Thursday, November 28, 2019

Injured... again. November 2019 edition.

Tuesday was a snow day along the front range, and in the evening I went for a run on the treadmill. After ice climbing in Canada for three days, I guess my feet were feeling it because I woke up on Wednesday with a lump, about the size of a pea about one inch in front of my heel near the outside of the bottom of my foot. I'm limping. It's been two days now. I took a butter knife to my foot to try to aggressively massage it, eh. I've tried to massage it, eh. I'm trying to stretch my calf, eh. It's my left foot, so the same as the broken ankle from skiing. It's depressing. It's really depressing. Thanksgiving? I'm struggling here.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

"It's not my job."

First, I hate when people say, "it's not my job". It's a failure of the organization to take ownership.

I've gotten to that point because at my former company design engineers doubled as responsible engineers (a new concept for me), and we would get blamed for a lot of problems. I had a boss that once said about the production line that had thrown up a lot of problems that day, "their job is to build things, we can't take the work out of work."

So I've come to the idea that if it is not your job, it must be mine.

That's one of the fun things for me about being at a startup, especially as we work on these one off facility projects instead of the higher volume products, we don't have a clearly defined structure for who will kit the facility assemblies, so it must be me, I mean, I did design it.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Colorado Startup Life: Week 59

October 20th to 26th. Another good week at work and outside of work. The lowlight was being out sick most of Monday and Tuesday. On Sunday I climbed the 3rd flatiron for the third time with one of my coworkers who wants to learn to trad lead, and it just was too hard for the sore throat and runny nose that I had. I recovered toward the end of the week, but no one likes being out sick.

It's funny how being out sick gives us guilt. I'll tell you what, if retirement is anything like being sick every day, meaning no place to go, nothing to do, than it's not for me. I do usually tell sick people to just go home, and it can be hard to take my own medicine, and go home.

Being sick was definitely the major event of the week. I didn't go rock climbing, I only ran once for 3 miles on Friday after work. Basically I went home every day and laid on the couch. Saturday after spending the majority of the day laying around, I finally went for a little 29 mile bicycle ride, because it was 76 degrees out and probably the last good day for road bicycling for awhile.

If there is a startup lesson for this week it is chapter 7 from the book Extreme Ownership, prioritize and execute. We've prioritized and not prioritized with mixed results in the past and currently. In my personal life I like to imagine that I'm pretty good at it. Without knocking off tasks one at a time I wouldn't have climbed Mt. Everest or been on two Team USA ultra running teams. Point being make a list, in order of priority, and work your way down that list. I really like to see these types of lists, because even if people don't agree, they at least know the priority and can work around that.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Colorado Startup Life: Week 58

October 12 to 19, was a pretty typical week. I feel like we are hitting our groove. People are up to speed and contributing. We're working full blast on the design for our new facility, and it's almost done, the design at least. I'm actually quite happy, this is the most detailed facility design I've ever seen in CAD.

The biggest risk at the moment, in my mind, is validation of our business model. There is a large established company that does what we do, and many companies do what we do internally, but no one does quite exactly what we do. Coming from a large profitable company with a known customer base I worry sometimes that we don't have a customer base. That leads into my next point.

I'm very fortunate. I'm fortunate to have been born in the 1980s and not the 1880s. My electric bill is regularly something like $20 a month. One minute of light in my apartment is so inexpensive I just don't think about it. I don't have to find an oil lamp, find a lighter, make sure the lamp is full, and light it so that I can read after dark. I think light is a proxy for wealth. Being able to have light where I want it when I want it is a luxury that did not exist even 100 years ago, or in all prior humanity. I recently passed an arbitrary financial milestone that by my calculations meant if I quit working today I would have the money to buy food, have a cell phone, and health insurance the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I would really like to live in a a house or apartment and I definitely don't have enough to cover rent or a mortgage, or car expenses, indefinitely. Still, the realization that, if managed well, I will never go hungry is pretty crazy to me.

It's easy for us at every stage of wealth to look up to the next stage and lust after what those more financially fortunate people have. But how often do we look back at where we used to be? Billionaires are starting to really talk about inequality. On a day to day basis they might not have thought about how their standard of living and political power increased so much from when they were an average college student, until the difference between them and us is so large. On a much smaller scale I tell me parents and grand parents they don't need to leave me any inheritance. I don't need it. Spend your money.

The last two paragraphs were really just a long way of saying, I'm totally along for the ride in this startup adventure. If we fail I'm in a better position than many. Probably the two biggest lessons I've learned in the past year are first, sales solves a lot of problems and answers a lot of questions. If you have sales, you have a business. If you don't have sales, you don't really have a business, more of a research project. In other words, while I am an engineer my personal pendulum has swung to the sales side and I would love to sell something that doesn't exist and then spend four years making it exist. (The normal engineer thing is work on a product in your basement for years and then unveil it and wonder why people aren't buying this super cool product.) Secondly, management matters. It makes a huge difference. I thought I had a broad array of managers at my previous large established corporation. As I have learned over the past year, both in person at our company, and vicariously through stories my new coworkers have told of famous managers at other companies, management matters. Now, I'm not saying we need strong authoritarian leaders, I'm still confident that in many circumstances flat hierarchies work, but even in a flat organization there is management of a program.  If a program is not managed, if decisions are not made (which of course is a decision) the program will not progress smoothly.

To be blunt, what I have learned vicariously is that at one company the CEO is the ultimate decision maker and sets the direction. The company delivers, not always on schedule. There is strong clarity about what the goal is, but this CEO often fires people for a single mistake, and often that mistake is more a result of conflicting information than a person's failure to deliver. So there is a culture where people work five years to vest stock and then quit. At a second company the CEO seems to want someone to tell him what the goal is. So they work on this and work on that, interesting projects, but haven't really delivered much for all of the money they have spent. A nice guy, but without a super strong direction. At a third company the CEO is a go getter, but he may very well be willing to burn bridges in an effort to get subset X done, at the expense of the overall program. Entering the startup world has been interesting. I think we have a good management team and good leaders, but it is clear from the rumor mill that not all young companies in our industry are as fortunate.

In short, it's important to think not just about what you are going to deliver, but how you are going to deliver it. What is the balance of culture that gets you where you want to go. It's good to forgive people for mistakes, but at some point you have a draw a line and part ways. It's good to have a strong sense of direction, but it's good to take feedback and pivot too.

Two runs for 6.6 miles, and then Saturday I led the first pitch of the Bastile Crack! Whew it's a fun one!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Colorado Startup Life: Week 57

October 6th to 11th. Life is good. Again, after the personnel drama at work this summer, and the push to qualify and ship a product, we're in a good place. Sure, it would have been nice to be in this place six months ago or a year ago, but we are where we are, and I'll take it. Plus, I'm sure it's been a lot harder for our CEO as he was even more friendly with the people that left, and he raised a series B during that same time.

I spent most of the week working on designing our new facility, which again is not what I expected I would be doing, but it's an interesting diversion, and it will help me understand our testing much better in the future. Plus, we're doing a lot of forward thinking this time around. Our first facility was really the minimum viable facility, and the new one has some room for expansion, and extra safety precautions.

Outside of work I'm going for the occasional three mile continuous run without pain, which is a big step in the right direction for my ankle. I'm also doing some rock climbing and bicycling on warm days. I think I'm ready to build a training schedule for myself and start getting into more formal shape.

Friday I took vacation and drove to Iowa for a wedding. It was 12 hours of driving and I made it a point to never sit for two hours, so I stopped frequently to take little walks to reset my Garmin activity tracker. Saturday morning I went for a run with an old training partner, had coffee with another friend, and took a quick walk on some trails I used to run almost daily. It was a nice little whirlwind tour of Dubuque. Wedding festivities happened in the afternoon and evening and it was great! I am so happy for my friend S who married H! Ever since they met three years ago we could tell there was definitely something there.

It was interesting, my friends of course talked work and how some things change and some things don't at my old company. The grass isn't always greener on the other side, and I like to tell my former coworkers many of the good things about my former company they may not realize, because for most of them it's the only place they have really worked. But to keep the discussion honest, I tell them about the benefits I now have that I did not have before. In other words, at this exact moment, there is no place else I would rather be. There is no company I would rather work at right now. There is no other place I would rather live. The Ozo coffee shop I am in is playing "Let Go" by Frou Frou, I mean, great music too right?

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Colorado Startup Life: Week 56

It was a good week. Vacation was a nice break. After all of the rush to ship a product, and the stress of last minute changes, and doubting my place here, I am reenergized and relaxed. Life is good.

As far as work it was pretty typical. That being said I spent a huge amount of time designing facility related things, not our actual products, which to be honest isn't as fun for me as designing a product. But it needs to be done for our expansion and I have skills that make it go faster.

A big highlight of the work week for me was assembling a subassembly I designed for our second product (or product line?) and it went together as planned! I've made so many parts in the past that failed to assemble because either my tolerances and design were bad, or because the parts were not made to tolerance, and this time, with more due diligence ahead of time on the tolerances, everything went together as planned. In other words, what I spent so much time designing appears to work just as intended. I even did a little functional checking, which won't actually be relevant for at least six months and it seemed to work!

Friday night after happy hour at work M and I headed down to southern Colorado and camped at the Blanca trailhead. We arrived at about 11 PM. Then we woke up at 4:30 AM to begin the day.

The Lake Como "road" is pretty terrible. We stopped at 8,500 feet in a Subaru Outback and walked a lot. There are a couple parts of the road where I am not sure any street legal vehicle that can go 75 mph would make it up. We started hiking at 5:07 AM, and went from there. I'm having trouble with my GPS data so I'm not totally sure on the time line for the day otherwise.

We did Little Bear Peak first, including a little stretch of 4th class slab with some ice which made it a little sporty, but the exposure wasn't too bad and there wasn't too much loose rock. We summitted around 10 AM and then began the infamous traverse to Blanca along the 5th class ridge. I got sketched out so we whipped out the harnesses and my 20 meter 8 mm dynamic rope and planned to simulclimb the initial 4th class down climb. I started leading, but I got scared by the snow and ice along the ridge and maybe 150 meters after we started the ridge, we turned around and decided to head down the normal route, and then do the standard route on Blanca and Ellingwood.

We reached the road at 11:55 and then headed up Blanca in the very good weather. The nice thing about months other than June through September is that afternoon weather tends to be better, fewer thunderstorms. We made our way up and around 13,800 feet some rime ice and snow began to cover much of the route. It was cold! Blanca, at 14,345 feet stands noticeably higher than Little Bear and Ellingwood both right at 14,000 feet within a mile. Oh how I wish Colorado had some 15,000 foot tall mountains, or 16,000... or 26,000. We summitted around 2:20 PM, then did the traverse to Ellingwood, summitting around 3:30 or so. Then we headed the long 9 mile back to the car, arriving just 10 minutes after sunset just before 7 PM, making for an almost 14 hour trip car to car. While my watch died after 12 hours, M had just over 20 miles, 52,000 steps for the day, and 8,600 feet of elevation gain, and that includes 3rd and 4th class, a little roped travel and some icy snow. That makes it 44 official 14ers for me! Only 9 official ones remaining. The Wilson group, the Eolus group, Culebra, Pyramid, Capitol, and Snowmass. Not exactly easy ones to get to or to hike. Culebra and Pyramid I'd like to take a crack at this winter, otherwise, it appears they will probably have to wait until next year considering how much snow and ice we encountered this week.

We had Pizza at All-Gon in Fort Garland, and then drove back to Denver, I arrived home about 11:30 PM, took a shower and slept the sweet sleep of night sweats. (After big days it's not uncommon for me to have night sweats, it started in 2014 after the North Coast 24. I figure that my hormones are out of wack after such a demanding day.) I hope you had a good week too!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 52 to 55

Whew, September 1st to 28th. I meant to blog a lot more this month, I even took a full week vacation, but I do this for free and I kind of have to be in the mood to sit there and write and edit it. In short the highlight of the month was watching the first 19 episodes of Designated Survivor with my uncle look alike Kiefer Sutherland. Just kidding. But it is a fun little tv series.

The first week in September was a bit stressful because we made a major change (15% of the product parts) to our product and we made the hardware change before we documented it in our CAD system or in our production system. It was stressful standing there in a group of the people who needed to build one of our products, and as the configuration engineer, not knowing the configuration that was in testing and needed to be built. Fortunately we kept working at it, I worked that Saturday and we managed to build the product.

The second week in September we tested the product. (I kind of enjoy generalizing what I work on so much that I just call it a product, and not the thing it actually is or even the industry I am in.) The testing went very well and then Thursday the 12th, for the first time in the year I have been here, we shipped our product to a customer! We stayed at work until 7:30 pm wrapping up documentation that we wanted to have before we shipped it. Not super late by any means, but the group of maybe seven people who were milling around, there was an energy and a seriousness. It was exciting in a slightly stressful sort of way.

Friday the 13th was an emotional hangover. We put so much effort into getting this thing out there, and it was the first time we have shipped in a long time, by far the most capable product we have ever shipped (and only second in the company's history). I was worn out, emotionally, by the the last two months of senior employee drama, the push to qualify and ship a product, the reorganization, training new people, and last minute design changes. So I took a week of vacation. I knew that once we shipped our product, there would be a good time to get out of the office, and I planned my vacation around our shipping schedule. I'll give a day by day rundown.

Saturday the 14th: rock climbing at white mountain cliff just a mile or two from Silerthorne right off I-70 then some bicycling near Independence Pass.

Sunday the 15th: Kit Carson and Challenger Peak, 15.2 miles, 7,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, 8.6 hours. The cairns on Kit Carson could be a little better, but it was in general a not so hard 3rd class 14er.

Monday the 16th:  Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn, 18.6 miles, 7,400 feet of elevation gain and loss, 8.3 hours. Uncompaghre looks big and intimidating, but you could probably run 95% of it. Wetterhorn has some pretty cool 3rd class the last 200 vertical feet, quite exposed actually. I was up there around 1 PM, and alone. It was beautiful weather, but not a place you would want to be if there was rain or hail.
Summit of Wetterhorn looking at Uncompaghre 9-16-2019
Tuesday the 17th: Handies Peak, and I need to post a video of this. I borrowed my friend's 2006 lifted Sequoia with 32 inch wheels and drove the rough 24 miles up Engineer Pass and slept at the 11,600 foot trailhead on the sweet bed she built for her Toyota Sequoia. It was cold! In the middle of the night it started raining, with a little hail, and then snowing up above 12,000 feet. When I woke up I took a weather forecast from my inReach that said the weather would clear later in the day and decided to wait a couple hours before starting. So I went to start the car to warm everything up and it would not start!

After five start attempts I opened the hood in the 35 degree rain to see if I had damaged anything, nothing found. There were no indications of leaking oil or gas underneath. Everything looked good. The battery and alternator sounded good, like they had plenty of life in them. So I kept just turning the key to get it to start. On about the 10th try, after 15 minutes of mild panic that I would have to get a tow truck out here 24 miles down a very rough all wheel drive road, it started! Way back in high school a mechanic friend of mine, on a trip to Colorado, told me that in the first minute of an engine running the fuel injection system will use the air pressure to determine the fuel air mixture ratio. So at the time he recommended stopping half way up a big pass and just shutting the car off, and then starting it again to adjust for the lower air pressure. As part of that, the theory goes, the car will use the last start's air pressure as the baseline to start the engine. So, being up at 11,600 feet maybe I just had flooded the engine with a rich mixture and it took some turning over to get the correct mixture, and then in that first minute adjusting to the air pressure conditions. I have no idea if that is actually how the fuel injection control system works, but if it is, that makes perfect sense why I would have trouble starting it at that high of an altitude.

Then at 10:30 I went and hiked Handies, 5.4 miles, 2,500 vertical feet, 2.5 hours round trip. It was snowing as I went up, and the winds on top were gusting to 40 miles per hour. It was pretty rough. I had the clothing to handle it just fine, but it was cold! I really need to post the summit video on youtube. It was a total shift from the sunshine the day before.

Wednesday the 18th: Castleton and Connundrum (which is not a "real" mountain but a bump on a ridge), 7.3 miles, 3,500 vertical feet, 4.3 hours. This was a pleasant hike after a little four wheel driving up a steep road. Descending there was a little loose rock and some snow, but overall a very pleasant hike.

Thursday the 19th: Capitol Peak... 17 miles, 5,300 vertical feet, 8.2 hours, and no summit. I made it up to "K2" at 13,600 feet and looked at the ridge, and you can see a picture of it below. I had not seen a single person in 4.5 hours and even though it was a very nice day, attempting to solo that ridge very alone, if anything happened there would be no one else to press my inReach SOS button. It was risk I wasn't willing to take, so I went down. Kind of disappointing, I was way up here in March 2017 and turned around that time too in beautiful weather at 2:30 PM. Capitol will require a third attempt from me.
Capitol from "K2" 9-17-2019
Friday the 20th: I finally took a day "off". Watched Designated Survivor, bicycled up to the Maroon Lakes, read some. Sat on my hosts deck and drank wine.
Life is good.
Saturday the 21st: Maroon Peak, 12.6 miles, 5,500 vertical feet, 7.9 hours, and a pure delight! I did no attempt the traverse to North Maroon because no one else appeared to be doing it when I was on top and it looked a bit scary to solo. However, the standard route on Maroon Peak was a lot of fun, better rock that I was expecting, and had lot of cairns to follow. I would gladly do it again, and in fact it might be not so hard in winter actually because I think it's too steep to hold deep snow.
Top of Maroon Peak looking at Pyramid Peak and Maroon Lake on the far left.
Sunday the 22nd: Snowmass Mountain, 12.3 miles, 4,300 vertical feet, and 6 hours, and again no summit. Once again I didn't see a single person for 3.5 hours, got off the trail for a solid 45 minutes and when I got to the "class 3" part at 12,600 feet I did what might have been 5.0 with some loose rock and decided that was too much to do alone, so I turned around and went down. There are old climbers and bold climbers but not old bold climbers. I made the decision a long time ago I was going to be an old climber. Every time I read about an "experienced" climber dying or getting seriously injured on a 14er or in the mountains, I am very aware I don't want that to be me. If it happens, it happens, I know it's a risk, but I take steps to mitigate it so that on that day when I am involved in an accident and need a rescue, hopefully I am one helping to extricate the injured person and not the one on the stretcher.
Snowmass Mountain, I turned around just above to the left of the small green patch in the center of the photo on the major cliff band 3/4 of the way up the photo.
Finally returning to work last week, it was really good. I won't lie, with all of the work drama the past few months I debated with myself on vacation if I wanted to stay in this startup and vest more options or try to go back to a big corporation. It wasn't a terribly long discussion in my head, yes I want to be doing what I am doing. However it was good to again choose the chaos and stress of more responsibility than I would have in a larger company. We're doing something unique and hard and with a fairly small team. It's a cool opportunity!

Saturday the 28th I hiked Mt. Sneffels, 13.2 miles, 5,400 vertical feet, 8 hours with three friends including J who used that mountain as his finishing mountain for climbing all the 100 highest mountains in Colorado and the 14ers. It was a very good day! I'm up to 41 official Colorado 14ers and only 12 official ones left to go.

Finally I get asked about my dating life, well, it's not what I would like, it would be great to skip to the committed relationship stage, and not have to go on a bunch of dates and text and get essentially nowhere, but I am meeting new women, and honestly, there are a lot of great women out there! The vast majority of the women I have dated this year are awesome and they are going to be just fine, but let's face it, I'm not normal and I'm not looking for normal, so it's not a fast or easy process. I am confident, as a Christian, that God has a plan for my life and whatever that plan is it is better than my own desires, even, or especially, when I don't understand why I'm 33 and very single. Funny story, I thought coming out to Colorado that there would be more active women I would mesh with and be able to go hiking and climbing with, but I still seem to intimidate many women with the things I have done and do.