For the past 10-ish years, I've been lucky enough to work at Pixar Animation Studios, what would be considered by most as a dream job. The hard part of letting it all go is that it was a dream job. I started at Pixar as an intern in 2004 right out of undergrad, with a freshly inked diploma in computer science and a risk proof optimism. I was pleasantly shocked to find out how much of an impact I could have even as an intern. After building some key technology to make the original Cars (even got a few patents out of it), I was converted to a full-time employee. I was having a blast, growing in big strides as a problem solver, artist and engineer and working on one of the coolest products and coolest brands out there.
The interesting problems kept coming as I continued to work on Wall•e, Up, Brave, and Monsters University. My coworkers were and are inspiring. The facilities and benefits are just as good as you can imagine. As the years started stacking up, I would get mixed looks of awe and confusion from my peers who were building resumes with 5+ companies during my entire run at Pixar.
My career was developing nicely, finding myself as the Global Technology Supervisor on The Good Dinosaur (film to be release in 2015), but it was during these last 3 years that began to realize that I needed something more. I would hear stories of the young days of Pixar, when no one had heard of this small Richmond based company trying to do the impossible. I can only imagine what it felt like to be part of that team and release Luxo, Jr. and Toy Story and show the world something they'd never seen before. But by the time I started at Pixar, it was already a house hold brand - more often used incorrectly to label any full length computer animated film. It was the Kleenex of CG. The beautiful medium of computer animation was established and I was lucky enough to be a part of its golden age at the place that invented it.
But when I took a moment to step back from the undeniable coolness and comfort of working at Pixar, I began to notice the walls. The problems to be solved all felt familiar and less incremental, and my personal growth as a problem solver was plateauing. Now I could spend the rest of my career at Pixar and be content, but I knew I would have to live with the regret of never trying something completely unheard of. So I decided I needed to give up the product visibility, the people, the challenges, the benefits and risk finding a small startup company that was trying to do something new and impossible.
Let's hope this new adventure brings more interesting challenges and growth opportunities. I realize the odds are against me and this may be the beginning of a long string of failed startups, but as long as I keep the right attitude, I think my life journey will be richer and more interesting as a result. At least it will give me more interesting things to write about.