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Erik Trautman

Technical entrepreneurship, business strategy and product development

Reflections on 2013 and Looking Ahead to 2014

At the end of every December, I clean off the white-boards, flip to a new sheet of paper in my notepad, and sit down to reflect on the past 12 months and plan for the coming year. The older I get, the more importance this ritual seems to have. The end-2011 review put me on the path to upending my life and moving to San Francisco. End-2012 end-capped the most disruptive and incredible year of my life and had so many unknowns that it was almost impossible to plan more than a few months ahead into 2013.

All those unknowns meant that a lot happened in 2013. I learned how to code, worked at a startup, broke off a long term relationship and founded The Odin Project. I've also become more and more fully engaged with life -- I'm getting closer to eliminating "empty time" like mindless web surfing or TV watching or other wasteful activities.

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My Goals (Or, "Why Entrepreneurship?")

I've been fairly clear about what I'm leaving behind and the general next steps but perhaps less so about where I'd actually like to be. You'll have to forgive the deep dive into my head on this one but I think it at least puts some things in context. In a nutshell, I want to work with elite individuals, challenge myself every day, and create value for the world. That's pretty broad but you have to start somewhere.

To the first point, I want to work with people who are smarter than I am, more talented than I am, and more capable than I am so I am constantly forced to keep up. I think everyone has worked with or managed people who just didn't quite live up to their expectations. I really don't deal well with that. I don't consider myself a great manager because I find it very hard to understand people who aren't motivated to exceed expectations, educate themselves, and solve their own problems. With elite, or "A", players, you don't need to manage them so much as guide them. The best of us get sidetracked. As long as ego doesn't become a factor, "A players" can take input and adjust themselves to a better course. I'd like to find these people with whom, as the cliché goes, 1 and 1 really do make 3.

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What Comes Next

So what comes next? I've been asked that a lot lately. Well, the reality is that I'm soon out of the job and somewhere down the road I'll need to make an income. Fortunately, part of the tradeoff for having invested 5 years in my (former) career is that I've at least given myself some runway to work with before things become tight. I intend to use that freedom to accomplish two goals: A) travel the country and, B) prepare myself for the next phase.

To address the first, I'll be taking a few months off to hop on my motorcycle and see what the US has to offer. I've seen a good bit of Europe and I'm not quite ready for Asia. What I really want to do is confirm my suspicions that this is indeed the most beautiful country on earth. If I manage to take some interesting pictures and meet interesting people along the way, I think I can live with that too. It's long been a dream of mine and I cannot give up the opportunity to live it.

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Today I Quit My Job

Today I quit my job. Well, not exactly... I gave my notice and set the clock ticking on my extrication from this industry. Energy has been my home for the five years since I graduated Penn with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and an ambition to trade millions of dollars of something on the world markets.

I landed out of school in the Bank of America analyst training program in time to catch the crest of the market wave just before it broke. My analyst class was the largest in the bank's history (500+), the stock was trading around $53, and the plans were on the table for the glorious new Bank of America tower overlooking Bryant Park in New York. There were cracks already -- I remember rotating through the Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities (CMBS) desk for a week and having NOTHING to do while everyone around sort of shambled by like zombies. A year and a half later the world had changed "“ Lehman and Bear were gone and the integration with Merrill Lynch meant that our tiny commodities team in that brand-new-but-nearly-empty tower in New York was redundant.

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