Unbeknownst to anyone but a tiny fraction of my friends and my employer I went hunting for a new job in May, because I was unsure whether my current position at Port Zero was what I truly wanted. In this post I want to share why I wanted to move on, what I found, and where I ended up.
Some of the work projects as of late have been a little underwhelming. I felt barely challenged and was often at least slightly bored. As people familiar with my work will know, I always find ways to keep myself busy, but sometimes I felt like I wasn’t as thrilled by my day job as I used to be.
Relatedly, we shifted a bit into security rather than development, which I don’t see as my core strength. This led to a few gigs where I wasn’t sure whether I was actually the right person for the job, which is terrible even for a person who doesn’t have incredible performance anxiety, which I suffer from.
Lastly, but most importantly, I was trying to get back into working remotely, because I’ve had good experiences with that mode of work. Both having less oversight and not being bound by office hours get my creative juices flowing and make me more productive. We at Port Zero are not really in a position where we can pick and choose our clients however we want to, and so I wasn’t sure whether working remotely was even an option.
And this is where my introverted nature tripped me up: instead of talking about this with my CEO and personal friend, Michael, I handed in my notice. He wasn’t angry, but he did seem upset. I offered to stay until our contract with my new client would end—which is at the end of June—, and we agreed that this would probably be the best way forward. He asked me what I was missing, and I told him all of the things that I wrote above. I’m not very good at communicating when I don’t understand something or when something is not right for me, so this conversation felt strangely cathartic.
I then contacted the Recurse Center.
Looking for jobs
The Recurse Center is, among many other things, great if you’re looking for work. It’s their primary means of funding themselves, and by now they’ve garnered a few great partners. That said, many of these jobs are only interesting if you either live in the US or are looking to relocate there soon. While it would be easier for me to do that than for many other people—what with my wife being a US citizen and all—she is not interested in moving back there, and neither am I—no offense, US-based folks.
Nonetheless, we workshopped my résumé a little—you can check it out here—and they started the interview process with a handful of interesting companies—many of them based in London. I also individually applied at a small selection of German and Swedish companies. Interestingly, I didn’t find anything immediately appealing in Berlin.
I was relatively laid back the entire time, because it turned out that my employer was not only open to keeping me, but also proposed that I could work remotely. At the time, it helped me to have a “fallback” plan in case noone wanted to work with me.
I interviewed with a couple of companies. A few ghosted me from the get-go, but that didn’t really faze me; it turns out that all kinds of sociopathic and rude behaviour is perfectly socially acceptable for companies these days. Wouldn’t want to work with them anyways1.
I got pretty far with the companies that did grace me with a response, until the second or third round (of almost exclusively three). It seems like the three-tiered phone call/video conference, then coding interview, then meet-the-team-at-the-office process has become standard practice in European startup culture. I’m not complaining, it does make sense.
One company that I particularly liked even let me skip the coding quiz because they vetted my public profile extensively and were sufficiently convinced that I could program! That was interesting, and gave the whole thing a human touch. I invest a lot of time into this blog and my public Github profile, and while I don’t expect anything from that, it’s nice when a prospective employer at least uses these resources to vet me.
I also realized that the job market in Europe is a little underwhelming when it comes to pay. There are loads of interesting startups, but either I’m on a local maximum when it comes to experience vs. pay, or everyone was blatantly lowballing me, even as I tried to renegotiate. Remote work also seems to be seen as unappealing by companies, or maybe I just didn’t interview with the right kinds of startups.
I got to fly to London once, though, which was fun! I’ve never been to London, and I decided that I really don’t want to live there at the moment—a fact my wife took very well, because she’s not a big fan either—, but it was a fun experience. Getting to Gatwick Airport, however, is terrible, but everyone who’s been there probably knows that.
What did I end up with?
After a very fruitful and pleasant process—thanks in no small part to my current employer, who’s been extremely flexible and accomodating, and Recurse, who’ve been very patient and reassuring to me during the entire process—, I ended up with my old job. I realize that this must seem anti-climactic, but there are a few facts that have changed since I went on my job-hunting journey a month ago.
- We’re moving into a new office. I didn’t even realize that this is a big thing, but we have a trampoline, loads of sun, a better kitchen, and more privacy now, and it’s the best thing ever!
- I realized that my pay is pretty goshdarn good. I don’t really care about pay usually, but it feels weird to me to start a new job at 75% of my current salary.
- I am now a remote employee. While I will come to the office whenever it’s productive and I feel like it, I have the freedom to go on little trips and just generally stay home when I feel like it. That’s exactly what my wife and I wanted, and we’re very thrilled to use this freedom soon.
- My current client provides me with all of what I was missing lately: I get to work on a Smalltalk—more specifically, Pharo—application with some of the brightest minds in Smalltalk. I’m a newbie surrounded by Xerox Parc-ies, Pharo Consortium members, and core developers. It is pretty fantastic!
Points 3 and 4 are what’s most important. I love my company and coworkers, and felt bad about leaving some of the smartest, weirdest, gentlest people I’ve ever met for some random company. We made it work, and I’m staying, and as you can probably tell by the chipper tone of this post, I am pretty happy about that.
So I guess all that I have to tell you now is to 1) apply to the Recurse Center if you haven’t already, and 2) apply to work at Port Zero! Both of those institutions helped me grow tremendously, and have been very patient with my tendency to dive into things head-first and think about whether it’s a good idea after everything’s said and done.
If you have any questions or comments about my experiences during the job hunt or at Port Zero or the Recurse Center, feel free to shoot me an e-mail or contact me through any other medium you see me using.
1. I realize that this sounds pretty bitter, but I mostly thought it was funny at the time.