On Endings and Beginnings

When Tech TV when bankrupt in 2004, Leo Laporte and the crew of the cable network were out of jobs. Some were offered to work for G4TV, who took over Tech TV’s assets, while others were laid off. The team who worked for this channel had immense creative control over the content of the channel and didn’t try to dumb down for their audience. With Tech TV’s end, Mr. Laporte was a bit lost, confused, and unsure what to do next. Although he picked up a radio gig a few weeks prior, he had a lot more free time. He invited a bunch of his ex-co-workers to a roundtable discussion at a bar where he recorded their conversation. He put up the conversation online for his fans. The fans loved it so much, they wanted to hear more episodes. Mr. Laporte decided to try to make it into a weekly show, eventually called This Week in Tech (or TWiT). Very quickly, the operations cost were starting to cut into Mr. Laporte’s expenses, so he asked for donations. The fans donated money and Mr. Laporte was allowed to pay for staff like editors and web masters. Eventually, TWiT became a business, creating high quality “netcasts” he thought people would listen to. Using the same tactic he had at Tech TV, not allowing the content to be dumbed down for the general masses, the shows had a niche following. For example, there’s Security Now, a netcast tailored for security professionals, cohosted by Steve Gibson.

Today, the TWiT podcast remains one of the most popular on the iTunes store with over 500 episodes. These “netcasts” are all filmed live where you can stream it on their channel, at twit.tv. I started listening, and then viewing, non-stop for years. It got me very interested in the technology scene, and although I don’t listen to that show as much today, I still listen to one of their other shows, Triangulation, a show where the TWiT network brings in someone from technology (or just someone really cool) to interview for an hour.

Looking back at the ending of Tech TV, there was a need to continue doing the work in other forms. Just because the cable channel died doesn’t mean the content had to either. The cable model didn’t fit the bill anyways. TWiT thrived on Tech TV’s fans who still wanted content like the Tech TV shows, and not a dumbed down version on G4 TV’s programming. Mr. Laporte gave the fans what they wanted and were very supportive of his endeavors. And it paid off. Today, TWiT is very profitable, supported by fans and advertisers, and still delivers quality programming. TWiT went from Mr. Laporte’s home office, to a nice cottage, to a large building in downtown Petaluma, California. I should know because I’ve been both to the cottage and “brick house”.

Leo didn’t know that this beginning was going to be a good beginning at all. In fact, he was a bit neutral about it until he saw the fans were receptive to his podcast. In my own ending and beginning story, I had a false start, making choices where clearly I was going to head down the wrong path. After seeing some hazardous signs, I was able to make some better, smart decisions and creating a better beginning.

Last year, after the chaos of going through Dev Bootcamp and subsequent traveling, my life went from 80 mph to a screeching halt. I was finally home a month after my bootcamp graduation and had to start looking for a job. Except, for three weeks, I didn’t do anything. I was burnt out and reverted to lazy behavior, showering less, not exercising, and watching TV. I was supposed to do a bunch of job searching, but I found excuses to do other things to pass the time. After those three weeks, I stopped making excuses and started actively looking for a job. I used the skills I learned to reach out to potential employers, to employees of the companies of interest, and eventually landed my first interviews. I had to accept that this was a new game I was playing, and the familiarity of being somewhere different everyday was gone. In a way, I realized that there’s this transitionary phase between ending and beginning everyone goes through. Mine lasted much longer than it should have, but it is a necessary component in the journey.

This week, being in Chicago, I got to watch another cohort from Dev Bootcamp graduate. All of the fears of job hunting and the confusion of where you stand after graduation came back to me. Except in the 8 months since I graduated, I have a lot more insight into what all of that meant. It meant having a deep realization of that ending, and a contemplation period during that transitionary phase. It meant having my life change once again, but this time, something was slightly different. I knew how to program, albeit not very well, but enough to prototype and hack at making software work as intended.

Today, I work at a small start-up that teaches me so much about programming, soft skills, and business. I’m financially independent and absolutely love having spare time to work on side projects. I wouldn’t have expected to be in this place of my life a year ago, and it shows we aren’t great predictors of our futures. I had a goal though to be at a point like where I am today, and I realize it’s a continuous journey. Even if my job would end tomorrow, it would be a new beginning. And I can shape that beginning however I would like, because I recognize I have the choice to change it.