Thursday, February 21, 2013

Moving on to "undefined"

Today’s post is more personal than usual. March 15 will be my last day at IBM, and will also be the beginning of a different relationship with Eclipse and Orion.

We all juggle different interests, but I find that every now and then (seems to be 12 years for me), I need to seriously reevaluate my career situation. It’s more than wanting a new team role, a different project, or new skills. I haven’t figured out where my next move sits on the continuum of job change, career change, or redefining the meaning of career. I think I'm moving toward a lot more slashes - farmer/writer/web developer/teacher. But to figure it out, I need to step away and gain a wider perspective.

So I’m changing my relationship with software development for a while. I’d like to get away from my screen, spend more time outside, and work with people in my local community. I hope to do more volunteering, farming, teaching, learning, and writing. If you see me hoeing weeds outside, I might also be scheming a gardening or coding club at my son’s elementary school. Or maybe I’ll be pondering what the vastly changing webscape means to our local farmers, small rural economies, and people who don’t have access to the bandwidth and devices that we take for granted. Or perhaps I’ll simply enjoy the fresh air and clean row of crops.

I enjoy technical puzzles and helping people understand them. I seem to gravitate to UI technology, putting equal emphasis on usable API's and a simple, pragmatic UI. I enjoy writing about software and helping folks understand it better. So I imagine coming back to development at least a little bit after a break, probably as a freelancer. I hope to use Orion in my tool stack, and if so, I’ll contribute back. When I joined IBM in 2004, I was an independent Eclipse committer, so now it comes full circle. I’ll remain a committer, but I’m not quite ready to define my commitment.

The decision was neither easy nor quick. It’s exciting for sure, but also a little scary. IBM has been very good to me. I’ve been pleased to work exclusively in open source since joining IBM in 2004. I’ve had a very flexible schedule and work environment, and managers who value both the technical contributions and the real person behind them, while making unnecessary noise go away. For me, the Orion project has been an interesting exploration of web tooling platforms, what we need out of our visual components, and how coding in the cloud truly changes the way you think about your tools. After many years on the Eclipse platform writing Java code, the last few years in JavaScript have been a fun switch back to the typeless way, reminiscent of the days of Smalltalk. And developing in the cloud has been great fun for me. I haven't downloaded an SDK in over a year and I can move from device to device picking up where I left off.

My teammates throughout my time on Eclipse, Equinox, and now Orion have never failed to amaze me with their depth of knowledge, helpful spirit, and general humor and good fun. There are some very talented Orion developers whom I’ve not yet met in person, yet we still have that team bond and friendship. And there are others I’ve known for almost 20 years at OTI, IBM, and other project and company umbrellas. I stepped away from some of them before, only later to gravitate back to the smartest, most productive, and fun software team I’ve ever been part of.

I will continue to share my observations here and on twitter as well as following the Eclipse adventure. Who knows, I may show up on an Orion status call by surprise one day, or pop into a UX hangout. It remains to seen. Please keep me in the loop if you see an interesting technical problem or experiment on the horizon. I hope to offer a perspective that balances the experience of implementing and delivering solutions with the freedom of not being on the hook for it, at least for a little while. Or I just might get curious enough to put my wheel hoe down and hack some code.

In the meantime, I've got about three weeks to finish up. I intend to finish my thoughts on Web Components before I go. I've got some bugs to fix, comments to add to code, and some overdue refactoring and confessional documentation that need to happen so I can leave with a clean conscience.

Cheers and thanks for all the fun!


  1. Good luck with your next move Susan. All the best.

    1. thanks, Lars! With open source, the chances we bump into each other again are good...

  2. hey Susan, it was a great pleasure and always inspiring to work with you on Orion UI design. I wish you all the best with your new explorations.