Dr Nic

Coming to America

Have you ever looked at your biological watch and thought, “it looks like it’s time to change the world?”

My biological time piece has a full set of inscriptions: go to university, chase girls, get a post-graduate qualification, catch a girl, get a professional job, marry the girl, change into contracting, change into consulting (and ponder what the difference is), work overseas (and marvel at the differences), make a baby, change into training, move back to Australia, buy a home, start a consultancy (Mocra), make another baby, grow the consultancy, and …

Really, I’m not sure what comes next in the script of normal life. Retire in 30 years? Create more little open source projects? Just keep growing the consultancy? Until what?

A few weeks ago, John Dillon, the CEO of Engine Yard, drew some pictures on a whiteboard for me and asked, “Do you want to help change the world?” Sure, a classic Steve Jobs one-liner from the history books of Apple. I said, “Yes”.

On the 1st of September I will start work at 500 3rd Street, San Francisco as Engine Yard
’s VP, Technology. Job description: help web application developers win.

22000km to work

The daily commute

Google Maps suggests my daily commute to work will be 22,300km. Some of that will be heavy morning traffic, so at say 30km/hr, that is almost 750 hours. Each way.

So instead, my family will pack its bags and move overseas again. Though for the first time, we’re coming to America!

How to move your family to America

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing on the home front since I broached the idea with my wife. Personally, have you ever turned to your wife and said, “Honey, I think we are going to move to America!”

Try it at home for a laugh. Perhaps your wife will say something witty or clever like mine. Something like, “No.”

“No, baby, really. I have something important to do for a few years. It’s in America. San Francisco. Apparently it’s lovely!”

“Is the weather nice?” she might ask looking for any reason to want to leave beautiful, sunny Brisbane.

“No. I think it’s kind of cold there. And foggy. There was even a taxi with ‘Fog City Taxi’ on its side. But there are wonderful schools and the people are fabulous and are from all over the world!”

“So our young kids won’t get an American accent?” she might ask pleadingly.

“Well, they won’t get all of the accents, no.”


“I love you!”

And so eventually your wife will say yes.

How do we get to win as web developers?

Choose to use Rails. Improve Rails. Improve the ecosystem above/below/around Rails. Improve our daily lives. Expand the sweet spot of Rails to solve problems.

In the future, can we look back at the work we did, the fun we had, the problems we solved, the time we spent working, and feel that it was worth the effort? Will we remember when we first discovered Ruby and Rails and remember the joy?

This is a world-changing set of issues to care about. I’ve always cared about them before now, but never had resources or reach to work on them beyond my own little projects or cunningly worded, suggestive emails/tweets/chat with other open source developers.

Though from now onwards I will get to work with one of the greatest concentrations of Rails talent and one of the largest open source programs in the our community. I’m more than just a little bit excited. Imagine working with full-time contributors to Rails, JRuby and Rubinius as well as the dozens of developers, devops and more.

As Engine Yard continues to grow and win then its capacity to fund and resource more contributions will grow. And then we all win faster.

Can you imagine what else should be funded, promoted or prioritised? I have a dozen solid ideas but I would love suggestions.


I will miss my guys at Mocra, a wonderful Rails consultancy with clients around the world whilst based out of Brisbane, Australia. I founded and ran Mocra for the last two wonderful years. It will be slightly annoying – I won’t get to take any credit for all the success the Mocra team will have in the years to come.

Definitely, if you need an awesome Rails team for your project, contact Mocra. If you need a personal introduction, let me know. I know some people there.

San Francisco

I am very excited to move to SF and to hang out on a regular basis all the people I have only been able to see at conferences.

I’d also love suggestions of where a family of four (including a 4yo and 2yo; oh, plus another one due in February) could live. I’ve briefly seen parts of SF and many of the surrounding towns in the bay area. Thanks to Randall, Tammer and Marcy for their turns as tour guides during my visit a few weeks ago.

26 Responses to “Coming to America”

  1. Tom Adams says:

    Wow Nic, congratulations. I wish you all the best! EY are fab, we use them quite a lot & I’m sure you’ll help them get better.

  2. Durran Jordan says:

    Well my personal preference is always north beach but with all the antics on broadway it may not be good for kids. I’d probably recommend noe valley in your case. Or if ey is throwing money at you pacific heights.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dr Nic, Julio Capote, Nick Sieger [日空], Bodaniel Jeanes, Abie and others. Abie said: RT @briandoll: .@drnic is moving to San Francisco, CA to join @engineyard http://bit.ly/a0K1Ej – SF + Dr. Nic == Awesome! [...]

  4. Josh Graham says:

    G’day mate – I stayed in Sausalito for a while and Mill Valley would be great for the family. You have to go over the Golden Gate bridge or ferry each day – what a drag ;-)

  5. Maksim Horbul says:

    Congrats !
    I would recommend east bay area (walnut creek). Beautiful and pretty quite place for big family, commute to the city on BART is pretty convenient, good neighborhood

  6. Nathan says:

    Congratulations Nic!

    If your wife really wants to live in Brisbane you could always move to the Brisbane in San Francisco :-P

  7. Nice one. I second Josh – if you can afford it, stay in Sausalito for as long as you can!

  8. Roland says:

    Congratulations! May I ask how hard it was to get a green card/working visa for you?

  9. Does this mean that we can expect to see you perform live at local comedic establishments in the near future?

  10. Warren says:

    From one UTas grad to another, congrats!

    Roland, I’m guessing that Dr Nic is going to be getting an E3 visa, being an Australian with the necessary degree qualifications… I’m not sure Nic’s standup would quite qualify as the ‘extraordinary ability’ required for an O visa as a performing artist! :P

  11. Dr Nic says:

    @Warren, yep that’s the one. I call it the “we went to war with America” visa. We went to war, we then signed a free trade agreement and then the E3 visa was created in USA legislation slapped on the tail end of some other unrelated legislation. There are about 10,000 of them available each year to Australians – a pool that is independent of the green card pool for the rest of the world. It’s also neat because your spouse and children are allowed to live and work in the USA too.

    @GG – in one fell swoop I will have to throw away all my “Imperialist America” material. Golden material that starts with, “the thing about those American pigdogs is…” Gone. :D

  12. Dr Nic says:

    @Josh + Mark, I visited Sausalito on one very sunny, beautiful Sunday afternoon with Tammer. Gorgeous. I could even almost see SF itself through a light fog.

    @Nathan, unsurprisingly the “there is a Brisbane in SF” argument didn’t sway my wife at all.

  13. Dr Nic says:

    @Maksim, my wife might like the warmer climate beyond the bay itself; so we’ll check it out.

  14. Warren says:

    @Nic, I hope you can find some time to blog the practicalities of this move.

    My wife and I have been discussing taking an extended ‘holiday’ when she has long service leave from the Education Dept – if I can find a 6 month contract with someone who will have me over on an E3 :)

    With a couple of midgets ourselves, it would be pretty interesting to know the ins and outs that such a move takes… ;)

  15. Congrats! I look forward to hearing how this works out for you!

  16. Ryan Allen says:

    Dr Nic! Dr Nic!
    His coding chops are really shmick!
    Laziness he gives the flick!
    Dr Nic! Dr Nic!

  17. SF is a nice place to be.

    what clinched the deal for EY? money, designation or change the world ? :)

    looking forward for your new projects and ideas once you settle in SF

  18. Great news! The wife story is so sweet, I’ll try it out since I’ll have to move to SF in a couple of years too because of work.

    Also, time to change your “About me” page ;)

  19. Ric Roberts says:

    Idea: Maybe Engine Yard could fund Rails-based startups?

  20. Roland says:

    @DrNic @warren ah — nice. Sad I’ve no qualifying formal degree…

  21. knoopx says:

    I envy you, that’s what I would like to do :)

  22. hubert says:

    you’re a little ways soma. i’d suggest a place on the n-line which could get you direct service.

    with a family, you probably want a house, and one in a neighborhood that doesn’t have too many wandering drunks. that means cole valley or duboce triangle. i lived in cole valley for a couple years and it’s a great spot for young families. quieter, a little more space, possibly a yard, and a a few good spots within walking distance.


  23. sabat says:

    Nic: welcome to California. I want to reassure you: SF is foggy during the summer, but usually only in the mornings. You’ll see the sun. Also, SF is part of a much larger Bay Area (~15 million people), and the weather varies quite a bit throughout. You’ll love it.

    Where you should live: where ever it is, rent at first so that you can pick up and move if you find something you like better. I’d suggest Mill Valley in Marin County if you can afford it; it’s beautiful. (Marin County is what’s on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.)

    One sad note: your kids will, indeed, pick up our nasal accents. With any luck, they’ll still be able to fake yours. :-)

  24. db says:

    Nic, I hope it goes well for you and family. I will be watching and waiting for you to change the world. You always said you would. You know I expect it least that from you…. regards db

  25. George says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Nic! It will be great having you as an office neighbor.

    I’ve been living in the East Bay most of the time I’ve been in the Bay Area. It’s sunnier and warmer than the City, and it’s easier to get around and park. Besides, you’ll soon have a shiny new bridge to use to get to work!

  26. [...] will be to organize and guide Engine Yard’s open source efforts. He has already blogged about his pending move; perhaps I should have left off the Mark Twain quote? Thank you for your [...]