My last four years have been incredible, on a professional side. I think it's the right time to recap what happened and how it went.
10 years ago i used to be the classic Italian software developer. I was struggling to pay the bills, not because i wasn't paid well (I was paid average), but because I lived the lifestyle of a high class family son, with the pay of a middle class employee, that in Italy is terrible.
On my way to emerge from anonimity, I tried several things: I read technical books on commute, trying to catch up with latest technologies or to be deeply aware of what I was using at work; I also started attending conferences, started a programmer's meetup in my area, and this blog. All of this was possible because back in the days I wasn't married and had no kids :)
5 years ago, I was one of the very few remote workers in italy; we were so few that I was also called by the local university to describe how remote working is to students. We didn't know that covid would have forced everybody to become remotes :)
One old suggestion to enhance your career was to "jump" between jobs every two years, so that's what I was doing: trying to gain a better position at every new company I joined.
But there was one moment that changed my life forever: when I ended up on hacker news front page.
One way I intended to use this blog was to write down the little things I was learning along the way. Some of them would be very trivial, but are the types of things that I google all the time, so why not just "save" them in this personal space?
On my way back, my article on Hacker News landed in front page and people were discussing it actively! My phone started buzzing, twitter was on fire, and I started receiving a huge number of emails from people around the world. Questions like, "are you available to move to Germany?" or "would you like to join our startup in Taiwan?" were common that days. Among these emails there was one that stood out: it was written in (wrong) Italian and came from Switzerland. They were asking if I wanted to do a job interview with them in Zurich. I shared the news with my wife and she said, "well, at least you can get a free trip and a lunch!". The next day I was on my flight. It was 2019.
RTK.io (that no longer exists)
About this company, that was called RTK.io, I want to highlight a few points.
- The company operated in the programmatic advertising space; we wrapped a special version of Prebid.js for the needs of our customers and we tried to keep the configuration as simple as possible.
- The engineering team was made of up-to-10 people (even though for most of the time we were ~8) and we operated all the infrastructure and the business of the company: servers, networking, reporting, analytics, big data, and of course, writing software in many different languages. I think it was the most badass team I've ever worked with.
- Even if it was a remote company, I really felt part of a group. We were of course not the classic corporate grey-soul team, and this was because we were pretty homogeneous: we liked to joke a lot, usually about our home countries, and we also had mostly the same age, so working with them was just fun. I thought this was going to be my last company, because money was more than enough (I was finally saving something!) and in the mornings I was happy to turn on the computer.
Everything was going well, and went that well for the whole 2019, when our boss one day calls us to tell that he sold the company to Magnite.
Magnite is one of the biggest companies in the programmatic space. At the time, numbers said that they were trafficking maaany more ads than us. Our customers were not-so-famous (even though they were doing pretty figures), while Magnite had top tier publishers from the entire world. What was our role in this new company? My biggest fear was that they could dispose us, and bring all this happiness to zero in one night.
Instead, many things were going to click in a positive way. For example, my manager negotiated a salary increase for us. I was, for the first time, exposed to the dynamics of a public company listed in the US stock exchange, where every business decision can lead to a stock price bump or fall. I was also exposed to RSUs (basically, stocks that the company gives to you every X months), intercontinental business trips, and a scale of doing things that I'll probably never see anymore.
But, what happened with the RTK folks? We all joined this new company, but after a year of working together, almost all of them decided to pursue new experiences. I think that the real end of the RTK team was at the start of 2022, when I remained alone.
I was thinking to move to another company too, but since I moved to a new team with a new manager, for some time I thought that I've just landed a new job. Everything was new, new colleagues, new products, new procedures, new meetings, new everything. The only thing that didn't change was the advertising space we were already in, and how we were trying to make money out of it. In the end, it didn't go bad: it was one of the best experiences you can do in an enterprise company, and I liked it. So, years 2022-2023 were spent in this new environment, trying to bring value, working at many projects at many different levels, and it was fun!
Time for a change
How do you know it's time for a change in your career? I like coding, and I also like when I am "in the zone" and I feel invincible, powerful, super-productive. But as I grow up, the need for taking a different, bigger space in the world comes out.
Again, I was not actively looking for a new job but at some point, through word of mouth, another foreign company asked if I wanted to take the ownership of building their digital solutions branch in Italy. This means that I am gradually moving from coding-only to a more managerial role, and to some extent, it feels natural to me. It's like, all my life I've discussed about effective management, been involved in projects with other people, tried to lead teams, meet deadlines, take care of entire features from prerequisites to production. I've seen many management styles in my career, and we can all recognize a bad one from a good one. The thrill is to be a good one.
So, here we are. New company, kinda new role, completely different industry. An article on my blog, 4 years ago, changed everything. What will I see in my future?