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Some folks have asked about how I ended up at a job like Off Grid Electric, so I thought I would share a bit of that. I recently took a sabbatical to travel for about 5 months with my wife. While I was traveling, I was thinking about my career, the future, and what is important to me. I felt like I hadn’t been pushing myself enough lately, and I had lost some of the passion I always liked to bring into my work.

TL;DR

“Across sub-Saharan Africa, fully 590 million people lack access to power. And it’s a life-or-death issue: Indoor air pollution from wood stoves now kills 3.5 million people per year, more than AIDS and malaria combined.” –Brad Plumer: Washington Post

Stories illustrating the importance of our mission, and meeting our customers in Tanzania, helped restore a passion to my work.

Travel Shifts Perspectives

There is a great post by how stuff works called can travel change you? I would say it can change you if your open to it. I was thinking about my position in the world and looking to change things up. So I started getting interested in international positions, that could improve some of the major challenges in the world.

Seeing many different countries in my world definitely changed my thoughts on what were major challenges in the world:

  • clean water
  • sufficient sewage systems
  • access to power
  • clean energy
  • functional mail systems
  • trusted government
  • free press
  • access to education
  • income inequality

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Climbing onto a roof to install solar panels

For awhile, I had been a bit stuck in an echo chamber of dev tools, consumer startups, and incremental improvements on social communications. While there is cool working going on there, I was a bit burnt out on it. Looking from outside my normal communities, I realized all the issues I found most important in the world to be outside of my current focuses. I wanted to help solve big problems, I knew I was passionate about. I wanted work on something outside the frequent tech joke that resonates a bit too loudly on occasion.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.” –Former Facebook dev & Cloudera co-founder Jeff Hammerbacher

Although, there are some good counterpoints showing the legacy of amazing tools the industry is building. Hilariously, I saw another version of this just today.

“Meanwhile the “best minds” of our generation work on drone kale smoothie delivery.” –@thomasfuchs

Investing Your Time

There are great ways to support problems you care about, but in the end support often comes down to your time or your money. While I don’t have lots of money to invest in these important issues, like Bill Gates dedicating to invest $1 billion clean energy, I can invest my time. I can make working on these hard problems a part of my career path. A long career dedicated to working on big problems to help focus my direction for the future.

I started to think that many of the best engineers I know work at a cross section of engineering and knowing another domain extremely well. I decided I could look for work where I could leverage my software skills while learning more about a big issue I am passionate about improving. These thoughts were still forming in my head as we travel around.

Around that time, I started to come across a post on my social media. I must have seen it three or four times before I decided it was something I needed to follow up on. I do know that Micah, whom I had know through @techstars had posted the job to Facebook. His post was the final push to motivate me to finally click through and contact @Off Grid Electric. The job post really seemed to be a great fit for what I was looking for, a dream job for someone who loves adventure.

Know What You Want

After a bit of time talking with Thor Muller, it became clear that Off Grid Electric also satisfied other parts of a job I find important.

  • We are a small, highly-distributed software team (US, Nigeria, Tanzania, Russia).
  • We allow remote workers
  • We are driven by a mission, which I find personally compelling
  • Flexible and travel-friendly work
  • I wanted to work on a project with international components
  • While technology is important, it is just one tool to solve problems
  • A long term position - I want to invest time in a company and be able to grow with it.
  • An opportunity to work closely with end users

The list goes on, there was a lot to make everything seem right to me. It is good to take some time and reflect deeply on what you want, and what you want to be doing X years from now. Then find a path that can take you in that direction. I feel fortunate to have found that role.

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Debugging in the Karatu regional office with Dmitry

Look cool? More photos from my recent work trip to Tanzania.

Singing your tune? We’re Hiring

I know other folks that are looking to make changes. If this is the kind of work that speaks to you, ping me I would love to chat. Feel free to reach out over email (danmayergmail) or twitter [@danmayer](http://twitter.com/danmayer).

Open Development Positions @OffGrid

We also have non-software jobs, if you aren’t about writing code all day ;)

Not your thing?

Obviously, the gig won’t be for everyone. If you’re looking for a different kind of change, I should also give a shout out to @livingsocialeng.

Like a bigger team, more interested in consumer products at scale, LivingSocial is Hiring, and is has many brilliant devs focused on big engineering challenges. I am not kidding, it is frequently described by developers past and present as the best job they have ever had.

If neither interests you, but you’re looking for something new, feel free to get in touch. I know various teams trying to pick up Ruby, Clojure, and Mobile devs.

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Dan Mayer Profile Pic
Welcome to Dan Mayer's development blog. I primary write about Ruby development, distributed teams, and dev/PM process. The archives go back to my first CS classes during college when I was first learning programming. I contribute to a few OSS projects and often work on my own projects, You can find my code on github.

Twitter @danmayer

Github @danmayer