Big things are afoot

(Fair warning: this post will be kind of long and winding and only peripherally related to the RV build)

Anyone who’s been following this blog (not that there are many of you) has likely noticed that there’s been very little getting done as of late. First it was busy times at work, but even after that wore off, I found myself not getting out to the garage much. Even without long hours, work seemed to be burning me out mentally and emotionally, to the point that I rarely wanted to do anything but zone out when I made it home.

Sort of simultaneously, about six months ago my mind started really wandering with regards to where I was going with my life. It began when I found out by chance that a man who did Waco air tours in Marathon, FL had his relief pilot run said Waco out of gas and land it in the water. The tour operator subsequently decided to pursue a different business. Suddenly my mind lit up with dreams of running air tours in the Keys; it would certainly be a giant step downward in terms of income, but the mere idea of getting out of an office and into something aviation-related really stoked my imagination. I was willing to accept living in a shack on the beach if necessary.

That, in turn, led to a lot of discussions with Josie about similar business opportunities. Air tours could happen anywhere; just some good tourist town with lots of nice scenery. We discussed doing fixed-wing vs helicopter tours. We discussed seeing if her helicopter instructor might want to expand into a new area and let us run the operation. We discussed finding a big chunk of land, putting a grass strip on it, and trying to turn it into a destination for fly-in vacationers, whether with cabins, spots for tent camping, whatever. Still the same basic idea; a big sacrifice in terms of income, but a potentially huge payoff in personal fulfillment.

Still later, I began thinking of ways to move into an aviation-related industry, while still making use of my current software experience. My first idea was to try and learn embedded software; this could afford me the opportunity to go work with Garmin or Dynon or another similar place. Not a flying job, but still a job with other pilots, people I could really identify with. I had a conversation with the president of Dynon; they weren’t hiring, but he was interested in seeing my resume. It seemed like the kind of connection that could pay off in the future. I bought books and materials to start learning about embedded systems. This was a better financial prospect than the air tour stuff; I’d essentially be starting over with entry-level work and probably take a significant pay cut. Still, it was an attractive out, but one that would take time to develop.

Finally, it occurred to me to go search for Web-based aviation companies. Places where I could apply the exact skill set I already had, but in a good aviation environment. The first thing I found, amazingly enough, was SpaceX. I browsed their openings on a whim, and was surprised to find a front-end developer opening. Working for a space program? YES PLEASE. I never heard back after applying, but the idea was motivating. I went on to apply for positions with EAA and AOPA; they seemed to be lower-level positions that would probably entail a pay cut, but I concluded that I was willing to accept a 20% decrease in standard of living if it meant I could go to work every day and work on things that motivated me. Where else to check out? Suddenly, I had an epiphany – FlightAware. Definitely a web-based company; with some research I found out FlightAware was founded by pilots, and most of the current employees were pilots. And they were currently hiring people just like me.

So I applied. A few days later, I was having a phone interview with one of their senior developers. A few weeks later, I was being flown out to Houston for an in-person interview. I knew it was the right place as soon as I walked in the office door and heard someone, somewhere, telling a story about flying an instrument approach. The waiting area contained nothing but flying magazines. I met the CTO, a pilot who showed me the videos of his RC plane builds. I met the director of software; he asked some technical questions and gave me a few tests before we sat back and chatted about flying into Oshkosh, airplane ownership, and so on. I left with a huge smile on my face. A company made by pilots for pilots, with a great culture to match. Twenty minutes after leaving the office, I got a text from the CTO to expect a formal job offer. Two days ago, I received and promptly accepted said offer.

I simply can’t stress enough how unreal this all seems. Six months ago I was willing to accept a shack on the beach to have a fulfilling job. One month ago I was willing to take a 20% pay cut. Now, here I am with a competitive offer at a pilot’s company. It seems like a match made in heaven.

All this is to say that things are going to remain slow for a while; I want to get a few components to a good stopping point before moving out to Texas, but for the most part work is going to be stopped until a while after the move. It’ll probably be February of next year before I’m able to get back to work. But I believe I can look forward to getting my motivation back for sure.

Texas, here I come.

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