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Garmin Connect team asked to relocate - this is how they declined (thegcteam.com)
281 points by cullenking on Mar 16, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 176 comments

On one hand, Garmin probably got what they wanted. Moving a whole office from San Francisco to Kansas seems like a passive aggresive way of downsizing.

On the other hand, they probably weren't exactly expecting this reaction. And I have a feeling they aren't gonna like this. Well played ex-Garmin team, well played.

My hometown is Olathe, Kansas, Garmin's world headquarters. It is a really, really great town. These people are missing out on a very good opportunity. :)

I think it's entirely possible for one person to love Olathe, another to love S.F., and for both people to be right. Arguing about which town is better when the two are so dramatically different is about as productive as trying to decide whether Billie Holiday or Eric Clapton is the better musician.

So go Olathe! And go S.F. And hey... If you aren't in Toronto, Canada you're missing a third great opportunity ;-)

SF: too expensive, too trendy/hipster.

Olathe: where is the nearest mountain? Sorry, too flat.

Toronto: too cold, too flat.

For your reading pleasure:

“Considered Harmful” Essays Considered Harmful: http://meyerweb.com/eric/comment/chech.html

Three blog posts I'd love to read (and one that I wouldn't): http://weblog.raganwald.com/2007/10/three-blog-posts-id-love...

To be separated from their friends, family and networks?

More like they're missing an opportunity to make a whole new network of friends and family. If you work at Garmin, you'll meet a lot of smart people, so you'll have smart friends.

Olathe is a much better place to raise children than San Francisco imo. Olathe is recognized as a pretty dope place; see http://www.olatheks.org/Council/Awards , notably "Money Magazine ranked Olathe as America's 11th Best Place to Live noting the city's growth and major employers."

I recognize that it's difficult to leave old friends and acquaintances, but it's also a great positive opportunity to make new, geographically-distributed networks. People relocate all the time. My family was brought to Kansas by a relocation from Florida and it was a very good thing for us, though of course when someone says "hey buddy why don't you come move to Kansas" it doesn't sound that attractive. Frankly, that's part of the reason it's important to go; these people have some prejudice against the place, but they haven't tried going there. It's a good place with just as many modern accouterments as any other. It's in one of the richest counties in the nation but has a pretty low cost of living. It is not the rural farm-town Kansas of lore.

Obviously some people have compelling personal reasons to stay in SF, and that's fine. But it's highly unlikely that all of them have such reasons, most are probably just Kansas haters. :(

I live in a town higher ranked than Olathe on those lists, and I've move to San Fran in a heartbeat. When your claim to fame is a list in a magazine somewhere, you are missing the point. Some people like living in a city. Some people like living near THE OCEAN. Some people have spouses with great jobs in the city they live in. There are more software jobs in San Fran to get, there is not San Fransisco in Olathe Kansas.

Right, people are free to enjoy living by the ocean. It's just kind of suspicious when a block of people balk at the concept of living in not California like this. Relocations are not that unusual in big corporate world, and most employees understand that their job could get relocated at any time. Most are willing to do that. It is unusual that a whole unit would refuse, and seems indicative to me of an unjustified prejudice. Maybe I'm just overly biased and they all have sick mothers in SF to care for.

And Olathe's claim to fame is not "a list in a magazine somewhere", that's distorting my point. I linked to a whole page of awards and emphasized the most recognizable. I used these awards, and that award specifically, to indicate to people that Olathe is a real modern place, not a podunk with four buildings like people seem to think when they hear "Kansas". I used them in conjunction with other anecdotes and data. You're distorting my argument to marginalize the place, again. I don't why there's so much disdain for not-California among people.

Some people like SF and that's fine. I don't want everyone from San Francisco to move to Olathe. But I don't like how there are just a handful of places that people consider "acceptable" and everything else is "flyover country". There is real life and existence, normal people, normal existence, normal cities with normal roads and normal stores, outside of California and New England. People disdainfully refer to everything else as "flyover country", and perhaps even refuse en masse to relocate to some place as humble as Kansas, surely not big enough to contain those people, and it's just really silly imo. There's nothing wrong with Olathe.

I'm all for people living where they want. I agree that Kansas isn't the right place for everyone. I am simply annoyed by the assumptions heretofore described, and that this group refuses to even give the place a try.

" Relocations are not that unusual in big corporate world, and most employees understand that their job could get relocated at any time."

That attitude comes from a different era. That "most employees understand" thing came from a time when there was something called "Job Security" so people understood that in return for moving, they had a reasonably good chance at keeping their jobs.

In this day and age, where you live in an at-will employment world, I know of _nobody_ in the bay-area technology scene who would relocate to kansas from California. Can you imagine what would happen if you relocated to Kansas and then were laid off? Olathe doesn't even have a Craigslist entry. The closest entry I could find was Kansas City, and the Bay area has about 15x to 20x the number of job listings.

I'm in absolute love with Vancouver, British Columbia, and one day, if I'm very lucky, hope to return there, (I visit about 4-5 times a year, my heart really is in that city) - but I couldn't rationally relocate my career out of the valley.

There is a different between being a wonderful place to work, and a wonderful place to live.

There's also much, much more competition for positions in CA. I never had an especially difficult time finding work in KC.

Olathe is a suburb and is a part of the greater Kansas City metro. Kansas City is about twenty miles away.

Problem #1 with that scenario, is I manage fairly Sr. Network Engineering groups. Should I lose my Job in the Greater Kansas City area, there is probably a grand total of a dozen companies who would be interested in hiring someone who deploys Cisco 6509s by the truckload. And, other than Sprint and the Military, I suspect there is nobody out there particularly interested in the deployment of IPv6.

Meanwhile, in Redwood City alone, within walking distance from my house, I can count about 20 companies who might reasonably employ me.

I'll agree there isn't as much competition, but, the high end positions are _very_ few and far between.

Actually there isn't as much competition as you think. There are more employers here in the Bay Area than there are available employees to hire. The only way to get employees for a new company here is to snipe employees from another company. The last time I attended a job fair here (approximately 2 months ago), I had no less than 15 job interviews thrown at me.

Also, it's great to have many "competitor" companies working within a few miles of each other. If you decided to leave a company like Playfish, all the competitor companies like Zynga, Rock You, and Playdom will want to snatch you up in a hurry.

It's a bit of an aside, but Vancouver is really coming into its own as a technology hub. Over even the last 2 years, the number of new startups seems to have grown exponentially. One day could be very soon; and if it is, feel free to get in touch @nickmolnar. We need more good engineers.

This is off-topic, but I've heard a surprising number of people in the valley say precisely that about Vancouver. I figure if you all just move there, at once, that the problem will solve itself. Actually coordinating that is impossible, of course, though setting up a #sfo2yvr mailing list might be a good idea...

But if we could coordinating all "just moving there", en masse, we could move to Detroit where the land is dirt cheap. I could buy a whole city block in Detroit for what I pay in one month's rent. If I brought along a few friends, we could buy up the city, start a technology hub, and become the modern-day Astors as the price of real estate shoots through the roof.

Except that then we'd have to deal with taxes, and corrupt city government (ok, SF isn't much better in that regard), and paying a private security force so we don't get shot, and fixing up houses that are in worse-than-teardown condition. And when I just want to write software - it's probably not worth the hassle. Organizing a mass relocation can be a pretty big drag.

I've relocated to "Middle of Nowhere, US" before for work. It's fine as long as you get a good salary and live in a city with a low cost of living, but you need to ask yourself a few questions first:

1. If you lose your job working for Megacorp, who else is willing to hire a senior software/hardware engineer in the state?

2. What kind of salary would you even get from the 1 or 2 tech companies in the area? These companies know they are the only shop in town and probably only pay $50-60K/yr. for senior level positions.

3. What type of quality of life are you going to have? Are there any artistic or cultural activities in the area?

If you can answer these questions positively, I say go for it. Personally, I'd rather live on either coast and make 6 figures than live in flyover country any day. If I want, I can work on the coast for 20 years and save enough money to live comfortably in flyover country the rest of my life.

It's irrelevant how awesome Olathe is. Relocation is a big deal for very personal reasons. The GC Team decided against it. What is most spectacular is the way they have dealt with the situation. They are blunt, but respectful. They are confident, but not arrogant. Anyone looking for a team to develop mobile devices would be drooling at their mouths over this.

And you're assuming a massive amount about these people. I don't live in California, in fact you'd probably find me dead before you'd find me living in most parts of California other than San Fran or San Diego (certainly not LA thats for sure). I'd probably rather live in Kansas than an equivalent city in California simply to avoid the horrible taxes and dysfunctional gov't.

But I do get the desire to live in a big city over a suburb. I've worked in a city for the last few years after growing up in a suburb, and waking up in the morning and walking through the energy of a city is just different than waking up, getting in your car, slogging through traffic to work, parking in a giant lot, and going into a corporate office park for the day. Just something like lunch is vastly different in a city vs. a suburb, and that kind of stuff matters.

You're assuming what made them balk. I see more assumptions in what you've said than in what they said.

Just like sexy people don't have to say they're sexy, great places to live don't have to send their PR people out to badger/bribe magazines into putting them into silly lists.

"If you work at Garmin, you'll meet a lot of smart people, so you'll have smart friends."

Indeed, I have no doubt that there are lots of technically smart people working at Garmin....but what is it about this company where they seemingly rest on their laurels like, forever, and google can come in, and with their first iteration of a product, make them look like little schoolchidlren...what were they doing in the meantime if they were so smart.

And by the way, I have a very expensive Garmin product sitting upstairs on my shelf if you suggest I should actually try it out before I criticize. Despite the behind the scenes software being very impresive, the UI looks like something done by a community college student who was drinking heavilt and has a deadline to meet.

"Most"? That's a strong claim. I'm sure Olathe is a great place, but the professional benefits of SF for these people are obvious to me.

I also think you're downplaying the social problems to moving, particularly away from a place like the Bay area. Personally, I'd just bristle at being told by my company to move half a continent away.

I don't know. I've done a lot of moving in my day. It's not a lot of fun, and there's things you miss about each place and each group, but personally I prefer the experience of living in new places and meeting new people.

I had a friend in high school who moved around a lot when he was growing up because of his dad's work (internationally, even), and he was totally fine with that. He told me that he was commonly asked "how do you deal with having to make different friends every 2 years?" and always answered "how do you deal with having the same friends for 10 years?"

As for myself, I couldn't do that. I moved twice when I was growing up, and I hated it. I'm a homebody. I need a psychological anchor. You may prefer the experience of new people and places, and I prefer having a constant home. It's just who I am. So while I understand where you're coming from, and your reasons for your preference are perfectly valid, in the end it's still just a preference. I wish you luck and happiness in your lifestyle. It's not for me, and apparently it's not for this team either.

So someone in the software industry, if things didn't work out at Garmin, there are many other high paying software jobs in Olathe?

There are a lot of software jobs in the area, yeah. Not many "hot startups", and it's not Silicon Valley, but there's a good market there imo. There are a lot of other big companies HQ'd in the area, including Sprint, which is probably most relevant to ex-Garminers what with GPS and mobile devices and all, Allied Signal, H&R Block, Hallmark, and many more. There are at least two military installations within a commuting distance. There's stuff out there and there's no need to assume the place is barren.

You had me at Sprint, but Hallmark and H&R Block really brought it home. I'm moving!

Heh, like I said, there's not a lot out there in the way of startups, but H&R Block, Hallmark, Cerner, and most other big companies need computers and programs too. There's a good contingent of hardware builders out there, too.

It is not a tech hotspot, don't get me wrong there. But the question isn't "Does KC rival Silicon Valley for tech jobs", just "Does KC have work for me if I get laid off from Garmin". I would say yes.

You say that, but you've only listed off a handful of companies. If I get laid off, I want more than a dozen companies as my only potential employers. What happens if none of those dozen companies needs someone with my skill set at the time I'm laid off?

I'm guessing most of the people working at Garmin Connect aren't there for "the job". They built this website just to demonstrate their ability to create new products. I moved from Atlanta to the Bay Area because I wanted more than just "a job that pays money". I wanted to do cool things and the Bay Area is the perfect place to meet the right set of companies that fill this void.

I'm just not sure that H&R Block or Hallmark likes to build cool new products like Garmin Connect. One could technically get "a job that pays money" at any city in the USA, so why move out to Kansas?

Keep in mind that these people built Garmin Connect, and have little to do with Garmin-the-company other than being employed by Garmin & using software interfaces from Garmin devices. Garmin probably decided to create a team to build Garmin Connect in the valley because of the talent available there. I don't think it would have been as easy to create such a talented team in Kansas.

I often wonder about these city rankings -- every year they change their ranking algorithm. Olathe wasn't even ranked in 2009.

If you're a geek, you'll probably hate Olathe though. One good simple measurement is counting the number of nearby hackerspaces. The SF/Bay Area has no less than 5 hackerspaces within a 20 mile radius of each other. Olathe only has 1 which is in Kansas City.

I worked in Olathe, Kansas for about eight years before moving to Portland, Oregon. I wouldn't personally move back, but I sure do miss the BBQ and significantly lower cost of living.

Assuming they would have kept their SF salaries - they would have felt like they got a pretty sweet raise. On the flip side, Kansas doesn't offer anywhere near the culture or available activities.

They way they choose to handle this was pretty cool though, good for them!

Yeah, your winters blow though. I should know, I lived in Oklahoma for 40 years. I'd much rather be out here with the mild weather, and computer nerds (of which I'm one).

I live and work in Olathe. It is a great town, no doubt, although I'm likely biased by the fact that I grew up nearby in Overland Park and have lived in this area for most of my life.

Nobody on the Garmin Connect team or here on Hacker News needs to give me a reason for not wanting to relocate here. In a way, the place where you want to live is a very personal thing. Different people have different reasons for what they do and they don't need to justify their choices to me, just as I feel no need to justify my choice to them.

That said, I definitely think there are people blindly saying "Kansas sucks" without having lived there or even traveled there. I sympathize with the Garmin Connect team, as I would not want my employer to try to force me to move anywhere. However, I also resent the attitude that they seem to have taken toward Kansas and the implication that no one would choose to live there. (I admit that perhaps I'm reading too far into it.) To me, it would be enough to say that Garmin asked them to move and they didn't want to.

It's not so much a statement about Olathe's virtues as a statement of not wanting your life disrupted by someone else's business plan.

I think it's nice of Garmin to let them use the company's property like that.

The one thing that gave me pause about this site is that someone might be confused between it and sites owned by Garmin, which would seem to open the team up to trade dress liability.

I don't see how that would apply. They're not offering a competing product with similar trade dress. They've also made it quite clear what the website is about ("We built Garmin Connect. We're for hire.")

Yeah; unfortunately, this seems like it might not end well.

This. My roommate is one of the Garmin Connect members that are leaving. There has been a lot of drama between Garmin HQ and their SF office lately. I told him to login and tell his side of the story.

I see that Garmin still does not treat its engineers well.

For a number of years my father was the business manager for a group of microwave engineers in Olathe, Kansas, strangely enough (only a few hours north from SW Missouri). After that team failed to win a contract for some sort of JDAM precursor (I think, my father is not a techie) they broke up and their top dog was one of the first hired by the founders.

Let's just say that the founders weren't terribly generous with employee stock allocation....

You lost me. The founders of Garmin had a killer idea, well ahead of its time, and they're terrible people for not lavishing the resulting riches on some lucky schmo who happened to be a talented electrical engineer living in Kansas at the time? You fail to appreciate that, while many people could have done the same job as your father's friend, it took a singular amount of vision and balls to build a company around a satellite network which wouldn't even be functional for another 4 years. If GPS failed, got axed by the gov, whatever, those guys would have been ruined while said friend would have walked away scot-free. People always seem to forget these points when bemoaning how undercompensated engineers--who after all, do all the "real" work--are.

You forget that their "singular vision and balls" would be useless if no engineers every actually implemented it. The point of stock allocation is to get people to do the work that needs to be done, and it's risky because at the time of hire the engineer doesn't know if the idea will be successful. Generous stock allocation, in my mind, is a token of good-will to the engineer and a recognition of the importance of the engineering phase of the project.

"it's risky because at the time of hire the engineer doesn't know if the idea will be successful"

How is it risky to the engineer, as long as he gets paid? Job security, maybe, but that is hardly worth a lot.

The problem is that as an engineer, he's depending upon his track record of past products to make sure he can get his next job. If the company fails, he suddenly has 2-5 years on his resume at a company that nobody's ever heard of, with a product that nobody uses, and the only thing people know about it is that it failed. Not exactly the best recommendation.

And even if your bosses give you a great recommendation, it can sometimes still hurt your career. After all, the company failed. Maybe these bozos recommending you were idiots too, and the fact that you were working for them means that you were also an idiot.

This attitude is thankfully pretty rare in Silicon Valley, but it can be quite common in other parts of the world. Early employees actually run more resume risk than founders do, because if the company fails, the founders can at least put "Founder & CEO" on their resume, but the engineers can only put "Software Engineer, company you've never heard of."

it can sometimes still hurt your career. After all, the company failed.

So? Every for-profit company I worked for from early 2001 through 2008 failed. Who blames the programmers for the failure of a company? In my experience, virtually no one.

Company you've never heard of - doesn't that apply for most companies? I still don't think that risk is comparable to losing the family fortune.

Anyway, it is all in the upfront negotiation. If engineer is unhappy with the conditions (ie not enough stock options), he should leave. To complain afterwards is lame (oh, they made a shitload of money - if only I had negotiated for more stock options...).

If the engineer felt it was a bad deal, I'm sure he wouldn't have taken it.

Assuming, of course, there were good deals being offered.

So in this case, it's the law of supply and demand...

Which is among the reasons an engineer might balk at moving from San Francisco to Olathe, KS.

All I can say is that he knew it was a bad deal and he nonetheless took it.

One aspect was that he was having trouble finding interesting projects to work on. The JDAM precursor where he teamed with a major aerospace firm was I think lost due to politics. Simple GPS systems were a step or three down from that but were nonetheless more interesting than the other work he had been able to find for some years previous to that (losing the JDAM precursor contract was a last straw sort of thing).

ruined, really? my understanding is that usually venture-backed companies like that are not started by loans co-signed by the founders, but instead started by investors. If that was the case, the founders/managers running the place would have walked just as free as the Engineer would have; the investors would have just lost the money they invested.

(the entire system is biased towards letting people 'just walk' - unless you are so small that you need to personally co-sign your loans/leases/etc... like I do.)

I mean, I'm not saying a employer who pays people salary instead of stock options is evil; I mean, as long as everyone knows the score ahead of time, that's fine. (In fact, that's what I do with my employees. The downside of this is that as you can't attract people who are as experienced or otherwise desirable as you could with options, and people leave you for better paying gigs as they gain experience sooner than they would if they had stock options.)

I'm just saying, the way most (not small-time) corps are structured, the founders have an opportunity to protect their personal assets in case of corporate bankruptcy. And even in the case of small companies like mine (I have a corp, but the protection means nothing; nobody gives me jack without a personal co-sign. I'm tiny.) American bankruptcy laws are pretty liberal, assuming it's business debit, and not tax debit, so sometimes you can still walk. (I do know several people who were 'ruined' by screwing up their taxes enough to get a giant, long-term debit.)

I agree, but I think you're still conceding too much to "fairness". I'm all for minimum wage being livable and basic working condition standards, but beyond that I don't believe anyone in the professional class is overcompensated or undercompensated. A person is only worth as much as A) someone is willing to pay them, or B) the amount of money they can make from starting their own business.

People can cry 'til their blue in the face about how undercompensated they are, but if that's really true they should take their skills and build a profitable business. I say this because engineers do create tons of value, but we need to put our money where our mouth is and do it ourselves to increase our market value rather than whining about history.

I don't think good founders are "terribly generous" giving out stock, by definition.

please explain

The founder (or any employer) has a responsibility to shareholders to pay employees as little as possible. An employee has responsibility to themselves (and their family) to ask for as much pay as possible. Negotiation is about finding a middle ground between those interests. Holding an employer responsible for figuring out what a given employee will be happy with is strange, to say the least.

> The founder (or any employer) has a responsibility to shareholders to pay employees as little as possible.

that's why there is equity compensation - something that Garmin didn't provide adequately

that's why there is equity compensation

And as little equity as possible, for identical reasons.

An employee is responsible for making sure the terms agreed on are ones they're happy with, not an employer. An employer has a legal obligation to shareholders to minimize the costs of her business, one in direct conflict with "being generous in compensation" to her employees.

Although in this case we have an engineer who was all three of employer, shareholder and employee....

And you're wrong about "minimize costs" per se. The employer has a obligation to maximize shareholder returns, for which a simplistic application of the "minimize costs" principle is seldom a solution.

Right - you don't maximize shareholder returns by being generous with handing out stock. IMHO, being generous handing out stock is just stupid.

Being any more generous than you need to be to attract good people and get them to work hard is being too generous, hence, not a good business decision, hence, the founders would not be "good" founders.

by "founders weren't too generous with stock options" author obviously meant that employees felt left out of the party after company has succeeded.

I wouldn't say not caring about employee equity participation is a good founder quality.

In fact this whole thread just goes to show that Garmin fails miserably at motivating it's engineers to this day.

"felt (mostly) left out of the party" is perhaps accurate, although the engineer in question was one of the four founders (see my longer recent item in this thread).

Based on what happened to him I'd have to wonder if later employees got much more than beer money.

Just finished lunch with my father and got quite a few more details, with some more possibly to follow:

Paul Shumaker was one of the founders of Garmin: he and others had worked together at King Radio before Paul split off with one of them to do microwave system design and development. He eventually became one of the four founders of Garmin (so says Google and my father, e.g. Paul was a part of the team before incorporation and got a minuscule piece of the action). He was their microwave engineering leader, with 23 engineers under him when he retired for medical reasons in 2004.

So contrary to my vague description above and the interpretations in this thread he was there from the very beginning and was a key to their success. (In fact, the superior GPS reception of the specialist companies like Garmin and I assume Tom-Tom would appear to be their key lasting advantage in this market (well, along with incumbency)).

As for Garmin's top dog, my father's opinion of him cannot be published in a family newspaper such as Hacker News ^_^.

Garmin has been consistently clueless about how software should be developed and deployed. They are the Verizon of GIS. No surprise that they jettisoned one of their more promising projects.

Indeed. The MapSource Windows app shipped with their GPS units is an abomination - awful usability packed into a 1996-era UI that looks two notches above an MFC tutorial. The map interaction is modal - you have to switch tools to choose whether you want to pan or zoom! And the logic for road labeling leaves plenty of room for ambiguity - the labels aren't rendered along a path, but are rather in straight lines at some randomly chosen tangent to the road, and sparsely enough that you have to guess that roads near one edge of the screen still have the same names they had on the other side.

The built-in updating mechanism has never worked for me - it helpfully indicates that the update "is estimated to take 3 hour(s), 38 minute(s) to download on a 56k modem". A 56k modem, for a piece of software bought in 2009, whose About box indicates a copyright of 2008.

Hahaha. I sympathize with your rant. I have been a developer in the GIS world for 7 years and I don't own a dedicated GPS. I've always wanted one but the software and data issues leave me face-palming. Why they don't just open the standard / create an API or both is beyond me. Weekend developers writing iPhone apps have created better interfaces than these jokers.

Fortunately you can pretty much ignore the Garmin software and just mount it as a USB drive to get maps on or GPS logs off.

Interesting. Can you tell me which tools you use to work around Garmin? Mac compatible? Are their formats proprietary? Would be stoked for a solution.

The GPS logs are in GPX file format, which is XML based but also easy to parse from whatever your favorite scripting language is.

The map format (.img) is proprietary, but has been reversed engineered, so, for example, there are tools for converting OpenStreetMap data into the format. You can download maps of many areas from cloudmade.com.

I usually download my logs onto a Linux machine, but it works just the same on the Mac (using the device as USB mass storage).

gpsbabel ftw!

Dealing with Garmin devices is only tough for the new fitness devices...proprietary binary format :( I wrote a ruby module in C to stream parse it which I plan to opensource soonish.

Oh, that's great that you have a tool. I should have said that my reply was for the eTrex *X series that store the maps and logs on an SD card and that things might be different for different models.

Wow. Thanks.

I use my GPS to plan routes, however, not just to get from A to B.

Google Maps on mobile devices will eventually displace them.

Problem with Google Maps is that there never is any reception when you need it. Although you are right - eventually there might be (10 years? 20 years?).

Except you could build pre-loading of map data into the app. On Symbian phones with Ovi Maps the app will download map data on-the-fly, or you can choose to pre-load it (for example the full maps for Europe or whatnot). I see no reason Google couldn't do something similar.

Google Navigation already does this, apparently. I was checking out one of the state parks in the Santa Cruz mountains a month or so ago. Naturally, I lost my cell reception once I got into the foothills. But Navigation continued to direct me, turn by turn with map, until I arrived at my destination.

I lucked out on GPS though - in some cases, the GPS signal has died just when I need it most. Darn Nexus Ones.

Well Google didn't do it. Wish they would.

Look at what the service is about...Google maps has nothing to do with the cool parts of a site for tracking fitness and analyzing performance. It's just a tool to visualize a route. Google has no interest in a niche market like interfacing with proprietary fitness logging devices. They just provide tools to let us niche developers put out things which will display their ads and generate revenue.

Problem with Google Maps is that there never is any reception when you need it. Although you are right - eventually there might be (10 years? 20 years?).

This is what you get when you have to take what you can get talent-wise in areas with "low cost of living." It never pays to be cheap.

This seemed pretty interesting in that I could not recall another example of an entire development team leaving at once. Not to mention their way of putting themselves back on the market is interesting and humorous to say the least.

Does anyone else have any examples of entire development teams leaving at once and offering themselves for hire? Seems like a great way for the competition to snap up talent.

They're in California too so they didn't have non-competes. I bet if they went to Kansas they would have had to sign them.

I'll let you in on a secret. You don't need to be in California to not worry about "non-competes". An employer rarely ever holds an employee to it; it is rarely ever upheld in court; they are just a deterrent. You cannot lawfully stop someone from gainful employment. The only time you will ever see a non-compete become an issue is if it is an executive, and even then it is rare.

You can stop someone from disclosing trade secrets, that is why most companies do a "non-compete / non-disclosure agreement". But, again, the non-compete part is about as enforced as the "do no remove label" on your mattress ;)

As a threat they're pretty effective at killing successful startups before they start up. I've directly experienced this sort of thing twice (well, I knew better than to sign them but others had).

Note that the lawsuit isn't going to be filed unless you're successful (or starting to be), upon which you're in for a world of hurt. Who wants to invest in a startup where success is going to earn that sort of "reward"?

A company I used to work for is suing one of its ex-executives for starting a similar company after he was fired. I am interested to see how it turns out. The old bosses are of course telling everyone that they're going to win, but as you've noted, that goes against traditional wisdom and is probably just for psychological effect.

Non-competes can be enforced (even in California) if you are a founder and get bought out.

I've seen a non-compete enforced on a normal employee in Virginia - someone left a tech company that did graphics visualization to do graphics programming at a game company. While he probably would have eventually won the suit, the new company defended him - eventually settling for like 60k.

Original Windows NT team with Cutler leading it was hired by MS when they left DEC (or was hired and then left DEC?).

Actually this happens very frequently when companies are acquired into larger more stagnant environments (or as Peter Lynch would label 'de-worisifcation'). It's not uncommon at all, and generally a good example of when these employees lockups or vesting has either completed, or reached an acceleration.

If Garmin wanted to move these people, they should have done so during the acquisition.

Peter Lynch labeled "de-worisifcation" as companies, for the sake of diversifying, heading into markets that have little relevance to their core business. It doesn't really apply here.

didnt the jruby team leave when bought by sun and start engineyard?

No, Engineyard was already around and was cool enough to give them jobs working on open source.


They seem like a strong team, but the list of client technologies feels more like a skills list you would put on a resume than a reasonable design choice. Is there a javascript framework they didn't use?

JavaScript, XHTML, CSS







JSF & Facelets


Google Web Toolkit

Adobe Flex

Adobe Flash

Google Maps API


Hey, mootools. But point well taken.

> feels more like a skills list you would put on a resume

Well, yeah; the website is a resume, for the entire team. It's just describing the site they built as an example of past performance. So including every framework they even looked at is, if not great, at least understandable.

Yeah, but it is a resume of sorts, its what the site is about. Still cracked me up, up you go :)

I haven't gone through the whole website, and I have no idea to what degree Garmin developers are limited by their management, But I own a Garmin XXX who knows, I bought it about 2.5 years ago, for about $750, it was very close to top of the line (text to voice, etc). I used it a bit, it worked pretty good, but as a software developer, I couldn't stop thinking about the UI failures. Failure after failure. You might think some would be caused by hardware limitations, and I always appreciated this, but even considering that, it was just unsatisfying.

So, Garmin has been working on this for years, they are up to version who knows what....and then google comes out with their navigation program on Andriod....it is night and day, despite this being like version 6 (I'm guessing) for Garmin vs Version 0.5 for Google. Yes, Google has some architectural advantages that Garmin doesn't, so they can offer some amazing advanced features, but for me it's the small things that make the difference...like, does using your software make any sense?

I wish these guys the best of luck, assuming they're been unhappy with how things have been for years, but if they they their work of 2 years ago was "good", I'm sorry, you guys should really be in a different profession.

These are Garmin Connect guys. They are not responsible for the actual devices, but rather for some sort of a social web overlay on top of the devices.

The team fails to mention that the deployment of Garmin Connect was over a year late and the migration from motionbased.com (which Garmin bought) was a total disaster.

It looks like the motionbased.com blog and forums have been taken down. That makes it hard for those who didn't go through that hell, like I and many others did, to appreciate just what a total cluster fsck the transition was. The new site, while much prettier with all its shiny web 2.0-ness, is functionally on par with the site it replaced.

Here is a cached forum link talking about how the December 2008 launch is slipping.

Yeah they definitely lagged from what I can see, but if they are accurate in their statements of 45,000 logged activities a day, that's a TON. To put it in perspective, a single XML log file from my Garmin GPS bike computer is around 200-300kb for a 30-40 mile ride. Imagine that infrastructure buildout!

Not defending a slow release schedule, but it's not "trivial" after working in this industry for the last couple years.

That, and any corporate structure slows a development team down considerably. Nice dig for the cache, thanks for the info :)

This is coming from the confused part of my brain. 45k transactions a day isn't that much and processing 300kb xml files should be trivial. What am I missing? Was it tongue in cheek?

I guess my response was a bit intense. but I will stand by with saying processing 45k 300kb files a day is a non-trivial task. Making the site handle that amount of traffic (serving the pages) is easy. Processing the data however, isn't. Consider it's being done through their proprietary firefox extension that works on two browsers and operating systems in order to pull info off your devices. Then it has to go to some cluster of background job processors. If you think growing your database/storage scheme by 2-5 gigs a day is 'trivial' then I commend you. From my experience, it's an easy recipe for setbacks. For example, our dataset is only 5 gigs, however at 5 gigs we are to the point of multi-hour schema changes in our data storage format. So, say you want to support handling laps from an uploaded logfile. A data migration of how many terabytes spanning how many hours?

It's ok, it seems as if you have real experience doing this, in contrast to the armchair "scaling experts" flooding HN that balk at problems like this.

Noticing this a few days late, but feel the need to defend myself. I've worked for two data mining and data aggregation companies. Currently working for a real time vertical search company. We do 45k in the blink of an eye. real time search over millions of documents is HARD. Granted we have lots of hardware and bandwidth. I'd put 45k at entry level scaling problems and see no reason to brag or get excited over it, which is why I asked for clarification.

The icing on the cake is the Amazon affiliate links to Garmin products (see right side-bar below twitter feed: http://thegcteam.com/about)

I agree. They seem to be proud of their work and would love you to buy more Garmin stuff. If I were Garmin I'd be throwing chairs right about now, I would have de-hired a dev team and a sales force at the same time.

Don't they deserve the right to use affiliate links?

I think everyone is free to use affiliate links on their site. Even more so, if you are the developer of this product.

I've been thinking about this a bit, and I just came to the realization that Garmin basically did the precise _opposite_ of what Atlassian did. Atlassian, solidly located (and successful) in Sidney, Australia, went out its way to open up a branch in San Francisco (and an awesome branch it is) - thereby not only injecting the technology, culture, and people that you find in the valley, but also exposing themselves to tons of valley customers (It helps to be able to have half the company's executives show up to the user group meetings)

You have to wonder what is going through Garmin's mind when they almost went out of their way to _shut down_ their valley subsidiary...

I like this idea on the whole, but isn't it using a bit too much of the branding/trademarks/etc. of the company they left? You can make factual statements about your former work, like "I used to be part of the Garmin Connect team", but this is verging on taking the name with it, with a no-longer-Garmin-affiliated organization still calling themselves the "Garmin Connect team", using Garmin Connect material (logos, demo videos, etc.) extensively on their site, etc. As a now ex-Garmin set of engineers, they can't really advertise their services using Garmin's name, though it can be listed as relevant experience.

The Garmin logo only appears in example screenshots; referring to their former employer by name is unavoidable, as on a resume.

The Garmin-derived name ("gcteam") could be a problem, but it's not clear that Garmin is (or should be) unhappy with this sort of team-marketing. Garmin may very well wish the best to their soon-to-be-former employees, and be happy for them to showcase their Garmin work/affiliation as they look for a new employer.

If Garmin takes offense and issues a takedown then that's just more publicity.

It seems fair enough for them to emphasize the work they did for Garmin, but that site might go a little too deeply into exactly how it was done. I can see Garmin getting upset about the implementation details.

Unless they're under NDA I don't really think Garmin has much of a say about that. A J2EE app server stack with AJAXy client side doesn't exactly seem like it would qualify for trade-secret protection.

Making use of Garmin's trademarks (even indirectly, e.g. "gcteam") or other intellectual property, or giving out example logins to the production website ... those things seem much more problematic if the relationship with Garmin goes south.

I've never heard of anyone getting slammed for discussing implementation details absent an NDA, unless there was source code or other obviously-proprietary IP involved.

This sucks. I just uploaded my most recent run to Garmin Connect, because it's so incredibly better than Nike+ or any of that cheese. Your data is open, the frontend is super-flexible, the browser plugin is great. Sigh.

Well this is certainly disheartening as I'll be moving to Kansas City in a few months with my girlfriend as she attends medical school... My job hunt begins soon and all I'm hearing is negativity about KC.

My take on it:

If you want to work for ten different companies in three years (with at least eight going out of business while you're there) and never know whether you'll have a paycheck next quarter, then the Bay is the place. If you want a steady job that you'll get to keep for a while, you can do a lot worse than KC.

There's a lot of tech stuff going on in the area (Garmin's one company headquartered here; Sprint's a stone's throw away in Overland Park, Linux Pro magazine has its North American offices in Lawrence, etc.) and a lot of geeks, but not so much youth (as in "I graduated college last month" youth). Most of the techies you'll meet are in their late 20s or early/mid-30s, and have been in the industry for a while; quite a few of them have written unglamorous but indispensable tech books. Most have settled here to raise families. There's a lot less emphasis on doing things that make great blog posts or conference talks, and a lot more emphasis on doing things that solve problems in useful ways.

That's not to say there's no innovation, of course; Django came from Lawrence (close enough that a lot of people live there and commute to KC), there are some interesting startups doing stuff like e-gov and transparency, one of the best GIS groups anywhere (with a yearly conference at the University of Kansas), a lot of new-media consulting... but nearly all of it happens without fanfare and chest-thumping.

Anyway. The important thing is not to have an attitude of "oh crap, it's Kansas", because you'll never meet most of the interesting people that way.

Thanks (to everyone) for the advice! You've definitely taken some of the stress out of it and I'm looking forward to the new experiences.

One place to check out in your job hunt is Perceptive Software. A lot of the really good people I knew from my undergrad days (I went to KU, which is about 40 minutes from KC) ended up there. They have a dodgeball court, and seem to try and be a fun place to work.

Another popular option is Cerner. From what I have heard they have good pay and benefits, but expect lots of hours.

Whatever you do, don't work for Sprint. They employ a ton of people in the area, but there is a running joke that the halflife of a job at Sprint is about nine months. They are constantly hiring and laying people off, and the people they lay off seem to be totally arbitrary.

well, i hear there are some jobs opening up at garmin.

I live within a mile of Garmin HQ. Kansas City is a very different town from SF, but it is a great place to live. Especially if your going to be raising a family.

I'm a freelancer somehow surviving in Honolulu right now. It's expensive as hell. You'll figure it out! One cool thing to look forward to... Django was birthed in Kansas! I'd love to be surrounded by Django/Python jobs!

> ... all I'm hearing is negativity about KC.

Which most likely comes from people who have never lived there. I think you can take it with a grain of salt.

-- Someone who has lived there, but doesn't right now

If you're into distributed computing and storage engineering, give SpiderOak a call. Or if not, drop a note when you land anyway; we'll at least invite you for lunch or something.

"I’ve worn many hats, and enjoyed everyone."


yeah, that's not gonna fly in Olathe, Kansas.

Anyone else feel like that is a really big team for the product? Maybe I've just been on really stretched teams but 15 people with 4 product manager types, wow. Though I've never use it, the product looks great as far as I can tell. But comparing the products I've worked on I'd say we would have had half the head count.

I can't imagine there are that many companies out there who are making products like this. Nike+, Runkeeper, Garmin.. Who else? Having only ever used one application like this, Runkeeper, I find it interesting how similar it looks to Runkeeper's UI and feature set.

If you've got a ready-made team that can make a product like this but is unwilling to leave the bay area, it would seem there aren't a lot of companies around that can absorb a whole team like this overnight. I wonder where they'll turn up.

The original poster (cullen) and I are behind http://ridewithgps.com, so this news is particularly interesting to us

If I can get some VC funding, then this group would be a treasure trove of hires for my company.

They seem to be very management-heavy. I looked at the page at http://thegcteam.com/team . Look at how many people they have listed as managers or coordinators. Unless all the development is being outsourced, I don't see how a 1.5:1 ratio of developers to managers is efficient. Perhaps this has something to do with why the team was missing its migration dates in the first place?

WTF, Garmin... The real issue for me as a long time sports user of their products is, if this causes problems with garmin connect (like I expect), I will finally be fed up with their products.

I've had nothing but disappointment with Garmin's commitment to their products until Connect came out. I hope this isn't the last stupid move of a failed company.

Garmin makes fairly solid devices (they have their flaws, but in general work well), however I feel you on their software. It's a nightmare, as any person who has used Garmin Training Center or Mapsource can tell you.

If you are really fedup with connect, try out our service at http://ridewithgps.com. We offer much of the same stuff they do and more.

I was clicking through some of the team's profile and Anothony Pelosi ticked "Willing To Relocate: Yes" on his resume on dice.com. Obviously, this shouldn't be taken at face value. The truth is, no employeee is willing to relocate unless it's obviously beneficial to them, which is not always the case.

There's a huge difference between "Willing to Relocate" and "Willing to Relocate anywhere". I currently live in Pittsburgh, and I'd be willing to relocate anywhere on the East Coast between Charlotte, N.C. and Boston. Most of my family and friends are out east, so I'm not willing to relocate to the midwest or the west coast or abroad.

So being willing to relocate but having restrictions doesn't make Mr. Pelosi a hypocrite

I don't think I ever implied he was a hypocrite. I was just pointing out that, although people are willing to relocate, it can't be taken at face value.

There are many, many details about relocation that cannot be told via a single checkbox. Is the relocation sponsored? Does employer provide a temporary place to live in? How far is the relocation? Is it relocation within the same state / country / continent? How many people do you know in the area of the company?

I don't think this is ever a "yes/no" question.

Feels very unprofessional to me, really the sort of people you want to hire? Nothing wrong with not wanting to relocate but Garmin clearly didn't want to relocate just to annoy them, there were obviously organisational, cost or other business reasons to.

I don't know where you're getting the impression that the website was rude to Garmin. All it said was that Garmin had relocated the project from SF to Kansas, and most/all of the team was declining to follow it. Just the facts.

(Shrug) I grew up in that part of the country, and left for a reason. Life's too short to spend it around people who think Jesus rode a dinosaur to work.

Sorry if you disagree, but unless you're a robot, professionalism only goes so far.

In all fairness, I grew up about five miles from the Garmin headquarters, and most people in that area don't believe Jesus rode a dinosaur to work (that would be in Wichita).

However, Olathe is a town of suburbs and schools and not much else. I wouldn't want to move back there, period, let alone from SF.

Same here, and this rings true. "Nice" is what you get, and nice has its limits.

Is that really the perception of Wichita? I would have said Topeka. (Most) All of the crazy abortion protesters are from out of town. (I lived in Wichita at one point long ago.)

I'll add that some of the parts of Kansas I've been to seem very nice if you want to raise kids, or just relax, although I wouldn't want to stay there long term.

I almost threw Topeka in there, but I wanted to keep it simple.

I know a lot of decidedly cool people from Wichita... but I also know quite a few crazies.

Absolutely right. People like this are just not going to be team players. Garmin is getting eaten alive by GPS pressure through the Iphone, they are not laying people off or asking people to relocate for fun. In short, this is a PR disaster for Garmin brought on by disgruntled former employees who just don't care.

Do you want employees that don't care about causing you a PR disaster?

People like this are just not going to be team players.

Is this the context where "team player" means "someone who will bend over backwards for a company that likely wouldn't do the same for him"?

The entire point of the website is that the team is looking for a new job. They are all team players... they are practically the shining example of how a good team operates.

Being a team player doesn't necessarily mean mindlessly obeying every corporate policy (though I suppose sometimes it does).

Exactly, its practically a miracle when a team gels well enough to actually work well together, never mind being so well integrated that they would come up with something this clever to try and continue working together rather than taking the every man for them self approach and trying to find new jobs individually.

Garmin isn't getting "eaten alive" by the smartphone market. Yes, Garmin, Navteq and others had market share eaten by navigation services on smartphones, however you are neglecting the fact a smart phone isn't a GPS. Try using a smartphone in a small airplane, boat, bicycle or while hiking. Garmin and crew are going nowhere, they may just lose the in-car navigation market to a certain extend. However, even that is a maybe/maybe not, because Garmin and all develop the navigation systems for stock cars. Plus, many older users will not buy a mount to put their tiny cellphone screen close enough to makeout, they'll use a giant in-car GPS system from one of the big manufacturers.

There is definitely no PR disaster. The site isn't knocking Garmin at all. In all actuality, the people creating the site do not seem disgruntled one bit. They seem proud of the work they did, they rep Garmin products and seem in good spirits. Sorry, but your analysis is way off.

Umm, I use my Nexus One while hiking all the time. I lose cell & data reception, but if I've already got Maps or Navigation open when I lose reception, it'll keep the map on screen.

Problem is your nexus one isn't ruggedized and has poor battery life in comparison, not to mention you can't swap out the batteries. For sure it works, but it's like commuting in a truck or taking a honda civic filled with tools to a construction site. Both of them work, but it's not the best tool for the job.

Also, if you have a large bike route, 50 miles or so, you have to cache a huge amount of tiles to see that route at any detail. Currently, Google Maps fails at consistently doing this even with expanded cache sizes.

Olathe, Kansas. Grew up there. Had cows on mainstreet 1/4 century ago, damn that makes me sound old. Close enough to drive to Lawrence (KU) for punk rock shows and into Kansas City for industrial dance clubs. Not a bad place, really.

Shouldn't a team like this start their own business instead of thinking of being hired?

Incidentally, isn't it kind of odd that a GPS device company is somewhere with so little... well, "geography", in the sense of mountains and other features. I would see them out west somewhere.

I think that they should use to as an opportunity to launch a consulting company focused on webapps.

I've not used Garmin connect but some of the features look promising enough that other websites would benefit.

Good for them. I wonder what Garmin thinks in terms of competitors now easily finding a large group of ex-employees.

Where is the story about how they actually declined? All I am seeing is their team resume.

It doesn't render well on Chrome. Firefox works fine.

really hope these guys get hired.

Wow. The back-end and business performance details they publish go pretty far into trade secret territory. Garmin probably won't sue to avoid giving off bad recruiting vibes, but I would think twice about hiring these folks.

Yeah, because I want to hire someone who will use my resources to get themselves hired elsewhere. It's like a girlfriend using my money to put up a profile on a dating site.

Downvotes. I guess the talent is feeling particularly precious today. Kids: when you start hiring people, maybe you'll change your mind.

edit: And checkout http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1197891 - this is your uber talent who deserves special treatment during a recession?

Who would want to hire the kind of employee that doesn't care about causing a PR disaster?

AVOID, these cats are selfish prima donnas who are not team players. Garmin isn't asking them to relocate for fun, they're doing it because they face an existential threat on the consumer side of things from the Iphone.

And Garmin is a team player for conducting what is essentially a mass layoff? Employers can have no expectation of loyalty unless they are willing to demonstrate it in return.

The team is worrying about itself. The management have to worry about themselves, the team, the rest of the staff, the stockholders, the continued existence of the company. They are being responsible and making what is likely an incredibly hard decision. The team? Looking out for themselves, while harming further the company that put up the resources and took the risks (and maybe came up with the ideas) for creating Garmin Connect.

How is Garmin's resources being used, and how is the company coming to harm from all of this? That's a very specious claim unless you have information the rest of us don't.

All the team is doing is saying "hey, we built this for Garmin, but now we're on our own. If you think we do good work, come talk to us!" - how are they unfairly profiting from Garmin's product? I suppose you also refuse to talk about past work at previous employers on your resume/during interviews? Otherwise you'd be guilty of the same level of unfair profit.

Furthermore, Garmin's resources aren't being used. Garmin isn't paying for the server that this page is on, in fact, Garmin's not paying for any of this attempt at advertising. What's your stance on this? Should all former employees of a company disavow their previous employment and not use any showing off of previous work (publicly accessible work, mind you!) to seek more employment?

As for your first claim: the company is worrying about itself, and the team is worrying about itself. Everyone is a selfish, but rational actor in this situation. Nobody is evil - and I find it disingenuous to paint the team as profiteers when you fail to do so to Garmin also.

Since I'm getting (anonymously) downvoted anyway:

Did the team buy all software they used to create the site themselves? Did they discuss it during work hours? Did they mail each other ideas or designs at work? Using email addresses of the company? What is the quality of their work focus between now and the time they stop working, which IIRC is in May sometime? They're still being paid, but I'm pretty sure they are quite focused on ramping up their own marketing during this period.

Note that the blogosphere is really enjoying this interaction and the company is coming off as stupid, out-of-touch etc. Do you think it's helping Garmin or hurting them, on balance?

It comes down to do-unto-others. I'd prefer not to burn the bridges, myself. I loathe corporate game-playing as much as the next person, which is why I write and sell my own software. But I fully understand that some decisions are just very hard to make, and beating up on Garmin seems a bit simplistic.

Well, I'd respond with some real points but the rabid downvoters aren't looking for discussion - just agreement. Makes for a less interesting world, but there you have it.

Of course they're not team players. That's why they got together as a team to produce a website showcasing their work and inviting employers to hire them as a team.

"Team player" apparently means "spineless pushover", not "someone who plays on a team".

And the best way to deal with that threat is to lose an entire team of experienced engineers?

Clearly some new management technique with which I am not familiar.

Where has this pervasive notion come from that being a team player means being an ass-kissing yes man?

IMHO, sometimes being a true team player means having the guts to tell management that they're KILLING THE TEAM!

Have you ever heard a manager say something to the effect of "you're not a team play" to mean anything other than essentially "you're not a spineless pushover"?

I haven't, although I have indeed experienced examples of "teamcide" (to use the DeMarco and Lister term) as well as just plain killing the company by insisting that their engineering management be yes men. Sooner or later they're reminded that you can't fool mother nature, reality cares not a whit for bluster and ego.

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