Starting a new chapter at Stateful

5/11/2021 7-minute read

After 7 years at Sauce Labs, I have decided to take the next step in my career to join a small startup with a mission I am very passionate about. My time at Sauce Labs has been a wild, yet rewarding ride. I feel grateful to have seen this company grow from 70 to over 540 people and experience four acquisitions! In my first “official” blog post, I would love to take some time to recap my journey. It will probably be a bit long and non technical. If you’d like to read along, there will be some learnings that I feel can help anyone in their career. I hope you enjoy it!

I remember vividly how everything started. In 2013, I participated in my first conference, called JSConf EU. As a student who was just starting out in the tech scene, this was not only very expensive but also a dream come true. All the influential people that I’ve been following were there. Many times I found myself in a starstruck situation when sitting next to people like Brendan Eich, seeing Domenic Denicola on stage or be with Addy Osmani in the same buffet line. It felt like I was hanging out at a music festival but I was backstage with all my favorite artists. While in today’s world in person conferences are not the norm yet, they give you an excellent opportunity to meet like minded people outside of your everyday environment that can spark new ideas in you or even provide you complete new career opportunities.

One of the people I followed on Twitter as well as his work on GitHub was Adam Christian. He was working as an engineer at Sauce Labs at that time and author of a popular open source project called WD. This piqued my interest, as I was working on a similar project called WebdriverIO. I wanted to take the chance to speak, get to know him and exchange ideas about test automation in Node.js. This turned out to be more difficult than expected. I remember being very nervous to approach anyone at that event. From my view everyone had to be much smarter than me and wouldn’t be interested in any conversations whatsoever. This really challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. However it turns out that Adam was the nicest person on earth! After five minutes of talking he dragged me along with him, introducing me to other people I looked up to in the community. At the end of the night I was also introduced to his colleague Sebastian and the idea was born to start as an intern at Sauce Labs. This was the beginning of everything and all just thanks to a little push to get outside of my comfort zone. This experience really taught me that, at the end of the day, everyone is just a human. The feeling that everyone else is better and smarter than you, also called the imposter syndrome, is a problem that many people struggle with. There are many ways to fight against it and it might follow your whole career. In my case it really helped to have friends with me that gave me the courage and seek the opportunity. Don’t be shy, have the courage too, people will be nice!

For those who don’t know me personally, I grew up on the German countryside next to loads of 🐔 and a bunch of cow 💩. Moving to Berlin was already a big step. In 2014, I found myself on an airplane to San Francisco with my H1B visa. It was my first trip to a different continent. I remember that I had so many “What the f***” moments during this 3 month internship. One of them was right after my first day at Sauce, which was my birthday and also the first day of a conference, called JavaOne (one of the largest conference events in the industry at that time). They had all of Treasure Island and whole street lanes blocked just for this event. I was only able to go because someone from Sauce couldn’t make it and I was the last intern in the office. Who would have thought that I would end up at what was essentially a huge carnival for grown ups.– everything was free including a live performance from Aerosmith and Macklemore. Quickly, I realized how different the mentality was compared to Germany. “Work hard, play hard!” is what I often heard and it really resonated with me. For the first time I worked with people that didn’t just show up to work and earn one’s living, they came to build something they were passionate about. I liked that a lot. Until today I believe this is my biggest motivational driver, as a professional and in private. As Marc Anthony would say: “Do what you love and you will never work one day in your life”. Wherever you are and whatever you do, make sure it has purpose and it reflects with your personal values.

My first all-nighter

During my internship and my following years as contractor and full time employee in Berlin I went through almost all engineering teams Sauce Labs had. From a small web team that had to migrate a Python application to a more modern web stack (at that time) with Angular and Django, to founding and leading an Open Source Program Office. During all these years I continued my open source work on WebdriverIO which helped me to not only pick up technical skills but also understand our customers very well. The project continued to grow over the years and as more people started using it the more feedback I was able to receive, which helped me to envision new product features which I was able to bring onto the platform. I am very grateful that so many people at Sauce Labs believed in my vision, from capturing HAR files and mocking browser requests using Chrome DevTools to testing the performance of web applications with WebDriver. As my interest in open source and open standards has grown, I build together a vision for a new team that should be responsible for how Sauce Labs not only consumes open source but also distributes it. That vision became the Open Source Program Office which has been the last team I was delighted to work with. For many years I initiated my own teams which is probably not possible in every company but has shown me that if you have an idea and people that believe in it, you can have a big impact in a growing start-up. We often tend to just do what we get told and while it is important to not always question that, it is even more important to not be afraid to offer a second opinion or another viewpoint to someone else’s idea.

Leaving a company, especially after spending such a long time working for it, is always hard. I’ve been enjoying working for Sauce Labs and will never forget the time I spent with this company. At some point however you have to reflect on what is best for you, your career and your professional development. Spending too much time in a certain environment can lead you to become less focused, concentrated and passionate on what you do. If you stop challenging yourself regularly you will lose the grip you need to make an impact. After so many years at Sauce it felt it would be impossible that I will ever do something else. Being confronted with a new opportunity made me reevaluate my situation. Even though I was a happy employee I am fully convinced that moving on was the right decision. At the end of the day there is never the right time to move on and like @alexandracoding perfectly summarizes in here excellent twitter thread, it is not worth waiting for it.

I will join Stateful as founding engineer with Adam and Sebastian as founders. I am very excited that the two people that opened my first professional chapter, will also open the second one. I will move from the browser and mobile automation space into a new environment that is focused on building tools that help to increase developer happiness. You can read more about our vision on helping developers maintain sustainable working habits and take control of their personal growth. And if you are interested to join us on this vision, feel free to reach out!

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