John Kary

I'm not good at quitting things. But I knew someday I would have to quit a job for reasons beyond, "I'm moving to go to school" or "I graduated and am taking a job in my new profession" or some other natural progression from one life stage to another.

But Friday, July 20, 2012 was my last official day as an employee of Information Technology at the University of Kansas. I had worked at KU within the same group for almost 8 years (although the group changed drastically over the time I was a part of it, even as it continues to change.)

I started in late 2004 as a student web developer, was hired as a full-time programmer in 2007, and was promoted into a programming leadership position in 2008. In the 4 years since, I worked tirelessly to mold our group of cowboy coders into a modern software development team.

I dedicated a lot of time to establishing high standards for quality within the group, which the team was able to meet. Every developer in the group, including me, came a long way to where they are now, and I hope that even though I will no longer be part of the group that the standard for quality will rise even higher.

Why are you leaving?

My old group's primary responsibilities had both shifted and greatly expanded within the year prior to my departure as a result of both changes in IT leadership and in initiatives demanded as part of a push for efficiency within the greater University.

These new initiatives left even less time dedicated to development work and instead involved a lot more end-user support for various web development and the shared-web hosting platform we offer. Even then, the development work our team was tasked with (building out a campus-wide Drupal-based content management system) I did not find particularly exciting nor rewarding.

I gave it a chance for 6 months, but my suspicions were confirmed that it was time to move on. There is certainly no shortage in demand for application development, and I have been fortunate enough to have been offered a few new opportunities.

Where are you going?

For the immediate future I will be involved in various freelance/contract projects. I actually have a 9-month contract with the KU's Applied English Center to take their 37-year old database application written in Visual FoxPro and modernize it as a web application built on the Symfony2 framework.

I will also continue my long-time contract work with RapidHire, LLC, where my custom web application plays a part in allowing trucking companies to quickly qualify and hire new over-the-road truck drivers.

It's a strange feeling… for the time being I am actually working in my old cubicle at KU as part of my KU-based contract. I left on Friday, and here it is Monday, and I'm back in the same environment, still surrounded by all of my previous teammates. I hear their conversations about the projects we worked on before I left, and I could even verbally answer some of their questions, but my duties and paycheck now come from an entirely different place, so I must focus on my new project.

Honestly, this still all feels surreal. Derek Sivers sums up my feelings perfectly in his book, "Anything You Want", (and in this post on his blog) where he describes his feelings surrounding selling his company CDBaby, which he grew from being self-employeed to 85 employees and millions in CD sales:

I realized that the bigger learning and growing challenge for me was letting go, not staying on.

My previous group at KU will continue to evolve and grow, and I wish them all great success. They are in good hands, and I could not have asked for a better manager in Matt Garrett, who gave me every opportunity to succeed and embraced almost every suggestion in how we could improve the team's abilities, our development practices and the greater IT organization.

And if I achieved my goals while I was in KU IT, I will be replaceable.

If you are interested in hiring me for contract work or a potential full-time position, I can be reached at john at johnkary dot net.

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