Ava turns 15 months!

Today our sweet little girl turns 15 months old. It’s hard to believe how fast she’s growing, especially now that she has such a vibrant personality. She’s getting about one new tooth every month and is constantly outgrowing outfits and shoes. She’s such a happy baby that complete strangers often make a point to comment on it. They also usually tell us that we probably won’t be so lucky with our second child, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Ava’s new favorite word is "yeah" and she loves to say it whenever you ask her a question. She can tell by your tone when you’re asking a question, but the trick is to only ask questions that you want a yes answer on. My usual question for her, especially when Mom is at work, is "Do you want to watch the game with Daddy?" She always says yes so I guess she’s fine with it 😉

Today was also my first day as a full–time employee at Amazon and it went really well. I had orientation for the first half of the day and got a chance to meet several people who were also just getting started. There were about 100 people in my orientation, and the crazy thing is that they do them at least once every Monday, sometimes twice! That means that approximately 100–200 new people start working there every week. I guess when you have annual revenues of $61 billion and you grow at about 30% per year you need to hire a lot of people just to stay caught up with business demands.

After orientation myself and another new member in our team had lunch with our manager. I feel really lucky to have landed the team that I’m on. It’s a brand new team that will be focusing on creating new technologies for the people who package our customer’s orders to use in the warehouses. I’m the first web developer on the team, and we’re looking to hire more, so I’m going to have instant seniority. I’m also doing my first work trip next week, which is sooner than expected. My manager asked me today if I would be willing to go to Southern California for two days (one night) next Wednesday to meet with a bunch of representatives from different Amazon fulfillment centers. I didn’t want to say no and Jessica was able to make it work with her schedule at El Gaucho. I knew there would be some travel involved with this role but wasn’t expecting it to be quite this soon. I was flattered that he asked me though so I’m glad I’ll be able to tag along. I’ll only be gone one night so it won’t be a big deal.

Tomorrow I have to spend the whole day doing orientation specifically for developers, then I’ll be able to start working on my own stuff by Wednesday. I’m really excited to be up and running so quickly. This is going to be a great position that I feel so fortunate to have. Hopefully we’ll have some new pics of Ava up here very soon.

First day at work tomorrow (and Happy Birthday Dad!)

Tomorrow will be my first day as a full–time employee at Amazon. Obviously I’m very excited to get started, but slightly sad to be ending my stay at home with Jessica and Ava. I’ve been home for three weeks now and it’s been great, especially since I didn’t get any time off when we moved here from San Diego. Although the first week or so was all about finding a job, I’ve been able to relax for the last week knowing that I’ve already been hired and will be starting on the 25th. I was originally hoping to start on Wednesday the 20th, but because of Presidents Day on Monday they weren’t able to get my background check back in time.

In order to celebrate, Jessica and I went out twice this week, which has to be a record since having Ava. We had dinner at Aqua, which is El Gaucho’s sister restaurant that I used to work at years ago, on Wednesday night. Dinner was excellent and it was great catching up with old friends that we haven’t seen since before moving south a few years ago. Then last night we had dinner at Assagio, which is our good friend Michael Rico’s new spot. It’s a really nice place that’s been around since 1993, and Michael is soon going to be taking over as General Manager, so we wanted to check it out. Dinner was great, then we went to a small concert at the Crocadile a few blocks away. The Neighbourhood, which is a small new band from L.A., was playing and tickets were super cheap so we decided to go check it out. It was a lot of fun and a nice way to end my time off.

Tonight I’ll be bartending at the main bar at El Gaucho, which is a first since moving back to Seattle. One of the bartenders was desperate to get the night off so I offered to help out. Normally when I fill in at Gaucho I’m downstairs in the Pampas Room working a private party, but tonight I’ll get a chance to see a bunch of my old Sunday regulars. All–night happy hour on Sundays was my old shift for a long time so I’m excited to get to do it again. It’s also a cool way to celebrate my Dad’s birthday today, considering that he was a regular at the old El Gaucho, which was the only reason I got hired there (many years ago) in the first place.

Tomorrow morning I have orientation at Amazon for the first half of the day, then I’m assuming I’ll get to start setting up my desk and laptop in the afternoon. This should be a pretty easy week in terms of work but I’m very excited to get things going. I still can’t believe how well everything has turned out, but I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m going to continue studying daily for the foreseeable future to make sure that I’m on track at work. I always feel like I’m one step behind where I need to be in terms of coding skills, but that’s what keeps me hungry and moving forward. I’ll definitely be doing a post sometime this week to talk about how things are going. Until then, Happy Birthday Dad!

My new career at Amazon

The last two weeks have been a professional roller coaster for me, which is why I’ve waited for a resolution before writing about it. Here’s what happened in a nutshell: two weeks ago I was pulled into my director’s office and informed that there have been major budget cuts in our organization at Amazon and that my contract is being terminated at the end of the week, which is a month early. As it turned out, over 100 contractors were let go, and other expenses like travel and team lunches were also cut in order to save money. I’m not sure what brought on all these budget cuts considering the size and stature of Amazon but that’s just how it is.

My original goal with taking a contract position was to make some connections at Amazon so that I could eventually transition into a full–time position, and although I was worried and frustrated about what had gone on, I realized that the original goal was still intact. Luckily my manager felt like I was an asset to the company, plus he felt bad about having to let me go, so he recommended me for a full–time position on another team. When I first saw the requirements for this position I was a little overwhelmed and felt like the job was beyond my qualifications. I actually even told myself that I wasn’t going to apply because I didn’t think I had a chance of getting hired, but the following day I received an email from one of Amazon’s internal recruiters asking if I’d like to setup a phone interview with the hiring manager. I figured I couldn’t say no since it would make my old manager look bad, so I decided to go for it.

My strategy for the phone interview was to be up front and honest about my current skill set and not pretend to be further along than I really am. Luckily the guy interviewing me really appreciated my honesty. He said that all to often, candidates are overstating their skills and that he appreciated my humility when describing my own. The phone interview went great so he invited me to come in for an in–person interview loop. I knew that this was a big deal and that I needed to prepare for it, so I started looking for interviews with other companies. I ended up having several phone and in–person interviews with various companies, and to be honest, most of them didn’t go that great. I got turned down for two of them, but felt confident on the third. Regardless, I felt more prepared for my Amazon interview, and that’s all that really mattered.

The Amazon interview was really long; like over 5 hours. I met with 6 different people and was asked a huge variety of questions. I was writing code on the white board and describing past experiences where I need to invent solutions, or adapt to change. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at me but I left feeling good. Of course there were parts that I wish I could have done over but overall I felt like I did the best I could and the rest was up to fate.

After leaving the interview with Amazon I returned a call from an outside recruiter I’d been working with and found out that I had been given an offer for a contract position at a chemical company. This company really wanted me so they raised the rate considerably in order to persuade me to join them. Although I was flattered by their offer, it wasn’t really what I was looking for due to the fact that it’s another contract, and I had just gotten burned by a contract. There is no stability in contracting and with another baby on the way I didn’t think it would be the best move. The chemical company knew that I was interviewing elsewhere so they gave me a 48 hour window to accept the offer, otherwise they were going with their second choice.

The next morning I called my recruiter at Amazon and told her that I had been extended an offer by another company but that Amazon was my first choice. I told her about the deadline they had given me and asked if there was any way she could give me some type of indication as to whether or not I would be receiving an offer from Amazon. She told me that she would be able to give me a yes or no answer by the end of the day, but that they wouldn’t know the specifics of the offer until receiving approval from the finance department later in the week. I said that would be totally fine, and proceeded to cross my fingers.

A couple hours later, while Jessica, Ava and I were at the grocery store, I got a call back saying that the answer is yes and that they are working on an offer! Obviously we were very excited about this news but still had to wait a few days until we knew what the specifics would be, which brings us to today. I received a call from Amazon today to go over the specifics of my offer, and while I won’t go into them publicly, I will say that they easily surpassed what I was hoping for. I had Amazon on speaker phone so Jessica could hear everything and she had to cover her mouth to contain herself when she heard what they were offering. Although I had planned on not accepting the offer on the spot, I couldn’t help it. Had it been a lower offer I may have asked for the weekend to consider it but I was in a bit of shock and my joy got the best of me.

The only remaining step now is to conduct a background check, which is totally fine, and then I’ll be starting work on Wednesday morning. I’m still shocked to have received this offer but it just goes to show what hard work and perseverance gets you. A little over a year and a half ago I re–dedicated myself to web development and have been studying 7 days a week ever since. There have been several milestones achieved along the way, but today is the culmination of all that hard work. Needless to say, I’m going to continue studying daily and working to advance my skill set, but for the first time since I was a buss boy at El Gaucho many years ago, I can stop thinking about what my next professional step is. From now on all I have to focus on is doing well at Amazon and the rest will be taken care of. I’m so happy to have this handled before our new addition arrives, and so thankful for the incredible support system that has gotten me through this entire process. It’s a great day for the Pellegrini house and I can’t wait to take Jessica out to a nice celebration dinner!

Baby E’s First Kicks

Tonight, while relaxing at home after working our Valentines shift at El Gaucho, Jessica felt our new little one’s first kicks! I remember this happening the first time around with Ava and being so excited, and I can easily say that it’s just as exciting the second time. We’ve already heard Baby E’s heartbeat but it’s nice to know that he/she is getting active in there. I remember when Jessica was pregnant with Ava, she would be calm all day but then would start kicking and doing somersaults when Jessica was getting ready for bed. Looks like we may have the same type of thing going on here. We’re still holding strong with not finding out the sex of our growing baby, although Jessica has mentioned a few times that she’s reserving the right to change her mind. I’m fine with it either way. Can’t wait for you to be here little one!

Happy Valentines Day – 2013

Just wanted to post a few pics we took of Ava in her new Valentine’s Day dress from Grandma. Jessica and I will be working at El Gaucho tonight so we have Kelsey, a new babysitter coming over to watch Ava. Kelsey comes highly recommended by our good friends Randall and Brie so I’m sure she’ll be great. It’s too bad that Jess and I are both working tonight but at least we’ll be together. Love to all our friends and family out there!

New Web Apps

In an effort to keep growing my web development skill set, I’ve been working on creating simple JavaScript–based web applications. They’re just fun little projects that I like to work on in my free time, and they always end up teaching me something new during the development process. Between last night and this morning I built something I’m calling ‘Pellegrini Weather’, which is a basic version of a weather app on a phone. You input your zip code and it gives you the city and state name, current weather conditions, and an icon that is appropriate for those conditions. It’s available at: http://pellegriniportfolio.com/weather/.

I also recently did something I’m calling jsAlarm, which is a simple alarm clock programmed in JavaScript. It has the basic necessary functions to set and stop the alarm, plus I added a snooze button. For presentation purposes the snooze only lasts 5 seconds but I could easily set it to any time I wanted. That one is available at: http://pellegriniportfolio.com/jsAlarm/. I may eventually showcase these on my portfolio but for now its just a nerdy little hobby.

A fun night with Kallan

Last night Jessica and I took our nephew Kallan out to dinner at El Gaucho to celebrate his 18th birthday, then we saw Soundgarden at the Paramount Theater, which was his Christmas present from us. It was a great night that we’ve all been looking forward to for a while now. Kallan and I have a history of going to great concerts over the years, including Metallica and Alice in Chains, so it was only fitting that we go see Soundgarden when they came to town. Although this was my third time seeing them live, neither Kallan or Jessica had ever seen them, so that made it extra special. Thankfully Dana and Brad were available to watch our sweet little Ava while we were out.

As usual they took royal care of us at El Gaucho. After starting with a soup/salad course, Kallan had the 8oz filet mignon while Jessica and I shared the Chateaubriand for two. The fruit and cheese course is always great but we had to finish off with Bananas Foster, which is easily one of my favorite deserts, and something that Kallan had never had.

It’s hard to believe that he is already 18 years old. I vividly remember watching my Dad holding him and marveling over his first Grandchild. He’s always been a great kid but now he’s grown into a great young man that Jessica and I are so proud of. Every time we spend time with family we are quickly reminded about how happy we are to back home in Seattle.

Kallan, Jessica, and I at El Gaucho

Kallan's Birthday Dinner

Ava meets more family

Today we were finally able to get together with Uncle Jim, Aunt Brenda, Kristy and Madi. We’ve been trying to coordinate schedules since early January but this morning was the first time we were all available. The last time we got together I was only 10 weeks pregnant with Ava so this is the first time everyone is meeting.

We headed south to Des Moines to Jim and Brenda’s house and Kristy and Madi traveled from Olympia to meet us for lunch. It took Ava a little while to warm up to the new environment, but as soon as she did she was wondering all over the house and getting into everything. Luckily Jim and Brenda’s house is very kid friendly and there are lots of things to play with. Ava spent most of the day following big cousin Madi (almost 7) around eating and playing. It was so fun to sit back and watch the two interact. Madi is very motherly and was really enjoying showing Ava all of her dolls and toys and trying to teach her new things like how to play nicely and pick up after herself. I was of course enjoying the “help” from Madi since Ava has yet to master the art of picking up her toys at home. The adults all got lots of laughs out of the two.

A big thank you to Brenda who went all out and had a big spread of food for us all and a delicious chocolate cake for Jim’s birthday. They even added Ava’s name to the cake and had presents for her to celebrate her past birthday. It’s so nice to be able to get together with family and we are so thankful to be close to everyone again. I hope to continue to get the cousins together more frequently.