As I write this post, I’m looking out the window of my office at my daughter playing with our pet bunny. There is a beautiful stillness and presence that they are sharing together. There is no striving to move on to the next thing; no sense of an obligation to progress to something else, something “better”.
We live in a world where progression is celebrated. Rightly so, if someone has worked hard to create a better quality of life for themselves for whatever that means for them. Our own celebration of our own progression is short-lived though, only to be replaced with the yearning to move on to the next “level”. I wonder sometimes what was the point in previous progressions I have made in my life if I don’t fully live and experience the fruits of those progressions.
Throughout my career, I have always been looking to the next thing: what do I need to learn to get a better paying job; how do I move up the “career ladder”; how do I get more autonomy to choose what I work on; how do I position myself so that I can land a job working with that fancy new programming language that I’ve just learned; and on and on it goes. With so many places to get to, I never fully appreciated the place that I currently was.
Getting to the position of senior software engineer took a lot of work. There is the saying that when you’re a software engineer, you will be doing homework for the rest of your life. This is certainly true for me. I’ve spent and continue to spend countless hours of my evenings and weekends studying and practising to become better at what I do and also to satisfy my insatiable need to learn and understand the myriad of facets that make up computer programming. I absolutely love this and wouldn’t change it for the world. I count myself incredibly lucky to do something that I love and for it to provide part of the overall income that my wife and I provide for our family.
So then, why did I change this? In short, it was the need to “progress”. Why would I stand still and enjoy this when I had places to go in my career! The opportunity came up to move into a management position. So, seeing this as the logical progression which was available at the time, I took it. I looked on as my calendar filled up with meeting after meeting. I said goodbye to my code editor and hello to an onslaught of spreadsheets and the political manoeuvring that comes with management. This was okay at first. I had myself convinced that I could still get to code even if it meant only doing so in my spare time. However, it didn’t take long for things to really jar with me (and I’m not talking Java jars here – sorry couldn’t resist!). This feeling of unease ran very deep very quickly. I knew I wasn’t being true to myself but I continued on hoping things would settle within me. They didn’t.
I had just received a promotion and all the trust that goes with that. How was I going to tell my manager that I wanted to reverse all that after only a few weeks of being in the new role! I’m incredibly lucky to work with Clover, a company that values employee happiness, well-being and mental health. The conversation was one of support, empathy and understanding with my manager saying that happiness comes first. The relief I felt after that conversation was immense.
I’m back in my role as Senior Software Engineer and, just like my daughter and our pet bunny, I think I’ll appreciate where I am in my career and in my life right now, today.