On Going Freelance

At the end of a lengthy job search I decided to become a freelancer helping companies onboard onto Elixir, helping them with their development projects and processes, some performance work, pushing Open Source and maybe even a bit of interim CTOing or other consulting. Who knows what the future will hold? Right now I’m on a project until the end of October to help a company realize their first Elixir project, so mostly mentoring and coaching.

As I think that reflection is important (hence Retrospectives are the only constant!) I wanted to write a bit about why I decided to take the freelance route:

Flexibility

I like to take (big) breaks between jobs. I’d also love to get some Open Source funding to do Open source full time. Both are hard while working full time, as you want to stay at your job for a prolonged time. It’s not exactly easy in most jobs to say “Hey can I take a 6 month leave because I got this great Open Source fund?”, especially not if you work in a leadership position. Should I discover freelancing isn’t for me it’s also easier to get back into full time employment than the other way around.

Freelancing gives me some of this flexibility. If I already earned enough money I can decide to take a month or more off (although it seems really expensive to do so). I can apply to Open Source funds – in fact I just did last Saturday and am anxiously awaiting the result as I’d love to push a vital part of the Ruby eco system to 1.0 🀞

It also gives me the flexibility to help people with smaller projects. I get approached semi frequently asking if I know of a freelancer to do X and X might be very interesting. Now I can say that I can do X myself, and in fact I’m already throwing ideas around together with a friend. Which leads me to my next point:

Network

While I engage with communities, run the Ruby User Group Berlin, do open source and give presentations because it’s fun to me and I want these things to exist it has the positive side effect of being well connected. My big hope is that I have to spend less time doing client acquisition and can get either more paid time or free time. I also have a variety of freelancer friends whom I always wanted to work with so also keeping my fingers crossed that I might get to work with some of them πŸ’š

Special Knowledge at Use

I happen to have some relatively specialized knowledge and combination of skills that I’d like to use more. For instance, I love performance optimizations and think there’s a market for bringing in freelancers to make your application faster and teach the team how to do this (especially with big Rails applications πŸ˜‰ ). Other things I love are elixir and teaching. During my interviews I also heard of so many failed elixir introduction projects that I thought: Hey, people need some help adopting elixir! I like elixir, I like coaching/teaching, I like helping people = perfect match?

In fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now!

A good project to kick-start things

I was lucky enough that through my network I already had a standing offer for a 3 month project to help a company build their first elixir project. That’s something I really wanted to do and the people at the company were genuinely nice and excited. So you know – I wanted to do it so let’s try it out! “Worst” case, I do this one project and then get back to full time employment.

Choices, Choices, Choices…

I had a bunch of offers and good interviews for a variety of positions. In the end it was always hard for all of the points I mentioned in my post to come together. The project was great but I had concerns about diversity or diversity was great but I had concerns about the project or things are good but the position wasn’t what I wanted or we couldn’t agree about salary & vacations… you get the picture. I know a 100% fit is hard to achieve but in the end you can’t fault me for trying to achieve it, right?

Sometimes the timing also just didn’t work out – the freelance offer had a set deadline on when the project had to start so I couldn’t even finish interviewing with some promising positions as I decided to do (at least) this project.

Don’t get me wrong – there are really good positions out there and I’m still thinking about doing a follow up blog post highlighting some of the cool companies I interviewed with. For me the prospect of freelancing and potentially doing open source work just seemed more tempting at the time. That said, I already lost a CTO position I really liked because I decided to wait for an open source fund that I didn’t get. Let’s just hope that story doesn’t repeat itself πŸ˜‰

So will you be freelancing forever now?

Maybe? I don’t know. I like it for now (well, a month in..) and if I manage to get the Open Source funding I’ll be ecstatic as I’ll essentially be paid for my hobby and do something good.

However, there are several things I’ll miss about full time employment, most importantly:

  • Building and evolving a team long term & really being part of a team of people you know well
  • Building and evolving processes long term
  • Seeing the long term impact of work and decisions
  • Form a deep understanding of product, processes, market, competitors etc

Of course there are also aspects to freelancing that aren’t ideal, I don’t believe anyone really enjoys doing their taxes, invoicing etc. but that all comes with it. Plus, the risk is all yours – if you can’t find a project you won’t get paid, if you’re sick you’re not getting paid.

For now I enjoy being a freelancer and I’m looking forward to the different projects that’ll hopefully come my way. But for how long? We’ll see πŸ˜‰

Of course you can help me by hiring or recommending me πŸ€—

Looking for a job!

NO LONGER (REALLY) LOOKING FOR A JOB

I’m no longer looking for a job, or at least not really. I decided to go freelancing for now and I have a project until the end of October if nothing fails. So if you’ve got new freelance projects or you have a really great CTO/VP/Head of position still please feel free to contact me πŸ˜‰

(decision to be explained in more detail in a further post)

Original post for historical reasons:


It’s that time: I’m looking for a job! You can find my CV and all relevant links over at my website: CV Web, CV PDF

Quick links that might interest you: website, github, twitter and blog

Who am I and why would you want to hire me?

My name is Tobi, but online I’m better known as PragTob. I am a full-stack engineer & leader deeply interested in agile methodologies, web technologies, software crafting and teaching. I love creating products that help people and am fascinated with the human side of software development.

To have a look at some of the technical topics that I’m involved with you can check out this blog but the core technologies I’ve worked with are Ruby, Elixir, PostgreSQL and JavaScript. I enjoy pair programming, mentoring, TDD, naming discussions and clean code bases. I also have a passion for performance and eliminating bottlenecks. I maintain a variety of open source projects mostly in Ruby (f.ex. simplecov) and Elixir (f.ex. benchee).

While I have this technical background, I believe that the so called “soft”/people/social skills are more important for developers as we all work together in teams. That is even more vital when looking at any kind of lead or even management position, as mentoring, communicating and collaborating is at the heart of what people in these positions should do. I’m deeply interested in topics such as motivation and communication. In my last job I was responsible for a team of ~15 people (together with the CTO). We relied on constant feedback through retrospectives to adapt our processes and grow the team through introducing the concept of seasons, going remote first, enhancing our onboarding and many more improvements. I also did regular one-on-ones, interviewed candidates, facilitated retrospectives and other meetings as well as doing knowledge sharing sessions for the whole team.

Other than these I’ve been mentoring at Rails Girls Berlin/code curious for more than 7 years and am coaching my Rails Girls project group, the rubycorns, for more than 6 years. I also run the Ruby User Group Berlin, and give presentations at various conferences.

My CV goes into more detail about what I’ve done.

What am I looking for?

I’m looking for a company where we build something useful together and where I can have an impact on product, people and process. With more concrete points this amounts to:

Position: I’m primarily looking for lead positions with responsibility so CTO/VP of Engineering/Head of Engineering/Team Lead – all depending on company size and culture. In the right circumstances, I can also imagine working as a Senior Developer. I want to be in an environment where my impact goes beyond code as I love to help people and improve processes. I like to be where I can help the team & the company the most, sometimes that’s mentoring and sharing knowledge, sometimes that’s fixing critical performance bugs and sometimes that’s participating in an all day workshop at the headquarters of a potential client.

Location: Berlin or potentially remote. I’m not looking to relocate currently.

Employment/Freelance: I’m looking for full time employment (reduced hours would also be ok) but am also open to freelance work.

Field of Work: I’m looking for a company that helps people solve real problems. I want a purpose I can get behind. For me that means no crypto currencies, advertisement or fintech for the rich. In a similar vein I’m not particularly interested in consultancy/agency work as I don’t like to travel every week and really like to work at a product company where I can really dive into the domain.

Diversity: I believe that the best products and work environments are created by diverse teams. Hence, this should be a core value applied through all levels of an organization. Or at least, the problem should be recognized and active work to counter it be put forth.

Company Culture: I’m looking for a company that trusts its employees and is open. It should also support a sustainable pace. Regular overtime is nothing to be proud of. Knowledge sharing should be key and therefore asking questions should be encouraged.

Time Allocation: I love companies that trust their employees and allow them flexible working hours and locations. Meaning it’s ok to work remotely for a couple of days or from home. Historically, I did some of my best work checking out emails and pull requests at home in the morning and then biking to work afterwards. Beloved refactorings have also emerged while dog sitting.

Benefits: Giving people time and room to grow is important to me. Particularly I usually speak at a couple of conferences during a year and think going there should be work, not vacation time.

Languages: I have expert knowledge of Ruby and Elixir. Working with Elixir would be a plus, but not a must. I also like working with JavaScript and am not afraid to do CSS albeit my CSS has gotten rather rusty sadly. I’m also naturally open to other languages, while I’m certainly most effective in the mentioned language the right company with the right culture and purpose is more important. Particularly Rust would be very interesting to me, granted I’m not too good at it (yet).

Open Source: An employer that values contributing back to open source or sharing their own creations would be a big plus, even more so if it happened to be full OSS work.

I’m aware that it’s hard to tick all of these boxes, and if you did hey we might be a great match. I just wanted to communicate wishes and values clearly as a starting point.

Getting in touch

You can send me an email at pragtob@gmail.com – otherwise my Twitter direct messages are also open.

Please don’t cold call me πŸ™‚