Posts Tagged ‘work’
This fall marks my three year anniversary as a (ahem) full-time productive member of society. I’ve worked from home for the last three years, with three different managers. There are some useful life lessons I’ve learned during that time, in general and about myself in particular:
It took the full first year and a major blow to my self-esteem for me to figure this first one out. I fucking hate, hate, hate micromanagement. I’m a pretty independent person, and this kind of submission – for lack of a better word – just isn’t for me. Micromanagement makes me feel pressured, and makes me feel guilty when I am not accountable for what I am doing every single minute of the work day. It depresses and utterly annoys me. It doesn’t work, either. I was the most productive – and my job was most satisfying – when I given a rough idea of our long-term goals, a carte blanche on how to spend my time (with occasional feedback, of course) and a role in the discussion about our agenda. A manager should be there to make sure I can do my job and represent their team to the rest of the company, not expect me to be at their every beck and call.
I do needs me some me time, but I’m not as solitary as I always thought I was. If I continue working remotely, it will either have to be as a nomad or with at least one or two days a week in an office with other human beings, even if that means having to put on a shirt in the morning.
If I don’t enjoy my job, that will kill my motivation and productivity. I have to care about what I’m creating, and understand why it is useful.
When I was unhappy in my first position and struggling to stay motivated, I pretty much accepted that as a given, since I did not know any better. It was a relief to discover that wasn’t necessary. Never again.
I’m easily bored. Really easily. Give me some hard problems, please.
Work isn’t everything. I’m sure I’m hardly the first person to experience this in their first job, but I’m really good at totally immersing myself in something and just forgetting about the rest of the world and its annoying distractions (social life, dating, hobbies). Another teleworker warned me before I started working from home that boundaries are important. It took me almost three years (stubborn? me? what?), but I have found out the hard way that he was right.
I was really pleased when I got the offer for my current job offer three years ago, but in hindsight I was also meek and somewhat naive. There are plenty of interesting job openings out there, and ample opportunity to be hired.
Michael, we don’t have a lot of time on this earth! We weren’t meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.
– Peter Gibbons in Office Space
Don’t worry, dear reader. I haven’t been inspired by a crappy action movie (and I’m referring to Superman 4 here, not Office Space) to pull some sort of stunt on my employer.
I also don’t actually have a cubicle. My boss is still singular (if only).
But my work is starting to feel like an actual stereotypical cubicle job. It has all become boring routine. I’d rather work on something ambitious that reaches for the sky and tries to change the world, not boring middle-ware. If I was okay with working on something mediocre and non-challenging, I would settle for a stable 9-to-5 job at a local insurance company, where I have coworkers I can actually touch and hang around the water cooler with.
There it is. Time to call it quits. For more than half a dozen years we did everything we could to make our product a success, to get it some momentum. I sunk tens of thousands of hours into it, and my coworkers did the same.
It was slowly becoming obvious what was happening, demise is a gradual process. It has been frustrating to see one of the competing products thrive and eventually overshadow ours (and others). For a while, we had the hope that we would catch up, that something would turn the tide, but it’s as if the moon can no longer be bothered.
It’s not like we haven’t accomplish anything. We have thousands of happy users, and most of them will probably stay around for awhile yet. But the adoption hasn’t been what we were hoping for. I’m sad about it, and obviously disappointed. But it’s not the end of the world.
We experimented. Sometimes with success, sometimes not. We made mistakes. Some mattered, others did not. I learned heaps. We had a lot of fun. It was a true privilege to work with some amazing people. And hey, at least we tried.
It sounds dramatical, but it’s the end of an era. Time to relax, find new adventures and see if it is possible to make a dent elsewhere.
I have a pretty fucked up circadian rhythm. Like many programmers I can really immerse myself into a problem, and then just hack away at it until it’s dealt with. In ye olden days, I would sometimes even get to midnight without remembering to eat dinner.
One of Paul Graham‘s essays is about the maker’s schedule, and describes very well why it is so annoying to be interrupted. In terms of productivity, there is little that compares to sitting in the dark in the middle of the night hacking away at something in total focus with no interruptions, a full pot of tea next to you, headphones on and nothing but the chatter on IRC for company.
Wow, that was one hell of a weird twelve months! It’s been pretty unusual and very eventful, and with lots of ups and downs.
This was the year in which I made the transition from university student to fulltime employee, the latter of which came as a bit of a shock to me (I was interviewed during the same week as my final exams and started working fulltime 4 weeks later). I moved out of my university dorm into an apartment I’m sharing with a good friend, all arranged over the phone while I was at a conference in Spain. Meanwhile it seems like I’m not the only one in my circle of friends who is slowly becoming a proper civilian; some of my good friends are moving in together and/or starting families.
In between those things I spent most of my time (close to 5 months total) travelling across about a dozen countries in Europe, the US and Australasia: Germany (6x), Belgium (5x), Spain (3x), France (2x), Switzerland (2x), Ireland, California, Texas, New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Portugal. I love travelling. It’s been great to meet new people as well as old friends. By the end of it I was pretty tired though; travelling and working full 9-to-5 work days drains my energy like nothing else, and kills my drive to do anything.
Whilst in the US I finally got a chance to do some things I’ve been meaning to do for a while. In California I finally gathered enough courage one morning to rent a car at SFO and drive to Byron airport to do some sky diving. It was absolutely brilliant, and inspired me to make some more (solo) jumps closer to home as well later in the year. In Texas I got a chance to shoot some hand guns at the local gun range, mainly to see what all the fuss was about (verdict: I’m still not a gun-nut, but I did very much enjoy it).