The latest series I’m seeing on LinkedIn is people writing about their best mistake. That decision which seemed out there and failed or the opportunity missed which taught them something about life. It’s something I haven’t thought about in a while, but I had one of those moments. I actually had two of them in the same year. The concept of failure is tough and it’s not always something you can recover from.
In 1999, I’d been working for the same company for about six years. I had a good position which was somewhat stable even though the company was going through a tough time and there were some layoffs. We were also seeing competition finally catch us in some areas and were emphasizing a new product line which I wasn’t doing much work with. With the .com boom in full swing, it felt like the right time to make a move even with my young family. I was the sole breadwinner and was feeling the self-imposed pressure which comes with a mortgage and a toddler. Still, I visited a small startup in the Bay Area, met with a few people I really liked, and made a jump to start the new century.
The new job was exciting and I was in a position where I could do some creative things to help the company get where it wanted in a new market. I learned more about coding and did some impressive presentations. I even had someone at NASA ask in surprise if the 3D model I was streaming in a web page was really on their live website (just for the record, it wasn’t). The new position seemed to be going very well. The company’s money was starting to be an issue though and we ended up being an acquiree rather than an acquirer. It wasn’t personal, it was just the way things were going down. I was fortunate enough to get the heads up that everyone in my position was getting let go in time to do something about it. That mitigated the sole-bringer-home-of-bacon stress and opened more doors.
Internet commerce! That was the way things were going. It would change it all. I got my next job with an e-commerce platform provider. The skills I had learned and connections I’d made in the first half of 2000 helped me land it. This company knew what to do with a large amount of VC. When I did my interviews, I got a tour of the impressive hosting center being built out and also saw some live customer websites. Who could say no to a company who wanted me where I’d learn about Internet applications built extensively around XML way back in 2000? I’m not saying I should have, but the money ran dry here too. It did so in a rather fast and spectacular fashion too. Everyone outside of HQ was unceremoniously whacked before the year ended. The career experiment I started on twelve months ago was decidedly not looking like a wise decision.
This layoff turned out to be a career building block and actually a blessing. Two days after being let go, I had an interview at a company I’m still with. 2000 felt like a career mulligan at the time. I never envisioned going from a company I’d worked at for half a dozen years to having been employed four different places within 12 months’ time. It turns out that my moves were the right things to do at the right time.