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Leaving The InterPlanetary Journey


After almost 7 years working on projects surrounding IPFS, the InterPlanetary File System, I am now saying goodbye. It’s been an incredible journey at Protocol Labs, and more recently at the Interplanetary Shipyard. However, I feel like it’s finally time for a change for me.

โญ๏ธ Joining Protocol Labs

Back in November 2017, just a month after starting my bachelor’s degree, I joined Protocol Labs. It was an incredible opportunity and I will forever be grateful to David, who trusted a random 18-year boy with no working experience from a small village to work on a project to decentralize the Internet, IPFS, the InterPlanetary File System. The fact that this happened is still crazy to me, and I can’t express how lucky I feel.

During the first years at Protocol Labs, I mainly worked on user-facing projects, such as IPFS Desktop and IPFS Web UI, an Electron desktop application and a React web application. For these projects, I got introduced to a whole lot of amazing people with whom I worked. Later, I worked on a more technical backend project, a testing platform for peer-to-peer systems.

The projects I worked on, plus being surrounded by amazing people with great ideas, allowed me to grow immensely. I was still studying at the time, so I was working part-time, but still. During this time, I also met most of my coworkers in person in one of the many events that happened at the time.

๐ŸŒ‘ The Dark Period

However, not everything has been roses - is this even an expression in English? One specific instance that I remember and will likely never forget happened after moving to The Netherlands. During my master’s I asked to reduce my workload from 50% to 25%. That is a bit more than a day in full-time terms. This should’ve been fine, depending on the type of work.

During this period, it would’ve been fine if my work would’ve been small and well-scoped, such as fixing bugs and doing some small maintenance work. Instead, I was given a massive project that could take a few full-time weeks. To make it worse, I was the only one working on it. Working alone on a large project 10 hours a week, while context switching with a master’s program in The Netherlands made it extremely tiring and demotivating.

In addition to the work issue, Protocol Labs decided to change my “category” to something they call “independent contractor” - yes, I was working as a contractor at the time - without informing me or my manager. As a consequence, I got cut off from Slack, my e-mail was deleted, my permissions were changed overall. This happened overnight without any communication, and that was the problem.

My manager at the time was just as surprised as I was. I was now a Slack guest and only had permissions to talk to people that I had chatted with recently. I could not see any channels or start a conversation with anyone I didn’t have a chat history with. And important to mention that chat history was deleted after n days, meaning sometimes one more person would disappear from my sidebar.

To make things worse, all of this happened during ๐Ÿฆ  the pandemic. I had just moved to The Netherlands, a country where I knew basically no one, while having remote classes. I could not talk to coworkers, I could not see people in person, remote classes were not that exciting. It was all far from the ideal situation.

After some months, my manager and I managed to change my work to more well-scoped work, such as fixing bugs and addressing issues in projects that I had worked on before. This was better, but the communication channels were still blacked out for me.

All in all, it was not the greatest time: moving to a new country during the pandemic and getting cut-off from work at the same time. I could’ve probably done something more regarding the work situation, but I just ended up accepting the situation after a while.

โ˜€๏ธ Hired Full-Time

After finishing my master’s, I had the choice of staying with Protocol Labs full-time, or looking for something new. Considering what I mentioned before, I was actually very inclined to looking for something new. However, I did not find anything that immediately caught my eye. In addition, I had now the opportunity to work on a different project within Protocol Labs, which would still give me the chance to grow.

So I got hired full-time. I was now working on more technical backend projects, such as the most widely used IPFS implementation, Kubo, and its libraries, Boxo. I already knew some of the folks of the team, while others were new. Some were surprised to see me after two years: no one knew about the situation of being cut-off from all communication channels and everyone was surprised. Anyways, everything was now fine.

During this time, I met a lot of new people, we had a few events in person, and it gave me the opportunity to further grow and learn more about technical and fundamental aspects of IPFS: the network, how the protocols work, how are things interconnected, etc. It was very interesting and exciting work, and we had a lot of plans of challenges to tackle.

๐Ÿ’ฃ Nucleation

Around a year after I got hired full-time, and after losing two team coworkers due to different reasons, the “nucleation” was announced with fixed dates. In essence, many teams had to nucleate out of Protocol Labs and form their own company. In practice, everyone was being fired, getting a severance, and a choice of going ahead with the new company full of uncertainties, or not.

Before nucleation, our manager at the time asked us to write a few paragraphs on our decision to go ahead or not, and why. In addition, we were encouraged to set our own conditions: what do we want to see in half a year in order for us to stay in the new company. Mind you, all of this was optional, but basically everyone did it. I always appreciated the transparency.

In a nutshell, I decided to go ahead because of a few reasons: (1) I believe in the project and what it is trying to achieve, (2) I really enjoy working with such amazing group of people, and (3) why not give it a try? It wouldn’t hurt, right? I decided to go ahead, but not everyone did. I ended up joining the new company that included my team, Interplanetary Shipyard.

The whole nucleation process was… something. I will just say that ours went as smooth as it did thanks to the amazing work put out by our manager at the time, and some of my coworkers that ditched their engineering work to focus on logistical aspects of forming a company, getting payroll setup, and looking out for funding.

Since January, I have technically been working for the new company, on more or less the same projects I was working on before. Except for the compensation and the amount of people I see around in the communication channels, not much had changed.

๐Ÿ“ My Conditions

I am not going to copy-paste my conditions here verbatim, but it’s a bit tricky. I had already been feeling bored for quite a few months, and I was always transparent with my manager. Unfortunately, we were on this limbo where we could not really start anything new and exciting due to the nucleation process. Everything was uncertain. There was no clarity. We had been given a strict deadline to be our own entity, and the focus was on figuring out funding, entities, payroll, etc.

The feeling of boredom was unpleasant, and kept growing. That was one of the biggest reasons I considered not joining the new company in the first place, but at the end I thought giving it a chance wouldn’t hurt. Changing this situation was one of my conditions: I wanted that the work I was doing was allowing me to grow and learn.

Another condition was the feeling of progress and impact. Considering the last months at Protocol Labs, we were basically not making any impactful progress due to the uncertain situation. Additionally, we had worked on a project for months that we felt wasn’t going to be fruitful. And it wasn’t.

The last condition I am going to share here is the one of meeting up with coworkers. I had not realized at the time for how long I hadn’t seen anyone from the company in person. I checked my calendar. Since April 2023, I haven’t seen anyone in person. There was an event at the end of 2023, but unfortunately I couldn’t join.

๐Ÿšช Leaving

As I said, I have always tried to be transparent. I had already expressed a few times that I was still feeling bored, lack of progress and impact. In addition, we still hadn’t met a single time. Most of my conditions were not met after 3 months. I wanted change.

I had already been passively looking for new opportunities from time to time, within areas I’m interested in. Recently, something caught my attention and I submitted an application. After some interviews and nervousness, they said yes and so did I. I had made my decision to leave the Interplanetary Shipyard.

It is bittersweet. After all, I have been working in this project for almost 7 years. I am 24 now. That is essentially my whole adult life and around 30% of my entire life. I am extremely glad and grateful for everyone I’ve worked with over the years and for all the opportunities I’ve been given. It’s been an incredible journey ๐Ÿš€! Words are not enough to express the gratitude I feel. But it is time to move on.

๐Ÿ”ฎ The Future

From June, I will be working on a completely different project, on a completely different work setting. It is no longer a fully remote company, but a company with offices here in Eindhoven. A local company, but with big ambitions. It will be a completely different technology set and topic, giving me a growing opportunity.

This will be my first company with an office, where I will be able to see coworkers on a regular basis. In addition, the offices are very close to where I live, so commuting will still not be a problem as I can just walk there. Not even bike.

The topic, decentralized identity, has always sparked me interest. I’ve been following all the EU legislation and progress regarding the digital wallet for quite some time. I can see the use cases and the potential. And I’m extremely excited to work on this topic more closely.

For this job, I also accepted a pay cut, albeit I would argue the new salary is still quite generous. Maybe I could’ve negotiated more, who knows. Some people would call me crazy or not understand my decision at all: but it’s my happiness, and, after all, I’m still 24 years old. There’s time to grow!

I’m looking forward the new challenges that will be waiting for me on the first of June!