50 articles, 100k reads, 15k readers

The backstory of how I started and grew this blog, and what I learned in the process

Carlos Arguelles
9 min readJun 11, 2023

When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. I’d spend my summers in my grandpa’s cottage by the river, and being a bookworm, my favorite activity was bringing a giant stack of books, and reading them on a hammock between two fragrant guava trees. It was an idyllic setting where I spent countless lazy summer afternoons daydreaming about adventures as I devoured whatever Jules Verne, Emilio Salgari, Mark Twain or Agatha Christie books I had managed to scrounge from my local library. Inspired by all that reading, I commandeered my dad’s Smith Corona typewriter and wrote incessantly. I was sure I was going to be a famous writer when I grew up. I was going to travel the world, have adventures in exotic lands, and write all about it.

A painting of my grandpa’s cottage, where I spent countless summers. I loved that place!

Then I met my other love, a Czerweny CZ-1000, essentially a South American knockoff of the venerable Sinclair ZX-81, and I was introduced to the world of programming BASIC in the eighties. And a more sensible career choice appeared, as I was probably a couple of centuries too late to be a great explorer of faraway lands.

I was fascinated by the dichotomy between the soft rubber keys of my Czerweny and the harsh mechanical thuds of my Smith Corona.

Eventually, coding won. I came to the US, studied Computer Science more formally in college, got a job at Microsoft in the nineties, spent 11 years there, spent another 11 years at Amazon, and have been at Google for over 3 years now.

And so I forgot I was supposed to be a writer and an adventurer. I still have my dad’s Smith Corona, and occasionally run my fingers through it, still feeling a connection to a world and a life that never fully was.

Fast forward to April of 2020. That was about the time we all realized that covid was going to change our lives. It wasn’t just one more scare like SARS or MERS. It was the real deal. I watched in horror as the morgues of New York, Spain and Italy filled with casualties. Some friends got sick. Some died. We all hunkered down in our homes. For the first time in my life, I contemplated my own mortality in a very real way.

One night I couldn’t sleep, I started writing. And I wrote. Wrote, wrote, wrote, well into the night. Went back to my first love. Before ‘10 PRINT “Hello World!”’ and ‘20 GOTO 10' changed my destiny. I didn’t write for anybody in particular other than for myself.

I never lived a life of the adventures I had envisioned when I was a kid, fighting pirates, exploring jungles or discovering an ancient tomb. But I did, in retrospect, live a life of adventure. I was an immigrant that came to this country with a hundred bucks, a suitcase and a dream. I found myself at Microsoft, the epicenter and evil overlord of computing in the nineties, pulled all-nighters for Bill Gates, made and lost my first million dollars by age 25, suffered through the antitrust case, and watched Microsoft’s painful decline into oblivion during the Ballmer years. I didn’t know I was living history, but in retrospect those 11 years were fascinating. Then, I somehow ended up at Amazon where I had a front row seat to its spectacular meteoric rise from a tiny scrappy little company fighting to survive to a trillion dollar behemoth. I found at Amazon what I hadn’t found at the stale Microsoft: a very fast pace environment that welcomed hunger, some risk taking and big thinking, and so my career grew as exponentially as the company itself. There, I also didn’t realize I was living history, but like in the previous case, in retrospect those 11 years were fascinating too. I was hired when Amazon was 3000 engineers, and left when it was 60,000, with a front-row seat to an interesting inflection point. And lastly, finding myself at Google during the pandemic, I started realizing just how many stories I had to write. And so I wrote them, just for myself, in a googledoc, night after night.

As covid wreaked havoc in the world, there was another grim thought that popped up in my head. What if I didn’t make it? This wasn’t just a hypothetical, but it was very personal. My dad had suddenly passed away when I was 13. There was so much about him and his life that I never got to know. As an adult, I’ve pieced together parts of his life from talking to my mom, my aunts, his friends. But I wish I had more. A few years ago I went back to Argentina to sell my childhood home, and cleaning up the attic I found all his writings. I read them every night for months, feeling a deeper connection with him. When you write, a piece of you is transferred to that piece of paper and lives forever. My writing was a way to capture my life experiences and perhaps have them transcend my own mortality. Maybe one day, long after I’m gone, my sons will read my writings and will too feel a connection to their dad they didn’t even know they had.

And so I began posting my stories, not for any particular reason, but simply because I yearned to write. I didn’t have an agenda. It was not for income, as I very purposely marked them as “Free” and I don’t make a dime out of them. I wanted anybody to be able to read them without having to pay. I didn’t want to fall into the social media trap of “how many people are liking my post,” but when people started to like them, and comment on them, writing went from being something I did in the solitude of my spare bedroom after my family went to bed to an interactive activity that connected me to the world, during a time we were all disconnected from the world.

I’m a data nerd, and I enjoyed that Medium shows you basic statistics like likes and reads. Some stories went viral and had thousands of reads, others weren’t particularly popular (but I liked them anyways!). Medium also shows you parts of your blog that others have highlighted, which was a fascinating insight into people.

The stories are a mix of anecdotes that I find amusing or interesting, but I tried to also to have some kind of takeaway or value or lesson my story taught me. Hopefully you get a thing or two of value reading them!

I wrote a few stories about my life before work. Then, I wrote about my life at Microsoft (1997–2009), Amazon (2009–2020) and Google (2020-present).

Some stories don’t really belong within a particular timeframe in my life, or span large parts of my life:

The most popular ones

I don’t love to use popularity as a measure of quality, but nevertheless it was interesting to see what appealed to random people in the world:

The least popular ones

As a parent, you love all your children equally, right? Maybe your kid will end up creating the new billion dollar company, curing cancer, winning the Nobel price, flipping burgers at McDonald’s, being a greeter at Walmart, or in jail for murder, but they’re all your favorite.

To be honest, these are some of my favorite stories, so I think they’re under-rated (and the popular ones are over-rated). Some of these have pretty critical take-aways, particularly for more junior engineers. Check them out!

--

--

Carlos Arguelles

Hi! I'm a Senior Staff Engineer at Google. Prior to Google, I was a Principal Engineer at Amazon for 11 yrs, and before that, I spent 11 years at Microsoft.