Scribbles and Bits

by Derek Gathright

Leaving Yahoo

A week ago I walked out of Building E for the last time. There are a lot of emotions as I reflect back on everything that has happened over the last 4 years since I joined, the jubilant successes, the lesson-learning failures, and everything in between. I have to think that in the end, it will likely go down as one of the more fun and rewarding periods of my life.

Some highlights…

  • Attending, speaking, and mentoring hackers at 27 conferences. The YDN crew is world-class, and despite all the free food and nice benefits, working with them is one of the best perks of being an engineer at Yahoo. At least I think so. Special thanks to Anil, Havi, and Stacy for all their support at Hackdays, and helping organize SoCal meetups.
  • I feel fortunate to have been around for the beginning stages of what everyone hopes will be Yahoo’s “big turnaround”. We probably won’t know for another 2 or 3 years if it will ultimately succeed, but the changes made in the first 18 months have been exciting to witness. While I don’t envision myself taking over a struggling Fortune 500 company anytime soon, learning some lessons for what it takes to turn that ship around been invaluable. Communicate, set goals, accomplish, repeat. Simple, right? We’ll find out.
  • I also feel fortunate to have had the unique opportunity to work on a project that reaches, what… 1/7th of the Earth’s population in a given month? Kinda mindblowing when you think about it. And to top it off, you get to do it while working with a really talented and passionate group of people.
  • It was especially great being able to see the insides of how to effectively manage a large open-source project. Since YUI is on a never-ending quest to open up as much as possible, looking back on where it was in 2009 compared to now is pretty remarkable. Some of that praise should of course be given to Github, for producing such an amazing product for open-source organizations and letting developers focus on developing. The entire culture around open-source has evolved greatly in the last few years, and I think YUI has responded remarkably well.
  • Hacks! Especially ones with YQL. Between things like the YQL Executor, Secure OAuth in JavaScript, hacking YUI inside of YQL, SoCal Hackdays, Hacker Movie Nights, late-night scripting competitions with Dan Beam, and my projects from internal Hackdays, Yahoo absolutely cultivates the hacker mentality. I couldn’t tell you if Paul Graham was right about Yahoo’s dead hacker culture in 1998, but it certainly doesn’t apply in 2013. Let a thousand hacks bloom! (as one of my hack-discuss memos once said)
  • The Purple Kitten Tracker. One of these days, purple kittens will make an appearance in URLs, and it will be glorious.
  • Y! Sports Karaoke. I’ll just leave this here.
  • But most of all, the biggest highlight was simply setting a career goal, accomplishing it, then again.

To conclude…

It was a pleasure to work with so many smart and passionate people, which was the entire reason why I joined Yahoo. If you are the smartest person in the room and not the CEO, go find a smarter room. If you are working for a company that doesn’t believe in you, it’s time for a change. Ultimately, your career is about you, and the best way to succeed is to have the support of a company that can help you reach your goals. Yahoo gave me an immense amount of support over the years, and I’ll always be grateful. So thanks to my managers Michael, Dan, Thomas, and Jenny.

What’s Next?

Believe it or not, in my four years at Yahoo I only took one vacation. So, I’m going to spend a few months off, Hawaii next week, travel more after that, hack on new projects, contribute to open-source, and eventually find my next adventure! If you are interested in speaking to me about opportunities, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, and find any other relevant links at derek.io.

Well Yahoo… So long, and thanks for all the fish!