A Sad Day

There have been some sad developments within the Engine Yard Rubinius team that I’d like to address head on.

Earlier today, I had the unfortunate task of reducing the team size to 2 people, which meant laying off the rest of the team.

I’m sure this comes as a shock to many, as it did to my friends to whom I had to give walking papers. This was certainly never a scenario that I had ever hoped to find myself in when Engine Yard offered me this dream job early in 2007.

The reason for the layoffs is not Engine Yard divesting interest in Rubinius,
but rather a necessary reorganization of budget priorities. That’s a fancy way of saying that EY could no longer afford to sustain the large team we had.

This is a sad day for me, one that I’ve been dreading. It stings not only
because of what it means to Rubinius but also because of what it means to my friends with whom I will no longer be working. They’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into Rubinius and their everyday presence will be sorely missed. I hope that they do not think badly of me or Engine Yard.

When Engine Yard gave me the go ahead to hire a team, they did it with the best
intention: to help Rubinius grow. And we have definitely done that. In the
last year, we’ve achieved amazing goals within the project:

  • We went from running very little ruby code to running rails.
  • We got rubygems up and running well.
  • We got a parser entirely in ruby integrated.
  • We wrote a whole new VM to build on.

We’ve had our fair share of setbacks, but the team has always rallied.

Rubinius will continue to move forward, continually bolstered by the awesome group of people who give up their free time to help on the project.

Tom Mornini has posted on the EY blog as well; you should read his take.

24 thoughts on “A Sad Day

  1. Sorry to hear that; you guys have done an amazing amount of work, including easy to overlook contributions like the Ruby test suite, ruby_parser, ruby-ffi, etc. All these greatly improved the Ruby environment and ecosystem.
    I’m looking forward to when Rubinius Kernel will power most, if not all, Ruby implementations.

  2. Layoffs are never fun. I’ve done it before and hope to never have to do it again.

    However I’m sure that the folks who were ‘affected’ by this will have no trouble finding alternative employment.

  3. Sorry to know about this (temporary) setback. Please continue your amazing work with Rubinius. I sincerely hope it ends up as the default VM for Ruby very soon.

    And good luck to the guys who had to move on officially from this project, hope all of you get in to more good stuff.

  4. Ah man, this sucks, if it’s understandable — R&D is expensive.

    The good news, though, is that these guys are seriously talented and the Ruby world is still growing rapidly, so I doubt it’ll be long before they’re at cool, new gigs.

  5. While I look forward to the eventual benefits that Rubinius may offer and I am grateful for the work that Engine Yard paid for on Rubinius I am not very surprised by this. In fact I always thought it was odd that they were doing it in the first place.

    This seemed like a long term research project that a new company like Engine Yard could not afford to carry out as they are also building their business. Once established then research like this is good to do and can yield a good ROI. It always seemed to me that if it weren’t for the vast sums of venture capital money this malinvestment (in my opinion) would not have happened. With the tightening economy I imagine that venture capital money is not as easy to achieve and therefore the malinvestment is getting corrected. In fact I am surprised to see 2 people still working on it and don’t imagine that saying the case for long.

    So as a member of the Ruby community I think you have done a great service by moving this project significantly forward. But for the sake of your investors this adjustment seems necessary and I hope you are able to continue to focus on building your business so you can become an established company that can easily invest in projects like this in the future.

  6. How many people can say they got paid to work on a virtual machine? I hope we work for the same company again someday; I learn something new every day working on Rubinius.
    Sorry you had to make such a tough call, and don’t let it get you down.

  7. Thanks everyone for your kind words.

    @Bil: Hm, I’ll have to think about that…
    @Wilson: You’re such a fucking pro, you rock.
    @Anon: Thanks, fixed.

  8. Hope this temporary setback does not deter anyone from working on such innovative projects and looking forward to the day when the work the team did finally bears fruit under a better financial climate.

    One with you on this sad day, sir.

  9. Sorry to hear of the layoffs. If your guys are looking for work, we have a ton of ruby / rails work on the table, and we could use some quality guys in a 6-12 month contract. If you think they might be interested, have them contact me (stigrett (at) rapidreporting.com).

  10. That’s rough. Best of luck continuing with Rubinius development.

    Seems like now that the new VM is running rubygems it’s once again a good time for “average rubyists” to start contributing.

  11. evan, no one is going to hold it against you. it’s just a bad flu going around. and, seriously, that’s a dream fxxing job i’d be super happy to have had – i’m sure all the guys feel that way. in the words of winston churchill “if you are going through hell, keep going.”

  12. Sorry to hear, that couldn’t have been easy. However, to look at the bright side of things: You guys have all done amazing work on Rubinius. Everyone who has worked on it should be proud.

  13. Though it is a sad thing to hear but compared to next gen VMs for other dynamic languages, Rubinius still has the best corporate support, it still has amazing community and a lot of impressive work is done over the last year.

    RubySpec and unified FFI layers pretty much guarantee that Ruby will stay Ruby even with 7 implementations going. Ruby lexer and parser make it possible to add/remove language features way faster than before. Actors model is the way more and more languages use for concurrency, and Ruby now has it’s own implementation thanks to Rubinius effort.

    Ruby community is lucky to have a company with vision Engine Yard has, and lucky to have a project as promising as Rubinius.

  14. That does, with out a doubt… SUCK… For everyone involved. From you having to lay the facts out there, to the others whom received the papers. But do keep in mind that they’ll still be your friends. As long as they were your friends, none of this will stop them.

  15. It isn’t easy having to lay off people. I’ve done it and also have been laid off in the past. That’s life in today’s economy.

    For the people who’ve been laid off, they should know it’s a tough economy everywhere, even when you have great skills. The best thing to do to find that new job is network, network, network. LinkedIn is a great way to find contacts and a full profile will help others find you.

    The local EDD has workshops for people seeking work, learning how to interview well, network, get the resume in order, etc.

    Additional resources are at http://www.ourhrsite.com/resources.html – our focus is the Silicon Valley, but similar resources are available elsewhere and some of the links are independent of location.

    Check with the person handling benefits, if you offered them. If your company had an Employee Assistance Plan, there may be some counseling available including financial advise.

    Best of luck to you and to your former employees.

  16. “Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust”… So many companies are closing doors right about now. I’ve been at TWO since March! Make lemonaide out of lemons and while it is sad for those that were let go, I’m glad that EY is still standing behind you and rubini.us and progress will continue forward. Plus, honestly, I’ve interviewed at several companies that were looking for ruby developers here in Seattle, so I’m sure some of those folks will land on their feet…

  17. Ultimately, I think the story here is that Engine Yard *continues to fund* Rubinius even in the current climate of uncertainty and that counts for something in my book.

    The community response has been awesome. For anyone wanting to help: clone the repo, run some specs, fix some of that nummy pure-Ruby kernel code. The four of us will be just fine.

    Thanks to everyone for the support!

    At the very least, drop in #rubinius to hang out🙂

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