Victus Spiritus

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Commuting Costs

29 Apr 2011

This one's free:

x+y = y+x

This one's not:

  1. wake up a couple of hours earlier
  2. skip morning exercise
  3. race from car, to train or plane
  4. arrive at a hopefully fantastic company, doing work you love
  5. work late at said epic job
  6. long trip home, dequeueing planes, trains and automobiles
  7. say hi to spouse, wave at unconscious kids before passing out
  8. go to 1

This post is about our drive, ferry, train, blimp, and submarine rides to and from work. Commuting is a topic near and dear to me for a number of reasons which range between minor and unavoidable. The primary costs of commuting are time and money, and I place a premium on the former.

Wednesday I had the unfortunate pleasure of a 5-6 hour commute (one way) to Tewksbury. Luckily that distance or greater commute is only required once or twice a month. Although those are relatively isolated events, they factor in as "batch" commuting costs.

The bigger issue is doing meaningful work. All the attractive startups and larger tech companies are in the city, which is a 1.5-2 hour commute from
where I currently live. As much as I enjoy the serenity of long walks and natural surroundings, I'm willing to forgo those pleasures to create and discover more satisfying work.

Sadly even in the tech field, most companies are bound by industrial age thinking of people going where the work is. We haven't quite mastered telepresence, but the good news is that distributed work flows are rapidly evolving.

Driven by insatiable curiosity and a burning need for product experience, I have diverged from my original career path1. In particular my interests have shifted heavily towards application design, development and marketing. I seek nothing more than to bring incredible products to life and hear the silence of satisfied (busy) customers. For that, I have no choice but to commute for now, the city holds all those opportunities.

Down the road my wife and I look to move out to the west coast where we can couple reasonable commutes with great business opportunities, while in the short term we converge closer to Manhattan.

Notes:

  1. My current profession tends towards an environment often at odds with creative problem solving.
    • Ideas are fiercely guarded even within organizations, while execution is a secondary consideration.
    • The concept of sunk costs completely escapes most veterans in the field
    • Customer budgets are surreal and unpredictable - aka the market
    • Competition is subsidized by very expensive products or government grants, leading to high overhead costs for smaller companies which focus primarily on services. To remain competitive engineers are required to perform at X times the speed of colleagues and are "penalized" by a large multiplier on compensation. Get a big raise, burn through funding faster.