In 2016 I made the move to join a startup in the identity space. I was a little nervous to leave my company at that time. I was in a very comfortable environment where I had the respect from my peers and leadership. At the time the nagging reason to find opportunities outside organization was driven by too few challenges as an engineer and not enough opportunities to grow. The problem was comfort. It was simply too comfortable and I didn’t have anything pushing me forward. I am a highly driven person, but having external motivators is an important aspect of a position for me.
One morning a really close friend pinged me asking to chat about Auth0, where he recently was hired. Out of curiosity I said let’s do it. Also, I was eager to meet, because I knew about Auth0 and was using the product in some of my side projects I was eager to hear how my friend was doing in his new role. The morning we met he made his motivations crystal clear. He wanted to share how great the organization was and express how I might do well woring at Auth0. It didn’t take much convincing, Auth0 was something I really enjoyed working with for my side projects. When working at Hallmark Business Connections (a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards) I built and maintained all of the federated integrations and built the OAuth 2 based authorization server so it felt congruent with my passion twoards identity.
That night I remember talking to my wife about me possibly leaving Hallmark. Hallmark treated me well and I owe a lot to that organization. It also didn’t help that my wife and I had a 2 year old son with another kiddo on the way. Leaving a comfortable position with a lot of job security was a bit scary. However, I knew this was my opportunity to be apart of something amazing. My wife’s reaction was a bit shocking. She told me flat out, “You’d be silly not to give it a shot.” And so it was set, I made up my mind. Easy as that.
Auth0 - Day 1 Happy and Terrified
I remember my first day. I hit a coffee shop and then instead of doing my daily commute I headed back home to sign in to my new laptop. This was an amazing perk for my new job (WFH and no traffic). I was in love with the experience from day one. A brand new position, and I was 100% set ready to roll on day one. This is all too rare. I was greeted with a ton of welcome messages by people all over the world that I’ve never met. I did recognized many of the names in the slack channel of people I followed on Twitter, Medium, and all sorts of channels. Then it hit me like a sledge hammer. I just realized that I was no longer the gray wolf of the organization, the go to person, the hero. To the team I was probably just some random person, the new guy with the weird dog named Jim (he is a corgi lab mix).
First 3 Months - Imposter Syndrome
We are all susceptible to imposter syndrome every now and again. Some of us deal with it daily. When I started working with some incredibly talented people I had to deal with imposter syndrome every day and still do today.
I remember coming into a company where I had zero reputation. I had to start all over again and this time in a space with some of the best engineers I’ve met. The first few months were really hard on me mentally due to the demands and goals I held myself accountable to achieve. I had to ramp up on a new product and new domain. I also had this internal pressure to add value and find my place in the organization, to make a name for myself. In the first few months I read everything I could find about the identity space and our product. I talked to as many people as I could to develop relationships and network. I tried super hard to focus on learning and let the carving out my niche amongst the talented individuals goal come together on its own. I just wanted to be effective in my role and get some early wins and provide value right away.
I may be giving you the impression this sounds crazy, but honestly this was an amazing experience. I had the support of an awesome team who was happy answering all of my questions and collaborating on things I didn’t yet know. I had the support of a great manager German Matosas. He provide all the resources and support I needed to succeed. In fact I’ve had a lot of great managers in my career. So despite the challenges and internal pressures I faced I would not change a thing. This environment allowed me to rapidly grow and push me. I quickly leveled up and started making a name for myself as someone who knew his bits, but also the team saw me as dependable and knowledgable. This was a huge win for me and I am very thankful to my team, because they let me know how much I was appreciated and gave me really solid feedback (constructive and praise). The open and transparent environment was amazing and super welcome.
Many Hats and Many Roles
When you join a start up you are signing up for a position that will require you to do many things. This is another thing that originally attracted me to this role. I knew I wasn’t going to get bored. In this position I was an engineer responsible for building and maintaining Auth0 extensions, helping customer design and build identity in to their products, and manage core infrastructure for our private cloud instances (virtual appliances). I had my hands in a lot of work streams and it was awesome, though sometimes stressful when a few competing priorities jumped out :). That said it was a hell of a ride and again a great learning opportunitty.
Scaling the Team
Auth0 has blown up (in an awesome way) since I’ve started. It feels we are riding a rocket to the moon. This means we needed to start scaling our teams for success. My team was part of the remix. Our position was split into 3 roles: extension engineering, appliance services, and professional services.
During this transition I was woried I’d lose a bit of what I loved, that is, to build a product used by developers. I was also in a position that I was ready to do another tour of duty. I spent some time evaluating the various engineering teams and found two roles I loved one on our authentication team and our appliance engineering team. I talked with both leads which made the decision nearly impossible. Both leads were people I highly respected and both could help me continue to grow. I ultimately decided on appliance engineering for two reasons. First, it felt like there was more opportunity to influence the direction of the appliance. The appliance has so much potential to do awesome things and I felt like I could really make an impact there. The second was a gut feel about where I thought I would do better. Honeslty, I think my imposter syndrome influenced this second point. I know now that I am certainly capable to provide value to that team and I could have saved myself a whole heap of time if I had flipped a coin.
To My Current Team
After the 2018 offsite I left Panama feeling super sad. During the offsite I got to reconnect with my team, meet my new boss (Jonno King), and was excited about our team’s vision and future. This team has always been a high performing team, but the future will only get brighter as we’ve broght in several crazy talented people.
I want to make a quick statment to my team. This group is extremely special. We are building something that will help Auth0 and our customers succeed. We are helping our customers build valuable solutions that not only protect our customers brands, but our solutions protect the identities and data of our customer’s users. The work we do in professional services is absolutely critical. This team is busting at the seams with f*cking smart and genuine people who care about the work we do. I cannot thank each of you enough for all the support, collaboration, drive, and friendships. Without this team I never would have grown my skills to the degree I di over the last year and a half. Thank you and I will always be in your corner. I hope we continue to push each other forward and I really hope we land on the same Auth0 team in the future.
Since the offsite I spent a lot of time reflecting on the decision I made. I talked with my current boss, my old boss, and my future boss about my past and future with Auth0. What I found is not surprising… everyone of these people really cares about helping me find the right path. Each one of them wanted me to feel good about where I land inside or outside of Auth0 (I never considered leaving, but I wanted to point this out). Each of these people care about making sure I made the right decision for me and then letting me know the support was there. They even went the extra mile to share, from their viewpoint, how I could help Auth0 succeed from within their teams.
My current boss made it more difficult to leave my current team because he had me believing in him and his vision and how I would help. Chatting with the auth lead had second guessing my choice to join appliance engineering instead of authentication. Not because of guilt, but because I really felt inspired about the vision and how I could fit in. Finally, when talking with my soon to be new boss I felt re-motivated and inspired by the opportunity ahead for the same reasons. I share this, not because I can’t keep my shit together, but bercause I realized that I was valued by the organization and each opportunity had a leader that saw how I could help that team. Also, each leader had a clear vision that was motiovating and inspiring. I went from terrified newbie wanting to make his path to someone who was desired by several teams.
At the offsite I won a peer award. I was given a trophy and then celebrated on stage with an applaus from all my peers. I was litterally having a HTF (how the f…) moment and wondering if it was a mistake. This is one of the most meaningful and memorable awards I’ve earned, because it was given to me by the people I came into Auth0 thinking were amazingly talented. People I tried hard to learn from. Now, they are awarding me for something meaningful. This litterally made me feel awesome as though I am doing the right things and carving my place out in Auth0.
So to my company and coworkers/friends my deepest thank you. I am better everyday because you all lead by example and drive me to learn and push myself outside my comfortzone. Anyone of you should have won that award and I was lucky to have my name called that day and it was because of you.
Auth0 - The Future
Looking forward I am happy to announce I will be transitioning to the appliance engineering team on June 1. I am super excited for this next chapter and to see how my new team and I can help Auth0 and our customers win. To my new team: I am going to work hard everyday to do my part and I know you will hold me accountable to that. Let’s build awesome things together.