Marc Grabanski, CEO & UI Developer of Frontend Masters

2010: Reflecting on my Career Path & Looking Forward

December 13, 2010

Marc Grabanski Dublin

The most reliable way I know how to improve the future is to learn from the past. If you don’t like your past, change your ways. If you do like elements of the past, learn from them and do more.

First, I’m going to do a recap of the past. Then I’ll share about what happened this year.

Foreword: Informational Rags to Riches

Minnesota Night Snow

I grew up in and still live in Minnesota. It is not a land of startups and progress. Growing up here I titled Minnesota the “technological black hole” even though these days Minneapolis is actually pretty progressive.

I think it has put me at severe disadvantages growing up in a small town and living in a state that doesn’t “rejoice” over the things I care about. I didn’t find out that the internet existed until I was 13 whereas others my age were using them since probably age 6-8. We were years behind the curve.

$50/hr Down to $10/hr by Choice

Once I found the internet I started enjoyed fiddling with computer hardware in my basement I ended up making $50/hr by age 16 building computers and setting up networks. When I lost my love of hardware though I saw more opportunity in the web. When I graduated from college I was making $10/hr, but even still I knew it was the right decision.

Java or JavaScript?

When I moved to Minneapolis I was the lowest paid person in the company. I worked in frontend development even though others (highly paid salary people) told me what mattered was Java.

Creating Richness

I’ve decided on many routes in life that people reject. There is no shortage of people who will tell you how you can live your life better or different. You have to decide for yourself and never make a decision based on other peoples’ opinions solely. Get the facts, strive for them about yourself and the world around you. A life filled with intention and principles is a life worth living, regardless if you are rewarded for living that way or not. I am not rich but I am rich in spirit. I likely will be rich in the future but ultimately the richness needs to be in creating richness inside others.

If I would have followed the logical path according to society and those with more experience I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I will describe in my recap.

(2007-2009) Recapping

Enger Tower

  • 2007 - year of developing lots of open source, got featured on Ajaxian and spoke at the first jQuery camp.
  • Goals as of 2007 - I set goals in 2007 and by now I’ve accomplished most of them like learning rapid web application development, speaking at conferences and creating a web conference in Minnesota. I haven’t gotten to the long term goals of supporting myself with residual income, but other than that I would say pretty much all of those goals are done while persistent goals are still happening. =)
  • 2008 Goals for - all of the important goals here I’ve accomplished like making my website reflect my personality and writing the articles I wanted to write.
  • 2008 Leaving JWT Minneapolis - I quit my full-time job in order to start my company. I learned tons about business structure and employee roles…worked on teams and met many amazing people. Many of the recommendations I’ve received are from that job.
  • 2008 Reflection - After much debate, I decided not to work as a contractor for Mozilla and instead got some local clients…I figured Mozilla can get whomever they want. It was a good decision as it turns out the local company I helped is now set to be on the Inc 500 list and has almost 20 employees up from when I helped it was just two interns and an internet marketer with a mission. I was interviewed by Google and YouTube tons of times, but then realized I wanted to be independent which turned up clear through all the interviews. It was great to find out more of what I actually wanted.
  • Summer 2009 - My startup Rent Update was launched. I also got started on another startup that has a few angel investors. I turned my work with jQuery UI Datepicker v4 into a more high-level project called Calendar Engine. I learned a diverse set of web application frameworks and languages through working on client projects. I did lots of work with Ruby on Rails. There was a few open source projects on CakePHP that I started and worked on.
  • 2009 - I did some international speaking and got engaged. I was working on building my consulting company further.

(2010) I Learned to Teach!


This year I found out just how important education is to me. I took roughly five months without pay to learn how to teach. Education is deeply seeded in me in a way I never thought it did. I’m talking here about the principles of disseminating information, not being a professor. Being able to communicate understanding to others is something that is helpful in almost any situation in life.

It is education that moves, motivates and helps people do what they thought was impossible. Education lets people experience the success of forward progress. It is education that marked 2010 for me. Regardless of how little I produced during that time or how scary it seemed to not make money when opportunity cost was high I still did it. It really doesn’t matter because I felt I needed to do whatever I can to learn how to teach. I needed to take the time to learn how to educate.

I decided to do a pilot launch I called a prerelease which is some the educational footage I shot. It showed me that there is demand since I sold many copies of an unfinished product while getting nothing but great feedback! I meant to finish it by now but I am obsessed with getting better and better at education so apparently it will take me a lot longer to fuel the obsession into a completed product. There is so many ways to teach and I have to find my own style. I have even greater visions and dreams for education in 2011.

(2010) Open Source

I stopped working on calendar engine and instead built jQuery Date on top of the jQuery globalization plugin. It is a base component for the new jQuery UI Datepicker Lite I’ve been working on.

(2010) Speaking


I did some more speaking this year, namely getting to give an all-day tutorial session in Israel which was absolutely amazing. Here are some places I spoke:

  • jQuery Summit 2010
  • Evening of Canvas, jQuery and Node.JS in Minneapolis, MN
  • Epicenter in Dublin, Ireland
  • jQuery Conference in Mountain View, CA
  • MinneWebCon in Minneapolis, MN
  • Ruby MN User Group in Minneapolis, MN
  • Israel Internet Association Web in Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Evening of jQuery and HTML5

(2010) Creating Conferences

I created a few events this year which was a new thing for me. All if the five evenings I’ve held it so far were focused on HTML/CSS/JavaScript with all seats filled! The last event was 100 people with 30 on the waiting list.

I’ll be doing more conferences like these in 2011, likely in other states than just Minnesota.

(2010) Consulting Company

I focused on landing projects as a team instead of just freelance and therefore we’ve had a record month this month with multiple people now using MJG International as their main source of income. I’m working on transitioning and expanding the company’s processes to accommodate more people and projects in parallel.

(2010) Podcasting

My love for understanding why people do amazing things has led me to start doing some web development podcast interviews. Consider this a philosophical adventure as much as a showcase of developers’ work. It also helps me learn from people even more. I think this project is a win-win for me and the person I interview. It can only be a good thing and I hope to do more of this in the future.

(2011) Goals - No Particular Order


  • Improve my ability to foster and create highly collaborative and creative teams.
  • Create conferences around the nation (eventually internationally). Planning is underway for a JavaScript on Mobile conference.
  • Turn my startups (all three) into profitable, self-sustaining companies.
  • Continue to learn to teach through e-learning and live online courses.
  • Turn MJG International website into something that represents the company instead of just something I created in one day.
  • Learn the principles of buying businesses and make strategic purchases.
  • Teach, teach and teach!

Marc Grabanski, CEO & UI Developer of Frontend Masters

Career Journal on Web Dev, Business, & Life

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