[Baypiggies] career advice?

Alex Martelli aleax at google.com
Thu Jul 1 23:48:04 CEST 2010

On Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 11:21 PM, R Aubrey <r.aubrey.xyzzy at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello, Bay Piggies.
> I could use some career advice: where do people go when they hit middle age?

Me?  I moved (a "lateral step" across career ladders) from (albeit
highly technical) management to essentially-full-time programming
(where I'm of course still expected to exert some level of leadership,
but essentially by exhortation, evangelization and example -- no
actual management, no budget to handle, not even [so far, fingers
crossed;-)] formal project tech lead duties).

But then, I've been weaving back and forth between highly-technical
management and programming-cum-leadership for most of my career, so I
don't think it's connected to middle age (I believe I'm "officially"
middle age, since I'm less than twice as old as my first-born
child;-).  I've also been weaving back and forth between Europe and
the US, but _that_ may be over (perhaps in connection with middle age,
I really feel more and more like putting down some roots some place --
at least, say, pick just 1 continent;-).

> If you really enjoy python programming and find side projects just to have
> an excuse to "prototype" something, but you also want to stay very close to
> the product management / business side of things because you've become
> convinced the software is just one part of a successful company: where do
> you go?  Does everyone end up in management?

My current employer, Google, just happens to have some positions that
seem tailor-made for this urge of yours -- especially, as it happens,
in the group I'm with now (and have been for a couple years -- cluster
management software was what I did before that), PSO (Partner
Solutions Organization) -- a peculiar group of engineers and other
highly technical professionals which, however, reports up within the
Sales org, not Engineering.  We do have software engineers, like me,
but also positions known as Partner Technology Managers (PTM) and
Technical Account Managers (TAM) -- don't be mislead by the "manager"
part of the role name, just like in "project management" it's not
(necessarily) connected with managing people and budgets;-).

A senior PTM who joined Google last year (and with whom I have the
good luck of working pretty closely), for example, is an MBA who just
before joining Google used to work in upper management in a REIT...
and came to our attention by qualifying for the finals of the Google
Code Jam.  MBA or not, what he did in his spare time was hack away at
C++ just for fun... and pretty darn well, too, Code Jam is one tough

Now I believe he hasn't written a line of C++ in months... because at
Google he met Python (one of the two core languages used in PSO, the
other one being Java -- C++ is a rather occasional need, only few
PSOers actually know it, while everybody knows and uses at least one
of Python and Java) and (of course) fell in love. He received his
Python Readability Approval last month (which means that, though his
main job is to do strategy, business, product-management, etc, he's
contributed enough high-quality Python code to the code base to have
proven his mastery of Python itself and Google's style guide); I know
that on the side he's taught himself R, the statistics language (in
Business Intelligence, where both I and he work, we do a lot of
statistics of course, side by side with other data mining approaches
etc -- pity R is so clunky;-), as well as many google internal

Anyway, to summarize, there _are_ opportunities that meld the
business, PM, _and_ development side of things (and not just for
people of middle age either;-) -- not just at startups, but also at
some larger companies (at least ones that try to keep what's possible
of the startup ethos, AND strongly reject the commonly held myth that
"those who can, do -- those who can't, manage";-).

(and, BTW, I'm always glad to receive private email with the resumes
of baypiggies members interested in job opportunities at Google, and
possibly refer them for interviewing if there appears to be a fit --
in part, for selfish reasons, since [a] Google's future growth depends
in part on continuing to hire great people, AND [b] referrers of
people who get hired are directly rewarded;-).


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