inessential by Brent Simmons

Reporting in After More Than a Month at Audible

I’ve been reluctant to write about how my new job is going — I don’t want to look like the guy who drank the kool-aid, and I certainly don’t want to be the guy who couldn’t read the room during our new multi-crisis normal.

But, maybe, some good news, even if for just one fortunate person, is okay to write about? I’m not even sure. But some of my friends have suggested I write it up, so I am.

* * *

Anyway. It’s going well! I love the job and the people and what we do.

Telling stories by way of human voice is among the most elemental and powerful of arts, and I believe that stories transform lives. My work at Audible is motivated by the same thing in me that makes me make NetNewsWire (an RSS reader), that made me create MarsEdit (a blog editor), that makes me write this blog.

Audible acts like a company with a mission. It seems like every company claims solidarity and support these days, and most of these claims are shallow and opportunistic. But Audible is committed to revitalizing Newark, NJ — from hiring locally, to Newark Working Kitchens, to Newark Venture Partners, and plenty more — and it’s helping, for real. This is not some new face for the current moment: it’s part of the company’s DNA and history.

And if you read the Audible blog, you’ll find that the company is dedicated to bringing us the stories that need telling and that urgently need to be heard.

It’s a good place that’s doing good, and I am proud to work there.

* * *

I’m on iOS. I’m senior enough not to be embedded in a scrum team, but I’m an individual contributor, not a manager. My job, broadly speaking, is to help the team increase velocity and quality. (My job isn’t strictly limited to iOS, but that’s where my focus is.)

My first month was spent meeting people (over video; via Amazon Chime) and learning things. The largest company I’ve ever worked at had about 100 people: Audible is much larger — 20 times larger? I’m totally just guessing — and that means I’ve had to learn about the ways of large companies. (Also remember that Amazon is part of this, usually in the background.)

I’m starting to be able to contribute a little — just recently I committed my first code. In any given month I might be writing a ton of code, or hardly any, or somewhere in between. While writing code is important, my job is more about things like architecture and best practices — it’s about finding ways to make the team better.

My background leading the NetNewsWire open source project is very relevant here. I learned, while running the NetNewsWire project, that people will rally to a higher standard if you can show them that it’s possible to reach it and then lead them there.

During my first month I felt like a detective from an Agatha Christie book, interviewing people and taking notes — What happened? How did we get here? What the heck is an ASIN? Those were the easy things to learn, and the hard lessons, where I learn how to take my experience and help lead us to that higher standard, are to come.

But that’s also the challenge! And the fun. It’s why I signed up.

* * *

I love this job every day except when I have to get up early due to time zone issues. Sheesh! (This happens just once or twice a month, seems like, so it’s not at all bad. It’s fine. But I Am Not a Morning Person.)

* * *

I haven’t noticed that the people I work with have a lot of public social media presence. (Maybe I just haven’t gotten clued-in yet?) But here’s Jeff Merola, the engineer I work most closely with. He’s smarter than I am, which is wonderful.