On leaving Netlify
Today is my last day at Netlify. It is a bittersweet moment, but the end of a formative period of my career that I will always be grateful for.
Netlify is the first job I ever got through Learning in Public. I remember that day well. In fact the whole concept was less than a week old to me when Matt Biilmann reached out. He bet early on me - super early. I guess that's what founders do? I had yet to give my first conference talk, and I had less than a year of experience as a card carrying web developer (although I had coded as part of my job in my finance career). I had never done developer relations professionally. I had no track record of working remotely - and yet the entire interview process was remote, and the first time I physically met any coworkers was after I had joined the company. A lot of firsts. Everyone who interviewed me took a leap of faith that I could do the job, and I am equally impressed at that as I am thankful.
Netlify is the first high growth startup I've been a part of, from Series B to C. At none of my previous jobs have I counted growth in X's instead of percentages, and it strikes me that this is actually pretty rare outside of my VC-fueled bubble. I think Netlify users are vaguely aware it is growing, but it must seem smooth from the outside. I think it's a little like a duck swimming - the visible part is gliding serenely above water, and underneath is some rather ungainly paddling.
A lot of companies aspire to category creation, but Netlify actually did it. In the past two years JAMstack went from a sorta kinda weird niche term to something other companies have adopted, to the point of copying everything from talking points to app design to literal marketing copy. The flattery is sincere. Meanwhile Netlify went from 1 conference in our first year to 3 the next. Books. Workshops. FreeCodeCamp courses. Entire frameworks. More I can't think of right now. It warms the cold dead heart of natural cynics like me. It didn't Just Happen, it was the result of a tremendous amount of hard work by the people in Netlify (and allies outside). Too many to name here for fear of leaving someone important out. But I will carry what they taught me everywhere I go.
Some people diss JAMstack as frontend developers trying to be full-stack. I get what they mean, but also there's a very real way it is not a diss. JAMstack related technologies and services reduce (not eliminate) a lot of steps that stand in the way of frontend developers getting fast and secure sites out into the world, for less. For those who still don't quite get it, Chris Coyier describes it best in this talk - all else is tiresome debates over semantics. For customers, I have joked in the past that Netlify is a secret hack around nonproductive and nonexistent platform teams (Reverse Conway's Law) - for product engineers and indie hackers alike. For me the diss is true in a more literal sense - I went from 100% frontend product engineer to being able to run workshops on serverless tech and CLIs, and having informed opinions about adjacent spaces. This job is a Mario Mushroom for hungry people who learn in public.
Above all, I think, Netlify is a great group of people. Netlify showed me how you can hire extremely competent people who are also nice. Nice, diverse, inclusive, funny, self aware, humble, transparent, I could go on. Of course there doesn't have to be a tradeoff between being nice and being a great developer. But it's good to have proof.
See also: Netlify Year One