Farewell, Netlify

swyx profile image shawn swyx wang πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬ Updated on ・3 min read

Today is my last day at Netlify. It is a bittersweet moment, but the end of a formative period of my career that I will always be grateful for.

Netlify is the first job I ever got through Learning in Public. I remember that day well. In fact the whole concept was less than a week old to me when Matt Biilmann reached out. He bet early on me - super early. I guess that's what founders do? I had yet to give my first conference talk, and I had less than a year of experience as a card carrying web developer (although I had coded as part of my job in my finance career). I had never done developer relations professionally. I had no track record of working remotely - and yet the entire interview process was remote, and the first time I physically met any coworkers was after I had joined the company. A lot of firsts. Everyone who interviewed me took a leap of faith that I could do the job, and I am equally impressed at that as I am thankful.

Netlify is the first high growth startup I've been a part of, from Series B to C. At none of my previous jobs have I counted growth in X's instead of percentages, and it strikes me that this is actually pretty rare outside of my VC-fueled bubble. I think Netlify users are vaguely aware it is growing, but it must seem smooth from the outside. I think it's a little like a duck swimming - the visible part is gliding serenely above water, and underneath is some rather ungainly paddling.

A lot of companies aspire to category creation, but Netlify actually did it. In the past two years JAMstack went from a sorta kinda weird niche term to something other companies have adopted, to the point of copying everything from talking points to app design to literal marketing copy. The flattery is sincere. Meanwhile Netlify went from 1 conference in our first year to 3 the next. Books. Workshops. FreeCodeCamp courses. Entire frameworks. More I can't think of right now. It warms the cold dead heart of natural cynics like me. It didn't Just Happen, it was the result of a tremendous amount of hard work by the people in Netlify (and allies outside). Too many to name here for fear of leaving someone important out. But I will carry what they taught me everywhere I go.

Some people diss JAMstack as frontend developers trying to be full-stack. I get what they mean, but also there's a very real way it is not a diss. JAMstack related technologies and services reduce (not eliminate) a lot of steps that stand in the way of frontend developers getting fast and secure sites out into the world, for less. For those who still don't quite get it, Chris Coyier describes it best in this talk - all else is tiresome debates over semantics. For customers, I have joked in the past that Netlify is a secret hack around nonproductive and nonexistent platform teams (Reverse Conway's Law) - for product engineers and indie hackers alike. For me the diss is true in a more literal sense - I went from 100% frontend product engineer to being able to run workshops on serverless tech and CLIs, and having informed opinions about adjacent spaces. This job is a Mario Mushroom for hungry people who learn in public.

Above all, I think, Netlify is a great group of people. Netlify showed me how you can hire extremely competent people who are also nice. Nice, diverse, inclusive, funny, self aware, humble, transparent, I could go on. Of course there doesn't have to be a tradeoff between being nice and being a great developer. But it's good to have proof.

See also: Netlify Year One

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shawn swyx wang πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬


Infinite Builder πŸ‘·πŸ½β€β™‚οΈI help people LearnInPublic β€’ more at http://twitter.com/swyx


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I like the idea of a Reverse Conway's Law.

In the spirit of getting annoyed at 3-week ticket lead times from "platform" teams, I'll take a stab at it:

"Organizations that fail to design systems are constrained to produce design failures that are copies of the communication structure failures of these organizations." -- Reverse Conway


ha. very nice way to put it. i dont know if it is a design failure or process failure.


I have read many articles on learning to learn from you they're great and I fully agree. Guess you'll continue to do well in your future ;)


thanks, hopefully they have helped you in some way! just reading is not enough, must put into practice.


I'm an IT professional and ex-cofounder, I'm interested in meta-learning because I have managed many IT Projects where Programmers had difficulty to learn/model/document quickly enough, some having 10 years experience have actually no more skills than others with 2-3 years experiences. That's the reason I'm reading your articles and others - though I have my own method based on Deming PDSA (wheel of continuous improvement based herself on scientific method of Aristotle) and SOPK (System of Profound Knowledge).

sure. i think too many acronyms can hurt your cause rather than help it. and some people can be very closed minded. I think one thing that works very well is just encouraging more people to learn in public. not everyone has to do it, but the more people that do it, the more chance programmers will see one of their peers do well because of it, and that will encourage them in their own journey.

its a competitive thing too. I like to quote Nathan Barry here: nathanbarry.com/89697-reasons-to-t...

The difference between you and the popular author is the same as the difference between Chris and I back in 2007. He put the effort in to teach people whatever he could, while I continued building websites, not sharing what I learned. Rather than complaining about someone else’s success, I’ve been changing my methods over the last year. I now share and teach whatever I can and you should too.

Thanks for the link, I agree learning in public is a great thing (I have done it years ago in kind of parallel life of my IT profession as it was in...trading I learned because I was angry been scammed by a company and in the end I beated a professional analyst at his own competition so he recruited me :))... but maybe not for every personality at least at beginning stage so I agree with Marie Lou Papazian CEO of the amazing TUMO coding school when she said at a conference in Paris I attended (I shoot the photo at this very moment because it stroke me as the first time I heard that from somebody) about allowing some "ALONE time":

I mean not everybody is alike and I'm really for as much inclusiveness as possible because that what would make a great economy... like Deming - I was coached by a close Deming's friend that's why I know this because it isn't well known - did for Japan after WWII and then Singapore who inspired from their astonishing curve :)
Deming for Education
But something that I really like in "learning in public" is teaching to others because as Russel Ackoff - - yet another Deming's friend - who said that Teaching is actually the best way to ... Learn :)
Yep I'm very accustomed to do System Thinking like Deming and Russell Ackoff so sorry if I may sound awkard but that's the reason why: I tend to always relate details to global :)
Education and System Thinking


Really honest post. Good luck in whatever is next Shawn.


Looking forward to seeing where you land next Shawn! Keep up all the awesome work you do. πŸ‘πŸ»