Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Retirement Report

When I announced my retirement, at least one person thought it was a joke. The same response happened to me at work as well. One of my favorite ones was "I can't imagine staying home to watch TV and feed the cats." Well, it's been 2 months, and I haven't been spending all that time at home watching TV, and fortunately, the cow doesn't need much feeding.

Nowdays, whenever I run into former co-workers, however, they always ask me where I ended up. So maybe I'll explain what I've been up to for the last couple of months. The first thing I did was to intensify the training program Lisa and I had for the Tour of the German-speaking Alps. This is a challenging tour, and we planned to be in shape for it enough to enjoy it. The training took about 10-15 hours a week, and while I could get Lisa out to ride 2-3 days a week, this year we added 2 hours a week of in-gym time to boost our strengths. Normally, I'd just save the gym money and spend more time cycling, but Lisa was short on time, so this was the way to do it. Besides, paying someone else to yell at Lisa is much better than yelling at her myself.

My first few weeks were spent "marketing" An Engineer's Guide to Silicon Valley Startups. I use "marketing" in quotes because I actually don't know how to do it. I first tried Adwords, but to be honest, Adwords is not very good at niche books. I eventually decided that while I didn't know how to market, I knew how to write, so I wrote a lot. This actually worked up to a point, and for a while it seemed like every major blog post generated more sales, which is nice. By the way, being an author is great. I told someone that I get more fan mail and recognition from 2 months as an author than I did for 6 years at Google. The monetary compensation at Google was much better though!

I then got hit by request after request to have lunch. It took me a while to figure out why, but eventually I realized that now that I wasn't a Googler, two things happened. First, Googlers who needed objective advice considered me more objective than before (I am still very positive on Google, but no longer am directly paid by Google), and so asked me for it. Secondly, non-Googlers/startups that were afraid that I might leak something to Google were a lot less worried. So my lunch spots were literally booked up from mid April till mid May. I literally had to schedule my lunch spots a month out for a couple of weeks. Clearly, being an ex-Googler made me popular.

People came to me with different issues, and different requests, and so everything I said was different and held in confidence. By far the most satisfying help I provided was in helping engineers negotiate compensation. Let me brag a little bit. One person read my book, took my advice, and during the negotiation process bumped up his pay by about 100%. Well, that could be under-stating it, but I can't say more. Clearly, I can't take all the credit for it, since the engineer was brilliant. But you can work your ass off and still end up under-recognized. I truly believe that most engineers are under compensated for what they do, and it makes me very happy to fix that up a bit. And by the way it is true that women don't get paid more mostly because they don't negotiate. I had a couple of direct experiences with that (and I can't elaborate either), but if you're a woman and compensation is important to you, you definitely need to ignore that voice in your head telling you, "I'm not worth that much money," or "Money doesn't matter." I think that if better compensation kept more women in engineering, everyone would be better off, and money does matter a heck of a lot that way.

In addition, I wanted to work on Independent Cycle Touring. I started off with a Bamboo Pen and Tablet, annotated some maps in Photoshop, and soon realized that I had no clue how to layout a book like this. This led to an Adobe InDesign CS5 download, realizing that the application definitely needed me to spend time to learn it, and then burning 10 days learning the program. That digression paid off, however, and soon I was happily writing away.

The rental unit of my house also needed my attention, since our existing renter moved away and I had to rent out the place before the upcoming trip. That took a frenzy of activity that's still not completely died down yet.

And then there are the small jobs that I wanted to do but would never have had time to do if I had a day job. For instance, yesterday I visited Gastronaut and helped show the folks how to do their own food pictures for their catalog. It was so great to see Nate and Mirit and see how quickly they've grown from a two person shop. They have been very successful and it's really great to see.

I also planned trips. I'm visiting Seattle for a few days in August, want to take Catamaran classes, do another sailing trip in the BVIs, and do a fall photography trip in Montana/Wyoming/Alberta. I haven't visited Glacier National Park since becoming a decent photographer, and I would like to. By the way, if you're interested in any of my trips, sign up for the google group. Do let me know who you are by e-mail before hand though, since I do moderate the group against spammers. Not all trips are strenuous, but I do run qualifiers to make sure people get along first.

I learned to cook. Really simple stuff, nothing like Duck Confit or any of the elaborate multi-day recipes. I'm starting with my childhood foods like Nasi Lemak and Nasi Goreng, but it's been really satisfying. I was always a little bit intimidated by cooking, but spending time in the kitchen with Hang Zhang inspired me. Now I realize that cooking isn't hard, it just takes time, and seriously, I can afford an hour or so a day to eat my favorite foods. Let me tell you, the first time I did Beef Rendang I didn't realize it was a 3 hour recipe. It was delicious, but I was also starving by the time I got to eat!

One thing I did not succeed in doing was to finish a video game on the PS3. I started on Batman: Arkham Asylum, and I'm pretty far a long (on "easy" mode, I'm not 10 years old any more, and I was never any good at video games --- ask Jeff Rothschild or the guys over at Id), but with all these other things to do I never really had a chance to pick it back up and finish it. Yes, I am lame. Maybe this winter after the book's done and the touring/outdoor season is over.

In any case, people who've discussed retirement with me have always said that they were concern about the lack of intellectual stimulation and the lack of great food. I want to say that those concerns are over-blown. I have not been bored for even a couple of minutes since I retired, and the food is plenty fine.
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