Hello fellow crustaceans,
About five years ago, I left a good job at a good company because I did not believe in the things we were making, and could not bring myself to make them. I called my manager (I’m in the UK, he was in the USA), crying because I had spent two days opening my IDE at 9am, staring at it, then closing it at 5pm. We agreed that I could leave on the spot.
Since then, I’ve alternated between having jobs that I show up to and collect money from, and time off. Neither is really satisfying. On time off, I have pretty highfalutin ideas about new systems or applications I could build, but get analysis paralysis and never move far beyond design notes, or prototype implementations. In jobs, I do well in my managers’ eyes while internally wondering when I’m going to be found out. I spend a few months on flat-out delivery so that people are happy that I can do the job, then gradually the wheels fall off. I stretch flexible hours/lunch breaks to breaking point, take on multiple tasks and slowly nibble at all of them, and get into as many advisory/leadership positions as I can to fill my calendar so that the reason I haven’t done anything is meetings. People genuinely value my contributions in those situations, but they’re a cover for not sitting at the computer.
I’m currently in another “time off” phase of the cycle, but can’t afford to do it for long. I’ve burnt through my savings and taken on some debt to start my consultancy business, but haven’t got the customers I need to turn that into level flight. I think that’s because I can’t, or don’t want to, define what it is that I do, because I am not sure that if I did, I would enjoy it. I see the last few years as a walkabout, trying to find the thing I should be doing. I haven’t found it, and have run out of resources to carry on walking.
I had a long call with a friend and former colleague recently who said “it sounds like you’re lacking a community”, and there’s something to that. Before all of the above started I was someone in the Apple-dev community that other members of that community might have heard of. I’d written books, done conference talks, video training, podcasts, made apps that I was proud of, with people I was proud to work with. But then I became disillusioned with Apple, and with that life. Swift passed me by. I thought I’d be more aligned with the Free Software community, but my lack of focus means no contributions, no status, no membership. I’ve tried “sideways moves” into management, senior management, architecture, but those don’t fill the hole.
Have any of you encountered similar situations? What was your way out? I need work soon, but don’t want to perpetuate the cycle of unsatisfying work/rage quit break. What is there that’s genuinely interesting and exciting in the world of software, and what was your way of engaging your interest and excitement?
I appreciate that you may not want to talk about such parts of your own history in public replies; please remember you can message me here too.