"xTuple has done more for my professional development in three months than Oracle did in my 12 years there," Rivera said. “The pace is better here; there’s less of that pressure. If you’re looking for a work/life balance, you’re probably not going to find that in Silicon Valley. Working a 60-hour week there is very standard continuously, it’s not just like it’s crunch time, put in a 60-hour week. That’s what people do as a baseline and some people do even more.”
Gilberto Rivera, senior software engineer, xTuple | First person
He was laid off.
Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, had been working as a senior applications engineer for the computer technology corporation, Oracle, in Redwood Shores for 12 years.
While that was earth-shattering to Rivera at the time, it actually turned into an opportunity that enabled him to move across country to Hampton Roads.
Rivera, 38, started a job as a senior software engineer at xTuple in March. He writes code for the software to add subscriptions to the Norfolk business’s desktop application products.
Now, his wife, Katherine, and he are making a new life in their new home in Chesapeake with their son, Sidney Thomas, 3.
“The pace is better here; there’s less of that pressure,” Rivera said. “If you’re looking for a work/life balance you’re probably not going to find that in Silicon Valley. Working a 60-hour week there is very standard continuously, it’s not just like it’s crunch time, put in a 60-hour week. That’s what people do as a baseline and some people do even more.”
A graduate of Cornell University with a master’s in computer science, Katherine was his programming partner through most of college. She still works remotely for Oracle.
THAT AHA MOMENT
“I had been looking for a change for awhile … just kind of like a passive job search. Then layoffs hit at Oracle and it became more pressing. I started doing a more intense job search."
“At one point, one of my friends mentioned if he was in my situation he would just move. We were in California for our jobs … we don’t have any family there. It got us thinking about it. Why are we staying here? We started looking at other places that are tech hubs … Northern Virginia and North Carolina.”
“xTuple showed up on the job search and what they were looking for was a good match for what I had already been doing before. The company culture seemed to be what I was looking for. I did not actually notice the location until after the fact."
"It was actually a happy coincidence that I found xTuple.”
“We started looking at the area … that was one of the things that convinced us that this would be really good. We were looking at the housing prices in Northern Virginia and it’s not Silicon Valley, but it’s just one step down. If we moved to Northern Virginia, we’d need a salary similar to a Silicon Valley salary, a little lower sure, but not much lower."
"When we came down here, I was like wow; we can get something much nicer than where we were living in California for a lot less.”
“When I was young I subscribed to a magazine called 3-2-1 Contact. In every issue they included a small snippet of a program in GW basic, which I knew how to use because of computer class at school. When I had time at recess I’d go to the computer room and type out the same stuff that was in the magazine onto the screen to see what would happen and I tried to figure out how it did what it was doing."
“I had a lot of fun doing that. In conjunction with that my parents got Atari when I was very young, then Nintendo, then Super Nintendo. I kind of grew up with video games. I really enjoyed them and thought maybe I can look into doing this as a career choice."
“The romance of that wore thin once I realized the pace of software development and how hard it is to get into the industry. Maybe I enjoy playing video games more than making them."
"Software development seemed like something I could do. Writing code and getting the computer to do what I wanted it to do … the problem solving aspect of it was just something very satisfying to me.”
SMALL VERSUS LARGE COMPANIES
“I think the appeal to software developers for a small company is the lack of bureaucracy."
"You can just kind of like code things out, there’s not a lot of process … and you can just hammer out the code you want to do and fix things the way you want. That always leads to problems down the line, but it’s appealing because you can do the things you do the best.
“If you talk to my wife about Oracle, she’ll tell you it takes her three days to fix a bug that takes her 10 minutes to fix. Because she fixes the problem (a one-line code fix) and then she has to wait a day and a half to get access to an environment where she can test it to make sure it’s working, and then the environment is messed up so it takes her another day and a half to clean it up and fix it and then somebody else logs in to it and messes stuff up without following procedures."
"There’s this whole process … there’s reasons for the process to be there obviously, but it complicates things. Here, I’m writing a piece of code, I load it on the computer, I test it, it looks like it’s working, I’ll do the code review later and I can proceed more quickly. That’s what software developers like about small companies and startups in general.”
HURRICANE MARIA IN PUERTO RICO
“Fortunately, my brother and father live in Ponce on the south coast so they didn’t get the worst of it. The area they live in is not prone to flooding and things got up and running pretty quickly over there.
My family up in the country; it was a little worse for them. One of the roofs blew off one of the houses, but overall a lot of the houses where my family lives have been upgraded to actual cement houses. Cement houses do really well in hurricanes … I think most of the problems you run into with Puerto Rico is a lot of the wooden houses with tin roofs.”
“I was raised cradle Catholic, coming from Puerto Rico it’s almost part of your ethnicity at that point. In Puerto Rico, it’s like over 90 percent Catholic … it’s ingrained into the culture. The whole island shuts on Good Friday."
“In college, through conversations with one of the priests, I really kind of came into appreciating my faith as more of a conscious decision instead of what I was raised as. I started studying and learning about it. I find that because it is so central to my life it kind of forms all the other areas of what I do. It’s not just a matter of a strong work ethic, it’s also a matter of the virtue of justice … I’m being paid to do a certain job, so I have to do that job well."
“I’m not just working for myself; my daily labor is a labor for God.”
LOTS OF HOBBIES
“I like doing more things than I have time for unfortunately. My big thing is gaming. I like gaming in all sorts of myriad ways whether it be video games, board games or table top games. I enjoy the social aspect of games. We get together with friends and the game almost becomes secondary to the interaction."
"When you think of your typical computer programmer/geek I tend to follow those stereotypes: Japanese animation, Dungeons and Dragons, sci-fi/fantasy nerd … books, TV shows and movies associated with them. There are a bunch of other things I like — fencing, archery, medieval dance and building Metal Earth models. I’ve always enjoyed crafting, knitting, cross-stitch, sewing and baking.”
About Inside Business, The Hampton Roads Business Journal
Founded in 1995 and designed to recognize and encourage business development and entrepreneurs, the print version of Inside Business is published and mailed weekly. IB's website posts breaking business news, feature stories, and pertinent local news and information, including an extensive local business calendar, information about awards, contracts, business hiring and promotions, and the legal advertising in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Produced in concert with The Virginian-Pilot.