Category Archives: Work

Quitting My Job

Engineering Area

So to celebrate my 34th birthday, I quit my job. After 8 years it was finally time to move on. I survived 2 rounds of layoffs and 2 acquisitions at Pulse Energy / EnerNOC / Yardi and am currently the longest serving employee in the Vancouver office. But I only have 2 weeks left of work.

In April, I get to take everything I’ve learnt at Pulse (storing time-series data, modelling energy, setting up monitoring tools, deploying to AWS, plus so much more) and do it all again at a new startup called Clir Renewables. The company is very young and doesn’t have a public website yet, but they’re building software to optimize wind farms. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I will miss my co-workers at Yardi. The Vancouver office is full of talented and interesting people. But the organization as a whole does the excite me. There isn’t a push for innovation and I had stopped learning new things. My job was largely maintaining the services I had built over the past 8 years and cleaning up junk utility data. It was easy work and the pay was ok, but it didn’t motivate me to go to work everyday.

Clir Renewables is going to be a big change. As an early stage startup, they’re trying to make good infrastructure decisions and build a solid platform but are also trying to crank out features to get early sales. I’ve only seen some of the code but they definitely accrued tech debt already. I’m looking forward to getting in there and helping clean things up.

I was only casualy looking for a new job when the Clir opportunity appeared, but I was really surprised by how hot the Vancouver software job market it right now. It seems like everyone is hiring and the big names (Amazon, SAP, Salesforce, Visier) are having bidding wars to attract talent. The salaries being offered are way higher than I expected and even the startup companies are coming close to matching them. I think the low Canadian dollar is finally factoring into local salaries and US based companies are willing to pay more. It’s a good time to be a software developer.

(And I leave you with some music from Shred Kelly. Emily took me to see them on my birthday. They put on a good show.)

Inspiring Work

Donovan Woollard from Local GardenIn the past 3 days I’ve had a tour of Local Garden from Donovan Woollard, heard a talk by Ken Lyotier founder of United We Can, and hung out with our Fresh Roots CSA gardeners at a soup swap. All of them are inspiring entrepreneurs who are doing great work in Vancouver.

The tour of Local Garden was really interesting. They’ve built a fancy, mechanized, vertical garden system to pump out fresh greens. Their focus is on reducing the carbon footprint of traditional salad mixes, which are often shipped from California. Their Vancouver greenhouse sits on the top floor of an unused parkade in downtown Vancouver (next door to Pulse Energy), uses 1/10 of the water of traditional farming, and they ship their greens to restaurants and grocery stores by bike. How cool is that?

Fresh Roots Soup Swap DinnerLast night we hung out with the Fresh Roots gardeners, who hosted a soup swap that ended up being more of a dinner party with board games afterwards (awesome!). Ilana and her crew are the coolest, hippest farmers I know. We’ve been getting a CSA share from them for the past two years and are looking forward to another season this year. Fresh Roots grows a lot of their veggies on school grounds in Vancouver, partnering with the teachers and students to pass on their farming knowledge to the next generation.

Ken Lyotier started United We Can, a bottle depot in the downtown east side, in 1995 after years of dumpster diving on his own. Binners are now a fixture in Vancouver, collecting refundable bottles throughout the city. The social enterprise Ken started provides an important revenue stream for them. It was interesting hearing about Ken’s own personal struggles with addiction and how United We Can has grown from a small outfit run by a rag tag group from the DTES to one of the largest bottle depots in the province, employing hundreds of people.

Hearing from these amazing people helps puts the work I do at Pulse Energy into perspective. And speaking of which, you can recognize the awesomeness of our company by voting for Pulse Energy for a Smart Grid Superstar of 2013 award.

2012 – A Year in Review

Rocky Peak
2012 was a year of new highs for Emily and I.

I VowWe got married in March in Banff. We kept the wedding small, inviting 18 of our closest family and friends for a weekend adventure in the Rocky Mountains. In between snowshoeing, cooking, and relaxing in the cabin, we managed to find time to have a small wedding ceremony. We really cherished the quality time we were able to spend with everyone who came to Banff to celebrate with us.

In July, Emily started a new job managing grants for the Vancity Community Foundation. She’s enjoying the challenging but rewarding work that builds on a lot of her past experience.

I’m still working at Pulse Energy – 4 years on, a new record for me. My team is awesome and I like that every day brings new technical challenges and learning experiences. My work in the past year has focused on integrating a Cassandra database to store our massive amounts of data.

TweetEmily celebrated her 30th birthday in December by “Putting a Bird on It“, and I’ll be entering my 4th decade in a few months. Early in the year we decided to push our vegetarian diet one step further and go completely vegan. Our bodies seem to be enjoying the lack of dairy (mine especially). Our transition has been made easier by several new veggie restaurants that have opened in Vancouver in the past year. The Acorn is our new favourite. We also cook a lot and enjoy discovering new vegan recipes and opportunities to use all of the veggies we’re getting from our garden and CSA share.

Bixi ChicTravel continues to be a big part of our lives. We started the year surrounded by strangers in sweltering Vietnam and ended it freezing our butts off with family in chilly Manitoba. In between, we found time to visit relatives in Toronto and attended weddings in Seattle and New York. We also drove down the Oregon Coast and enjoyed hiking and camping in British Columbia.

Olympic Village BeautyBack in Vancouver, we’ve really settled into our new apartment in the Olympic Village. I’ve taken on the role of community garden coordinator for our building, even though I’m only figuring out how to grow things myself. Luckily, I have generations of gardeners to call on for advice (thanks Mom and Baba). I must have inherited green thumbs, because we had a great harvest this year, Porter the Composter with arugula, kale, radishes, beets, carrots, green onions, peas, tomatoes, and a lot more veggies than we could handle on our own. More significantly, the garden has been a great way to meet our neighbours and we now have a great community of friends in our building. We also met a lot of our neighbours from the work Emily did coordinating a composting program for the Olympic Village.

We’re looking forward to more adventures in 2013. I’ve signed up to run my first full marathon in May and we’re planning trips to Hawaii in the spring and Newfoundland in the summer.

Hopefully 2013 is a year of good health and fun adventures for everyone.
Surfing Sunset

Cleanweb Hackathon – Epic Energy III

Hacking Away
On Saturday I participated in my first hackathon – the Vancouver Cleanweb Hackathon. It was a 12-hour coding marathon, or at least it was for our team from Pulse Energy. While most participants spent the first 2 hours brainstorming, pitching ideas, and recruiting team members, we locked ourselves in a board room and started coding with barely any breaks for eating or peeing. We weren’t necessarily serious or competitive. We just had an ambitious plan and only 12 hours to make it work, so there was no time for socializing.

Earlier in the week, we spent two lunches brainstorming about ideas and planning how we would build our favourite idea, a building manager sim game. We knew we were in over our heads, but we hoped the extra prep work would make up for our lack of game development experience.

Below you can see the evolution of our game as we slowly added functionality, content, and graphics. I’m impressed with how polished it looked after only 12 hours. A lot of the credit goes to our graphic designer, Tyler.

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Our biggest challenges were making the game realistic (we used real data as much as possible), fitting in all the functionality we wanted (sadly, a lot of cool features got cut), and hardest of all, keeping it fun. At 6 pm, with 2 hours left, we stopped coding and did a play-through of our game and realized it was horribly boring. At that point, we stopped adding new features and prioritized fun. We added quirky comments from grumpy tenants, a scoring system, a tweet button, and animations to make it seem more like a game and less like a budgeting exercise.

I encourage everyone to check out and play Epic Energy III, and tweet your high score. The goal is to save as much energy as possible while keeping your tenants happy (which should be explained on an intro screen, but that feature got cut). So far, my best score is 20,308. If you’re interested in the code, you can see all the commits on GitHub. Don’t worry, even if you can read the code, it’s not obvious what the best strategy is to get a high score.

We’re still planning on making some improvements to the game in the coming weeks even though the Hackathon is over. It’s good marketing for Pulse Energy and fun to work on.
Continue reading Cleanweb Hackathon – Epic Energy III

New Downtown Office

I’m overjoyed to report that I no longer work in West Vancouver. As of November 1, Pulse Energy has shiny new offices in downtown Vancouver. Having more space for our growing company is great, as is the central location and the short commute. Although I appreciated how fit I became biking close to 40 km a day, I’m much happier now with my 15 minute bike ride to work (especially with all the rain). And Emily is working a few blocks away.

The food options are so much better in downtown Vancouver. I’ve been to Nuba twice already, met the Business Objects crew at VCC, and discovered an amazing Mexican taco shop, called La Taqueria. There are so many new restaurants to try and review on my Urbanspoon account.

The company is also more social now that everyone isn’t rushing back to Vancouver at the end of the day. Last Friday a bunch of us went to the Railway Club for after-work drinks, and this Friday we had our first Board Game Night – a great success. Who knew there were so many board game geeks at a tech company?

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