This week I started a new job and holy cow, it’s come with a bucket full of emotions! It’s a whole new role. A new company (not mine, not a new client, and not a startup or small biz). A new team. A new challenge. A new adventure.
For the last nine years, I’ve contracted, subcontracted, built teams and products, wrote gobs of code and tests, I’ve automated build pipelines, coached and mentored developers and founders in dev, product management, user experience, devops, team building, hiring (and firing), and well... how to be pragmatic and to use plain old common sense. I’ve lent them my experience so they could be successful in their own mission.
These last nine years have been a thrill. I have learned an immense amount about how to build tech, how to build tech teams, how to help businesses build products from scratch, how to build a business, how people are the most important part of the process, and about myself.
I learned an immense amount about myself. What I’m capable of (obviously, a whole boatload of things!) and what I’m not. What I enjoy doing (writing code, building things, helping others build things), and what I don’t (oh QuickBooks, why are you so confusing, chasing down payments, context switching across multiple clients and tech stacks and business domains every five minutes, paying $380 a month in health insurance for a $6000 deductible that’s not high enough for an HSA). What I’m good at (empowering people to build tech) and what I’m not (thank you, accountant, for cleaning things up for me!). What I need to feel fulfilled (impact) and what I need to stay engaged (a challenge and something to learn).
It took me almost a year before admitting to myself that I was done and needed a new challenge. And holy moly, there is a bucket full of thoughts and emotions that come along with making a change like this. And even more during a pandemic.
Change is Scary
First, it’s a big change and that was scary to me. I freelanced and ran a small business for almost a decade! All my independent and biz owner friends (and myself for the longest time) were always like “No one ever goes back to FTE after this. There’s something wrong with you if you do”. Well, I guess I'll just prove them wrong!
And what if I change my mind? What if I don't enjoy this other thing? What if I can't hack it? As those closest to me reminded me, I can always change my mind.
I spent 24/7/365 for nine years working on getting better at building a business and learned a ton about building businesses in the process. I'm proud of everything I learned and it makes me a better technologist, but it was a challenge. And it's one that I want to move past. Acknowledging that I was done with that part was really hard and scary.
Job Searching is Mind-Blowing
Second, job searching and interviewing after nine years of not doing that is mind-blowing! I could write a book on this alone. But let's just say, I questioned what I was doing and why I was doing it at every step of the way. My imposter syndrome was at an all-time high. Thankfully, I had people around me to remind me that I am extremely good at what I do and that I would be perfect for this role.
Choosing My Own Path
Third, the tech world is small and so is the area I wanted to get into (developer relations). Everybody knows everybody. And that was proven to me at every step along the way. I very strategically used my network to get referrals (and I’m so grateful to each of you that helped along the way) but I also know that with that can come uninvited introductions, intros to people I already know, and referrals to people or places I already knew I wasn’t interested in. I was in a position where I could be picky. I had work (but see the next paragraph about the pandemic). I didn't need to make a change. I was on no one's timeline but my own. I could choose my path forward and find the right role and company for me. If I didn’t like an interaction or the culture of a company, I could pass (and I did). I know how fortunate I was to be able to be this picky. It’s not lost on me and I hope that I can help pass on that privilege to the next person.
Celebrating During a Pandemic
Fourth, in case you hadn't noticed, there's a pandemic happening! The world is changing. Business is changing. How people connect is changing. Lives are changing. And lives are being lost.
I had no idea what was going to happen or if this role would even be a thing post-pandemic (I figured it would be, but wasn’t sure how it would change). I was ghosted mid-interview process and had job postings pulled moments after getting my foot through the door. Changing jobs during a pandemic is scary for a number of reasons, but the timing of it all was incredibly stressful. Wondering if I'd get an offer at the right time for the right company and role. Wondering if my last couple of contracts would overlap too much, not enough, or just enough. Wondering if my last couple of contracts would suddenly disappear because of the pandemic (one did). Wondering if that happened and this new thing fell through, then what would I do? My job-hunt-long migraine comes back just thinking about all that.
Then there's the other side of the pandemic. The part that is not about me. The part where people are losing their friends, family members, and colleagues. The part where people are losing their jobs, can't pay rent, can't feed their kids. The part where people are doing everything they can to not shut down their business. The part where mom has to put her career on hold because the kids need schooling. All of this makes it hard for me to enjoy and celebrate this like I actually should.
But the thing is, I should enjoy this! And I should celebrate! I'm happy and proud of myself for making this change and I deserve it. And me enjoying this, shouldn't and doesn't negate how I feel about all that other stuff.
It's Been a Good Ride
And last, I’ve enjoyed this ride, those I’ve gotten to work with, the things I've gotten to build — teams, businesses, products, my own business. Saying goodbye to all that work and this way of working is hard to do. But I just have to remind myself that it's not really goodbye. They’ll still be there. Cheering me on in my next adventure.
But it’s time to move on. It's time to try something new.