Uncharted Waters


December 23, 2011  3:41 PM

On A Boat – With Adam Yuret (Part I)

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

So far we’ve heard from J.B. Rainsberger and David Hoppe, two technologists who quit left the day job behind in order to have a more fulfilling life.

That’s great for them, you say, but it’s not your goal.

Hey, I understand.  Some of us like the places we live, or at least we want to come back.

Perhaps the trade-off of forty hours a week for a pay check and benefits is one you are willing to make, or at least one we are willing to make for eleven months a year.

Or ten.  Or nine.

It may have occurred to you to take a year off; to travel, then come back to the eight-to-five.

Of course, you are worried about your tech career.  It doesn’t look good to have a hole in your resume and all that, right?  I mean, those big gurus who have written books might get away with it, but how about a little guy, or a guy with no impressive credentials?

Meet Adam Yuret, a self-educated technologist who dropped out of high school when he was 16.

He and his wife took three years off to sail on a boat down the Pacific coast, from Portland, OR to Mexico. Adam and his wife bought an old fixer upper sailboat which they spent nearly 2 years rebuilding before they headed out to sea. What followed would be a tumultuous, sometimes highly challenging occasionally amazing adventure. Due to various critical mechanical failures they ran out of money after 18 months. At this point they adjusted their plan from a Pacific crossing to a summer exploring the Sea of Cortez. After that summer they hauled the boat and came home to earn more money before taking another attempt 18 months later. They never crossed the Pacific but they learned a lot about each other and have no regrets. (You can read about their adventures on their 2 blogs: Part 1 andPart 2.

Yes, he had to take the trip in several segments.  Instead of a Cruise ship vacation at $700 per per person per week, they sailed their own boat at a cost of, well … approximately every penny they had.

Along the way, the boat broke down.  They ran out of money.  There was struggle.

And they got some great stories to tell the kids, eh?

Let’s hear what he had to say.

Continued »

December 19, 2011  10:20 PM

Going Independent – with J.B. Rainsberger

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

It’s been two weeks since I did my post on the Jimmy Buffett Life.  Some of the ideas, like radically downsizing our lives and embracing an itinerant career, really resonated with people.

But they had, you know, concerns.  As one friend of mine wrote “The only thing that bothers me is that it sounds fantastical, even though I know people who’ve done it.  It would be so cool if you had a few quotes from people who’ve tried it.”

Other concerns I heard were along similar lines.  Things like “That could never work for me”, “I wouldn’t know how to start”, “That’s too risky”, or, perhaps, more honestly, “I’m too scared to think about it.”

Diving into a Jimmy Buffett lifestyle (or even moving in that direction) can be a scary thing.

So i’m trying to introduce you to a few people who have done it, and done it well.  Last week, I interviewed my colleague and friend David Hoppe.

It’s Time to Meet J.B. Rainsberger

Continued »


December 15, 2011  12:29 AM

This could be your life — with David Hoppe

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

For most of us, life after high school is pretty easy.  You get some education, then you go get one of those ‘job’ things.  In some cases, you repeat.

The job trade-off is pretty easy:  Forty Hours a week for a steady pay check.

Like I said, though, that only holds true for some people.  For others, not so much.

That “not so much” — going independent — has been a recent theme on this blog.

I think it’s time you met my friend, David Hoppe.

I knew something was odd with David in 1998, shortly after I met him, when I asked if he was working, and he replied “A little bit.”

A little bit?  Really?  Isn’t having a regular 8-to-5 like being pregnant?  I mean, you are or you you aren’t, right?

It turns out that David was an independent technologist.  He builds systems, he fixes systems, and he even writes a little bit of code here and there.

What he ain’t got is one of them job thingees.

I kept in touch with David over the years, and eventually went independent myself last May.

For those of us facing corporate downsizing, offshoring, and re-organization, escape from the cubicle may seem like a fantasy.

In that case, well, this could be your life.

I’ll let David tell his story.

Continued »


December 7, 2011  12:09 AM

The Jimmy Buffett Life

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In an earlier article, I suggested that the half-life of a tech career is fifteen years.

Now that doesn’t mean that your career is over at fifteen years; it means half the people who started in technology have gone on to something else.  By fifty, that number is likely 25%.  By sixty-five … you get it.

Let’s say you like technology, and want to stay in it, or at least stay around it.  What could you do?

Here’s one option: Take a lesson from this guy.

The Jimmy Buffett Life

Imagine your life completely different.  No apartment rent, no heating bill, no car loan, no commute, no lawn mower, no lawn, no stuff to maintain.

Imagine ditching it all, and getting all of your time back.

Get on a boat and move to somewhere warm year-round — somewhere with a beach.  Get a job playing music in some dive bar for tips, free food, and beer.  What more do you need?

It turns out that all that stuff is a huge anchor, a big money-sucking machine.  The cost to crash at friends places (or the beach if you need to), to have a suit cases worth of stuff — well, you can earn that in three shifts a week at a dive bar.

And it is a choice that many people make every year.

Unless you are lucky enough to be reading this in your earlier twenties, though, you are probably saddled with the under-water mortgage, the piles and piles of stuff that you can’t untangle.  What’s more, you have real commitments; friends and family you see not as holding you back, but as partners in making a better life.  I hear you.

This blog post is for you.

Continued »


December 2, 2011  1:18 AM

Michigan Works! … Except when it doesn’t.

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state of Michigan, you need to do a few specific things.  First, you need to walk through the doors of a “Michigan Works!” office and do some paper.  Then you need to create an account on Michigan Talent Bank.

It sure seems like a brilliant idea.  I mean, have every person who is looking for work register with their skill set, then give any employer access to the database.

Shrink job searches, eliminate all the folks in the job market just to get a counter-offer, shrink the welfare budget by getting people back to work, and, let’s face it, help companies save on employee costs by hiring folks who are the most hungry.

Everybody wins, right?

Like I said, it’s great theory.

Continued »


November 29, 2011  1:03 AM

What I learned from Google – You Get Fifteen Years

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

four years ago I was in Mountain View, California, interviewing for a position with Google.

It was an odd sort of interview.  Lots of puzzles, math-like challenges, and code.  Lots, and lots, and lots of code.

What struck me at Google wasn’t the challenges.  Nor was it the office environment, the cafeteria, or the mini-swimming pool, all of which were impressive.

No, what struck me were the people. Continued »


November 22, 2011  7:45 PM

Your Eff U Fund – Part III – Building Revenue

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In my previous two posts (part one and two) I introduced the F(orget) U fund, and said it wasn’t enough — you need an income stream.

The income stream will help in two ways: If you lose the job, it will help meet your needs, but while you keep the job, it will help you build the fund.

Today, two things:  How to build the fund, and how to generate an income stream.

Continued »


November 21, 2011  1:52 PM

Your Eff U Fund – Part II

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

When I introduced the Eff U Fund, I suggested that the very idea was challenged.  Once you’ve saved up the three-to-six months of savings, should you tell the boss to, well, Forget himself and walk out, that money will run out very quickly.  I suggested the reader needs a revenue stream, not a pile of cash.

I’m not the first person to have this idea; why, George Costanza realizes it in an early episode of Seinfeld.

Continued »


November 9, 2011  10:47 PM

Your Eff U Fund – Part I

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Have you ever seen or heard a conversation something like this:

This guy had eight bosses. Would an FU Fund have helped?

This guy had eight bosses. Would an FU Fund have helped?

Person: My job stinks.  My boss is a jerk.  My goals don’t make sense, and just as I’m about to have a handle on them, they change.  I report to six different people.

Comment #1: Man, that stinks.

Person: I’m worried about my job.  I might lose it.  I wish I could just quit, but I need to pay the mortgage.

Comment #2: What you need is an F U fund!

Ahh, yes.  The F U fund, which may stand for “Forget You.”  Three to six months of savings, so if things get really tough, you can bail out.  I understand.

The problem is, it isn’t enough.  Oh Yes!  The internet commenters say, you /really/ need six to nine months.

That isn’t enough either.

In fact, it’s unlikely that your F U fund will ever be large enough to solve this kind of problem – but there are other ways – which are demonstrated on, of all things, an episode of The Office.

Yes, that’s right, Michael Scott, the bumbling manager of The Office, figured this when he tried to sell the Michael Scott Paper Company …

Continued »


November 1, 2011  6:00 AM

IT Workers As Coal Miners — III

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

This week my friend Shawn concludes his rant on North American Business (see part I and also part II) and, well, I’ll pick up from there.

But first …

Today’s small companies want to offer their customers (internal or external) expanded coverage options, really attractive (to executives) SLAs, and “more bang for the IT buck” because many C-level manangement folks can’t understand why IT costs so darn much.
Hey, there, Mr. CFO, I can expand our supported hours beyond 8-5 without increasing headcount and costs.. Let me show you.”  A little wave of the pen and here’s your substantial change in working arrangements.  A doubling of the time the company wants to have you available at their beck and call, without any kind of change to the compensation structure.


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