Tom Ortega II

Leaving the Valley, Geeks and Workday for the Desert, Family and my Startup

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, Business, Community, eBay, flex training, Kids, Silicon Valley Living, silvafug, Uncategorized on January 9, 2009 at 10:58 am

Yup, you read that right.  It’s been a wonderful 3+ years in Silicon Valley, but it’s time to head to the desert of Queen Creek, Arizona.  I jump started my career here.  It’s funny to say that because I moved here when I was 30!  But these past 3 years did more for my professional life than my previous 12 years of working in Southern California.

There are two reasons I’m moving.  One is sappy and is detailed on this post over on my spiritual blog.

The other is related to my day-to-day activities.  In these tough economic times, I feel lucky and sad at the same time.  Some out there do not have a job or are stuck in a deadend job.  I, on the other hand, have two great opportunities in my life.

The first is my employer for the past year and a half, Workday.  Many people come to the Valley in search of that great startup to join.  Workday definitely fits the bill.  The people are incredibly talented and the work is some of the most challenging out there.  My team is one of the best I’ve ever worked for.  (If you want to join the Workday UI team, drop me a note and your resume/cv at

Another wonderful aspect of Workday is their willingness to allow me to serve the tech community in many capacities.  My previous employer, eBay, encouraged me as well.  I don’t know if that’s the norm for companies in the Valley, but I’ll be eternally grateful to them both for the opportunity to work for them and serve the community.  It was while serving the community that an idea was born and came to fruition: a Flex conference.

This leads to the second great opportunity in my life, my own company 360|ConferencesJohn and I started this company when we put on our first 360|Flex conference in early 2007.  Two years later, it’s quite amazing to look back at what we’ve accomplished  We have done five 360|Flex shows.  2009 is looking to be an even more amazing year.  We’re moving into a new community, the iPhone developer space, with our 360|iDev conference.  We are also doing another show in conjunction with another great company.  I can’t release details yet, but the show has been a long time in the making.  It’s going to be a great year for the business.

The most amazing thing about our conference business is that John and I currently do it part-time.  Not to toot our own horns, but people really do love 360|Flex.  Attendees constantly tell us it’s the best run show they’ve been too.  If they love us that much and we’ve done so much while being part time, I can only imagine how much better things will be when we go full time on the business.

I was watching this piece by Richard Branson of the Virgin Group.  It really spoke to me and sort of gave me that final push I needed.  John and I have a duty, not only to our customers but also to our country.  We need to do our duty as small business owners to get things moving again.  Our conferences create a lot of residual business.  People travel by car or plane to get to our shows.  They rent hotel rooms and stop for coffee.  John and I need to make our shows compelling enough so that people come out and help get the economy going again.  I don’t think we can do that part time.

Therefore, while Workday is great, I’m afraid I have to leave.  I need to give 360Conferences the time and effort it deserves.  I need to give my customers the attention they deserve.  It’s quite an exciting thing for me.  John and I walked around Macworld yesterday, pounding the pavement to spread the word about our new iPhone developer show.  It was exhausting, yet exhilarating at the same time.  I can’t wait to feel that same excitement every day I wake up.  If you want to track the progress of the company and read up on all the mistakes I’m bound to make, you can follow along at  Our Startup Story.

Now, some of you will point out that 360Conferences currently doesn’t make enough money to support me or John full time.  This is true.  That’s why I’ll be swapping my priority list in 2009.  Instead of working FT as a developer and PT as a business owner, I’m looking to work FT on the business and working PT to help pay the bills.

I have a gig lined up with an old friend.  However, I promised my wife that I’d announce I was coming to “market” come Feb 1.  She just wants to see what else is out there.  If you’re okay with a PT developer or are interested in any of the skills I use in 360Conferences (blogging, organizing, planning events, interacting with sponsors, interacting with customers, etc.), feel free to drop me a line at and we can chat.  Remember, I’ll be in AZ but occasional travel would be alright.

One thing I’ve sorta been toying around with is training.  Most places charge $2K per student, but I’ve been thinking about doing training at your company for $3K per day.  You pick the topics and pack the room with as many students as you can for the same price.  Or if you want some one on one training?  Hit me up and we can work something out.  In either case, you choose the Flex topics you want to be trained on vs the standard old 3 courses typically offered by training facilities. If that’s of interest, drop me a note.

Well, if you’re a friend of mine in the Valley, we have about 21 days to grab dinner, lunch, hot cocoa or something before I leave.  I’d also like to thank all of you who were very kind to me during my stay.  It’s been an honor of mine to have you share a part of your life with me.  Like I told Ryan Stewart in an email, “Too many want to ‘climb to the top’ by stepping on people. I prefer ‘being pushed to the top’ by supportive friends.”  The only reason I am where I am today is because of the many kind folks I’ve met over the years.  Without you all, I’d still be a lil unknown developer in a cubicle somewhere.

Thanks again and wish me luck!

  1. *Salutes Tom*

    Best of Luck sir

  2. Right on man! Congrats! Good luck to you!

  3. Tom, we’ll take good care of you when you get on over to our valley (we call Phoenix the valley too).

    Let me know when you get here and I’ll put you in touch with the welcome committee 😉

  4. @Togishi It’s you who deserves saluting, you design stud!

    @jccrosby Thanks. I’ll need the luck to deal with Wilker’s bad days. LOL

    @Rob Nice! I didn’t realize you were out there. We’ll definitely have to hookup. Email me all the tech hotspots and activities out there. If there isn’t any, I know what we’ll be doing together in 09! 🙂

  5. Here’s my mixed reaction:

    I’m sad that you are moving away from SF. There’s a heck of a Flex development community around here, and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that it follows your leadership actions in this industry. What does your move mean for SilvaFUG?

    I’m also very excited about how much bigger your role will be in the developer communities now that you’re getting out there full time. When I attended my first 360|Flex, I just assumed that it was being thrown by a company that does conferences full time. Since then, I’ve come to learn a lot about how this group has formed, and why it is so special. It was formed by the mutual passion of individuals whose job is their hobby, and incubated by those who bring us together and give us a microphone.

    Lead on!

  6. @Harry You sure do make me blush a lot. 🙂

    Thank you for the very kind words. Inside, I can’t help but feel that I helped lead the local Flex community. But then, the reality of it is, the community here is just fantastic. Rather than being the leader, I think my role was more of the instigator. So many Silvafuggers think they do boring stuff, but in reality, it’s all pretty amazing. They just need some encouraging words to get them to speak up. Silvafug is being handed over to two very able individuals. We’ll cover the changing of the guard at the next meeting.

    Yeah, it will be very interesting to see what comes of the company and of me in particular. I have some ideas, but nothing solid enough to put down on paper (or database). I’m looking forward to growing my role in the developer community at large. Also hopeful at being able to participate in the greater Phoenix tech scene.

    I’ll try to lead on as best I can. Just be forgiving when I slip up. 🙂

  7. Hi Tom, Just reading your blog. Sounds like a dream in progress 🙂 The great love for your family and desire to be close to them is felt full force in your words. Your children will no doubt benefit in so many ways by having an extended family to grow up with. You and your wife are amazing souls 🙂

    I did a similar thing about 6 months back, and knew that it was time to chart new paths after an almost 12 year run in the Valley. It was difficult to leave so many great friends & folks I’d met along the way, but you know inside that it’s time to journey on, and it was time. I’ve moved to the East coast to be closer to my folks and feel a whole new sense of joy in this time together.

    Your sheer passion for 360 Flex was contagious 🙂 As a non-programming designer, your SilvaFUG meetings were golden lessons for me, in simplifying the technology without sacrificing the imaginative potential of what we could or could not do. Your authentic excitement for it’s abilities expanded our imaginations to seek out new Flex truths that had yet to be created 🙂

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful journey in all aspects of life. Glad I met you and know that kindred souls are never far apart on a journey in the name of creativity 🙂


  8. @Kavita

    Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, I’m sure your journey probably planted the seeds of the idea in my mind. It just took 6 months for them to bear fruit! 🙂

    I do love my family very much, so I’m glad that came through.

    Yes, we are definitely partners in the creative crime! 🙂

  9. Hi Tom,

    Best of Luck going full-time on 360Conferences! I can’t wait to hear what your new show will be. See you at 360iDev and 360Flex!

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