Last updated: May, 2008.   Copyright 1999-2008, Randy Strauss

Randy Strauss

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Table of Contents

Snapshot, youth to now

I grew up in Seattle. I learned religion might be important to some people when I was 14 and 15 (story tbd) and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1975, and took an Intro to Judaism course when I was 22. I attended the U of W for two years, then transferred to Stanford where I fell in love with the warm weather, practiced juggling and graduated with a B.S. in Math Sciences and an M.S. in Computer Science.  In the mid-80's I benefitted from several Landmark courses. I married a Jewish woman in 1990 and we settled in Silicon Valley (see below) where we're raising two sons with the aid of our local local synagogue.

Work History- first 18 years

After grad school, I worked 2 years at a video game start-up, 4 years with a team building a new computer and O.S., then 12 years helping build FrameMaker, including 5 years after Adobe acquired us.

History- 2001-2003: learning, the bust, dog and teaching

In January, 2001 I left Adobe and joined a friend's start-up.. In July, I decided the plan wasn't going to work and the friend didn't like my plan, so I left.

The job market had been steadily worsening. Though I'm bright and accomplished, my experience was mostly in developing a consumer C application on Unix. Jobs were either on Windows or Mac in C++, or with business applications in C++, Java and databases. In a good job market, my education, references and years of experience would get me a job quickly. In the market of 2001, I was stuck. On September 11th, 2001, I had plenty of time to watch TV when the planes hit the World Trade Center.

In October I got lucky. A friend was looking for someone to do a small web project and help solve some UI problems at a small start-up.

Six months later, in April, 2002, my wife decided it was time to get a dog. On April 7th, South Bay Poodle rescue called us and we drove to San Jose to meet Xena, a 2 and a half year-old white standard poodle. The kids didn't know what to make of her, but I did. We took her home and named her Lambda (because she looks like a lamb, duh...) On Monday, April 13th I was let go, and Lambda and I became fast friends.

I had always wanted to teach (and have two full bookshelves of books about teachers and schools and education.) In June, 2004 I enrolled at San Jose State University to become a high school math teacher. I took the credentialling classes half time so I could still look for work, and even work if I found a job. For 18 months I found no job, except for work as a substitute teacher.

I am fascinated with what kids think. When kids "don't understand," they are understanding something. I'm convinced that all kids can excel at math, but not in most public schools and certainly not in California schools. It takes not just good teaching, but flexibility in the schedule, content and approach that California does not allow, and the standardized tests don't test for.

I discovered teaching is not for me, not yet. I have the patience, but perhaps not for months on end. I rediscovered how much I love to build products and solve problems on teams, my mind racing, tasks nearing completion, customers newly empowered to work more efficiently... It could work in education, but not in public schools, and perhaps not as a teacher at all. On top of all this the low salary would make life very hard. In the summer of 2003, I quit.

History- 2003-2007: learned excel, oracle, java, wireless

In August, after 16 months of unemployment, I got lucky. A guy with whom I had been chatting on a Stanford mailing list said he needed someone to do some work in Perl. He hired me to do a month (of late nights) of contracting at his company, Molan Corp, and then I stayed to work building his Java application to monitor a large transaction database at Visa and build and deliver reports about its quality of service. I was finally gaining useful experience!

It was wonderful to be useful again, complaining about too much work to deliver in too little time, summoning heroic efforts and busting my brain to work smarter. Success came, but in typical small-company panic.

The project ended in the beginning of May, with plans for another phase to start in mid-August.

In May and June, I was once more engulfed in the hopelessness of job hunting. But in July, I had two interviews! I had one offer by the time I went on vacation at the end of July, and the other offer was finalized during our trip to Seattle.

Aug, 2004: When we returned, I reported to work at OpenWave, a company of about 2000 people in Redwood City, California, making software and systems for cell phone companies, and I returned to busting my brain for a good team at a big company with real salary and benefits. Oh, and playing ping pong daily!

Sep, 2005: OpenWave sold us to Innopath, a startup in the cell-phone industry. It was better to be working at a place focusing on my group's work, and the ping pong was outstanding! Except when I was borrowed a few weeks here and there, I support the older of the two ex-Openwave products, used by a big customer. (Openwave stock lost 2/3 its value in the next 8 months...)

Sep, 2006: Work was very frustrating, but the people are great. I'm looking around a bit at other jobs- my wife and I will stay in this area at least another 3-5 years, and I'll try not to work more than 50 hours/week. (I just turned down a very enticing job at a 2-person start-up in SF...)

Feb, 2007: The customer who uses the product I support isn't renewing the contract. I don't like a lot of decisions we've made and how we're organized. Prospects of going IPO exist, but could be much, much better. Meanwhile, support of my product is moving to people on our China team (even though training time should be 6-12 months...).

To do a better job supporting our customers, I'm transferring to the support team. I interviewed with 9 of our people, most of whom were not prepared to interview me- very strange, and during the over-4 weeks for them to go from decision to action I started interviewing elsewhere as well...

May, 2007: I joined Big Band Networks which makes video processing hardware and software to help cable companies pipe video to your TV.

In June, 2007 we had a wonderful 10-day trip to Maui.
In July our solar panels went in!

Oct, 2007: After 6 months of building tools for their support team, BigBand had a bad quarter (missed target by 33%), resulting in a layoff. Since the support team had gotten by without a tools-builder for the first 5 years, I was viewed as non-essential and let go. It was a shame- good people and products.

Besides writing several small perl programs, I wrote a java program to telnet to a remote machine to run command-line commands and ftp a file back- sounds simple, but I had to build a terminal emulator because the Win2k telnet server has no dial-up terminal mode. The file was an ACE memory mapped file which I decoded and compared with the command-line output, producing a nice HTML display of both the contents and the differences.

In October I started the next task, storing recent customer configuration data into a web application. I designed a lot of the system and built a MySQL database. I was in the process of loading it with data when the layoff hit... October 30th was my last day- but very nicely, they gave me 4 weeks of severance and 2 months of insurance.

I spent about 10 days looking for jobs and setting up interviews, then suddenly was deluged with interviews. Two excellent places made me offers, a third wanted to, but at the last minute a financial review put hiring on hold. Another excellent compay (which was purchased 3 months later) wanted me for a second round of interviews. It's a nice change to be wanted!

Dec, 2007:

In the beginning of December, I joined Meta Integration Technology Inc (MITI), programming in C++ and Java. It's a very small place and still private, but profitable and everyone is dedicated to serving our industry. My hours are long- it's hard, but I'm enjoying the challenges, being productive and building new opportunities for our customers.

Big perk- it's just 2 miles South! Usually I drive my car to take Benjy to the train in the morning, but when he's not in school I get a nice, brisk 35 minute walk. I'm looking forward to starting and ending each day that way this summer. It allows me to fill my gas tank only once a month.

MIIT makes "meta data"software. "Meta data" means "data about data", data that describes sales-data, or databases that keep organization data (about people, finances and assets), or other kinds of data, such as business processes. All companies and governments have tons of this stuff and a large industry makes many expensive products to help with different aspects of it. Many of these companies are our customers, including our software products in their products. One of our big products are "filters" (a.k.a. "bridges"). These read many of other companies' products into our own format and write them out again, allowing meta-data analysis tools to give customers a unified view of all their data.

March, 2008

Our world was turned upside down this month by two huge events. Our beloved dog Lambda died. A week later, while visiting an animal shelter, we picked up a new dog, Jupiter.

For the last few years I've been feeling a mid-life crisis coming on. I don't want a Ferrari, can't afford a year trekking the world, can't quite rationalize having an affair... What to do! So on On March 6th I began an adult gymnastics class at On March 6th I began an adult gymnastics class at Goldstar Gym, about 2 miles East of work.

I barely managed not to kill my back in the first 10 minutes- my spine can't take any jumping even on a tumble track (and I didn't dare try the trampoline :?) Despite the back pain, I did a lot of tumbling and hand stands, a bit on the high bar, parallel bars and can still climb a rope hand-over-hand. I iced my back all weekend. I went the following week as well, climbed the rope twice and spent the next weekend with massive shoulder-muscle pain and lots of ice (and the Bartimaeus Trilogy- excellent!). The 3rd week Purim made me miss class, letting me heal a bit more thoroughly.

May, 2008

Last August I realized I had a moral imperative to write a particular book and I began, slowly, to put it together. God commands, but doesn't particularly make it fast or easy (ask Noah!) In May I realized time was running out and I needed some help. A guy at work began talking with me and I realized he could get a lot out of the Forum. So I signed up for a once-per-week seminar and four weeks later the book is progressing and my marriage has become extraordinary, and more.

If you place any value in my opinion or insight, investigate and take the Forum. I would be happy to assist you in any way.

(Meanwhile, I'm limiting myself to one night a month of gymnastics. My darts game is starting to improve, though, and occasionally I have hopes of juggling 5 balls and getting my weight below 170...)

Aug, 2008

July was hectic, with the first week punctuated by Josh's Bar Mitzvah on July 5th (want pictures? email me for a Snapfish invite!). At work, 3 projects/products conspired to need attention at the same time, requiring two full weekends of work (my first this year) besides the usual 12+ hour days. (One product is pivotal to the company, one will finally gain us a large customer, and the other was a firm commitment to a recent strategic customer...)

On Sunday, Aug 3rd, Josh (13) finished The Landmark Forum for teens. I went to graduation and was touched, moved and inspired. Teens shared a bit, giving up surliness, being uncommunicative, and all other manners of moods and side-effects, and thanked their parents, families and friends for their support.

Monday morning at 6 we headed up to Seattle in our '91 Honda Accord wagon. We talked a bunch and tried to play CDs through all manner of contraptions, including through the car's tape player, but nothing really worked. Josh and Benjy (16) squabbled a bit and before the first (12-hour, 10 miles from Portland) day was up, tensions were high (too put it mildly).

We spent 2 days at the northern tip of the 2008 Olympics (mountain range/peninsula), letting the kids rest instead of exploring further into Victoria. Then we took the relatively short drive to Seattle, with a brief break on the Kingston/Edmonds ferry.

The 4 days in Seattle were great. We visited lots with my 80 year-old parents and my older brother, and my youngest brother and his wife and 3-year-old son drove over from east-of-the-mountains (Winthrop). We saw my aunt and uncle and 2 (of 3) cousins and their 4 kids, spent a wonderful evening seeing some friends from high-school, and I visited a teacher of mine from high school. And of course, lots of swimming and a fair amount of the usual tourist stuff. Plus I replaced the car tape deck with a CD player.

The CD player made the 2 day drive back home pretty peaceful. We shared some of the kids music, some Cold Play, and Plain White Tee's album/song Hey There Delilah, and of course (of course?) the soindtrack from two Muppet movies. We got home around 3 pm on Thursday, August 14th.

I worked Friday, Aug 15, and succeeded admirably in pretending it was okay that someone radically one of my programs to add a couple of features (probably unnecessary, but I won't have the chance to find out for a while...).

And Josh and I have had a number of long talks about life, the universe and enlightenment, not to mention the upcoming school year (starts on Wednesday...)

Tomorrow begins again the cycle of 60-hour weeks, a brief hour or two with my family on week nights, except for Wednesday, when I spend the evening with infinite possibility in my seminar. Could life get any better?

PS: We drove because
  o the airlines wanted full fare to stuff our tiny dog under a seat, bringing the cost of travel to $1,100 (I don't know if there would have been more charges for bags- and we didn't really want to tranquilize Jupiter and stuff him under a seat)
  o I thought it'd be good to have the time together to talk, especially after the Forum (we did a fair amount of that.)
  o we wanted to see a bit of the Olympic peninsula.
In retrospect, I'd do it again, though maybe send one kid up by plane, and have the other one fly back...
Our Accord surprised us, getting a bit over 25 mpg. Adding the 2 extra nights of hotel brought the cost of car travel to about an extra 3 days and $500 less in cost...

To reach me via email, send to randy at this domain (