This is a continuation of my story started in this earlier post here.
At the end of my last post, I wrote about getting a job working for TimeLogic on a broadcast delay system. I Actually interviewed for that job and had to write some software as a test. On April 2, 1997, I started working for TimeLogic. While at TimeLogic, I never once saw or wrote software for a broadcast delay system or anything related to the broadcast television industry. I never knew it until I start working for them that TimeLogic had also gotten into the biotech industry and build a custom card for PC’s that would compare two sets of data insanely fast using dynamic programming algorithms. Simplistically speaking, the algorithm we used compared every character of one data set to every character of another data set, sort of like using graph paper with one set of data along the left side and another set of data long the top. The algorithm cold compute a numeric score for each square on the paper then use the highest score to trace a path through the data to show how it got that score. Let’s just say that it’s fairly simple and very fast since the hardware could compute the scores of 192 squares on the graph paper at a time and in a single click of the hardware clock. It was 1000 faster than software doing the same thing. This was what I worked on at TimeLogic.
The software at TimeLogic would feed data to the hardware and then get back scores for individual pieces of data. If the data was DNA data then there would be a single result for each gene compared to each gene like input data that you fed the system. The scores were sorted and the best scores caused the software to rerun the algorithm in software to generate human readable output about the comparison. The very fist thing I did was discover that the software had been built by the previous programmer in debug mode with no optimizations. I turned off debug mode and fixed all of the stupid bugs they had left in the release mode and then let my boss know that the software algorithms were now running at twice their previous speed. I was a hero and that stuck with me for 18 years. I tell people, partly because I was told this by my mentor, that if you work your ass off for the first few weeks or months and come in early and stay late and get a ton of work done well, people will remember that no mate what you do later.
At TimeLogic, they had offered me the exact same pay I was getting at the job before that. But they also, being clever people, offered me a 50% bonus check each month that my work was stellar. Other than when I took off a few weeks without pay to travel to L.A. to build a haunted house, I got that bonus check every month for 18 months. I finally ask to just get my pay as pay and then started giving me the total amount on a single check not contingent upon a review of my work. I’m not usually motivated by money but the 50% raise was nice and I was finally making a good software engineer paycheck.
Other things happened at TimeLogic. Once while walking to a lunch place with the boss, I had to tell him that his recent talk of selling the company was depressing since I would probably be asked to move and I liked it here. When he realized that I had not been given stock options, he gave me about 1.5% of the company in option and made the vesting retroactive (which could be illegal). Sometime around then, I also got a $10K bonus and I finally paid back my mom and dad what they had lent me for that audio preview system startup company investment. Yes, I took many years to fully pay that back; Sorry mom and dad.
In 2003, TimeLogic was actually sold. Jim had trouble growing the business and wanted out. I think it was frustrating to him. I appreciate that he had the sense to do something with the company and not just let it run at the same pace indefinitely. he had also had a falling out with a business partner a bit before this so he was managing things mostly alone. Want to learn more about stocks, options, and business? Me neither…
Some new managers who Jim had hired to help sell the company asked that everyone take a small pay deferral because we were short on funds. It turns out that those guys had given themselves some nice bonus money at the same time but our lower pay made the books look good at the time. Then we were all asked to sign away our stock options so the other company could give us new one’s – they were forking a new TimeLogic corporation as a subsidiary since they were in a different state. No one mentioned that although I had the same number of shares for my options, that the number of outstanding shares was double and my percentage, therefore, was cut in half. This would be the start of an up-and-down relationship with the new TimeLogic where I sometimes was treated great, like with pay raises and lots of vacation time, but treated poorly wit the stock options. They had to consult their lawyer to find out of they were legally required to tell me how many shares existed! Later, they dissolved the TimeLogic corporation and gave the employees restricted shared of the parent corporation. They even gave us cash to pay income tax on those shares so we could pay lower taxes on them if we sold them. I also started working remotely and only traveling to San Diego a few times a year where they company was based.
There were a lot of ups and downs at TimeLogic. For a while, I had an ineffective boss that was unable to convey project status to his boss. He was eventually moved laterally to something else and I and another employee were asked to take over the project management. It took longer to figure out how much work was left to do on the project than the old boss had told his boss it would take to finish the project. There was a toxic employee who cussed a lot and tried to get people fired. For a while, I had two programmer working for me. That totally sucked because they were awesome programmers on paper and even when taking a small test I would give in an interview but then fall apart once a few months went by. one of them was just lazy and the other had a limit to what you cold understand and at that limit, he cold not get anything done right. I’m sure it was my lack of proper management that was to blame though.
I started working for Westlake Software in about 2012 doing a small side project with Google maps and coordinate logs from sales people. I found the job because I had asked on Facebook if any of my friends knew people that had small programming jobs where I cold earn a few extra bucks. After a while doing small consulting projects, I eventually was asked to port an Android phone app to Windows phone. Before I go on, I’ll mention that I didn’t do anything more than ask if anyone knew someone who needed programming help. There was no interview, just the five hours of Google maps work at $100.00 per hour, or something like that. After that, I was simply asked to take on the larger projects. Porting Java for Android, something I never worked with before, to C# for Windows Phone, something I never worked with before, was terrifying. But I got it done after a few weeks of extreme stress starting over on the whole project once. I was put on retainer so they could cont on me to be available and I eventually ported the Windows phone app to Windows 8. Later, I converted that for Windows 10 and in 2015, I left TimeLogic. The two jobs were great for the money but I was getting burnt out because of the workload at times.
So that’s it. I only ever looked for jobs a few times and most other work was either requested of me or fell in my lap by accident. I never did find out who left the info about Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays on my desk at FutureNet way back in 1988. I did an interview with TimeLogic to work on Broadcast delay systems and that led to 18 years in biotech. I was just looking for a side-job when I got asked to way more than that for Westlake Software. And the two startup companies were the brainchild of my mentor at the time. By the way, Daver, my old mentor, designed and built a wireless fireworks trigger system that had more safety features than a lot of wired systems, and he sold that business to an entertainment systems company in Orlando where I think he still works to this day. yes, I’ve thought about asking for a job in the amusement industry but the thought of one of his kids being my boss seems like it would be hard to stomach ;)