A year off and expectations.
I’ve had nearly a year from full time work, a year that is supposed to disadvantage me in our competitive marketplace. So why do it?
At first it wasn’t planned, I intended a few months to myself and then start hunting for work. I had a few interviews handed to me by recruiters but didn’t end up in a role and found I was happy to do other things. Initially I spent time learning more F# and data science, passed a Coursera module on R programming and learnt enough python to follow various courses in including statistical methods and mechanics again on Coursera.
However I also discovered I had an interested in making things, fixing things and working on boats with the result that I spent many happy weeks working on a couple of boats, far removed from desks and keyboards. I contemplated leaving IT completely and working on boats or related work full time instead.
I learnt to code in fits and starts during my time at my last role and became increasingly aware of my ignorance. Scott Hanselman describes this rather well in his essay on imposter syndrome: the more you learn the more you realise you need to learn and the more insecure in your knowledge you become. My work role wasn’t coding, we didn’t use many libraries and our codebase largely procedural. This meant learning current technology was going to be homework only by and large. By the time I came to leave my role, I’d learnt enough OOP and functional programming to get by and apply for senior programmer roles. These would be stretch roles of course for me but I never learnt anything by sticking well within my comfort zone. Unfortunately, the few interviews I took convinced me that my official experience coding was outside of their comfort zone and would always bar my way into the career.
It was February when this knocked me for six, at least regarding programming and to be blunt, I quit trying. I was getting angry and frustrated at a system designed, it seemed, to keep anyone who didn’t meet the ticklists from ever doing so. Not enough experience means we won’t even consider helping you out of your catch 22, the risk is too high.
Maybe they’re right, I can’t read the future in better than they. On the other hand, repeatedly I’m told risk nothing, gain nothing therefore I feel that hiring managers could do with getting out of their own comfort zones and question whether their ticklists and need for so many years of experience gives them good enough results or whether they should gamble on people who perhaps would not ever pass the standard criteria.
I’m coming to the last weeks of my year off and am contemplating what to do for the best. For many employers you are meant to be definite, sorted, have a business plan for your life and be able to elevator pitch your ambitions to fit with their needs.
I can’t offer that.
My ambitions vary, my plans for the future hazy, I enjoy life, learning, figuring stuff out and being creative.
This is going to be a tough sell, as smart, conventional, just edgy enough to be different but only just and having followed a mostly conventional route is what people want to hear. Along with formally well educated.
This should be fun.
As for the year off-you live but once, time is irreplaceable and my headstone will not read “I wished I’d spent more time at the office”.
As for my expectations?
Now, I’m interested in interesting junior dev positions or suitable short term contracts. In junior roles, I’ll get time to refresh and update my skills, yet be able to bring more to the table sooner than perhaps would be expected. As for ambition, as long as I can continue to train, study and am increasingly enabled to make bigger contributions the moment it’s merited, I’ll be happy.
I gave myself a hard time trying to push for stretch roles with appropriate pay. A decent challenge, a great team with an interesting company is what I need, so any takers?