Monday, March 2, 2015

Since VigLink...

I haven't posted a job update since I was at VigLink. Since that time I worked for a few months on "MealBox", I spent most of a year at iSoccer and 3 years at TalentBin.

MealBox - 2011:
I left VigLink to try working full time on a side project I stared with a friend. Shimi and I set out to lower the barrier to cooking healthy and delicious meals at home with mostly fresh local vegetables. We never came up with a good name so we just called it MealBox. The idea was the same as Plated or Blue Apron, but before we had heard of them. We made some fun prototypes and got good feedback from friends, but we got stuck on delivery. To really improve on the experience of getting the ingredients from the store we wanted to be able to deliver the box to your work during the day or at your home while you're away. We never figured that part out. Neither did the other companies, you have to be home to get your delivery, but Blue Apron and Plated are doing a good job and I am glad somebody else built this so we didn't have to :)

iSoccer - 2011-2012
The iSoccer assessment is the first standardized test for sport. With 10 colored skill levels, resembling belts in karate, for each of the 16 skills, it is a unique attempt to offer players constant feedback on their improvement. Young athletes stay more motivated and engaged when they can tangibly see how their training is helping them improve. Players test themselves regularly, or are tested by coaches, and can see their level rise. I developed confidence, discipline, and important friendships through soccer and I remain a believer that athletics are a powerful way to teach kids not to fear failure. It was a great pleasure to commit energy to that project, but during a difficult moment for the company financially it made sense to move on.

TalentBin - 2012-2015
TalentBin looks at the activities candidates do across the social web and combines it all together into a one-stop search shop for talent pros to find candidates and reach out. Before TalentBin I had taken some time to reflect on my career step. I was craving a craft to which I could commit and develop like I had with soccer. I had worked with several inspiring software engineers and decided to pursue programming skills. I spent a few weeks diving into Computer Science courses online when I reconnected with a colleague from VigLink who had since become the software architect at TalentBin. I told him about my plans to go back to school for a masters in CS, but he suggested the "just in time" rather than the "just in case" approach to learning, ie join TalentBin and learn on the job. The first year was mostly a whirlwind of learning my way around the codebase and contributing as fast as I could during the day, then diving into CS courses online at night. In three years we have built a useful tool for passive candidate recruiting and been acquired by one of the largest players in the hiring space. I have enjoyed software engineering even more than I expected and continue to find it to be a dynamic and creative community of people. My ambition to learn is even bigger than it was when I started and I am excited to keep building!

Which bring us up to now.

I lost my hat

I lost my adventure hat. This might not seem like a big deal, but I have worn this hat on every big adventure I have had for more than 10 years. I know there will be other hats and other adventures, but I miss it all the same. As part of my mourning, here are some highlights that I actually have pics of:
North Face 50m
Wasatch 100m
John Muir Trail 2014 
Zion 100m 2014
Zion 100m
Bighorn 100m 2014
Big Sur 2014
John Muir Trail 2013
Rae Lakes 2013
North Face 50m 2013
Run Rabbit Run 100m 2013
RRR 100
Desolation 7 summits 2013
4 pass loop - Maroon Bells 2013
White River 50m 2013
Bishop High Sierra 50m 2013
Moab 2013
Holy Cross Wilderness 2008
Jordan 2005
In these days it was called my "I'm not from around here" hat

Alright, enough of that. Bye bye hat.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Election 2012 - some thoughts

In contrast to 2008 when I was singularly focused on the presidential race, this year I eagerly awaited awaited results from a few places, particularly two State House of Representatives races in Colorado, Mary Parker in HD 28, and Brittany Pettersen in HD22. I worked with Mary and Brittany as community organizers for the Obama campaign in 2008, and both have risen to the challenge President Obama gave us to continue organizing for change in our communities. The quick summary is that Brittany was elected and Mary was not, but I have taken significant inspiration from both.

When considering results from election night, I feel very hopeful. In 2008 President Obama won the presidency, but civil rights and marriage equality took a major body blow with the passing of Prop 8. 2012 was better, the president maintained a substantial mandate and we saw ballot measures legalizing gay marriage pass, elected a gay Senator, and even expanded the majority in the Senate. Brittany’s success makes me very happy for several reasons. There are not enough young women running for public offices of every kind. Julie and I have talked about this several times, and there are many reasons for why it might be, but I think it is a big problem. Brittany took a courageous step, and she is going to do very well.

But two things trouble me:
1) Republicans are still overrepresented in the House of Representatives, which I have not really been able to wrap my mind around given Obama’s convincing margin. I have no insight to offer on why this is or what to do about it, suggestions? I have read some claims that republicans have had control over redistricting in many states and have been able to use that to their advantage.

2) Despite a professional, organized, strategic, and driven campaign Mary Parker was not rewarded with victory. She lost to a lame opponent because voters in her district blindly voted their party affiliation, despite the fact Mary knocked on over 20,000 doors in the course of her campaign efforts to get her message out. Mary did not get much outside support because the registration numbers were against her, but she built out her “Kitchen Cabinet” of incredible friends (who were also dedicated volunteers with our Neighborhood Leadership Team for Obama in 2008). Her opponent was silent, he did not even show up to the Republican town hall event in the district. Mary walked over 1000 miles getting to the doors of voters in her district, listening to them and hearing about their concerns. Who would you want representing you?

I have also been wrestling with some things at a personal level. There is a big difference between my involvement in the elections 2008 and 2012. As a field organizer in 2008 I was completely committed to the campaign (to a point that might even have been unhealthy). But in 2012 I have done almost nothing, I donated to the campaign, did one shift of canvassing for Mary, and made 3 hours of GOTV phone calls on election day. When I realized at the end of that shift that those were the last phone calls I will ever make that start with “Hi, This is Galen, and I’m a volunteer with the Obama Campaign”, I wished I could go back a month and make more of those calls! Over the past couple of years I have distanced myself emotionally from politics, feeling disappointed and cynical at what I felt was a lack of progress. I am embarrassed now to say that my hope and faith were shaken, but I feel re-energized by several things that happened this election day.

Mary and Brittany and President Obama and their teams have been tireless, and when I consider the self-righteous apathy I let myself fall into at times, I envy them. I am fortunate to spend a lot of my time with young, ambitious, politically concerned friends, many of whom are impressive people, very articulate about the progressive political agenda. But often we simply don't do enough to back up our political beliefs. I provided plenty of hyperbole of my own to describe the importance of our efforts in 2008. What we accomplished in Jefferson County and across the country was historic, but then, somewhere along the way my faith gave way to distraction, apathy, and even cynicism. I criticized Obama for not having a better "communications strategy" (he had better things to do than try to get my attention), or for being "transactional" rather than "transformational". I talked about the missed opportunity of not harvesting the energy generated during the campaign in 2008. Blah blah blah.

While many people were busy showing off our vocabularies, Mary and Brittany were knocking on doors, making calls, organizing (agitating) in their communities. As soon as the election was over they canvassed for health care reform, in 2010 for Michael Bennet’s Senate race, and then they put it all on the line and ran for office themselves. Their energy, their commitment, and their endurance is the exactly what the foundation of a progressive platform will be built on. In his acceptance speech Barack talked about his hope for our political system and he gave a moving defense of politics as tool for social justice. But they never needed convincing, they have been out there in the trenches all this time.

Mary lost because the partisan divide in our country is wider than it has ever been, and it seems people retreat further behind party lines every day. But I believe that if we have more campaigns like hers for local offices this would not be the case. President Obama is too big a figure to bridge the gap, there is too much at stake at that level. The massive special interests have more power than ever, but not in our homes. The special interests don't have influence in our neighborhoods, in conversations with people who shop at the same grocery store. In some places, like Mary’s district in South Jeffco, the divide is still wide, but it is narrowing.

I don’t think that every progressive person should run for office, but there is no excuse for not making calls, donating when we can, and just as important is maintaining a positive and committed attitude rather than trying to poke holes. At the very least I will draw from the example of Mary and Brittany and recommit myself to the political process as a tool for change. I will not despair at an obstructionist congress, or bemoan ridiculous special interests. I want to combine the naive energy from 2008 with the constancy that people like Mary have shown.

The gratitude I have for President Obama, the excitement for Brittany, and the mix of admiration for Mary and the frustration and disappointment I feel about her result are all powerful tools. I am grateful to be among their supporters and admiring observers, and I will draw on their example and find new ways to engage!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Start up Definition

I borrowed words from Steve Blank before about why I am drawn to work in start-ups, I also enjoyed the quote below from this article:
For years we’ve treated startups like they are just smaller versions of a large company. However, we now know that a startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Within this definition, a startup can be a new venture or it can be a new division or business unit in an existing company...
...The primary objective of a startup is to validate its business model hypotheses (and iterate and pivot until it does.) Then it moves into execution mode. It’s at this point the business needs an operating plan, financial forecasts and other well-understood management tools.
One of the things  I like about this definition is also clearly includes ventures like FACE AIDS, which Julie is leading, and other non-profit ventures that are searching for new ways to address social problems.

The article also particularly resonated with me because a couple of friends are considering business school in order to move into entrepreneurship. I tend to caution them against this, I think if a person going into business school wants to get involved with a start-up on the other side of that they need to have a plan to make sure it happens. An MBA creates huge opportunity cost for following non-traditional paths (ie not consulting or banking), and it can be a trap to think the skills you typically get from an MBA apply at all to a start-up. It seems to me that a business school student has to be lazer focused on what they are trying to do, if they really want to join or found a start-up and create value. I do think with a clear articulation of what you want to learn (like that in the article), and time to work on an idea in a dynamic environment, it can be a good thing. I have seen it work once very well, with Oliver at VigLink. While I tend to think of an MBA as a risk-averse move, I do think that with a clear idea of what the weaknesses are and what a person wants to get out of it, it can help them make the leap.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

John Spencer on the Seattle Sounders - Rivalry Builds

Seattle has the best atmosphere in MLS with amazing fans that have created the closest thing to the European soccer atmosphere in the league. They are probably my favorite team after my hometown Rapids, but I have to admit I agree with (and love) John Spencer's comments here. Probably because he is a Colorado Rapids Gallery of Honor member for his playing days there.

Bemused Spencer blasts Sounders as full of excuses |

Here is a tribute to his time in Colorado.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bicycle Dreams Trailer

"There is no way these people are normal. They are the seekers of the new realm, or plane."