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disclaimer: This is not a techy post like the others. I mostly wrote this for myself to get my thoughts in order. Why publish it? Because I believe that I’m not alone, and if this post can help a single person (even if it’s just the relief of not being alone), it was worth it.

Looking back, professionally

Sometimes you reach a point in life where you need to stop for a moment and look back at what you have done. I believe it’s time for me to do so, professionally. So let’s move on to what brought me here.

Being lost, how I got here

When I graduated two years ago, I was at an impasse. For a long time, when people asked me what I wanted to become, the answer was pretty simple “an engineer.” So here I was, a young graduate engineer with a single question: “now what?”. I have developed a healthy interest in computer science, communication protocols, networking, and generally solving technical problems (with automation) in the field I like to call “data brokering” (throwing data around between different systems). This has led me to a student DevOps job which I continued working after graduation. Combined with the pandemic at our front door, it was an easy decision … a safe decision.

After a year, I started looking for a new challenge; instead of “DevOps” I wanted to move on to a development job. I made a small detour over a service engineering job (slight miscommunication) and eventually landed a Python backend development job at a small company. Here I learned to work on some backend frameworks, performance tuning on caches, and OAuth login flows.

At the end of 2021, I moved on again. My productivity was at a low. Over the following months, I’ll work as a DOCSIS test engineer and project engineer for a government. I’m still at that last one, and it was a good decision to step away from the IT world for a while. It made me realize that I do miss it, but I have learned that I need short/mid-term projects because the reality is that … I get bored.

Know thyself

People who know me will not be surprised about what I’m going to write now, and it’s easier to see these things looking in from the outside. Those same people will have told me these things plenty of times before, and I was just too ignorant to understand them.

I’ve avoided “consultancy” at the start. I still find the concept of taking young graduates out of school straight into consulting a bit strange. Without experience, what do you have to base that consultation on? The reality is, consultancy would suit me. I need variation, challenges and new knowledge on a semi-regular basis. It’s all about learning things with me and whenever that learning slows down, I get bored. I need variation in the actual “content” of work and I also need it in the type of work. There needs to be space to do broad architectural exploration; while still having opportunities to do real deep technical dives.

The projects I work on need to have meaning and I need to care about them. Sure there are plenty of technical issues to solve in business, but make it clear to me what the goal is and how the impact will improve aspects of something and you can get me on board to solve it. “You get paid” is not enough to keep me going every day of the week. Have something that piques my interest and I’ll probably spend way too much time working on it.

Company and team cohesion are also essential. Having clear goals and a balanced team that works together according to the same principles makes the challenging moments easier (who else am I going to shitpost with when I can’t get through a problem?). With remote work being more accepted, it also helps if the team is on the same page. I like remote work. Taking your laptop anywhere in the world and world is great for me. If I stall in the workday, this can easily be fixed by taking a walk to the coffee shop around the corner, getting a coffee and opening the laptop in a new environment. Of course, this is only possible if the team knows how to work asynchronously. Still, nothing beats throwing a bunch of people together in a room with a whiteboard to work out some ideas, for those things, I’ll gladly go to the office.

Where I’m going

I never stop keeping an eye on the job market; you never know what will come by. And for the right opportunity, I’ll probably switch jobs again. Maybe I’ll even look into becoming a freelancer in the future. It would give me the autonomy I would prefer while being able to switch around the contents I workaround to provide the variation. Being freelance comes with many extra things, though, which I’m not sure I’m ready for now.

My job timeline

I’m posting this online because I communicate openly about my jobs. First I found it awkward to talk about them, but I’ve had positive feedback (also, A LOT OF BANTER) about my transparency on them. People must know that not everybody comes out of school and knows where they want to work. Or what job they want to do. Other people think more about the jobs; I tend to learn through experience.

updated 2022-11-29

time period job title
oct 2019 - dec 2020 devops engineer/system administrator
jan 2021 services engineer
feb 2021 - nov 2021 backend developer
dec 2021 - feb 2022 test engineer
mar 2022 - sep 2022 project engineer
sep 2022 - current solutions engineer observability

Both professionally and personally, 2021 was NOT a good year for me. But in that year, I have grown as a person regardless of the troubles I encountered. I aim to not repeat that period in my life, but I am grateful for the people I had around me and the jobs during that time.

This article was posted on 2022 M5 25. Some things may have changed since then, please mail or tweet at me if you have a correction or question.

Tags: #jobs #culture