I received a recent comment from Paul, asking how I found my "weekend gigs" or freelance development work. That's a pretty good question and the short answer (without sounding too presumptuous) is that God provides! The long answer is "I don't really know, it just seems to happen".

I started my career many years ago as a degreed mechanical engineer, fresh from college and looking for fame and fortune in the "oil business" (which in Texas is correctly pronounced "Awl Bidness"). Unfortunately, I arrived on the scene just in time to watch oil drop from $40 per barrel down to $7 per barrel which left myself and about 100,000 other engineers scrambling for any work we could find. (If you're a history buff or just follow the price of oil, you should be able to place my age within +/- 2 years from this information) Luckily, I landed a real engineering job for a valve manufacturer in Houston. I worked for that company for 18 years and watched it grow from $50 million in revenue to over $40 billion as it was acquired and reacquired over the next ten years. When I began with the company we had 300 employees and when I left the "company" we had over 240,000 employees and our CEO and CFO had just been indicted for tax evasion and securities fraud among other things. Care to guess the name of that company?

I held a number of engineering, product management and sales & marketing positions in that 18 year period and finally got tired of all the politics and corporate ladder climbing. So I asked the IT Director (a good friend) if he could find a position for me somewhere in the IT programming or operations area so that I could explore my love of computers, software and e-commerce. My friend and new boss gave me the opportunity to learn, do, and learn by doing and we had a blast. We put together that company's first web site, first e-commerce site and first B2B system using pre-release versions of Microsoft's SQL Server, BizTalk Server and Commerce Server. Over the next two years, with the help of some great people at Microsoft (yes, the Blue Monster really does have some great people) we designed and built a world-class B2B e-commerce system for (you guessed it) Tyco. One that has transacted literally hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions and is still in use almost ten years later.

My boss and I left Tyco, formed our own B2B consulting firm and as we had hoped, got Tyco as a client. The first year was great. We had lots of projects, worked 70 hour weeks and made good money. The second year taught us the lesson that most consultants come to call "going from feast to famine". We called it something else (mostly unprintable) but learned several valuable lessons from the experience. I learned that I'm not cut out to be a full-time consultant and for me, it's tremendously important to see "the fruits of my labors". Which is why I work for a great medium-size "private" company today and do my "freelance" work in the evenings and on the weekends "as my time and energy permits".

How do I find the work? I don't really. It just seems to find me somehow, but I can give you a few tips to get started!

  • Do volunteer work! It's good for the soul and opens you to all sorts of opportunities.
  • Give back to the community! Share your best work, start a blog or two. Post in the community forums.
  • Answer your email and every (non-spam) blog comment! It's amazing how word gets around the Internet.
  • Try something new! Life is way too short to always take the safe road. Learn a new programming language. Hell, learn a new language period.
  • Be courageous! Buy a Mac. Become a fanboy! Put an Apple sticker on your car.

Currently listening to Diana Krall's "The Look of Love".