I just turned 40

A person sent me an email. They were looking for a job and asking me if, not having a position for him at YLD, if I knew a similar company. I recently turned 40, which made me a more introspective, leading me to write a more than I initially intended to. If you're interested, here is my reply:

I like to think that I chose programming by vocation. I started fiddling with computers at the age of 10, running BASIC and machine code on my father's ZX Spectrum. While my friends passing by my house teased me into going out for a swim, playing football or just hanging out, most of the time I would prefer to stay at the computer or playing music (another of my passions). This doesn't mean I didn't have a normal childhood or adolescence. This only means that, while most of my friends valued some of the more tangible and physical aspects of existence, I always felt more attracted by these intangible realms.

From the age of 17 on, I feel like I always chose the hardest path for myself: the most notoriously difficult college, the vocational branch which required the most work, etc. After finishing my degree, I foolishly (following advise from family) did some admission tests for big companies (Big Consulting, Telcos, Banks, etc.), but I chose to never accept any, even if I did well on the tests. Still today, still big corps like Google, Facebook or Oracle tease me into going to work there, but I never even considered it for several reasons. The main one is that those are probably not places where I can have fun. They certainly are places where I can learn a lot (and perhaps brush up my political gaming skills), but I fear that corporate life will eventually suck out all the joy and will and leave me dreading having to get up from bed to go to work, instead seeking fulfilment in alternative activities.

Another reason for not having done it is family and life style: I prize quality of live and family over externally-imposed goals (like career, success or even Big Money™ — all appealing to the insecurity in our egos) — I try to keep my ego in a corner so that I'm more open to good opportunities.

Just a few perhaps relevant life episodes I can vividly recall: Being one of the first employees in a startup in Portugal back in 2001, bankrupcy, then a bank coming and buying the business, which I quit, leaving my stock options behind. Creating my own company. Hiring people. Not getting any salary for over one year. Selling the company. Starting as a freelancer. Climbing that ladder. Putting time and money aside to invest in learning about Node. Creating and ensuring the Lisbon JavaScript Conference, for which I "slaved" up to 6 months with no pay during the last 3 years.

Looking back, these were all good decisions, had loads of fun, but also many sacrifices and hard times.

During these years these activities made me cross ways with people with similar interests and stories, some of which I had the good fortune of working and even becoming good friends with.

I have been connected to YLD since the beginning, but I only started executive functions last February. Before that I helped recruiting, assembling the office. All the people that agreed to be a part of this adventure have this main characteristic: the will to experiment and learn. They're also humble, honest and frontal. Instead of putting a professional mask, they're professional because they are integral and honest with themselves.

At YLD we're still discovering how the company is meant to be: how to structure it in order to leave room for people to flourish, to invent their own job. YLD should provide them the resources and means to do that. I don't know if we'll be successful, since there are no similar models we can replicate. But we're working on it.

To answer your question with a bit of over-dramaticism (sorry, that's sometimes who I am): no, I don't know any other company like YLD.