Well, this is new.
After ten years building a company around the Cucumber open source project, I suddenly find myself out of a job.
I was laid off last Friday by SmartBear, who in June 2019 acquired the company I co-founded back in August 2013. It’s no secret that I had recently been involved in a research project to determine Cucumber’s future direction at SmartBear. As the last remaining employee lucky enough to be paid to work on the open source project full-time, I guess the powers that be had already made their minds up about what the outcome of that research would be.
I figured we might be in the end-game, but I hadn’t expected it to come around so suddenly.
I was actually on vacation, with no internet, while all this happened last week, so I was not prepared. I’ve lost access to my email@example.com email address, meaning there are various services (like Cucumber’s community Slack) that I can’t sign into with my normal account. My GitHub notifications for the Cucumber project were also going into that inbox too.
So if you’ve written to me at that email address, or you’ve pinged me in GitHub or Slack and haven’t got a response, that’s the reason why.
Wow. Are you OK?
Emotionally, I’m OK; thanks for asking 💖
While it’s been interesting, from an anthropological point of view, to spend so much time on the inside of a private-equity backed US company, the culture didn’t suit me well I am pretty relieved—even excited—to be out. I also did a lot of grieving around the time of the acquisition, and I have a lot less attachment to the Cucumber project or my role in it than I used to.
Still, I feel a sense of responsibility towards it, and I hold a great deal of respect and affection for the volunteer members of the community who put so much of their free time into nurturing the project.
I’m not taking this personally. SmartBear has grown significantly since we were acquired in 2019, and the scale of their ambitions has grown too. Although our research showed there is a market for commercial tools built for the Cucumber audience, that market probably just isn’t big enough for a company like SmartBear. There’s no compelling reason for them to continue sponsoring an open source project that doesn’t directly contribute to the bottom line.
I’m optimistic that SmartBear will have the good sense to avoid doing a Hudson, and I’ll do what I can to try and ensure that assets such as the domain, trademarks, training videos, reports service and so on will be transferred into community ownership in due course. I’ve had some positive conversations with senior SmartBear executives about this before I left, and have had some reassuring signals since as well. So I’m hopeful, but we’ll see.
Still, without a significant commercial sponsor, the future of the project is uncertain right now. Would your company like to step in and help?
What are you going to do now?
Almost fifteen years since my first commit to Cucumber, I want to take some space to consider what the next chapter of my work-life will look like; to figure out what’s important.
If you’ll indulge me, I may be using this new blog to think out loud about that a little. It uses the write.as service, which I rather like so far.
I’m going to try and keep the laptop closed as much as possible for the next few weeks, but I’d love to hear from you, whether you think you have an interesting work opportunity for me, or just want to say hi.
In the short term, I’m interested in providing remote coaching to teams in and around the Pacific timezone (I’m based on BC, Canada) who want to apply skills like ensemble programming, test-driven development (TDD), domain-driven design and continuous delivery to interesting and worthwhile problems.
If you want to chat, you can reach me at @firstname.lastname@example.org or grab some time in my calendar.