Jared, Thy Name Is Vanity

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I’ve gone by many names throughout my life: Donald, Jared, Child #61728. But this week I earned myself a new one: the Dorian Gray of Silicon Valley. For I let my vanity make a monster of me.

It all started when I joined Richard for an interview on Bloomberg. I’d only come for moral support, but then Emily Chang started asking me questions, and the interview went live, and all of a sudden I was being asked to do Adrian Grenier’s edutainment web series. I hadn’t even planned to watch the Bloomberg interview, but Dinesh convinced me to review the footage to improve before my next appearance. He said it was for the good of the company! Little did I realize that to watch a YouTube clip of oneself on repeat is the digital equivalent of Narcissus’s unwavering gaze into the water.

Such began my stumble into the depths of shallowness. I’d never considered myself a superficial person before. I put care into my appearance, of course, but only as a gesture toward professionalism. (To show up in anything short of combed hair, pressed khakis, and a lint-free fleece vest is disrespectful.) And sure, I’ve humbly accepted a few comparisons to movie star Anthony Perkins, but I always thought that was more about our shared love of birds than anything else. But now, before I knew it, I was fretting over my nose, demanding lip injections to distract from it. I thought they would have a subtle, bee-stung look, but there was more truth in that syringe than saline. My lips had grown as inflated as my new ego.

Even though the doctor told me the puffiness will subside after twenty-four hours, I think the effects on the computer education students at Paul Revere Middle School may last longer than that. How must they feel, knowing I chose Grenier over them? That I chased a shiny piece of Turkish delight instead of the home cooked meal of their company? Those kids depend on me to teach them about life in tech, to share stories of my past bullying, no matter how tangentially related to the day’s lesson. At least they got to meet Richard. The photos I’d shown them in class could only do him so much justice.

Well, readers, it’s time to repair the damage our network suffered this week, ice my lips again, and look inward. Until next time!

The Mole

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Hello again, readers! Let me tell you, since my last post, I’ve had quite an adventure! For those of you who grew up addicted to film noir or following clues left by a murdered friend like I did, this post may be a special treat!

As a lot of these stories do, it started with me alone in the office. It was another lonely night, staring into the bottom of the third glass of tangerine La Croix I had poured myself. Open in front of me were our employees’ private emails. I was in a real pickle, the mole was out there, right under our noses, lurking just out of sight in a dark mist, but tracking him down risked losing the trust of our employees.

I must have run my finger around the rim of my glass a thousand times before I finally gave in. I couldn’t forget that Richard came to me, with those blue eyes and those curls, asking for help. As COO the mole was in my jurisdiction, I knew I had to find him.

I couldn’t do it alone. Lucky for me, I had one of the best investigators around: Bertram Gilfoyle. Sure he was caustic and had little regard for the rules, but that’s exactly what the situation called for. Gilfoyle and I dove in. We checked thousands of emails. Their contents revealed little in way of our current investigation, but they did shine a light on the type of interpersonal grime you only see when people think they are completely alone.

Gilfoyle and I eventually stumbled upon the equivalent of an abandoned building ripe with the scent of death you could smell from a block away, a smell I thought I had forgotten. We realized one of our own had been sending encrypted emails straight to the enemy. The biggest betrayal of all…he was a Stallion. Gilfoyle may have said it best when he described Jeff as “a tapeworm, who had clung to the small intestine of our company…Dinesh.”

In the end, we got our man, and took a nail gun to most of his possessions. On most days, solving the case of the mole and uncovering Big Head as the rightful heir of the Bachman fortune would be enough, but my biggest case yet might have just landed on my desk. Jian-Yang is missing, potentially with our code. Looks like there’s a demon on the loose in China.

Meet Pied Piper’s New COO!

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Apologies if this post is a bit more scattered than usual, but my fingers are verily flying across the keyboard with joy! I’ve had a cascade of dreams come true recently. I never thought anything could surpass my Make-A-Wish meeting with Amy Tan when I was misdiagnosed with that wasting disease. But this moment? This is the happiest I’ve ever been.

Dream Come True #1: Richard Hendricks was my houseguest! When Jian-Yang first evicted my friends and colleagues from the hostel, I was furious. After all, this was the place we’d all roughhoused, traded jabs, looked up those jabs on Urban Dictionary to make sure we understood them fully. But the sterling silver lining of this betrayal was that Richard needed a place to stay, and I was honored to supply.

I’ll admit, there were a few bumps during our shack-up. We didn’t have time for the wine and paint night I’d planned, for one. My attempt to play corporate matchmaker for Richard went about as well as my attempt to get him to use a hair pomade. And I was called back to the house when Gilfoyle, surrounded by refrigerator parts, had a brief waltz with a paranoid break.

But it all worked out in the end: Without going into the NDA-protected details, I negotiated a deal for Pied Piper that saved us from quite a thorny lawsuit. Which brings me to Dream Come True #2: Richard Hendricks has named me, Jared Dunn from an unknown location in the contiguous United States, COO of Pied Piper!

Readers, you know it’s not like me to brag like this. As my fourth grade teacher once told me, “Confidence isn’t a color that suits you, Donald.” Well, personal color palettes be damned because I am reeling over here!

Okay, okay. Time to put away the Martinelli’s and head to bed — as if I could possibly fall asleep!

Plunge Through the Glass

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Crash! Shattered glass. Screams. Chaos. Blood. Blood. Blood. A seemingly endless river of blood.

These are the sights and sounds that will haunt my dreams for years to come, the moment Richard Hendricks’s noble code sprint almost turned fatal. We all feared the worst. The near defecation, the evacuation of the stomach, the head-first dive into glass — our captain seemed to be going down the Grim Reaper’s checklist. I could hear the all-too-familiar death knell. O! I had promised myself I would die before he did.

I blame our salty-hearted crew. They arrived aboard our vessel an unruly, insolent bunch. Refusing to row in unison, demanding coffee and dogs and milliseconds. It was their mutiny that drove Richard to code himself into delirium.

Ears ringing. Flashing lights. Sirens. Tears. Blackout.

I was told that I couldn’t ride in the ambulance with Richard because the frequency of my wailing was interfering with the monitors, so I returned to the office. I expected to return to a crew of disloyal mariners, but something miraculous was happening. Harmony. With Dinesh and Gilfoyle as their coxswains, the Optimojians, the Sliceliners, and the Stallions were navigating the rapids as one. They were inspired by Richard — at long last! — and his willingness to put work before life. I could almost taste the seafoam as the hull carved through the water.

In the end, Richard’s plunge through the glass proved to be just as effective as the three-day New Employee Orientation I had planned. Who knew cleaning Richard’s blood off the back of computer monitors could be just as bonding as an office scavenger hunt or non-competitive talent show?

Now Richard is back among his crew, drinking ale on the decks (following the doctor’s orders for regular fluid intake) and letting the sea air heal his wounds (resisting my regular application of Mederma to his scars). And I? I stand by his side, hoisting the Piper Pennant on the mast once more!

 

Growth Spurt!

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Welcome back, dear readers! My, how things have changed for us here at Pied Piper since my last post: series A funding from Bream-Hall, expansive offices, fifty new employees. I even got to see Richard off to the Innovation Hall of Fame Ceremony. Like any head of business development, I’d envisioned this moment before, sending my CEO off to a black-tie event. (Richard didn’t want me to take a photo, but he’ll be glad to have it later.)

Richard’s bespoke tuxedo aside, I’ll admit that Pied Piper’s makeover had a bumpy start. We began with the hunt for new offices, and while I don’t believe in excess, the first option had a fluorescent, grim minimalism that prompted my worst panic attack since I was left behind on a Hooli off-site in Yosemite. But in the end, we found a gorgeous space. While it doesn’t yet have the lived-in warmth of our table back at the hostel, soon we’ll have enough twigs and cotton to make this nest our own.

Our next step was hiring. We had been thoroughly vetting engineers, hoping to hand select each new Piper, when Gavin Belson stole away all sixty-three of our candidates in one fell swoop. I always knew he was a snake charmer, luring coders away with his pungi of cash and lies. He’ll toast you with champagne and then stab you in the liver. He might be the devil.

No matter, because Gavin couldn’t poach the winds from our sails. Through a clever acqui-hire of Sliceline (which had just acquired Optimoji), our family of employees is now fifty strong. It’s the kind of mass adoption every orphan dreams of.

I couldn’t be more thrilled for Pied Piper’s next chapter and its new challenges. First up, comparing quotes on a modesty panel for Richard’s desk!

A Look to the Future

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It’s incredible how much life can be compressed into just a few dozen hours, isn’t it? Since I last posted, I have resigned, been fired from, and successfully rejoined Pied Piper. And while this whirlwind meant I used up my “tears budget” a bit earlier than usual this month, it also reminded me of how lucky I am to work for Richard Hendricks, a true technological visionary. In that forward-looking spirit, I thought I’d share my letter to my 40-year-old self. I revise this missive to the future each time I begin a new professional venture, but with any luck, I will have this job — and this letter — until the day I die. Enjoy, dear readers, and take care!

Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty!

Who would have thought Donald Dunn would make it to forty-years-old? After swimming through the piranha-infested waters of the Amazon, running with the bulls in Pamplona, finding love in Paris — and losing it in Malta —you’ve seen big things, Donald.

Your life has been a checkered quilt, and some of its patches have been rougher than others. But whether a coarse swatch best forgotten or a velvet one to be cherished for all time, they have stitched together the man you’ve become. A man who sees adversity as opportunity, melancholy as but a brief minor key in life’s longer song. Not to mention, you threw one hell of a fortieth birthday bash on that yacht. Good on you, Donald!

You can be hard on yourself, but it is the lofty bar you’ve set that makes you such an exemplary friend, spouse, and father. To think, you were worried about raising one little scamp, and now triplets! It seems the chemical traces in that shipping container all those years ago didn’t cause lasting medical damage, after all. Four is a nice round number for a brood, too, and you should be glad that you went with the maroon minivan. It was the right choice.

Donald, you’ve kept so many of the promises you made to yourself. To give all of your heart, mind, and physical well being to each and every company to which you’ve pledged your faith. To treat each friendship like a hummingbird: vibrant, yet delicate. And, of course, to always wear your retainer at night to protect against stress-related grinding. Your teeth are the sparkling Christmas lights for your face, Donald, and they must shine year-round!

You are a star shooting across the Great Plains, a manta ray swimming in the sundrenched, shallow waters of the Caribbean, a single hair that raises on the back of a child’s neck after he hears his first violin solo. Never forget that you are truly something, Donald. You are tougher than anyone I have ever met, but also a gentle soul that never ceases to give first, and ask questions later.

Looking back on your life, you wish you could tell your younger self to relax, and sure, have that second glass of sparkling cider. Your soul has always been older than your body, and one day they’ll have a name for that condition. In the meantime, savor your youth and this, your fortieth birthday (give or take, depending on which of those certificates was actually legitimate). Next up: nifty fifty!

You’re the best, Donald. Richard is proud of you.

Love always,

Jared

A Thicket of Thorns

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Hello, readers. My apologies if this post lacks my usual pluck, but it has been a trying week. The boys at the home and I used to play a game called “Rose and Thorn,” ranking the highs and lows of our day, and, well, these past few have been a thicket of thorns.

First, Erlich announced that he would be journeying to Tibet, and I’m confident he did not research the necessary vaccinations before departing. So there’s that to worry about. Second, we attended Hooli-Con, which was a ticker tape parade of disillusionment.

My singular purpose there was to promote our Space Saver app, and I toted Pied Piper banners, caps, and foam fingers — all the usual showstoppers — to do so. You can imagine my disappointment when I saw our booth was located in the middle of the row, granted only a sad folding table and chairs like a recent divorcé’s dining room. No matter, I thought. I’ll forge ahead. I’ll hand out pamphlets with the zeal of a pilot during the Blitz.

My brief moment of optimism ended when I overheard some unnerving discussion back at the booth. I put on my noise-cancelling headphones, but even Terry Gross couldn’t calm my nerves. I closed my eyes, Uncle Jerry’s words echoing in my mind.

If I had to pick one “thorn,” though, I suppose it would be witnessing a hero succumb to the worst of his impulses, prioritizing a childish prank to temporarily salve a wounded ego over the security of his colleagues. Watching the violent sparking of several HooliPhones wasn’t ideal, either, but I have to say this confrontation with moral fallibility was the low point for me, personally.

Anyway, I’m off to search for a “rose”! I’ve almost earned enough PeaceFare points to host a virtual food drive, and that will feel good.

Brrrr!

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Greetings, friends, and to my fellow Californians, I hope you’re bundled up! A cold snap has hit the Golden State, and we here at the hostel have each been combating the chill in our own ways. I took my trusty pea coat from my Vassar days out of mothballs, Dinesh has been coding in mittens, and Jian-Yang has been absconding with neighbors’ newspapers to burn in the fireplace.

While at first the weather just seemed like a chance to brew my stovetop cider for the gents, it brought a butterfly effect of consequences that led to a massive Azure hosting bill. The others were quick to blame this all on “Richard’s curse,” but I worked long enough in a New Orleans Wicca shop to know that was nonsense. No, all we needed was another customer.

VR wunderkind Keenan Feldspar seemed like the answer. We were the preacher’s daughter, and Keenan was coaxing us onto the back of his motorcycle, promising to take us wherever we wanted to go. We even flirted with the idea of acquisition, but, as you may have guessed from the latest Hooli-Con ad, Keenan just gave his spare helmet to Jack Barker. The two are probably riding be-goggled and barefoot across the Hooli campus now.

Although Richard is surely disappointed, I think my beige sweater helped him to stomach the news. (His stomach has already had a difficult few days.) I only wish the unflattering knit could have comforted Erlich in time, who reacted to Keenan’s betrayal by burning his beloved palapa to the ground. All that’s left now are its charred shadows and the outdoor kimono Erlich so loved to wear beneath it.

Fear not, though, dear readers! I can see in Richard’s eye — and by the return of his restless leg syndrome — that he’s already thawing from these icy days, looking ahead.

Fight on, Pied Piper!

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Have you heard? Our new app Space Saver has cracked the Top Five Hundred rankings! I went to the Hooli App Store, clicked the Utilities tab, selected sub-group mobile, selected sub-group storage, kept scrolling down to number 499, and there was our name in lights! Yet no sooner had I prepared to blast the Joan Baez and toast our success than we were hit with some bad news.

First, there was Richard’s osteopenia diagnosis. I purchased chocolate-flavored Viactiv Calcium Soft Chews to show him bone density maintenance can be fun and cool, but still, I know he was shaken. Second, there was Stu Burke. This patent troll spotted Space Saver, an ingenue fresh off the bus from Iowa about to catch her big break, and he pounced. Luckily, our Richard was armed with justice and, some minor financial casualties aside, Pied Piper prevailed!

While Richard was on the front lines of patent litigation, I was fighting my own war on the homefront — me, a mildly-scoliotic David, against Microsoft Azure, a corporate Goliath. How could I get them to reduce our cloud storage rate? Well, as Anna sings in The King and I: “Make believe you’re brave, and the trick will take you far.” So, I became Ed Chambers.

Ed was everything I wasn’t: suave, confident, able to stomach hard liquor and dessert wines. While I always stay on the line after a customer service call to rate my interaction, Ed just hung up ‘cause he had a disco to get to.’ And while my dreams are a labyrinthine theater of repressed memories, Ed’s were just a cheerful replay of his favorite Super Bowl halftime shows.

It was a thrilling foray, but in the end, Ed’s brashness was his undoing. He had to be let go. Farewell, EC — we may be back to the core Pied Piper team, but you and your colorful exit interview won’t soon be forgotten.

 

Interpersonal Relations

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As Pied Piper’s Head of Business Development, I wear many hats. (Figuratively, I mean — wearing a hat indoors is a little fresh for my taste.) Most recently, however, my head has been occupied by one chapeau in particular: interpersonal relations.

The first challenge arose when Dinesh and Gilfoyle tested the alpha of our new app, and a merge error left each one’s data on the other’s phone. I thought we’d all just have a good laugh about it — Dinesh would tease Gilfoyle for buying tickets to a Satanist film festival; Gilfoyle would mock Dinesh for his Notes file “Non-Threatening Pickup Lines”; I’d lightly rib them both, very much included in the fun — but things quickly escalated into a standoff. The entire ordeal tested just about every non-violent conflict resolution tactic I learned at last year’s conference in Sacramento, but in the end brute force prevailed and the phones were destroyed. At least this gives me a scenario to role play at the next conference!

On top of that, Richard came to me with an urgent romantic crisis. Details of his sexual escapade are best kept between him and myself, the closest of confidants, but suffice it to say he needed to cut ties and maintain his “ramblin’ man” status. We brainstormed a graceful exit strategy, although I’m sure it will still take time for the young lady to move on. After all, Richard has such a remarkable mind, but it is just one among many remarkable organs, like his heart.

After these trying journeys across the waves of human emotion, I think it’s time for another Redfin holiday. There’s a beautiful Colonial that I’m sure will sell fast, and I want to spend some time imagining its rat-free charms before the listing is taken down!