November 23, 2018

Leftsider Is Unemployed

In mid-october, I was let go by my employer. The company, unable to come to a timely solution to its funding round, split into two and laid off about 50 people. For many it was a shock; fortunately I had slightly more visibility and actually brought a bigger bag to work on the day so I could easily collect my things.

There are three main areas where people go when they discover what happened:

  1. Are you ok?
  2. What’s next?
  3. Are you going to stay in the bay?

I’ll answer them in order.

First, this is difficult to answer. Because no, I’m not ok…but the reason isn’t because of the layoff. The gut punch happened about a month earlier, after several conversations with Mozilla Corporation for a role as a program manager for their Firefox product. I’d seen the role, and reached out to a friend who’d worked there previously. He gave a great recommendation to a former colleague who turned out to be the hiring manager. We talked via phone and it seemed a sure thing. Only it wasn’t, and the rejection email really laid me low. I reached out to two other companies and my interest fell on deaf ears. I was completely spooked. I took time to do a personal retrospective and realized some interesting things.

I realized I hadn’t been rejected for a role I pursued in well over a decade, and that was because it had been well over a decade since I’d not had someone on the inside wanting to bring me in. This made me worry a bit less that I was somehow flawed and unfit, but it also made me worry a bit more that I hadn’t been rejected more in that time span. Had I not challenged myself and now had to learn about life away from easy street? Were my skills sharp and my presentation solid when I never had need to show them? It angered me a little that I’d just allowed myself to be taken by the current of my company rather than navigating my own path with intent.

So by the time the layoff came I was already done with the notion of my job being where I was going to grow. And the time not working and interviewing, and connecting with others has helped me trim the fat from my work and really polish my pitch.

Second, I don’t know. If I’d gotten a more reasonable severance for my service…probably some time wandering Asia. As that didn’t happen—and as Fru is now full time in a programming school—it forced me to pretty much start the job search immediately, which isn’t that great given the holiday season is upon us. I’ve got enough savings to cover a couple month’s expenses, so I’m not freaking out and trying to be selective without being picky. But as I told someone recently, I don’t actually have a job “type” I’m looking for: generally an opportunity will introduce itself and then, considering the possibilities of me in that role, I either get excited and pursue or let it pass. My work history is pretty varied as a result, so I don’t expect that to change now.

One thing that is “next,” though, is the number of opportunities that are now about leading rather than being an individual contributor. And this is something that goes back to the first point; it is time to stop simply working the magic. It is time to showcase the magic, explain the magic, teach the magic and develop a culture of magic that expands far beyond my reach. So while I’ve eschewed management and leadership in the past, I’m open to it now.

Finally, yes for now. My sister and her family moved to the area this summer, so I’d like to stick around for them. I’m also directing my job search away from SF for as long as possible—seven years working in a 10-block radius doesn’t give me confidence that my view of the tech industry is comprehensive. If I’m successful, I’ll find myself back with a company that accommodates a bit more for my wanderlust—which may allow me to actually maintain a base while still feeding my travel cravings.

It will be good to be back on the job; I tend to get a bit stir crazy without a lot of work to do, and a project manager left to their own devices will just end up creating projects that don’t exist or nosing into the projects of others. The California fires and their affect on the air quality has also had a suppressing effect on my mental state, but we’re free of that now. I’ll enjoy the freedom a bit more and work to further improve self for the next adventure.