All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

Time to Take Stock

There are points in your life where you just have to stop, take a few paces back and ask yourself what you’re doing, and perhaps what you’re not doing that you should be. I guess this is one of those times. I’m leaving Yahoo.

For the last few years, while Rachel has been building up a successful web development agency, I’ve been slogging it out in the day job and then freelancing for her company in the evenings and weekends. It seems crazy to be doing this when we’re both skilled web developers, but it worked for us at the time in terms of the perceived financial stability and a host of other reasons.

Well, turns out it was crazy. At least, over the last couple of months we’ve reassessed the situation as it stands, and it’s just the perfect time for me to quit the drudgery of the 9 to 5 and join Rachel as a director of, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about it. For me, it means getting back closer to the rock face, working on real projects that really matter to the client’s business. On top of that, I can stop doing this massive daily context switch that I’ve been living with for the last few years where I’ve effectively been working two different jobs each day. For the company, it gives us extra capacity to take on bigger projects and to broaden the scope of the services offered. We already have a new CSS training course planned for the upcoming weeks. (Next public course: 29th Ocober 2007 – now booking)

But as exciting as all that is, joining also means leaving Yahoo. The last year or so at Yahoo has been quite an experience in a number of ways. I’ve got to meet at work with some great people, and will be particularly sad to leave behind people like Chris Heilmann and my recent team-mate Klaus Komenda.

Back when I posted about joining Yahoo, Jim Ley made a comment to the effect that hiring lots of experienced developers was fine, provided you had enough work to keep them all interested. He likened it to a big football club spending out on a lot of big players – it’s great as long as they don’t end up spending the whole season sat on the bench.

Now, not that I’d compare what we do to the job of a professional football player (make of that what you will) but at times over the last year or so, it’s very much felt like I’m sat on the bench. There’s a lot going on at Yahoo, and I truly believe it’s a great place to work as a front-end web developer as maybe a first or second job. There’s lots to be learned, and good people to learn from. However, web development is very much a production unit at Yahoo. The spec goes in and the code comes out, and that’s more or less how the function is viewed throughout the company.

Maybe is just a symptom of a behemoth, but it’s not for a lack of great ideas or vision from the people on the ground. It seems that the people at the very bottom of the company really get the web, and honestly a lot of the execs right at the very top seem to get it. In the middle is a great swamp of middle management where good ideas go to die.

Leaving Yahoo means that I can also say goodbye to 4 hours of commuting each day – the offices are just a 10 minute walk from my front door. I’m looking forward to reclaiming those 4 hours and putting them to much more productive use – some of which will be offsetting that 5.45am start. The only question remaining is how on earth I’m going to find the downtime to keep up with all those podcasts now.