Working at LaunchWare: A Retrospective

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Hey, I’m @jmondo. I’ve been working at LaunchWare since February 2011. A year and a half later, I’m leaving LaunchWare to move out to the West Coast and explore the world of startups, dev, and… west coast. Before I go, I want to provide a retrospective explaining what it’s like to work at LaunchWare, what I’ll miss, and why I’m leaving.

What It’s Like (And What I’ll Miss)

Day to Day

  • We all work remotely, but we’re all located in the Boston area. This makes it easy for us to share dinners, co-work at the CiC, and meet with clients in person.
  • Standup is at 10:30 am via Google Plus hangout.
  • Correspondence throughout the day takes place on HipChat where there’s always something fun to read or rant about, measured in number of times we @launch image me coolio.

    coolio image

    See? It’s fun.

  • Clients are easy to access through Pivotal Tracker comments and are generally quick and excited to respond.

  • We try to follow a week sprint schedule: freezing code at noon on Fridays, staging all of our 4-5 concurrent projects through the afternoon, smoke testing in staging on Monday, and then pushing to production.
  • We create feature branches each day, deploy to Github when finished, and Dan reviews code at 3:30 pm.
  • A couple times a week we have workshops where we all give feedback and suggestions around a particular topic that we can improve on, like client management, quality assurance, etc. Also remote via G+ hangouts with some live google docs action.
  • We’re expected to bill 35-40 hours a week, not eat sleep and breathe code
  • Transitioning from hourly to results-based work environment

People

  • There are 5 people at LaunchWare, including myself, not including LaunchBot (hopefully it doesn’t read this)
  • We’re funny dudes
  • We cover a large range of skills, while all proudly sporting the ‘full-stack’ skill set. We’ve got people who pride themselves on abstractions, project management, product management, design and css strategies, and more. Each person has found their niche and developed it extensively since joining the company. This desire to learn and develop is core to our culture.

Dan the man

Dan is our boss, and he’s the man. He gets his own ul.

  • Super flexible in terms of travel, taking days off, etc.
  • Cares a ton about us, the code, and the clients
  • Works like a dog. The company is his baby and he’s always focused on making it bigger and better.
  • Willing to, happy to, and loves to be a mentor to his employees - both professionally and personally
  • Strict on code reviews - he’ll turn any mediocre coder into a master syntax, best practices, abstraction, framework, and api guru through his pull request feedback on Github.
  • Open to feedback and change. I harass him about business process/ strategy all the time, call him out when he makes mistakes, and challenge him on pull request feedback. This is how we all learn. And it’s not just to Dan, it’s company wide.
  • Cares about us personally. Example: when I roll out of bed, jump into the shower, and run to my computer at 10:29 am, I sometimes appear as if I’m still asleep during standup. I get this type of response.

    Dan: you looked tired this morning - everything ok?
    John: haha yes i look tired every morning :p
    

    What a guy.

Travel

I started at LaunchWare while I was studying abroad in Hong Kong. Home of the 12 hour time difference from EDT. I checked in before bed and every morning, and worked while the team was sleeping. Dan saw past this in hiring me, and we pulled it off well. That’s a tough thing to do for any company, not just a software dev firm.

During that time and since then I’ve been all over the world, and LaunchWare has been very flexible in allowing me to do so. The rest of our team has been doing some serious traveling too! Due to our remote nature, traveling is not an interruption. And it’s not a surprise to show up for standup and someone’s background change to a train, lake, or even beach. Just try to pick somewhere with wifi.

Oh and vacation is on an as-you-need-it basis and Dan is very flexible here. Even in my final weeks, he has been very flexible on letting me take a day here and there. Love it.

(Lack of) Bureaucracy

We don’t do that. We try to optimize our process as often as possible, but we’re all very conscious of when things become too structured. Just like in our code, we don’t like premature optimization in our process. So some things, like that travel policy, are left ambiguous until we stumble across it.

Why I’m leaving

Although the above insights and comments stand on their own, they of course beg the question: so why are you leaving?

The primary things you need to know about me:

  • I’m a traveler: I’ve flown 57,500 miles since joining LaunchWare
  • I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life
  • I drive a red scooter (ok, irrelevant)
  • LaunchWare is the only non-freelance programming job I’ve held
  • I have an opportunity to live with one of my best friends from college in SF

I chose those details very specifically of course and you can probably then guess why I’m leaving. I’m a traveler who’s lived in one place his entire life. I love the idea of getting rid of all my stuff, packing up what’s left and heading out to explore somewhere new. Also, the timing is right. I don’t have much stuff, and my friend is looking for a roommate.

The other part is that I’ve never held another “job” in the development space. This again is tough to say as the unstable explorer type, so it’s time to try some new things. If they aren’t awesome, I’ll be back!

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