The blog ofJonathan Pepin

Why San Francisco inspires me


In Chicago. City on the make, Jamie from 37signals says

I believe our Getting Real approach and REWORK perspective just would not exist without Chicago’s “real-ness” in our blood.

He then asks

What do you love about your city or town? Does the surrounding culture affect how you approach life or work?

This made me realize that since I arrived in San Francisco, I changed a little bit. In fact, I changed a lot.

I studied Finance 4 years in College, hoping to became an investment banker. My heroes were not only good people like Bloomberg and Buffet. I also admired Bernard Madoff and Patrick Bateman.

Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark!

That was me. I knew I was like that, and I loved it. Because my peers were like that. I had to go to the gym more than my peers. Look better than them. Work more than them. Be meaner. Be more psycho.

But that's because my entourage was like that. My friends were like that. Hell, even my teachers were like that.
The financial industry is broken because of the culture it has and the way it works, but instead of trying to educate properly the next generation of bankers, teachers were preparing us to be real predators. I still remember my Derivatives class teacher trying to excuse and legitimate what Madoff did.
And we all loved it. Just because, you know, you're in banking. You rule the world. Nobody can do anything about it. So you laugh at the situation. And the more outraged people are, the better it is.

Fast forward graduation, I start working and realize I don't like it and want to become a software engineer.
So, being the right thing to do, I moved to San Francisco. And here is my comment about 37signals' Jamie's article.

San Francisco made me a better person. I really understand what is meant by making the world better. Something said by so many programers.

I didn't accept a job because it was offering the bigger salary. I fact, I accepted the smallest offer I recieved. Almost 50% less than the others.
Why? I listened and took someone's advice. Something I would have never done a few years ago. Simply because I was better than others, hence how dare them giving advices.

Now I love going to work. I'm surrounded by amazing people whom I really value and respect. I truly try to make our product as good as possible for our customers, because I want them to enjoy it, and participate in making their life easier.

Why all that change? A change of my peers, and the culture surrounding me. What hit me when I arrived in San Francisco, is how people really are honest, generous and want to help others to matter. They don't try to glow themselves, they do their best to have others around them glow.

The programing community, with all the events, most of them free; I still remember going to an event where Sandi Metz was speaking. Free. Free pizza. Free beer. Free Sandi. She's a well respected person, and yet, she was just here, drinking beer and eating pizza with us before she began speaking. And came to me by herself to get to know me. And then moved on excusing herself; She wanted to get a chance to talk to everyone in the room.

I'm talking about the programing community, but San Francisco's culture generally is amazing. I know names of people working at the coffee at the corner of my street. Despite the place being always busy and popular, they recognize me. They really care about making me a good coffee. They listen to my answer when they ask how my day is going.

Being surrounded by good people, with good intensions, is really inspiring. You stop thinking about yourself so much. You start constently thinking about how much money you want. And instead, you really think about how happy you want to be. How happy you already are. And what you can do to make your neighbor happier.

So, Jamie. I don't know about Chicago, and I'm sure it's an amazing city. But I can tell you, San Francisco made me a better, happier person. And is continuing to surprise and inspire me, every day.