Phase transition from a zombie state

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here. I’m bringing the girls over to their grandmothers later today, which will mean the first time the house has been free of the kids in six weeks. I don’t even know what my wife and I will do with ourselves.

I’ve got one more task to finish college, a how to guide for faculty and students on how to use GitLab for note sharing. Should take me a couple hours of writing, tops. Then I’m done. I already got my grade for the group project class, an A, and I turned in my assignments and exam for my numerical methods class last night. That project is definitely going on my resume/portfolio site, and will probably get a full write up at some point. The only problem with it is that it can’t compile in CodeBlocks, so I’ll probably get 50% on it. I may muck around later and see if I can get it to compile via GitLab. The professor is likely grading on a super steep curve, so I shouldn’t really worry about it. There’s no doubt that I’ll pass, the question is whether I get a C or an A. After all the work I did compiling class materials into the GitLab wiki, I’ll be disappointed with anything less than a A.

However it goes, I should wind up with at least a 3.5 GPA. Six years of classes, part time, while holding down a job, raising two kids, and running two political campaigns. I sure am proud of myself. Now if I could just bring myself to take one of these $80,000 year jobs that I see listed on LinkedIn. I’m going to finish updating my resume, put it up on the new CV site that I built, and start applying to anything with the salary disclosed. We’ll see who bites. Of course, there’s the $60,000 in student loans that I’ve got to deal with.

Ideally, I’d like to stay where I am, and use my spare time to work on open source and entrepreneurial projects. I want to get the GBTC Estimator upgraded to a GBTC trader, and see if there’s any income to be generated there. I’d like to complete the Safe.Trade integration into CCXT. I’ve got the medical transportation company that I want to build a Django app for, and I’ve got another opportunity with a new friend who is very entrepreneurial. Other than that, I just plan on crawling the boards on AngelList and other local startup boards to see where I can join on as technical adviser.

Of course, all that goes out the door if I lose my job. I’m not sure how bad the situation is at work, since my boss doesn’t share anything other than “we need money”, and we haven’t brought on a new client in close to a year. We had a discussion about taking on software development work, but all I got was push back. He tells the team to “go out and sell”, and we’re all like “mhmmm”, but that’s all it amounts to. I’d just rather he furlough us all at this point.

I’d rather not turn this post into an obit for the company, but it’s been a zombie for some time. It’s like we’ve got just enough clientele to keep things from sinking completely, but not enough to grow. Which means of course, that it’s going to die, probably as soon as I leave. I told my boss that I wouldn’t abandon him after graduation, but I’ve been trying to lead and direct the company to where we need to be, and have been ignored too many times.

We currently have a client in the service industry which relies a lot on manual paper processes and third party vendors to manage their work order and invoices. I consulted them nine months or so ago about migrating their workflows to Microsoft Forms, Flow, and SharePoint Online. There was a lot of excitement and head-nodding, but nothing has come from it. Instead, one of their employees has been learning Django and building a pricing calculator. I got mad respect for them, and have been shooting the breeze with him about, making recommendations and the like. Now, however, it’s getting to the point where they’re asking questions about how to deploy this app, and I’m at a limit as to what I can do in a non-professional capacity. We decided to table discussions till next week.

One of the problems that I’m running into is around making this phase transition from one career to another. The crux of the problem is related to the difference between understanding something from a theoretical standpoint to actually having done that thing. Past performance, if you will. I ran into a concrete example of this the other day. We, Zombie, Inc., that is, had an opportunity with a prospect that needed a website update. They were using WordPress, and we identified a potential vulnerability via a web scan. The site template was very rough, and needed to be brought up to a more current aesthetic. The problem was that while I have plenty of experience managing WP sites, I have no portfolio of sites that I’ve built. And Zombie has zero performance that they can point to. So of course, nothing has come from it.

It seems the cure for this problem is just to do stuff for free, and then try to recoup payment for it on the back end. I think Tim Ferriss has an example from his life, back in the 90’s, where he would find businesses without an online presence, build pages for them and then approach them afterward to try and sell it. There’s similar examples, but they all depend on having the time to do the work up front.

That’s basically where I find myself right now. The “clients” that I have right now are little more than experiments to see if I can make a decent side hustle doing site management and consulting work. Monday, after I have put the final nail in my undergraduate degree, I will contact Zombie’s client and craft some sort of consulting deal that will benefit all three of us.