The Long and Winding Road

Here We Are

OverStory is growing up.  We’ve been in business for more than four years now and have enjoyed success with a variety of clients both here in the UK and abroad.  But it's just the beginning.  The year 2016 is going to be a big year for OverStory, we have big plans, big ideas and big things are in store.

Our first big change of the year was to bring on Chris Hayes as our new Director of Operations for OverStory.  With so many things going on and so many new things on the horizon, we needed a bit more structure and strategic planning to keep things moving along smoothly.  We’re very pleased to have Chris onboard and he’s already made a big difference to the company.

Another milestone this year is to get this new website up.  Our previous website was essentially a static brochure that we slapped together in a hurry when the company formed and hadn’t really changed since then (we’ve been really busy).  With this new site we plan to keep it up to date with new information about what’s going on in the the MarkLogic, XML, publishing and software engineering worlds.  We want our new website to be a place that has news and information you find useful and that you will want to return to again and again.

How Did We Get Here

An important part of our new website is this blog.  And as this is my first blog post on the new blog, it seems appropriate to give some background about myself and how OverStory came to be.

First, a very abbreviated history about myself.  I am American (which will explain the various American spellings of words you’ll find here).  I originally come from a strange place called Utah in the western US (yes, the place where the Mormons are, no I’m not one).  I’ve lived many places, including Texas, where I went to college, and Germany for a couple of years while I was in the US Military.  I finally settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, better known as Silicon Valley, in 1996.

Having spent time on the staff at the University of Texas, Austin I was already quite familiar with the Internet since well before it was widely available to the public.  Back then it was the ARPAnet, then briefly NSFnet, before going fully commercial.  Needless to say, this experience came in quite handy in Silicon Valley when the DotCom boom hit big-time around 1998.

I worked at several companies in SV during those crazy days, many of them startups.  It was an exciting time when much of what we take for granted today didn’t exist or was being invented in real time before our very eyes.  I remember the first time someone asked if I’d seen this new thing called “google”.  I also remember when Apple was considered to be effectively dead, before they re-hired Apple Employee #0.

Then the DotCom bubble burst and the bottom fell out of the tech world for a while.  During that slow period, I leveraged some contacts and managed to land a book deal with O’Reilly.  The result, about a year later, was my book Java NIO.  That book introduced me to a new world of top-tier authors, speakers and thought leaders that I am still privileged to be a part of today.

It’s Who You Know

Through one of those author/speaker contacts, Jason Hunter, I was introduced to MarkLogic.  Jason had been working with MarkLogic (they were called Cerisent back then) and had recently decided to join them as an early employee.  He asked me if I’d also be interested in joining.

Like Jason, I’d been an independent contractor for many years.  But at that time I had a very young child and a second one on the way.  A little stability seemed like a good idea.  And the company seemed interesting (“our kind of people”, as Jason put it), so I became MarkLogic employee #20.

Having been at several unsuccessful startups, it was refreshing to be at a company that had a clarity of vision and a sensible, achievable plan for how to realize that vision.  MarkLogic was my first successful startup (OverStory is my second).

I played several roles at MarkLogic (they changed their name just as I arrived, coincidence I’m sure).  I was originally brought on to conceive application ideas for industry verticals.  But it quickly became clear that it was a bit early for that, the core platform needed to mature a bit first. So I was integrated into the Core Engineering Team before long and spent the rest of my time there.

As the resident “Java Guy”, one of my first major tasks was to create a new connector for MarkLogic that could be used from both Java and .NET.  This became XCC, which replaced the older XDBC connector.  From there I moved into the core MarkLogic server itself, re-familiarizing myself with C++.  Among other things I added the execution profiler and the multi-version XQuery parser.

When I joined MarkLogic, they were less than two dozen people, by the time I left, after five years, there were 10 times that many.   The company had grown dramatically and undergone tremendous changes.  Five years in a Silicon Vally startup is like an entire career anywhere else.  After five years in the pressure cooker, and a fair bit of reflection, I decided it was time to move on.

I spent about six months de-compressing and doing other things, including publishing an iPhone app (unfortunately I just missed the gold rush for apps, mine didn’t attract much attention), and a bit of writing here and there.  When it came time to start thinking about work again I tossed my hat back into the ring and was surprised to find MarkLogic expertise was in short supply and highly prized, especially here in the UK.

I was offered an opportunity to come over to London for a few months as the resident MarkLogic expert on a very large platform re-development project for a well-know publisher.  That worked out pretty well and I was subsequently given the opportunity to relocate here to the UK on a permanent basis.

Over Here, Over Here

That was a tough decision.  Our kids were only 6 and 7 years old at the time, we were settled into a spacious house that we loved, and the sun shines all the time in California.  But after carful deliberation we decided to take the plunge and, as they say in California, “go for it”.

Thus began an odyssey that is ongoing to this day.  I spent another 18 months at that major publisher not only doing MarkLogic but also architecting REST services, pushing new initiatives and generally being a catalyst for change.  During that time I and my co-founders laid plans for the company that was to become OverStory.

The starting point for OverStory was MarkLogic.  There was a severe lack of MarkLogic skills in the UK and a big demand, so we got to work.  But our intent was never to focus exclusively on MarkLogic.  My experience stretches back to the days before MarkLogic existed.  I’ve seen a lot of technologies rise and fall and I always intended that OverStory should benefit from that perspective.

This Could Be The Start Of Something Big

It’s been a wild ride the last few years building OverStory into the well-respected company that it is today.  But we’re just getting started.  Over the next year we plan to grow and spread our wings.  Expect new and exciting things from OverStory in the coming year, but also expect the same dedication and commitment - and good karma - that we’ve demonstrated so far.

It’s going to be a great year.  Let’s get on with it.