Lost and Found

In The gooWee Story by Ian Strouse4 Comments

I spent my twenties fumbling for a calling. I’d majored in film in college, but had given up on that for many reasons, and after that I was lost. I’d put all my eggs in one basket. So I stumbled from job to job and I thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I didn’t just want a job, I wanted a calling – a craft that I could hone and deepen, that would stimulate and reward. I thought back to my childhood, when I had dreamt of two things primarily: to be a filmmaker, and to be an inventor. I began to regret not taking greater advantage of my free public-school education, and not digging further into math and science. I thought about starting college all over again and focusing on something in that vein.

I took some random classes at CU. Micro economics, because I thought about getting an MBA. Calculus, because it had always taunted me. Environmental science, because I wanted to save the world. All of these were interesting, but none of them added up to anything. After hanging out with a lot of engineers, I got serious about the idea of studying environmental engineering, and applied to CU’s engineering school. I got into CU, but not into the engineering program.

Around that time, I was working as a computer helpdesk technician. This was sort of a high point for me. The job was at a non-profit and involved playing with computers all day – or that’s how I phrased it at the time. It did feel more engaging than anything I’d done so far, and I gained confidence and skill over time. The potential for an IT career came into focus. At my previous job – office manager at an IT company – I’d dabbled in programing with the help of some coworkers. That didn’t go very far, but it fascinated me. And at the time, it seemed out of reach. Now I was moving slowly but surely in that direction.

At the same time, I was expanding my horizons rapidly. I’d begun volunteering with a local mountain rescue team, learning invaluable hard and soft skills – knots and self-reliance. I’d become involved with a very militant environmentalist group with the idea of using civil disobedience to get things done. That experience amounted to little, but it taught me a lot about people. I started writing seriously, creating a personal blog and getting a couple of articles published in a friend’s magazine – and I thought about making that a career.

Meanwhile, even during the renaissance of my life, I’d begun to stagnate at the helpdesk job. I learned a ton at first, but then I plateaued. There wasn’t anything for me to progress toward, and my primary responsibility was answering the phone. After a year and a half of this, I applied for the Peace Corps. I’d been thinking about it since college, and now seemed like the right time. I applied for the IT sector, but was warned that it was highly competitive and that I was on the low end of qualified. So I volunteered as an ESL teacher for a few months and then reapplied with the education sector. By the time I left for training, I’d been at the helpdesk for 3 years and I was at the threshold of my thirties.

And then suddenly, I was a highschool teacher in a tiny, rural town in Madagascar. This didn’t bring me any closer to having a career–if I were to continue teaching, I’d have to start from scratch when I got home–but it did give me some time to ponder. A lot of time actually. I continued to think about writing and teaching, and even toyed with the idea of opening a Malagasy food truck. Then, after an eternity – the first year of a two-year service – I started to code. I was just testing the water at first–messing around on Codecademy – to see if I liked it. And I did, very much. I kept at it over the second year, coding once or twice a month when I made it into the city and had access to a computer with an internet connection.

By the time I returned to Colorado, I was focused on a goal. I drove for Lyft for a few months while I continued to learn on my own. Then I applied for a coding bootcamp at Galvanize and got in. When that started, the pace of my life accelerated rapidly. I spent the vast majority of my time talking about or writing code. And I loved it. I loved the challenge, the tinkering, and the creative process. I dug in with all my energy and fed my brain from a firehose of information. I felt myself and my mind changing. I experienced what I’d been missing for so long–the challenge and reward of honing a craft. And six months later, when I emerged on the other side, I finally felt like I had a calling.

The end goal of the bootcamp was to find a job. But I was torn between the benefits of a full-time job and the freedom of freelance work. I’d also dreamt of building projects from my own ideas and turning that into a business, and I’d joked with my good friend Juan about starting a company. Since that didn’t seem immediately viable, I began the hunt for work as I neared graduation. Through word of mouth I was introduced to a local design shop that needed intermittent help with web development. They gave me an interview and afterward said they’d probably need me soon.

The week after the bootcamp ended, I spent some time job hunting and working on personal projects. Then on Friday, the design shop asked for my help. They had an emergency and needed me to jump on a project ASAP. So the following Monday I started work.

On Tuesday I was invited by an acquaintance to join the meeting of a local entrepreneurship group. There I talked to a member named Zach who was in need of web developers for a new project. I was interested. Juan was there too, and I hinted that we should work together.

I’d been coaching Juan on web development during the bootcamp. He’d been doing it as a hobby for years and had expressed interest in going further. And he was growing more and more ready to leave his HR job. At the entrepreneur meeting, he was encouraged to either make things work at his job or take steps to leave it. So the next day he choose the later and put in his notice. On Friday we interviewed for Zach’s project and started working on a proposal.

On Saturday, October 1st, 2016 we decided to make it official and start a company, and we weren’t joking this time. On Sunday we settled on the name gooWee LLC, and later that day we got a green light on our proposal. Then, on Monday, we started to lay down code for our first project.

Now gooWee is one year old. We’ve learned so much – vastly more than I learned in the bootcamp – in one short year, and it feels like we’re only getting started. We’ve had many projects, some small and some very large. We’ve learned many hard and soft skills. We’ve learned how to organize large codebases, and how to guide clients through the product management process.

When I look back over the long journey that led me to this point, it seems to have had a logical continuity. But many were the times I felt like I was meandering through a wilderness with no map or compass. I am awestruck and grateful that my path has led me here, and eager to discover what lies further ahead.

I am incredibly thankful for the many people we’ve encountered on this journey, and for the help they’ve given us – friends, family, clients, and mentors, who have supported us and helped us find new business. I am grateful for the patience of our significant others, Natalia and Allie, who smile and encourage even when we are at our most frustrated. And my deepest gratitude goes to Juan, who, in the midst of a time pregnant with magical chaos, agreed to go on this crazy adventure with me, and who has been unwavering in his commitment ever since.


  1. You are the inspiration I was looking for in my life, learned so much from you and Juan. So, thank you for that! ?
    Happy birthday, GooWee!!! ????

  2. Ian nice write up. I am happy for both of you and glad all is going well.

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