Hate your job? Happier times are within your grasp


As is common this time of year, I took some time to reflect on life and work. And a few different things reminded me of how incredibly fortunate and happy I am to be working at Basecamp.

But I bet you can guess the punchline — yeah, it wasn’t always like this. The year before I landed at Basecamp, things were pretty rough and I was miserable at work.

I know this feeling isn’t unique. In fact you might be feeling today how I did years ago — coming home from work tired, uninspired, unhappy, and even angry. It’s not a good look.

But change is within your grasp. It won’t be easy, but you can be damn sure it’ll be worth it. I speak from personal experience.


When I eventually reached my job-hate breaking point, the first order of business was to quit said job. I have to admit it was kind of exciting and liberating. But it was also intensely scary.

I was walking away from a good job working at a stable, respected company — a company where I could’ve had a prosperous (albeit miserable) career. I voluntarily went from having a very generous salary to one of literally $0.

Oh and by the way, as I took on this adventure of rebuilding my career I still had some huge responsibilities back at home: namely my twin infant sons and all the adulting required to keep them happy and healthy.

So you can imagine the unsettling feeling of self doubt I felt early on. More than once I wondered, “Did I make a huge mistake??”

But ultimately I realized what scared me the most was the long-term prospects of doing nothing — not just being unhappy for one year, but allowing that misery to fester over three, five or even ten years.

We spend an inordinate amount of our life at work — somewhere between 20–30% of our waking hours. How could I standby and let all those hours be filled with misery, only to bring that misery home with me every day to my family? No, if I was going to spend that much of my life doing something, those hours better be happy ones.

So I pushed aside that doubt, put my head down and got to work. I joined The Starter League and got my brain and attitude in the right space. I was learning tons and meeting great people. I felt professionally energized and excited for the first time in a long time.

I finished up my classes there and soon after I mustered up all my courage and took a long shot: I reached out to Jason Fried to ask if there was anything I could help with. We got to talking, and a few months later he invited me to join 37signals.

What an unbelievable turn of events. Going from the the worst job I’d ever had to working at my dream company wasn’t anything I’d ever expected. Fast forward 4+ years and I’m doing the best work of my career and I’ve never been happier at a job.

Now look, I’m not recounting this story as some kind of humble brag or to make myself look like hot shit. Anybody who knows me I am the furthest thing from hot shit. I’m ice cold shit.

I bring it up because I hope it shows the kinds of crazy, unexpected, wonderful things that can happen to anyone’s career if you take a chance.

I’m not special — all I did was acknowledge my unhappiness, embrace the uneasiness of change, and got to work. Yes, there was some luck involved, but even if I landed somewhere other than Basecamp, I still would’ve been happier and better off for having tried.


Of course it’s really important to remember that everyone’s situation is different, so don’t take my story as gospel.

I was fortunate to be in a position to take a chance like I did. I had years of work experience to help me recognize when to get out of an ugly situation. We were financially secure — it was a moderate risk, but I never put ourselves in any kind of precarious lose-it-all situation. And most importantly I had wonderful, incredibly supportive people around me — family, friends, teachers, colleagues, and so many others. I recognize not everyone gets the deck stacked in their favor like this.

It’s also worth noting that life wasn’t all roses and sunshine afterwards either. It took a long while to get everything back up to speed — to rebuild our finances, to re-establish my career direction, and even smooth out our family life and routine.

But in the end was it worth it? Absolutely, positively, hell yes.

If you hate your job, I’d really encourage you to consider taking action. But first you’ll need to evaluate your career situation, then decide what’s best for you and your family, now and in the future. It’s natural (and healthy) to feel scared, worried, and hesitant. Take your time, consider deeply, and take action when it’s right for you.

But no matter what your situation is, if you’re in a rough patch in your career I hope that my story gives you a spark of hope, something you can hang onto — the belief that better times await you when you’re ready.

There’s something great out there for you and your career. You absolutely deserve the happiness it can bring — go on and get it. 🤜🤛


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Basecamp is looking for interns for summer 2017

Basecamp is looking for talented interns to join our team this summer. We’re excited to work with you, and the things you work on will impact millions of users at the world’s leading online project management tool.

The deadline for applying for a summer internship at Basecamp is February 10, 2017.


About the Basecamp summer internship program

Interns at Basecamp don’t fetch coffee. They don’t file papers or book meeting rooms. They work on real projects that have a real impact on our company, our products, and our customers. You’ll leave Basecamp with new technical, creative, and business skills and having accomplished something significant.

As an intern, you’ll work with a mentor in the company. That person will be your go-to for questions and guidance about your project, about Basecamp, and about the industry in general. You’ll participate in our Campfire rooms with the entire company. You’ll say “good morning” in All Talk, discuss ideas in Building Basecamp, and post pet pics in All Pets.

Internships at Basecamp are remote — you can work from anywhere you want, provided there’s some overlap in time zones with your assigned mentor. We’ll fly you to the Chicago office once during the summer to get together with your mentor and the rest of the intern class, and you’ll talk regularly with your mentor via phone, Skype, or Google Hangouts.

All internships are paid and require a commitment of 8–12 weeks of full time work between May and August 2017 (we’re flexible on start/end dates, planned vacations, etc.).

You can read about the experiences of some of last year’s interns for inspiration!

About you

We’re hiring interns across the company — we have openings in programming, product design, operations, support, and data. Regardless of role, there are a few key things we’re looking for in interns:

  • You are independent and self-driven. Basecamp is built on the concept of being a team of “managers of one”, and that applies to interns as well. You’ll get plenty of support and guidance from your mentor and the rest of the team, but no one will be telling you how to spend each minute of your day, so it’ll be up to you to make sure you’re making forward progress.
  • You are an excellent communicator. We write a lot at Basecamp — we write for our products, we write for our marketing sites and initiatives, we write to our customers, and most importantly, we write as our primary way of communicating internally (using Basecamp, of course). Clear and effective communication is essential to being successful at Basecamp.
  • You have fresh ideas and you’re willing to share them. We don’t know it all, and we actively want to hear fresh ideas and perspectives that we haven’t considered.
  • You’re eager to learn. You’ll dive right in to new technologies, new approaches, and new concepts and apply them to your work.
  • You’re not a computer science or design student? That’s not a problem. Past interns have been philosophy majors, poets, improv comic performers, and gelato makers, as well as computer science and design students. We’re not sticklers for traditional education.

How to apply

We’ve deliberately kept the application simple so you can tell us about yourself the way you want to. We want to know why you want to be an intern at Basecamp, what you’re interested in working on, what work you’ve done in the past, and why we should hire you. Give us the URL to your portfolio, blog, GitHub site, etc. Add a resume if you want, but remember, we’re always impressed by a great cover letter.

Oh, and while we love Basecamp, inviting us to a Basecamp project isn’t a great way to apply for a spot here. So please don’t do that.

You can fill out your application here. We’ll accept applications through Friday, February 10th. You’ll get an email to confirm your application shortly after you apply.

The projects

You’ll be working on a real project that matters to the company and the team that you’re working with, and you’ll be expected to own and contribute to the project. You’ll have the opportunity to shape the project with your mentor to meet the needs of the company and the things you’re interested in working on. We’re looking for interns on the following teams:

Data: We’re looking for someone who loves data. Someone who gets a CSV file of new data and can’t wait to dig in and start exploring. Someone who is excited to write great SQL queries and discover new R packages. We believe that data science is mostly about basic arithmetic, business judgement, and problem solving, so we value foundational skills more than machine learning experience.

You’ll spend your summer conducting independent analyses to answer important questions we have. Recent questions you might have answered have been about customer demographics, usage of Basecamp on mobile phones, conversion rates over time, or A/B test results. You’ll identify the data you need to answer the question, perform analysis, create visualizations, and write up a compelling story. You’ll also participate in peer review of other analyses, weigh in on other team data projects, and contribute to our daily chart habit.

iOS: Have you created an app that runs on your phone? We’re looking for a programmer who displays ingenuity and the skill to create software for iOS that considers the user as well as the code. If you have a product in the App Store, we’d love to see it! We’re also impressed with projects built for personal curiosity or coursework. We’re more interested in seeing that you have the aptitude to make something real than seeing what classes you’ve taken.

Examples of the kind of work you’d be doing include: Create a media viewer with gesture based controls and the ability to browse uploads of different types; Provide a way to quickly add To-do items from the home screen or a Today widget; Examine analytics data and use it to inform improvements that can be made in the app; Create a presentation mode that shows an alternate view over AirPlay for in-person meetings.

Ops: We’re less concerned with how much ops-specific knowledge you have and more interested in your ability to problem-solve and adapt, and most critically, learn. Familiarity with the command line and bash/zsh/git etc is a big plus, as is an interest in the Ops arena of problems and how systems are put together.

We’re in the middle of a huge transition from on-premises to cloud-based infrastructure, and we’ve always got something that we are interested in exploring, whether that’s alternate container runtimes, better blue/green deploy methods, better access-control and authen/authz systems (LDAP?), smaller, more efficient container strategies, or better local development methodologies.

Product design: Projects at Basecamp always start with design first, so you’ll have a unique opportunity to learn how we turn nascent ideas into real, working software that’s used by hundreds of thousands of people. We value experimentation, good writing, rapid iteration, and getting real. Our designers are a talented bunch — they’re responsible for everything from concepts to copywriting, prototypes, visual design, and production-quality code.

We’ll work on a handful of projects intended to give you a wide range of experience with our design process at Basecamp, including exploring a new idea from scratch, learning how to manage and scope work, and building a product feature all the way to production.

This position will involve working with web technologies. We’d like you to have some previous experience with visual design, and any experience with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript would be helpful too. (We’ll also be working in Rails but we don’t expect you to know it.) Beyond specific skills, we’d like you to bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to the team. If you’ve done weird side projects, drawn comics, written a blog, made an app, knitted a scarf, or invented anything else under the sun, tell us about it! We’d like to see examples of your curiosity and how you approach solving problems.

Programming: We’re looking for a generalist with experience working in full-stack development. Our environment is Ruby, Rails, and JavaScript, so you should be familiar with the ‘rails way’ of doing things. We’d love to hear from folks with experience in similar environments like Python or Django as well. You should have experience working on a real app. That could be something for a college class, a bootcamp project, a contribution to an open source project, etc.

Past intern projects have included the implementation of a strong password check across all apps, adding endpoints to the Basecamp API, and helping launch an update to the Basecamp files section.

Support: We’d like to see an intern who can help out in our social media sphere. We’ve tried to get more active on Instagram, we answer questions through Twitter, and we answer a small amount of questions from users on Facebook. How can we get better at those social media channels, and are there other social media channels we’re missing out on?

Tell us about a great social media experience you were part of. What was your role in it? What was the goal, and what was the outcome? Can you give us an example of a company that uses social media exceptionally well? What makes it so great? If you’ve worked with customers anywhere (doesn’t have to be in tech — could be in fast food or retail), we’d love to hear about it. Tell us about your experience working with people who had problems that you helped solve.

I’m a boring programmer (and proud of it)

Archetypes for programmers (if you believe all those silly job postings). Illustration by Nate Otto.

I have a confession to make — I’m not a rock star programmer. Nor am I a hacker. I don’t know ninjutsu. Nobody has ever called me a wizard.

Still, I take pride in the fact that I’m a good, solid programmer. One who works hard at his craft and really enjoys it, even without the fancy labels.

Keep reading

The Person They’ll Become

One of the biggest challenges when hiring someone is trying to envision their potential.

Sometimes someone’s a sure bet. They’re the perfect person for the perfect project at the perfect time. Their pedigree is exceptional, their portfolio is stocked with amazing work, their experience is vast, they’re a confident interview, and everything just feels right.

It happens, but that’s not how it usually works. There are very few perfect people.

Instead there’s a lot of future perfect people. People who have the potential to become the perfect person in the perfect role if just given the right opportunity.

When I hire designers, I look for future perfect people. Some people have the potential, but they haven’t had the opportunities. Their portfolios are full of mediocre work, but it’s not because they’re mediocre designers. It’s because they’ve been given mediocre opportunities.

A lot of future perfect people are stuck in current mediocre positions. They just haven’t had the chance to do their best work.

While it’s a bonus to find that perfect person today, I find more it more rewarding (for me and them) to pluck the future perfect person out of their mediocre job today. I love betting on people with potential. When they finally get that chance to do their best work, they blossom in such a special way.

And as the owner of a company, few things make me prouder than seeing someone excelling in a way that their resume/portfolio/references wouldn’t have suggested they could.