Peter Saint-Andre: A Brutally Honest Résumé
- I'm a member of the class of 1984 at Maranacook Community School in Readfield, Maine (yes, we did call this school either Bananacook or Marijuanacook, especially after the biology teacher got caught growing pot in the school greenhouse!).
- Among other activities, I take some computer programming classes at the University of Maine, complete a statistics course at Colby College, participate in a statewide seminar for "gifted" young writers, and get my driver's certificate from Mack's School of Offensive Driving (!).
- While working part-time at the Maine State Law & Legislative Reference Library I discover that I never want to be a lawyer.
- Unfortunately, I don't receive a diploma because (preferring to study German and economics) I refuse to take a required course on "Consumer Skills" — you know, important material like how to sign up for welfare.
- Therefore I'm rejected by every college to which I apply.
High School Continued
- Needing a high school diploma, I complete a post-grad year at the tiny and short-lived American Renaissance School, graduating #2 in my class but in the bottom 50% (you do the math).
- Through a work-study program I get a part-time job at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratory under IBM Fellow Jerry Woodall, where I waste lots of chemicals but create a few useful techniques in molecular beam epitaxy. (Because there is already another Peter in our lab, Jerry dubs me "Saint Peter", which I use to this day as an online nickname.)
- High school diploma and asymptotically-approaching-perfect SATs in hand (double 790, if I recall correctly), I'm accepted at Columbia University intending to double-major in physics and philosophy.
- Because the physics department won't let me test out of intro courses and I don't want to go back to inclined plane problems, I quickly drop the physics in favor of Ancient Greek, basically majoring in Aristotle (which seems useless at the time but later comes in handy for object-oriented programming!).
- Continue to work at IBM for a while, as well as at an iconoclastic investment firm run by Victor Niederhoffer and at a similarly iconoclastic arts journal.
- Complete a summer's worth of research on Aristotle's epistemology of value as an NEH Younger Scholar. Despite my enthusiasm for a Ph.D. in philosophy, the experience sours me on an academic career (my advisor to me: "it doesn't matter what's true, it matters what you can get published").
- Contract a strange mono-like virus for about 18 months and get several incompletes, although why I was taking 5 graduate courses a semester I don't know.
- Study when necessary, but mostly play guitar and take long walks all over Manhattan.
- Need an extra semester to graduate, but squeak through.
Life After College
- Utterly lost with a humanities degree in the short but painful 1990 recession, I head off to Czechoslovakia to experience socialism first-hand and teach English as a second language to engineers at the Temelín Nuclear Reactor Project then under construction in southern Bohemia.
- Learn a bit of Czech, but I'm not sure that my students learn all that much English.
- Return to the States and stay unemployed for 9 months until an older friend calls me down to Atlanta to help him with the management training company he is starting.
- I'm not really into my new job (still suffering from Ph.D. envy), but I work hard and slowly learn a little about the real world.
- Get in debt and take a second job working customer service in the evenings and on weekends (great experience!).
- After 20 months I get tired of Atlanta and head back north to the NYC area.
- Initially I'm unemployed but I get a job working in the evenings (again in customer service) so that I can job-hunt during the day.
- After six months I land a semi-decent job in writing, editing, and instructional design for a sales training and consulting company in midtown Manhattan, but again I'm not really into it.
- The company has revolving doors and it's a bad scene, so I find an editing job at a consulting company in scenic New Jersey.
- It's a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, especially when a jealous peer becomes my boss.
- After calling him to account for a highly questionable performance review, I get fired for insubordination and escorted from the building (another great experience!).
- Luckily by this time (1996) I've discovered the Internet and have already been looking for employment in this budding field.
- The folks at Logical Design Solutions take a chance on me and I don't disappoint: finally I'm working at something I like that matches my core skills.
- I work more 80-hour and even 100-hour weeks than I care to admit but knock the socks off the client, going from writing and editing to business analysis to systems analysis and programming.
- Eventually my wife gets transferred to Denver and LDS lets me telecommute, but I get lonely working at home all day with just the cats for interaction (this was in the days before real-time collaboration technologies), so I start looking for something local.
- The good people at Webb Interactive Services make me an offer I can't refuse, and I reluctantly leave LDS (the CEO cries at my last company meeting and they even fly me back for the company Christmas party despite the fact that I'm no longer an employee).
- For a little less than a year I work with XML, XSL, and Java on Webb's local commerce initiatives, but increasingly I feel the pull of...
- OMG! Is this a dream job, or what? Starting in late 1999, spend most of my waking hours on Jabber / XMPP, an open protocol for instant messaging, presence, and real-time communication ("the Linux of instant messaging"). For a few years I contribute by night to the Jabber open-source community and work by day as a systems analyst, product manager, and such at Jabber Inc. But it gets better...
- Starting in 2002, work full-time on standards initiatives for Jabber Inc. by authoring the XMPP RFCs and dozens of XMPP Extension Protocols, as well as managing the business and technical affairs of the XMPP Standards Foundation.
- Although my role in the Jabber community is compared to that of the Secretary General of the United Nations, and I actually receive mail that lists my title as "Patron Saint and Chief Evangelist" (!), I like to say that my job is "Conductor of the Jabber Community Orchestra" because mostly I wave my hands around and good things happen. Well, I also do a lot of work on the Jabber/XMPP protocols, so maybe I'm conducting from the piano. :-)
Cisco and the IESG
- On Halloween 2008, Jabber Inc. is acquired by Cisco, ending our 8+ year run as a startup company.
- I'm excited to be part of the Cisco team, which has a strong commitment to open standards.
- In fact, I'm so excited about Cisco and open standards that from March 2010 to March 2012 I serve on the Internet Engineering Steering Group as co-director of the Applications Area in the IETF.
- The IESG gig is all consuming but deeply rewarding. My only worry is how I'm going to re-integrate into Cisco after being externally focused for so long.
- It turns out I needn't have worried: I quickly get involved with some major internal projects, working on next-generation collaboration technologies with Cisco technologists all over the world.
- After 5 years at Cisco, I feel the itch to work again in a small, innovative company solving problems directly for customers.
- Looking for a long-term relationship that would enable me to combine many aspects of my varied (some would say checkered) work history, I keep coming back to the multi-talented team at &yet.
- Happily, the "yetis" have been thinking they might want me on board, so we agree to join forces in building better ways for people to work together, including the Talky videochat service and development of custom communication apps.
- After we lose our biggest customer, I immerse myself in business development and discover that I really enjoy early-stage consulting with customers!
- Even though I love many of the folks at &yet, I find it impossible to resist the invitation of my friend Jeremie Miller to join him at an Internet of Things startup called Filament. Few people get a chance to change the world once, as we did with Jabber. Even fewer get a chance to change the world twice, but we're doing precisely that by building a revolutionary platform for high-security devices from the ground up.
- Unfortunately, Filament turns out to have the worst "leadership" and thus the most toxic work environment I've ever experienced. Although in the end I'm asked to leave, at least I'm not escorted from the building this time!
- After a two-month sabbatical during which I take stock of how I can use my talents and experience for the good of the Internet, I am blessed to receive a job offer from Mozilla, whose commitment to open source and open standards aligns so well with my own.
- Extend many aspects of my previous career by taking on management of strategic technical partnerships for the Firefox team, working closely with the likes of Apple, Cloudflare, Comcast, Google, and Microsoft.
- In early 2022, depart the tech industry after 25 years.
I'm now focused primarily on working with my wife Elisa on a training program that will help people flourish in their worklife by applying the insights of psychological research and the great wisdom traditions to the challenges and opportunities of work and career. Follow my philosophical coaching website for related musings and future announcements.
Peter Saint-Andre > Technology