As of today, I'm officially not employed. The last two and a half years have been an interesting time for me in terms of my professional development, and it's a very appropriate time to close that chapter.
I know that I've told the story before, but here's a recap. Back in 2005, I was having a very strange year in terms of my personal life. My ASP.NET book was released, I was doing consulting work, coaching high school volleyball, and feeling as though I was hitting a plateau in terms of my own programming skills. More to the point, I was bored.
So in 2006, I went back to work on a full-time basis. What sold me was the interview itself. I could tell that the guys I'd work with were a lot smarter than me, and there was a lot to learn. Unlike the consulting work I had been doing, there were plenty of people to turn to when you didn't feel confident that you had good solutions to the problems you faced. That's the kind of mentoring you wish for.
Culturally, I did have a hard time fitting in at times, in retrospect because there are only so many people you need attacking the bigger issues and being responsible for bigger solutions. I was OK with that most of the time, provided I was still learning and getting better at what I did. I have a strong need to feel as though I'm a part of the bigger picture, I guess because it's what I'm used to in my earlier jobs and my personal projects.
It was just in the last two weeks that I think really started to understand that. Several things happened that made me realize it was time to move on (even though ultimately the choice was made for me). The first thing was my trip to interview with Microsoft in Redmond. It doesn't matter that they didn't offer me a job, because it was a wake up call that reminded me I had options. The second thing was the assignment to a project where I'd be batting clean up, because it was the kind of project I'd endeavored in countless times before in my own work or other jobs. That led me to believe that perhaps my opportunities for learning were decreasing in number. And the third thing that happened, was an e-mail message from a co-worker, who thanked me for helping him on one of his projects. He thanked me for beign patient and working through his issues. As much as I think I try to not rely on external validation, I can't deny that made me feel good.
Collectively, I've come to understand that it was time for something else. I have no idea what that else is, and honestly, this being Jeff Putz week (tomorrow is my birthday), I don't even care to think about it at the moment. For now I want to relax and reflect on the great experiences I had, the friendships, the 1337 code I wrote and the fact that I can get up whenever I feel like it tomorrow!
When I started the job, I got into the habit of bringing my Wired magazines to work, to take to read at lunch or whatever. Over time, they started to stack up. The stack got to 30 issues high. It was a pretty good run.