Flex/Flash/Actionscript

Flex Changed My Life

Dramatic title, I know, but I’m actually pretty serious here. This is my 100th blog post, and I wanted to take that momentous occasion to reflect on the past 10 months of blogging and try to explain how much positive change I’ve seen in my life as a result of Flex. My brief Flex history: started playing with Flex when 1.5 was out (so what was that, like ’04 or ’05?), started blogging about Flex in Jan 2007, quit my full-time job to become a Flex consultant end of March 2007, now loving life/work and even writing a book.

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Quality of life
This is number one. I love working from home. Absolutely, without a doubt love it. My morning commute now consists of waking up and strolling to the best coffee shop on earth (really), and then heading home so I can switch back into my bathrobe and begin the day’s work (I haven’t yet walked to the coffee shop in the bathrobe…). This is amazing. I used to commute from San Francisco to Palo Alto (via the train), which took a little over an hour each way. And I started work at 8 am, so that meant I left my house around 6:50. And at work I was in the basement of a building that had no windows. So during the winter months I would get up when it was dark, spend nearly all of my day inside with no sunlight (except for a brief period for lunch), and then by the time I got home it was dark again. I hated winter. Now needless to say, I have windows. And if I want to start work at 8 am I can wake up at 7:59 (but let’s be honest, 8′s pretty early…). If the time comes when I’m looking for a normal in-the-office type of job, I don’t know if I can handle the commute (I know never say never, but it’s going to be hard).
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My girlfriend lives in Berkeley, which is a 20 minute or hour drive (depending on traffic). But my old commuting schedule meant that I had to sleep every night in San Francisco in order to catch the train in the morning. Now I have the freedom to work from anywhere. My new favorite schedule is working from Berkeley in the morning, driving across the bay bridge at 10am when there’s no traffic, and working the rest of the day from home. This flexibility is probably what I value the most about my current work situation. I can’t even explain what a great effect this has had on my life. So yes, Flex has helped my love life.

Projects
I’ve worked on some great projects with some great guys while I’ve been contracting. My first gig got me on a conference call with Jesse Warden (handing off a project) and Darron Schall (who I had the pleasure of working with). How sweet is that? Here’s a brief list of the projects I’ve been able to work on (minus some small non-public stuff):

  • LaunchPAD
    This was actually my first (and also my current) Flex project as a contractor with Universal Mind. I’ve been involved with multiple iterations of this prototype application and love where I’ve been able to take it most recently. Watch the demo video if you want to learn more about it. I found out I love mapping applications (or more specifically, the unrealized potential of mapping technology on the web).
  • Ribbit
    I got the chance to help create the Ribbit developer API (through the great guys at ESRIA). I got to know Chuck Freedman, and it’s going to be really fun to watch where Ribbit’s going to go in the next few months.
  • MapMyPix
    Got the chance to build an application for MapQuest (through Universal Mind) that shows off their AS3 API. The project was fast and fun, and hopefully we’ll see another iteration of this app in the future.
  • TileUI and experiments
    While this stuff doesn’t fall under the category of paid-work, I’ll just point out that Flex has let me do some really interesting experimental work that keeps my brain super active and gets me really excited about the technology I get to work with. It’s so easy to get excited about this stuff when there are such sweet demos people are constantly churning out, like all the amazing 3D stuff that’s going on right now. (P.S. TileUI is not dead, and I hope to be able to share more info in the future)

Community and worries about working alone
The Flex community rocks. One of the biggest concerns I had about working from home was the lack of co-workers around to bounce ideas off of. After being involved in the community for the past year or so I’ve now got an IM list of great Flex devs, most of whom I’ve had the pleasure of going out drinking with. If I’ve got technical questions or want to get some brainstorming on an idea, I ping one of my friends. That’s not the same as having an office full of friends, but it works well for me. I got to be friends with some of the great people at Adobe, and Deepa and I are even writing a book together. Frickin cool.
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Money
And yeah, the money’s good. I won’t go into detail but I’ll just say I make multiples of what I made before (either I’m overpaid now or I was underpaid before, you can take your pick). If you’re looking forward to your standard 4% raise at your full time job and you can do good Flex work, I’d consider checking out your other options. The job market is at a great place right now for Flex developers, you can probably make a pretty big pay jump.

Looking back
It’s been a crazy 7 months since I left my full-time job (7 months!). It’s weird to think, that timeframe doesn’t sound like that long. But within the last seven months I’ve changed jobs, spoken at conferences, and now I’m writing a book. Back in April I bet my career on Flex (although I didn’t really consider it a career at that point). Looking back on that decision, I have to say it was the perfect decision at the perfect time.

Alright, enough sentimental crap. Next post will be ActionScript code, I promise.

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31 thoughts on “Flex Changed My Life

  1. Nice mate, glad to see its working out well for you.

    I have been through a similar transition, and possibly is why I too feel such a tie to the (now) Adobe community/products. The community is one of the best parts (though miss all the events in the States :( ). Will get the chance to buy you a beer one day!

    Now get ya head down and post some more examples lol :)

  2. You are a big figure in Flex community, and done some greate works, I hope someday to invite you to China and give us an excellent presentation.

  3. Daniel says:

    Good life, I flex was the framework I was waiting for years.

    Doug, I flex for a living (in an office) a block from the CalTrains Phil’s, Up for a coffee break sometime?

    Daniel

  4. It is great. :)
    I’ve worked from home doing almost 100% flex development for the last 2.5 years (and on an AIR project since last June). Not having the commute alone is a huge time saver. Also, not having to be in mindless meetings where you are nothing but a warm body with a billable rate or taking part in ‘Birthday Thursday’ or other stupid wastes of time is such a great feeling. Glad its working for you. :)

  5. My favorite part is when I accept a contract for Flash development work, then I introduce the client to Flex for the first time, and they immediately see the light by the time i demonstrate the attribute setting: bottom=”20″ in one of the tags. The Flash contract becomes a Flex contract in a matter of seconds, and best of all, I become an immediate superhero for having introduced Flex to the client.

    Flex is my superpower.

  6. I’ve been working from home for the past year moving an AS2 project through to flex and I love working from home. All the things you talked about are so true-not having to drive anywhere saves so much time. Plus flex just doesn’t have me pulling out my hair the way as2 does/did.

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  8. Hey Doug,

    I was a consultant doing contract work for a company for over 5 years before dumping the job and going on my own. I can attest to the enjoyment of controlling your own hours. I work more hours now than I did and have more time than before also. Go figure.

    The first 2 weeks I spent learning Flex, I thought, WOW! this is it! And boy was I right. Not one of my customers has turned away from Flex development once I introduce it. I had done ASP.NET programming and was amazed at my productivity gain with Flex.

    Congrats on the new book. It will probably be one of the required readings for most noobs.

  9. Hi Doug,

    Thanks for the post. It’s great to hear that your decision to strike out on your own has worked out well. I too walked away from a 9-to-5 (more like 7-to-7 with the commute and other office bull) web design gig about two years ago and haven’t regretted my decision one bit. I was the lead designer for the company’s largest client but was treated like dirt. Overworked, under paid, and under appreciated. The classic trifecta, right? Oh yeah, and my manager was a douche-bag to boot.

    Anyway, feeling really discouraged after that experience, I decided to step away from web design/development for awhile to pursue other interests. About six months ago I got the itch to get back into web development and that’s when I discovered Flex. I was blown away! Finally, an intuitive, powerful, and robust tool for rapid development and deployment of RIAs over the web. Fantastic! No more messing around with countless browser hacks to produce a rich user experience that’s cross-browser/platform compatible. Ahhhh…

    I’m definitely a newbie but am very excited to start churning out some cool stuff. Thanks again and continued good luck.

  10. Doug, I made the same jump a little over a year ago and have not looked back since. The work is more rewarding (both personally and financially), the hours are awesome and my 26 step commute is fantastic compared to 1.5 hours each way. Flex is definitely revolutionary for a few reasons. It’s undoing what used to be years of painful web app development and it’s freeing people from being desk slaves. Keep up the great work and enjoy the freedom.

  11. Doug,

    I was thinking of doing a similar post since I’m coming up on 1 year since I started scalenine.com. It was going to be a bit along the same lines with a little background about what I was doing before. I’m not working from home, but the transition has been awesome.

    Hopefully we’ll be able to work on a project together in the near future. Keep up the awesome work.

  12. handitan says:

    Hi Doug and all,

    I was wondering if you guys could share what preparations that a person need to become a successful Flex consultant/contractor (I don’t know which word to use :)?
    I know Doug has been encouraging people to do that on the blog and even on his 360 Flex presentation :)
    Maybe another blog to dedicate this topic? Pleaseee…….

    Please help this grasshopper.

  13. Brandon says:

    Great post, Doug. I’m seeing more and more posts like this and it’s really got me thinking…
    A question for you and others here, where do you guys come across the contract jobs that allow you to work from home? I see lots of Flex jobs posted on all the job boards, but never a whisper about being able to telecommute. Even with calling a few places I consistently get the “We’re looking for someone local” jabber.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work, dude! :)

  14. Handitan,

    1. get your head around flex, know when it’s appropriate to pitch it
    2. get a site/blog up and get your name out there, you’re a brand, sell yourself
    3. work your contacts to find work
    4. be active in the online Flex community, read and reply to blogs, post helpful stuff
    5. never stop learning, be constantly trying new stuff
    6. make sure you’re passionate, if you are people will see the passion and buy in
    7. just do it, jump in with both feet and learn how to swim quickly, you may flail for a while but eventually you’ll get the hang of it

  15. Hey Doug, I was thinking of suggesting this as a topic at the next 360Flex conference. Maybe you and a handful of other freelancers could do a session or a BOF. It’s something that might work well with beer, you think? You could talk about the freelance life and how you get into it. Contracts, clients, etc. I think it would be a hit.

  16. Awesome, yes! I still don’t know about this bath robe thing, kind of weird if you ask me. :) LOL, makes me think of Hugh Hefner. But I have invested in slippers since I don’t have a commute farther than a stair flight down to the office.

    heh!

    DK

  17. BRed says:

    Doug, been following your work for a few months now. You’re one of my flex heros (like Quietly Scheming Ely). I’m taking a long leave of absence from my job to work on a pretty cool project. I’m working way more hours & am way more happy than I have been for years. Now if only I can reduce my burn rate (mortgage, baby, etc) I should be able to sustain being a 100% flex guy for some time.

    Good times!

    BR

  18. Your post really inspired me, even tough I’m not a Flex Developer, it really got me thinking of the new market your talking about.

    Thank you

  19. Matthew Ryan says:

    I did a Flex 1.0 to 1.5 project a couple years ago, then had a long break for a couple years.

    July 2nd I started onto a Flex 2.0 project and luckily, I think, started working from home.

    I think it is because of the buzz around Flex and the lack of experienced people in my town I could, and can, dictate most of my terms.

    Really enjoy Flex, in many aspects and many ways, as well as some of the fruits its bears.

    Interesting to hear your comments.

    Thanks

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  21. Add me to the list of Flex believers Doug. Our paths are similar, I’ve been completely on my own for very close to a year now and owe a huge part of it to Flex. And I can say without embarrassment that I have arrived at work (the basement) in only my boxers, and nothing can beat that! My commute went from an hour drive from Queens, NY to Brooklyn, then the subway for another half hour to Manhattan…….to sometimes literally rolling down the stairs only to Flex it up with a smile on my face for the remainder of my day. Keep up the good work!

  22. MayorBrain says:

    nice one. started my flex carrier earlier this year. Flex is just beginning to gain entrance into my part of the world, and am happy to be one of the pioneers. watch out for one of my products (http//www.chatslab.com/),should be up by next week. ciao

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  25. To whomever it may concern:My previous comment (as well as this one) was left by automated spamming software. I just took a look at some of the sites that it hit and I see that it seems to have left comments in inappropriate places that made the comments themselves seem pretty damn insensitive. I just wanted to clear up the fact that I never actually read any of the posts and I’m really not a horrible person – It was all done automatically by a robot that left a comment on a bunch of blog posts that contained the phrase “my life sucks”. I sincerely apologize if I offended anyone – I’m just a spammer who was trying to get links to his site.If you haven’t already, you should probably delete the original comment, along with this one.

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