12 October 2007

Where the heck I have been

Many friends and blog readers may have wondered why I dropped off the face of the Earth this last month. I owe apologies to a bunch of folks, with more to come because I'm still not going to be very available. I have had some good—but dramatic and demanding—developments in my personal life that have literally kept me from having a minute to spare. So, at last, here's the story ....

As many of y'all know, I have felt restless in my job for a while. For the past ten years I have worked as a consulting interaction designer at Cooper, the best consulting interaction design studio in the biz, winging my way around the nation and the world telling companies how to make products that don't suck. I love the work and my colleagues, but it has me on the road about 25% of the time, on a very irregular schedule. It's enough to be disruptive to my life and physically demanding. While I used to go on a work trip and bounce back from the jet lag, bad food, and hotel insomnia to force myself back into the gym, I'm not that young and resilient any more. I've been wondering how much more consulting I really have in me.

Plus, a couple of years ago my father moved out to San Francisco to live in an apartment across the street from mine. Yeah, it's a bit like a sitcom ... except that he's had some trouble with his health, and I'm the man on the spot because my whole family is scattered among various different cities. I've had to devote more time and energy to his needs than I'd originally imagined, which is especially tricky given my irregular travel.

I've been working to find my father a place in an assisted living community, for his safety and comfort (as well as my own liberty and peace of mind) but it's been tough going with the many interruptions in my schedule.

So for a while now I've had an eye out for a new gig: something a little less demanding and a lot more regular, ideally downtown in San Francisco so I could walk to work and enjoy my beloved city. Though I've followed a few leads, nothing has panned out. My work portfolio is very strong, but it's also peculiar ... and of course the thing I'm best qualified to do is consulting, which is what I want to get away from.

About a month back, I flew down to San Diego for the day to meet with a guy I had worked with on a few Cooper projects over the years. He's a very smart executive who really understands my work, and ever since we first worked together he's tried to bring Cooper (and me in particular) in to work with every organization he's landed in. He is now CEO of a new company, Veoh, which is one of the companies delivering video over the Internet. We talk about what Cooper could do for them, and he says to me, that's great, but what I really want is to find a Director of User Experience, and I want it to be you. Come help us. Come help us fix television.

Okay, this is pretty much the opposite of what I would have wished for. It's not in San Francisco, where my father is. It's not full time design work as a craftsman, but managing a team, ambitiously “climbing the ladder.” It's not in San Francisco, where my soulmate is. It's not a little less work, but more. It's not in San Francisco, where my soul sister is. It's not in a thriving product company, but in the chaos of a startup. And it's not in San Francisco, my favourite place in the world, where like Tony Bennett I left my &^#@!! heart.


It's a chance to tackle the corporate organizational problems that I've always said were the most important part of getting good interaction design. It's a chance to do it working with as design-attuned a CEO as I could ever hope to find. It's a chance to work on something that wouldn't just be another case study in my résumé, but something any future employer would have seen with their own eyes. It's a chance to work on a heck of an interesting problem. It's a chance to maybe ... just maybe ... walk away with a chunk of valuable stock. And it's a chance to maybe ... just maybe ... fix television.

How could I turn that down?

So I kept talking to the CEO: job description and logistics and money and all that. He wanted me right away.

I talked to my family about how we would handle things for my dad if I took the job. I talked to my soulmate and soul sister about whether we'd all go bonkers if I lived in San Diego. They all encouraged me to take the job. We found ways to make things work.

Naturally, I was on the road doing Cooper work in Canada, jet lagged out of my mind, while we were figuring this out.

I got back from Canada, took the Veoh job, quit my Cooper job ... and I've not had a minute to spare since.

I had to be back down in San Diego after just a few days ... during which time I still had obligations at Cooper to wrap up—not least a farewell lunch with my heroic colleagues who all dressed up in coats and ties for the occasion—in addition to packing for a week and a half in San Diego, and getting ready for the arrival of my family ...

... because my father was still recovering from surgery, and I was trying to get the paperwork squared away on the assisted living place we had finally lined up. My father wanted to stay in SF if he could move in to the new situation. So my mother and brother came out to handle his release from the hospital and bring the new place over the finish line. While I've been away, they've been using my apartment.

Meanwhile, I've been living in a hotel in San Diego, getting up to speed on a complicated business, wrapping up loose ends at Cooper, helping with Dad details by remote control, and trying to get the lay of the land to find a place to live in San Diego.

As I write this I'm waiting for a late flight back to SF so I can spend the weekend packing up all my worldly possessions, since I have to be in a meeting for my new employer in LA Monday morning, after which I'll be in San Diego, working and trying to land an apartment.

Because yeah, there it is, believe it or not I'm moving to San Diego.

Mind you, I'm not emigrating to there, I'm expatriating. I plan to spend most weekends in SF, visiting my father and friends and eating at Tí Couz.

Just as soon as the dust settles.


Veleda said...

Ok..your forgiven for canceling lunch. ;)

Whew. Finding time to get to know you better will be even more difficult! ;)

But..I'm sure we will figure it out.

Lydia said...

Wow! What wonderful news. Congratulations! I look forward to more media-y posts from you.

Al said...

Congratulations on your promotion to corporate leaderness! :-)

I guess coffee soon is out. I do hope that you don't stay down there forever. It does sound like fun though.

Chris said...

Your last line made me think of something I'd read recently, by our beloved Joss.

“Why?”, says Piotr, “Why so soon—so suddenly?”

“Everything is so fragile,” Kitty responds. “There’s so much conflict, so much pain…you keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize this is it; the dust is your life going on.”

- from the pages of Astonishing X-Men No. 22

Hecate said...

San Diego is a great town, a wonderful town, although not SF. And, dude, if you can fix television, well, a grateful nation turns its eyes to you.

Miss Sea said...

Congrats. :)

Rick said...

Congratulations! Sounds like a great next gig...but don't let it keep you from blogging.

Miriam Green said...

I'm in San Diego next week. Coffee?