About Me, Biography

Tellme to the Bay

Well, this weekend, indeed, the rest of this week, is a great big one in the life of dannyman.

Plane Ticket

Last week I got the word that Tellme wanted to fly me out to San Francisco. Well hot diggidy dawg but I found the most inexpensive plane tickets I could find for such a short-notice flight, and away I went. I left early Saturday morning, riding a very uncrowded 757 from Chicago. I returned Monday afternoon, riding an overbooked MD80 from San Jose.

A quick rant about airlines here – the tickets available at the last minute go up in price about threefold, but the real kicker is that it’s cheaper to fly through Chicago from Champaign than direct from Chicago. Flying from Champaign though, this doesn’t actually upset me, but let it be observed that the cheapest last-minute flight I could reason from Chicago would have involved riding Amtrak away from the city and flying back through.

Does anyone know why it works that way?

Anyway, as I stepped out of the San Jose airport to ride along in Angus’ A4, the first thing I noted was sunshine. It was a pleasant, sunny 70 degrees. Not bad, it’s been shitty cold rain in Illinois lately, though it has been nice since I got back.

Indeed, everywhere I went the weather was different. It gets chilly at night, unlike Chicago, and because it’s all hilly and different parts are closer and farther away from mountains, oceans, and desert … well, it wasn’t any warmer than Illinois except where it is usually warmer, and some places are chillier. Weird stuff.

From the airport we drove around Mountain View and the West Bay, Angus showed me the shiny buildings that were Netscape, and a few other places. Lots of big names and impressive stuff out there. Neato. We pulled up to the Tellme temporary offices, and I met some rather interesting folks.

I’m not sure, especially because I was a little dazed at the time, having arisen at 0345h PDT, but I think I was interviewed by about half the people who were there at the time. I talked of course with Angus, but also with John, their current Internet guru, who said that I’d also have to learn myself about some secure tunneling, which struck me as interesting. I talked with Mike, the CEO, and some Engineers, Brad and Rod, each one on one.

One interviewee seemed uncertain what he should be after, so I started asking him questions, and was left impressed by my own comfort in the situation. I was actually pretty proud of that one, and glad that I didn’t make any obvious snafus that a nervous candidate might make on any of the interviews. The whole rigamarole was quite pleasant, and I felt that I got along quite naturally with everyone, and even watching discussions about internal development that went somewhat above my head, I didn’t feel out of place. The atmosphere was cordial, even better than NCSA had been, but with the informality and smallness that just made things a little more cozy, and avoided the cynicism you’re going to find in any organisation large enough to be self-conscious about itself in such a way.

I also got the impression at least, that the folks out there were each intelligent, and some especially so. The impression I’ve gotten from Angus is that he’s running about and putting together the best people he can get ahold of to put up this exciting new idea he and Mike have developed. The question that had been lurking in the back of my mind was why he’d take much interest in little old me, and as that came out in the interviews I began to put together my own little picture.

Consider if you were young and excited about creating your own startup. You have plenty of cash to go and pursue the best folks you need for the R&D stuff, and among the staff you would need are also support folks, including a Systems Administrator. For this position, a whiz kid from college should do, and so you, being the Internet hipster you are turn to the web and get yourself piles of resumes from Collegehire.com. Unfortunately, Collegehire is a slightly funny entity, and has a habit of returning a lot of obtuse suggestions. It turns out that a lot of EE/CS types, even if they have had experience adminning machines, tend to be more interested in just doing code. One candidate though is reasonably bright, and has experience and interest in the sort of stuff you’re looking for. He’s also different – a Writing major with a fairly extensive website and a sense of humour. Hrmmm …

I believe that in putting together the team, Angus may regard the company as a pallet onto which he places the colours in contrast and harmony with one another. He has some creative ego invested in the team, and takes pride in it, and one thing I have going for me is a somewhat unconventional flavour that seems to work. Voila!

Or so I tell myself. A useful mythology that pleases me, for now, for lack of any better understanding of the mysterious forces at work here. I think reality adds in a factor that maybe Collegehire didn’t do a great job, but did return one prospect that actually, when you get to know him, sounds like a good fit. At the day’s end, we know that dannyman gets it done.

Come to think of it though, the folks I know who are into running the systems tend to be more unconventional. I can think of an English major, two Rhetoric BAs, a dropout, and the entire team at EnterAct as examples of Admin-types who fall far from the traditional CS mould.

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