Tuesday, 9 July 2019

On Leaving ThoughtWorks

Back in 2015...

Back in 2015 I was looking for a job having been made redundant from my previous job at Viagogo.com. Fortunately, I was left pretty well off financially from the redundancy, having worked there for 9 years, so I wasn't under any kind of immediate pressure to find a job. I had, to my recollection, about 4 months' of runway before we'd struggle to pay any bills so it felt like plenty of time.

There were two important side effects of that runway. Firstly, I could afford to be choosy about what to accept and secondly I could afford to go to some interviews just to get interview practice. It was a long time since I had looked for a job previously and the world had changed a lot between 2005 and 2015. In the end the runway worked out well for me. I was able to delay the time I went to the interviews at ThoughtWorks until after I'd had plenty of practice and I was also able to understand by then a bit better about where I might stand in the marketplace.

Where I was left behind

The previous time that I had searched for a job you handed out paper CVs or emailed them to people and they got passed on. There was no expectation for anything else. Some people blogged back then but it wasn't a massive thing. In many circles it felt like a bit of a self indulgent thing to write online articles that few people read. If you weren't Martin Fowler or Uncle Bob, why would you waste time writing for your audience of very few?

But in 2015 a recruiter friend of mine asked me to update my CV with details of my online presence. "Online Presents?" I asked. What does this mean? So she explained that I needed to include my LinkedIn contact details, my Twitter handle, the URL to my website (or blog) and my Github. The only problem with that was that I had none of those things, except the Twitter handle, and I wasn't really keen on sharing that as I had only used it up until that point to moan about stuff that I came across in life. Quite simply I had no online presence remotely related to my job as a technologist.

Somehow, though, despite this lack of a modern CV ThoughtWorks did offer me a job and I spent a very happy 4 years working there until last Friday. I took onboard the notion of having an online presence and one of the first things I did was to buy my name as a domain and set this blog up on that domain. It took me nearly 3 months to do (I think I was busy learning new things) but eventually my first post, Becoming a ThoughtWorker went live in September 2015. I also signed up to LinkedIn (which made it a log easier to find a job this time round) and signed up to Github, although only when I started experimenting with quantum computing did I put anything at all worth looking at on there.

Moving on in 2019

In my 4 years at ThoughtWorks I learnt more than the whole of the rest of my working life put together. I learnt at least 5 new programming languages, I got a wealth of experience working in different environments in various stages of dysfunction, I met dozens of fantastic people that I hope will remain my friends (I actually tried to enumerate them all but I realised I was missing people out and I gave up when my list got to about 130) and above all, for the first time in at least 10 years, I really enjoyed work. For the first time in my life I realised that getting paid for work is but a small part of the reward we should be looking to get from our work, provided we are lucky enough to work in an industry, at a level of seniority,'' that means that we earn "enough", whatever that means.

At some point though, you realise that you need another challenge. ThoughtWorks was by far the best job I've ever had but I got to a stage, probably last year sometime, when I realised I was finding it hard to always get the kind of the work that I really enjoyed. So I started to look around to see if there was anything out there that might help me to enjoy my working life even more than I was doing at ThoughtWorks. I must stress that at no point did I find the work frustrating or boring or unfulfilling. I just felt that I would like to have just a little more influence on the bigger picture. That was never going to happen in ThoughtWorks with it being the size that it is.

As a member of PS at ThoughtWorks, I was only ever peripherally involved with helping to sell our services. I did enquire some time ago as to whether there were openings in our sales effort for technical people to work in a sales support capacity but at the time our sales effort in the UK was being restructured and I was heavily warned by senior ThoughtWorks people to not go "post technical". I did help put together pitches from time to time when I was on the beach and I did get to attend some presentations but it was never more than an occasional, very ad hoc, who's on the beach today, kind of thing.

So I looked around for what the job market had to offer and the big difference between 2015 and 2019 was that I had an online presence. Not only do I have a passable blog site with some reasonable content (if feedback is anything to go by) but since autumn 2017 I've been a pretty regular speaker on the technology conference circuit which means there are a load of videos online of me expressing my opinions and sharing what I've learned from being a ThoughtWorker. The latter thing in particular opened many doors for me and I on a few occasions, interviews started with me being told by somebody that they had watched one of my videos. So all that online presence stuff really works!

Where Next?

So after my time at ThoughtWorks I spoke to a few different places, found some interesting stuff, some not so interesting stuff, found as many bad interviews this time around as last time and eventually realised that the thing I really wanted to do was to work in consultancy but at a much smaller place than ThoughtWorks. So today, I started as a principal craftsperson at Codurance. I'm hoping to still do all of the stuff I loved doing at ThoughtWorks but hopefully some of the stuff that I wanted to do and never got the chance. So in other words, and hugely optimistically, I want to have my cake and eat it. Hopefully that will happen, no doubt I will be posting a blog entitled "Becoming a Craftsperson" in a few months' time.

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