Chasing Glory Part 1: The Stall Recovery
I think I went searching for happiness as much as I did a new job. I was searching for what my current job didn’t offer, a chance to be part of something great, and to stop doing work and start getting something done. During my tenure at [big company name here] I did plenty of “things”, worked on lots of “projects” but in the end of the day did very little that mattered. If whole software releases were delayed by months or even years people grumbled but the company lumbered on. Nothing really hung in the balance, there were no hard and fast stakes and, at the end of the day, the company would always be there tomorrow. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but rather a system that prevented any person or for that matter team, from working on anything sizable, meaningful, or otherwise important. Risk was always mitigated, consultants were often brought in and decisions were rarely fast enough to not be rendered obsolete. For many this is a great scenario, a life that you can easily plan as an employee, a means to an end so to speak.
After setting out on my hunt, the first task was identifying what I wanted. I was leaning towards a small company, a place I could really get involved in the product. I wanted to do hands on work that had an impact on the business. In other words if I succeeded so did the company and if I failed the company would have to bare that on their shoulders, I wanted skin in the game. A lot of people told me to move to a company that was doing something I was interested in something I was already passionate about. As someone with an endless list of hobbies that was a hard thing to pin down and in some cases a hard thing to do professionally. What I came to realize was that I wanted to be part of an organization that was passionate about what they did, a group of people that could get me going when it came to their missions and goals.
Everything happened fast over a few beers. I met the guys that would eventually become my new bosses. We chatted a bit about technology and the work I had done as well as the projects I had contributed to. They liked me. I liked them. Things were off to a good start. It was completely different than any other interview I had been on. There were no sterile conference rooms, no generic HR employee, no code exam, just 3 guys in a bar booth talking about changing the political system. For the first time in a long time I was treated like a human being when it came to working, and not just another “resource”. I think what set them apart wasn’t that they said they could really change something, but that I believed they actually could see the change through. Everyone will tell you their company does great work and has a huge impact, but it is simply impossible for everyone out there to do great work and have a huge impact. Not everyone can sit on the end of the bell curve. That’s just how bell curves work.
After the initial meeting I had a few more obligatory meetings with some people they knew mostly to confirm I had my head on straight and knew my tech fairly well. I never had a coding interview, I never had to do any proofs on a whiteboard or explain some arbitrary theorem I would never use in practice. I just talked with people, had real conversations about what the company was doing, how the tech was built up until now, and how I would fit into the whole puzzle. Simply put, I was treated like a person with skills and skills they needed nonetheless.
When the dust settled and all was said and done it was not one reason, it was not 2 reasons, but the culmination of 1000 small reasons that lead me to quit my stable, easy, uneventfully day job, take the biggest risk I may ever take, and see if I could actually help affect change.