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Struggle

I have a tattoo. I have more than one, but I have one in particular. The tattoo depicts scales that are balanced between an olive tree and a foreboding cityscape. Leading up to the scales, and disappearing into a vanishing point, a road winds its way into the horizon.

People commonly ask me if I’m a Libra. When I tell them no, they inevitably then ask about the tattoo which (clearly) was the reason they asked. I tell them what it really means, what really inspired the tattoo. It’s a principle at the core of my being.

A never-ending struggle for justice.

Justice can be many things to many people. Justice is often considered a validation for what one holds dear. To achieve what a person holds dear is proclaimed, “Justice!” Rarely does anyone consider that justice may result in an outcome that is not comfortable or desired bu that, by definition, is justice.

jus·tice noun \ˈjəs-təs\

the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments

The tattoo to me represents an eternal and ongoing struggle for justice. Justice, to me, is both legal and social. Equality in marriage. Employment and hiring rights. Civil rights.

As I sit here in the cradle of American democracy – Boston – I’ve had time to think about the Founding Fathers. I walked the Freedom Trail, beginning at Paul Revere’s home, and leading to the Old North Church where a pair of lanterns were hoisted into the church steeple to alert rebels in Charlestown across the river of the British arrival by sea. We know the story of that historic ride to Concord.

As I sit here in Boston and ponder the struggle for freedom that the patriots of that day engaged in, I am aware of the potentially fatal nature of that struggle as epitomized in the closing lines of the Declaration of Independence.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

This has already been a long-winded post, but there is a point – and it has nothing to do with the normal topic of this blog. Civil rights has not made any significant advances in decades. While one can argue that the Civil War was a distant memory – a blight on American history (and it was), there are still those in the south who call it the War of Northern Aggression.

Abraham Lincoln, though considerably heroic in his legacy, was only able to accomplish what he did through the Emancipation Proclamation by getting creative. He could say, “All slaves are free” and he would not have a mandate with authority in the Union, much less the Confederacy. The only way he managed to use that as a tool and a rallying cry with any success is that there were many in the Union who could care less about slaves and were only interested in the preservation of the Union while others were abolitionists who cared about freeing slaves.

In order to achieve the goals necessary to both sides, the timing and essence of the Emancipation had to serve to unite both factions. That was, in fact, the genius of Lincoln.

Besides Civil Rights, we still have work to do on the Women in the Workforce side of things. Sure, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which enhances the ability of women to file lawsuits challenging unfair compensation. But that’s only a fraction of what needs to happen. Certainly, in the tech space, we need to eliminate Brogrammers and all their evil spawn. And that’s just in tech. Fortunately, Twitter is spearheading a project to get women into engineering. We need more of that.

And of course, equality in marriage is another topic that needs to be addressed.

But the point is, the struggle will always be there. With every achievement, there’s more to fight for. We need to fight and we need to push the issues. Be the change you want to see.

— Aaron Brazell

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Photo used under Creative Commons and taken by photologue_np

My Three Tiered System to Job Searching

Photo used under Creative Commons and taken by photologue_np
Over the past months, since I parted with WP Engine, I have entertained many inquiries about my availability for other full-time roles. And I literally mean many. It’s been a great problem to have, frankly, and I consider myself blessed to have these inquiries while so many others continue to struggle to find work.

I also consider myself blessed to work in a specialty field. WordPress consulting, you would think, is something that is extremely saturated. To a degree you’d be right. As a consultant, I turn away a great number of projects because, frankly, they amount to building sites with WordPress. There is certainly nothing wrong with that kind of work, but I’ve found over years of consulting that it’s important to be a specialist. To not be a specialist means to compete with everyone else on the same level and that reduces the quality and quantity of projects I can work on.

Instead, I focus on high-end WordPress integrations and plugin development. Complex things. I make a reasonable living doing things that there are only a proverbial handful of people who have the ability to do.

At the same time, I continue to entertain full-time job offers. There are some great ones out there, but many just don’t interest me. I have a three-tier (God, as a beer advocate, I hate that term but in this case it fits) filtering process I go through when entertaining job offers. I think this three-tier system should apply to anyone and everyone looking to work in any field, and so I’ve decided to share it.

Is the money right?

We all need to live, and I’m not one who believes the starving artist mantra is necessary a healthy one. If you’re good at what you do, you should be compensated appropriately. Personally, I don’t think anyone would have an argument in this area. A seasoned DBA should not be making $50k, for instance.

As a consultant, I’ve come to have a lifestyle that I’ve worked very hard to achieve. I’m going to be 36 soon and I’ve been married, had a kid, worked on startups, lived in expensive areas of the country and cheaper areas of the country. I’ve built a lifestyle that no job should ever take away.

We all have our “number”. Know for yourself what that number is and stick to your guns when determining if you want to work for someone. Simply not enjoying your current job is not a valid reason to take less than what you’re worth.

Does the job make you want to jump out of your chair and SQUEEEE?

IF it doesn’t, walk away. You should love every minute of what you do and jump out of bed in the morning (after a reasonable period of off-time) eager to see what new innovations, products, ideas and relationships can be achieved.

To do less is selling yourself short. Never settle for anything less than awesome. Some inquiries, for me, have been awesome on the money side but I feel so dull and want to pull each fingernail out of it’s socket just thinking about it. Read my lips! I will never work in a cubicle again! Ever! Don’t ask!

Recently, I spoke with a company who demoed some of their products (WordPress-based) they were working on. They showed me tools that they had built in that allowed their 300some entities they managed to do amazing things (things I tried at b5media years ago [and failed]) in easy, intuitive ways. All I wanted to do was scream “OMGYESPLEASE!” through the phone.

If you don’t have that reaction, think really hard about whether you want to commit.

What’s the social impact?

I’m not a tree-hugger, but one thing I can say is that consulting is both awesome and terrible. I get a lot of benefits by working for myself. But that’s kind of it. I get lots of benefits from working for myself. No one else does. Just me. My world isn’t a better place because of my work. My wallet is happier, but the world around me still sucks.

So when I talk to companies about working for them, I want to know that my work has a positive effect on the world around me. Whether it’s education or environmental; sustainability or fitness; empowering others or enabling positive social change – it’s an important facet in what I look for.

Does the company reward employees for not wasting energy and taking the bus or riding a bike to work? Does the company offer some sort of subsidy or reward for green energy consumption? How many women are employed as engineers?

How does working for Company X positively affect the world around me?

I think these three things are co-equally important for anyone, not just me. I hope so, anyway. We shouldn’t hate what we do, ever. We choose what we do. Choose wisely.

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Science is King

I’m a scientist.

I don’t have a degree from Stanford or Carnegie Mellon… But I’m a scientist.

I hypothesize, test and prove.

If the result doesn’t meet my supposition, I accept that and move on.

Science required known, provable facts. Or in computer science, constants.

To prove, you need to test. To test, you need constants. You need to know with 100% certainty that the factors in your experiment are known and 100% objectively provable.

Obama isn’t an American, while a supposition, cannot be proven as fact. There are records showing otherwise.

That men are pigs, while an okay assumption, does not rely on provable facts. Any proof relies on subjective experience.

That WordPress is the best CMS on the planet? While it may control ~20% of the web, assumes that 20% thinks its the right choice and avoids supporting evidence toward other CMSes.

I can get more explicit about suppositions assumed as fact, but you get the idea.

Work with what you know. Make assumptions but allow yourself to be wrong. Data is the only thing that matters.

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