It’s all about some encounters…

About 9 years ago, a friend of mine was thinking about his life and had what I can recall as being the following thought:

It’s odd how sometimes in life, certain people you meet are going to impact your life and change it forever. There are very few of those encounters in a lifetime, but they’re quite impressive in how impactful they are.

Indeed, he was referencing how meeting one of our common colleague had impacted his life so much that it took a drastically different direction and had a positive influence on his situation.

It’s been a few days that this discussion has been sticking in my head and I wanted to write about it. I’d like to take myself back to this thinking and reflect on what have been the highly impactful encounters I had in my life so far.

In 2006, as I was working as a Linux System Administrator, I was up for a professional change and started getting into interviews for Freelance roles. I thought that moving into a Freelancer life could get me more exposure and ability to constantly new things and I wanted to give it a try. I was 20.

I interviewed for a Solaris Administrator role at Belgacom with Rob. Rob was a Solaris Administrator for many years and was technically leading the Team I was interviewing for. I, on the other side, had never touched a Solaris system more than 30 minutes in a row. This was a phone interview, which I was taking in the entrance of my current workplace as all of the meeting rooms were busy. In hindsight, the conversation I keep in mind is the following:

  • Rob: “Can you tell me about disksuite and how to handle disk mirroring in Solaris?”
  • Me: “I don’t really know disksuite in much details. I could only tell about a few commands I’ve learnt so far to handle a Solaris installation.”
  • Rob: “Uhm, OK. Anything you can say about crashdump management?”
  • Me: “Unfortunately not either. What I can tell though, is that I can read manpage pretty efficiently. I have very limited knowledge of Solaris right now, but I learn fast.”
  • Rob: “Heh. What about your favorite beer?”
  • Me: “Ah sure, Chimay Bleue.”
  • Rob: “So that’s a 9/10, Duvel was the answer. You’re in.”

Of course, this was unexpected, but, as I mentioned to him, I was eager and willing to learn. Fast. During the following 2 years, I have been reading anything I could on Solaris, Kernel code, debugging, crash dumps and anything else that would be presented to me. I’ve been sipping knowledge out of Rob as much as I could and eventually went beyond: I started learning about Clusters and ZFS. Ultimately, when Sun Microsystems got acquired by Oracle and decided to close down Sun Solve, — in between other bad decisions — I thought it’d be cool to see what information I could get out of patches archives. This got me to build WeSunSolve over the next 6 months.

This is a long course of action but again, I don’t feel like I would have spent that much good and valuable time on Solaris had I not met Rob. After building WeSunSolve, I’ve been sued by Oracle and ultimately closed the website, but it got me to the next chapter!

In 2012, After I had just closed the aforementioned website, an email landed my Inbox whose subject was: “Solaris contract or job at eFolder”. It was from John. John was the VP of IT at eFolder at that time and offered to chat about potential work I could get done there. His email mentioned that they were a fast growing company that would see no problems into having someone working remotely from Belgium. 3 months later, I was taking a plane for the first ever trip of a series to the US and joined eFolder.

I spent around 5 years working with John as my boss. Over these years, there’s been so many things I’ve learnt on work ethics and integrity from him that it actually drove my career on a path I would never have guessed. As we were getting bigger, I started leading a small but growing team. I did not wanted to be the team leader that every team I was part of in the past had. I started reading about how to become a leader, how to involve remote people into a team, how to build a team dynamic and, eventually, did some trial and error with them as guinea pigs. I started an MBA on the next year having in mind to become a better boss. The journey transformed me and I started learning my style. To this day, I still sometimes think about John and how he was behaving as a boss, so that I can reflect on how I’m myself behaving.

The last two years I spent at eFolder, John left the company and refereed me to be succeeding him. That was yet another stage of personal growth that I was going through: I was suddenly responsible for a 30+ people department in a growing company which had just merged with another one. Everything had to be built up from scratch and this was really intense, but exciting times. The team accomplished so much in about 18 months that I am proud of; We turned around things we thought were impossible to materialize, either meeting or beating deadlines one after another. This chapter closed 6 months ago when I decided to go for the next endeavor and join Voxbone.

Finally, looking back at the last 10+ years of my life, the last encounter I can’t forget to mention is Vanessa. It may sounds cliché, but without her I wouldn’t be me, I wouldn’t be here; In fact, I probably wouldn’t be at all. That one definitely changed my life for the good!

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