I told myself that I would start writing on my blog again this week. I've been in a serious funk since around last October and I am desperately trying to escape it. I know that consistent blogging is a way to open doors, and I promised myself I would write a blog post today even if I didn't feel like it.
Well, I don't feel like it.
This is just fulfilling that promise as I understand that action begets action. Perhaps writing and publishing a post of no significance today will help me to publish posts of some significance later this week. I really just need to do something.
Maybe I'll just spew out some recent events for me. I'll make this post a bit of a journal. I know that writing this probably doesn't provide you, the reader, with much or any value, but it may be a little therapeutic for me, and so I'll just do it anyways.
One of the more significant things that happened in my life recently is that I interviewed for a job with a company that I greatly admire. I didn't actively go out job hunting, but I was approached because of the combination Software Engineer / Technical Recruiter I describe myself as on LinkedIn. I was actually approached for the recruiting side of things and not my technical chops. I'm not exactly a hardcore recruiter... I do college recruiting and the sourcing skills they were looking for didn't exactly match up. They did end up interviewing me for a software engineering position, but things fell apart after the first, cultural interview.
I knew immediately after I hung up the phone that I would probably not be asked back for a second interview. Despite agreeing with the companies' philosophy and dreaming of being part of it I have not taken significant action on those beliefs (this is my own analysis by the way). I furthermore haven't developed myself from a technical perspective in a few years, and my experiences aren't that compelling. I've become soft and insignificant. It's a brutal truth and I am lucky that this interview prompted the introspection. What a gift it was to get the thanks-but-no-thanks email on my birthday.
So what do I do with this? Where do I go from here? I really am not sure.
I've heard a number of software developers go through a mid-life crisis of sorts when they hit their 30's. I'm definitely going through that now. I haven't been challenged much by software development in a few years. Most things that are "hard" are not really hard at all... they are mind-numbing. What makes them difficult is trying to focus my attention. This really feels no different from when I worked at Wal-Mart years ago stocking shelves. It's all just going through the motions. I hate that I am doing something just to pay the bills. One of the largest fears I had getting into software development is that I would end up like Peter Gibbons one day. That fear has been realized.
I think I may want to get more into people work. Recruiting at colleges is one of the best parts of my job. Mentoring other developers and helping them with design challenges is pretty damn fun. I've been told I am good at looking at alternative ways to accomplish tasks (i.e. thinking outside the box) and I like seeding ideas in developers who are way more capable than myself. I also have really enjoyed those moments as a software developer when I am working directly with the users to figure out what they need. but sitting down and hacking out the code has just become painful.
I had an encounter with a coworker a few weeks ago. He is a director level fellow and he asked me if I was holding down the fort while my manager was out-of-town setting things up with a contracting firm we are using for a project. I said no, referencing the people who are holding down the fort in the absence of my manager. I also jokingly stated that nobody would put me in charge of something. He fired back something along the lines of... "well for technical solutions you'd be ok, [but...]". We then parted ways.
I spent a long time thinking and over thinking the significance of what he said. Is the perception that I am a terrible people person and I would be terrible in a management role? If so, what is the reason for this? I have not been given a fair chance at any sort of management role since I was a supervisor at a Hardee's in high school. The only opportunities at leadership have been unofficial. I feel that I am fairly well liked among those that are 'managed'. Maybe that is the problem?
Or maybe I am just not liked among those that are doing the managing. Maybe he figures I wouldn't play nicely with the club. I've found that a lot of managers I know tend to submit to group-think. There have been a few decisions where managers I've talked to afterwards stated they have wanted to question, but they do not because the consensus was against them and they didn't want to be 'that guy/gal'. I know someone I highly respect who doesn't raise concerns anymore because of this. You can only play devil's advocate so long before being branded as a negative, toxic person. I think contrarian people always end up being considered as toxic. I tend to be skeptical, the philosophy major in me, and maybe that is a less desirable trait now that discussions among management come down to how hard you say yes.
One of the other reasons I think I failed my job interview is that I have not done enough to change those things that I find are wrong or could be done better. I once advocated extremely hard to adopt agile processes at my employer, despite significant resistance from the CIO at the time. I spent a considerable amount of time writing a proposal on how the org could be changed to do so, centering teams around products that I mind mapped out. I put a lot into providing a vision for it, but my proposals were dismissed almost immediately without discussion. Now, fast forward 3 years and almost every last thing I laid out is now how things are, except the people who dismissed it now champion it... and I am still a nobody.
I've long had carried spite because of this. I am not sure why. It's almost the same feeling you get when you paired on a team project in college and you get stuck with the person who doesn't want to put the work in. You care about your grade so you put in all the effort. In the end you get an A, you got what you wanted, but it upsets you to no end that the mooch you were paired with also ended up with an A as well. I'm not saying its the exact same thing, but that's definitely the feeling I get. The point of all this is that maybe I've shy'd away from taking significant action because I believe I don't really have the power to change anything. I used to believe I could, I tried, and all I ended up with is feeling spiteful.
Moving on to another thought... I once had a manager who called me in to his office furious because of an email I wrote. It was at the end of a chain of emails where a couple development factions were fighting back and forth about things. I was leaving the company and I wrote an email pleading for the two sides to just get along. I think he was okay with that part, but he was mad that I followed it up with what I felt was the clear action that needed to be taken. It involved moving some people off to different teams (a couple of guys were burned out, and the other wasn't focused) and building a team in its place that would be more focused on addressing the concerns of the other side. He was mad that I would suggest personnel and team changes... I was, in his words, "way out of line." I apologized profusely (because I didn't want to hurt my chances of being hired back if I needed), and then I said something that I felt profoundly about afterwards. It was something along the lines of it being easy to complain and bitch, as the email chain had been up to that point, but it's much harder yet more valuable offer solutions as I had done and was now being berated for.
I tend to complain about things a lot, but I almost always have a solution to go with it. I think maybe people just hear complaining. Lately I have been complaining a lot about life. I really just don't have any idea of where to go at this point and what to do. I know I am not happy with things, but there doesn't seem to be a clear path for me. So here is where the solutions part must come...
I really really really (yes 3x really) like Scott Adam's book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. I just started re-listening to it recently and I know that the solution to my problems is to build a system that will get me to a place that is better than where I am now. To bring things full circle, that is really why I am blogging today. I know without a doubt that people who write a lot tend to be more successful and happy in life. So I'm doing that. I am also committing to running again because it helps with energy. I did that tonight. It wasn't fun because it is just barely above 0 degrees Fahrenheit here, but I did it.
Blogging, running, and what else? I don't know. I really need to go to bed. Sleep! Sleep helps :-).