time. He loved it. Although, we learned the hard way bulldogs really can’t exercise for very long because Bertie needed several days of recovery afterward.

Bertie's first trip to the beach.
Bertie’s first trip to the beach.

Seeing my favorite band, The Cure. Twice! Once in Los Angeles and again closer to home in Ridgefield, Washington. We had much better seats at the Ridgefield show and had a fantastic time.

The Cure performing Just Like Heaven, Ridgefield, Washington, May 2016
The Cure performing Just Like Heaven, Ridgefield, Washington, May 2016

Touring SpaceX. While we were in LA to see The Cure, a friend of ours arranged a tour of SpaceX. It was amazing. Couldn’t take any pictures inside, unsurprisingly, but managed to get a goofy selfie outside.

Smiling because we just toured a fraking rocket facility!
Smiling because we just toured a fraking rocket facility!

Attending Allied Media Conference, including the excellent Growing our Souls tour (my photos) of Detroit.

Me, at Project Heidelberg in Detroit, Mi
Me, at Project Heidelberg in Detroit, Mi

Shopping for individual health insurance plans three times. Yes, three times in one year. The first was before I left Mozilla because applying COBRA would have been prohibitively expensive (~$1,400 per month). The second was during 2016 open enrollment because our rates had been raised over $100/month. The third was last month when the State of Oregon abruptly put Oregon Health Co-op into receivership. Fun times! But, hey, at least thanks to the ACA, we can actually sorta find health insurance outside of a group plan. We’re with Providence now and we hope they stay affordable and in business for a while.

Gardening. Lots and lots of gardening. This year we planted lots of vegetables and added several new flower beds, populated mostly with plants I started from seed. It turns out I have a bit of a green thumb! Who knew?

An evening's harvest from our garden.
An evening’s harvest from our garden.


Flower beds in bloom. Most of these I grew from seed.
Flower beds in bloom. Most of these I grew from seed.

Photographing the flowers I’ve been growing. I don’t have a macro lens, but am faking it well, I think, with my 35mm and some close-up lenses.

Bee on Shirley Poppy, one of the many flower macros I've taken this season.
Bee on Shirley Poppy, one of the many flower macros I’ve taken this season.

Watching hot air balloons launch at the Tigard Festival of Balloons. I first heard about this festival shortly after I moved to Portland in 2007 and realized just before my birthday that it’s practically in our neighborhood, so Sherri got us tickets. It was challenging to get up at 5am to get ourselves over there in time for the sunrise launches, but it was so worth it.

Hot air balloons launching at the Tigard Festival of Balloons!
Hot air balloons launching at the Tigard Festival of Balloons!

Speaking at Open Source & Feelings on a really tough topic.

Reading and more reading. Soon I will have read all of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins‘ books and this will be bittersweet. I take solace in knowing I still have plenty left to read of Mosley’s Fearless Jones and Leonid McGill series and I’m only a little over half-way through Laurie King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books. Plus you never know when you’re going to stumble across a great new detective series such as M.J. McGrath’s Edie Kiglatuk or Cara Black’s Aimee Leduc Investigations.

Feeling better about myself and being less stressed than anytime during the previous 4+ years. Our income isn’t steady yet and dealing with health insurance is obnoxious. But we’re making it work. I can say now that leaving a job that was steadily grinding me down was absolutely the right call, even if it felt totally wrong at the time.

Thanks everyone who’s supported me along the way and continues to do so! You make all the difference. If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.


A product development epiphany

At the beginning of the year, I announced Authentic Engine, my new consultancy.

I’m going to share a rather honest update about how things are going, and I plan to do so with some regularity. This gives me some trepidation. Visibility nearly always makes me feel vulnerable, even if the attention is subjectively positive. And general business wisdom favors secrecy and possessiveness above transparency and sharing. Instead, I’m making a deliberate choice to muster courage to favor intimacy (which requires vulnerability) and community.

Perhaps some of you reading are potential clients or customers and in reading about my uncertainties and missteps you’ll decide not to work with me. I’m okay with that, for if my writing here turns you off then we were never going to be a good match. What’s gained, I believe, will be far greater than whatever’s lost. Some will be enriched reading about my experience. Others will appreciate my candor and that I’m willing to do the scary work of making mistakes, sharing those mistakes, and trying again. Some of you will be motivated to work with me explicitly because of this writing.

So here goes it!

A raison d’etre

While I have a great deal of open source tech experience (my first tech job was in 1997 at UC Davis’ network operations center), I have almost no experience consulting in the way I’ve set out to do now. I’ve worked at start-ups and well-established companies. I’ve started and ran non-profits. I ran my own programming shop under CK Web Development. All those experiences have been immensely valuable, but my experience with them has limited applicability to what I want to build now.

I’ve gravitated towards consulting because I want to apply my experience as a programmer, a technical project manager, a developer advocate / technical evangelist, a non-profit manager, a small business person, and an open source community organizer to help folks working in those fields have better work experiences.

By better work experiences, I mean a few things:

  • authenticity, presence, mindfulness, and empathy in day-to-day work;
  • empowered, adaptive leadership;
  • effective navigation of organizational life; and,
  • the building of meaningful and fulfilling careers without burning out.

This isn’t just about making people feel better at work. Whatever your current role in tech, these are practices which will make you better at your job. The production of software, the governing of open source projects, the evangelizing of technology all requires building and maintaining relationships with people. The better your people skills, the better you can effectively apply your technical skills.

By focusing my work on individuals, I intend to contribute to a cumulative effect of improving our technical and open source communities. The more the folks that make up our communities practice and cultivate the above “people” skills, the more inclusive, sustainable, resilient, and commons-serving they will be.

So that’s my raison d’etre for starting Authentic Engine, but how am I actually going to make a living?

What appeals to me about “consulting”

Before I announced Authentic Engine, I did a lot of reading on what it mean to be a consultant and how to run a consulting practice. Some things I read resonated with me deeply: consulting as a calling, humble inquiry, being a trusted adviser, process consultation and the helping relationship. Other things I couldn’t connect with at all, especially the nature of the marketing and sales processes many consulting business books (such as this one) espouse. I don’t want to have a ton of annoying pop-ups soliciting your email for watered-down content, or resell someone’s proprietary organizational trait assessment. Moreover, many books are scant on details about how to actually develop customers if you don’t already have a base established.

Finally it occurred to me to start thinking in terms of answering the question, “what is my product?” The consulting books say you are your product. Okay, I get that to an extent. But it doesn’t feel very sustainable or scalable to me. Nor does it have the depth of experience I want Authentic Engine to bring to others. I want many teachers, and coaches, and trusted advisers, with all their varied histories, experiences and backgrounds to inform and create what we bring to others.

If I am not my product, what is?

So now that I’ve rejected that I am my product, I have to find out what is. That has me researching and learning all about product development. Working in technology as a programmer, project manager, and developer advocate means that I’ve been on the periphery of product management and development most of my career. Now I’m embracing the role officially, which means learning and practicing a new way of thinking.

I’m in the middle of Steve Blank’s The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which focuses on a kind of lean product development for startups that Blank calls Customer Development. So far the framework is making a lot of sense to me. It centers upon developing a deep understanding of your customer and their needs and using that to inform your product development.

Learning deeply from my customers

So that’s what I’ll be doing next. I’ll be thinking about my customers — starting with folks who hold the jobs I’ve had before: technical evangelists (aka developer advocates) and their managers, software developer and their managers, technical product marketing managers (which I’ve worked for, producing events), and open source project stewards.

Actually I’ll be doing more than just thinking about them. I’ll be reaching out to as many of them–as many of you–as possible to listen and learn what their pain points are, what those pain points are costing them, and how they’d like to solve them. I’ll use this information to validate and improve my hypotheses about the Authentic Engine products that will help them.

Exciting and scary

I’m finding this approach very exciting. I love connecting with people, learning about them, building connections, and figuring out ways . But it’s also terrifying because I know this will take time and our financial reserves are dwindling. While I’m developing my customers and products, I’m also going to have to find income, either through consulting or contracting.

How you can help

So, if you or someone you know is needing help with planning a community-focused technical event (like Open Source Bridge, which I co-chaired for 5 years), or managing a technical project (like creating a localization platform for Firefox OS App developers, which I did at Mozilla), or revitalizing a community contributor platform (like I did with MozillaWiki), or improving open source governance (Stumptown Syndicate), or anything else about which I have subject area expertise, please get in touch or book a meeting.

A promise to continue sharing and connecting

Meanwhile, I’ll keep sharing here what I’m working on and what I’m learning.

Soon I’ll post about:

  • realizing I need to be talking to lots more people and how I’m following through on that despite how weird and shameful it can feel;
  • what I’ve learned about content-based marketing and how I’m putting it into practice;
  • how Sherri and I are figuring how how to support one another and keep our household functional while we both build new businesses;
  • what I’m doing to manage my workload, replenish my “spoons,” and avoid burn-out; and,
  • learning to be okay with uncertainty, imperfection, and iterative improvement.

Keeping in touch

As I intimated above, I promise to make more, better connections with all of you. And I invite you to do the same. Leave a comment below, send me an email, or a tweet, or give me a call (go to authenticengine.com for phone number).