A week at npm

I finished my first week at npm today.

It’s everything I’d hoped it would be – I have excellent coworkers. The work is interesting. The business makes sense. The plans for the future are exciting, but not mind-bendingly ambitious.

Working on open source is familiar, and the workflow of using private repositories on GitHub is definitely smoother than bouncing between two separate instances using GitHub Enterprise. I think this is overlooked by corporate systems designers and security folks. Trading this ease out costs a lot in productivty and maintenance that I think is under-appreciated.

Being remote is imperfect. The tools for remote face to face meetings leave something to be desired, and doubly so with some hearing damage that makes it hard to understand words if there’s any interference or background noise. There’s still a lot of room out there for someone to get multi-party video conferencing right. Being remote from an office that has a majority of my coworkers colocated has some downsides, but my team and the company as a whole is gracious and thoughtful and caring, and that smooths over the vast majority of the rough edges.

The biggest difference is how much more processes make sense when everyone is involved and cares. So far, every decision has made sense, and it’s getting easier to trust that things are the way they are for a reason, and if they cause a problem can be changed. In comparison to a corporate bureaucracy who only occasionally manages to challenge its tendency to ossify, it’s a world of difference – without a tyrrany of structurelessness. In so many ways, npm is a traditionally structured company. A simple heirarchy of managers and reporting. Employees doing the work have the most visibility into that work, the executives have the most comprehensive ability to steer and direct, but rely on us for the insight into the details. No special organization to teams – grouped by project, people allocated according to company goals. All of this though, has an element of trust that I’ve not seen since I worked at Wondermill in 2001. People genuinely like each other, support each other, and go out of their way to make sure things work for each other. In so many ways: it feels like working with a net. A proper safety net, not something rigged up to be good enough at the moment but precarious to trust long term.