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Also Rises

I'm in Burlington, MA for the better part of this week, to attend orientation for my new job: I've recently accepted a position with Sun Microsystems as an interface designer and I'm pleased as hell about it.

I'm in Burlington, MA for the better part of this week, to attend orientation for my new job: I've recently accepted a position with Sun Microsystems as an interface designer and I'm pleased as hell about it. Coming to work for a company like Sun is really a no-brainer, so I don't feel compelled to offer any explanations for my decision. But there are several factors that I wanted to share -- I'm experiencing one of those all-too-rare moments of extreme career clarity. I need to write this down, to remember what it feels like.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the things that I considered when making this change, and here's why I think Sun measures up well...

1. Sun supports blogging and, by extension, bloggers. This is easily evident (and, admittedly, somewhat old news to folks who follow this kind of thing. I'm trying to avoid typing out the word 'bl*g*sphere' here folks.)

Why is this important to me? Well, I have a blog. This very blog you're now reading (or, overwhelmingly, not reading - are even my friends left around after the neglect I've heaped on their patient readership?) In recent months, my activity here has dissolved into a thrice-monthly excercise in life-support tickle-posts. So I'm hoping that, with even the barest minimum of corporate blessing for blogging endeavors (read: I won't get fired for anything I say here) I'll be more forthcoming with the linkey-love. The fact that I'm writing this during working hours, my second day on the job, should tell you something about how liberating this atmosphere feels.

Secondly, I don't think I've ever been able to make such an informed decision to come work for a company, as I've been able to make by researching Sun's products, people and strategies through employee blogs. Here are some of my early favorites: P@t seems to be responsible for developing and maintaining blogs.sun.com; Sun has hired Dave Johnson, the developer behind Roller, the Java-based blog server that powers blogs.sun.com; and finally, Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's CEO, blogs. A lot. And he doesn't pull any punches, taking on all comers from Redhat to IBM, with a couple jabs at HP thrown in for good measure. Which leads me to my next point...

2. Sun isn't obsessed with M$ anymore. At least that's not the most public-facing expression of the company. This was big -- when I interned with Sun, at JavaSoft in the mid-90s, I got a big kick out of Scott McNealy's constant and irreverent jabs at everything Microsoft, from their technology to their security to Steve Ballmer's hairline. But didn't it all start to wear thin after a while? Didn't Sun seem like a company that was letting its competitor define its identity? (And didn't it seem odd that, now some 10+ years into the feud, MS and Sun don't really seem like direct competitors after all?) Anyway, I won't belabor the point, but the tone and tenor of the discourse seems to have shifted: the two are working together, albeit slowly, on issues like LDAP interoperability; Schwartz's criticisms of Sun's true competitors seem level-headed, accurate, and right on-target (and, for the most part, not aimed at Microsoft) compared to McNealy's one-note attacks. It feels healthier, and I like working for companies that know where their true battles are. I'm through tilting at windmills.

3. Sun is embracing open source. Yes, there are many doubters remaining. But there's a growing list of products that Sun can list: Open Office, Solaris, Java3D, JDS Linux . Money, meet mouth.

For me personally, the ability to do User Experience work on some open-or-partially open projects is compelling. Alghough my last gig had some of it's own high-profile dances with the open source community, I somehow managed to avoid that mess for my whole time there.

So I've known that open source is something that eventually I will have to figure out. I have a series of beliefs, some based on intuition and others based on anecdotal evidence that design of open-source software is possibly the most challenging aspect of the process. And what's most lacking in today's open world. So this'll be fun...

4. Sun supports telecommuting. In a big way. Sun has an official program designed to support flexible work arrangements, called iWork (okay, someone musta named the program right around.. oh 2001 or so.) The name may be lame, but the program itself is cool as hell, and it's an amazing recruitment tool. Believe me.

Yes, I will be working from my home in Columbus, OH. With a distributed team that includes members in Massachusetts, Georgia, Colorado, California, and parts even more far-flung. God, it's starting to feel like the future.

And finally...

4. Sun hires smart people. This was the clincher for me. Don't get me wrong -- at AOL I worked with smart people. Some amazingly smart people. But the corporate culture there never seemed to encourage individual growth and intelligence, merely tolerate it. A friend of mine is fond of pointing out AOL's smartest long-term strategy - to become as ubiquitous and un-remarkable as telephone service. "And you know what kind of people work for the phone company, don't you?" he's fond of saying. (Fine people, I'm sure - in fact this friend himself worked for BellSouth for almost two decades.)

My new team at Sun wouldn't work for the phone company. I'll let it rest at that.*

* Now, a couple of days after first writing this, it strikes me as being incredibly ungenerous to my smart, talented and dedicated coworkers at AOL (at the various locations I've worked for them.) But what can I say? I'm in the throes of purging an old job (7 years!) from my system, and some ungenerous thoughts are bound to pass my brain from time to time. "I'm just kidding, AOL - you know I love you."

Comments (1)


Hey Bryce,
I'm enjoying your blog and look forward to future visits. Got it off R. Duffy's new site.

Sun sounds like an awesome company (unlike the hellpit I work at). Telecommuting and blogging, very cool.

I use a SunBlade 1500 at work and it's the nicest machine I've ever used. Good to hear some corporate entities are as good as their products.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 26, 2004 10:56 AM.

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