Before I joined I had been working as an independent Apache Hadoop consultant for a year (probably the first Hadoop consultant anywhere), and was halfway through writing a book on Hadoop. The interview process had involved speaking to all four founders, and I remember when I came off the phone after the last call it was late in the UK but I couldn't sleep because the vision they had described was exactly what I wanted to see for Hadoop: a company that wanted to make Hadoop accessible to everyone, by making it easier to use and run, while maintaining a strong commitment to open source. The last point sealed the deal for me, and really at that point there was no way I could not join, and five years on I can say without exaggeration that it was the best decision of my professional life.
When I started I was living in Wales, which meant that on my first day I didn't see any of my new colleagues! That was remedied a few weeks later on when I visited California (and ApacheCon in New Orleans) in early November 2008. Initially the others were working out of a single room in AdMob's offices in San Mateo, but it wasn't long before we moved to a smart brick-lined office in Burlingame. I was around for the moving in day, which involved more flatpack assembly skills than programming.
From the very beginning we worked on making Hadoop easier to use, run, and support, and better integrated with other systems, so that it could enjoy broader adoption. That was borne out in the early projects at Cloudera which included creating training material, creating packages for Red Hat and Debian (CDH, and later Bigtop), writing tools for data ingest (Flume and Sqoop), creating a rich web UI for Hadoop users (Hue), as well as making contributions to the core project. I was mainly involved in the latter, which I did at the same time as completing the book in time for the Hadoop Summit 2009, which would never have been possible without the time and space my teammates gave me.
Over the first year I would visit every three months or so, and naturally each time the team would have grown. I always enjoyed meeting the new people who had joined since my last visit, but I realized that at such a formative time in a company's life, when the culture was being laid down that being closer to the team would make it easier for me to stay involved. The opportunity to move to California came up, and on the last day of October 2009 I arrived in San Francisco with my wife, Eliane, and two girls.
As anyone who has moved to a new country knows, there's a lot of things to sort out—somewhere to live, a school for the girls, reams of paperwork—and during this time the folks at Cloudera were incredibly helpful and supportive. When we moved into our new apartment (which Eliane had found a mere two weeks after we arrived) half of the engineering team turned up to help with Ikea flatpack assembly.
At the end of our three year sojourn in the US, we left having made many friends, sad to leave, but happy knowing we'd be living closer to our family again. Cloudera was an order of magnitude larger than when I had arrived, and was now an international company with offices in several countries across the world.
Over the last five years I've been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to work on many parts of the Hadoop stack, in different parts of the Hadoop community, and with different teams at Cloudera. In the course of doing so, I've worked with the most talented and intelligent group of people in my life. It's hard work, and challenging, but also a lot of fun and incredibly enriching. I have every reason to expect it to continue. Thanks Cloudera!
Update on October 14: reworded to state that ApacheCon 2008 was held in New Orleans, not California. Thanks to Isabel Drost-Fromm for pointing out the error.