Career side-step

06 May 2019
A while back I left the company I was working at and took up a position in a new organisation — I had intended to hold off writing about it but I sorta gave the game away with my article on declined job offers. The move is part of a long intended if not exactly planned career pivot towards mobile & embedded development, which was partly influenced by all the electronics mini-projects I have done over the last two years. As was the case in the past I will not mention names, although anyone who is determined to find them out will probably do so.

The old company

When I joined my previous company it was all about correcting the trajectory of my career — getting back into C programming basically — and going into the interview I reckoned it was my last chance. At the time my overall professional experience was also a little on the shaky side, as I had only been at my previous company for 18 months, and before then I had been out of employment for almost a year due to my stay in New Zealand. I could just about claim 4 years' commercial experience although due to the break and very different roles it was probably being treated as only 2 or 3. Alongside getting my career on the right track the only other thing I was doing was getting my health in order, and the two things together left no time for anything else. However I have no regrets.

In hindsight it was the summer of 2017 when things started to take a turn for the worse. I had a relationship failure earlier in the year and getting over it was instrumental in me taking up electronics — something that went on to compete with my professional life for technical satisfaction, which is a situation that has happened previously and generally results in a poor prognosis for motivation to stay in a job. By mid-late 2018 it was pretty clear my interests had shifted towards electronics and embedded programming and I had a punt at a new company around then. Part of the problem was being shunted between projects just as I was finishing technical ramp-up, and I remember noting how I felt that by my own measure of productivity — writing business logic — was going through the floor. As others pointed out it was due to circumstances beyond my control, but the mental effect of under-utilisation is still there. The final push came with a fast-tracked project that to put it mildly was extremely challenged and turned out to a strain both personally and professionally, the fine details are both still somewhat raw and have clear commercial sensitivity so I will omit them for the time being.

Change in direction

My career is programming in C with a bias towards the low-level, but these days such a skill-set is becoming increasingly specialist — when I was doing Win32 API programming back in 2010-2012 I knew the use of C in this area was in decline, and I still consider myself to have done well getting back into C in 2015. This sort of programming and the issues it entails is becoming exclusive to embedded software, and I also concluded that modern C++ was not for me. In addition as a result of all the firmware programming I did as part of various electronics projects, my interests have been drifting towards mobile & embedded devices, rather than stuff running on desktops and servers. Upshot of all this is that I decided to make the jump over to embedded programming, but the difficulty in doing this is that roles in this area are particularly prescriptive about experience. All the microcontroller stuff I had done the last two years was clearly an ability, but since it was personal projects it was stuff that could not go onto the CV. I am rather conservative when it comes to writing CVs and I suspect this attitude has counted against me in the past, but I still consider this to be the correct attitude. I did nevertheless bring them up at interviews — both for this job and the one I turned down — and this time round it worked well.

Time-out time

The previous time I changed companies it was a case of finishing up on the Friday and my first day at the new company being the immediately-following Monday. I felt that taking more than the weekend off did not serve any useful purpose, and in any case at the time I simply wanted to get on with chalking up experience and earning money. Although my life had stabilised compared to the immediate aftermath of my return to Europe from New Zealand, it was not yet really back on track — in hindsight it would be late-2015 before I felt that my life had really turned around, and 2016 would turn out to be an eventful year in terms of life changes. This time round chalking up experience and finances were not big worries, but I had accumulated a large back-log of choirs and personal projects that I wanted to clear before I started working again — various repair jobs around the apartment, a few electronics projects, and finally putting into action my plan to build a shed for storage on the balcony. The idea was that when I started working again, I would not have other things making big demands on my attention.

The new company

At the moment there is still not much I can say about the new company, beyond the obvious details related to the role I am taking up: Embedded programming and making use of a background in computer networking. These days I am reluctant to write publicly about my professional life, but so far I feel the company is much nearer my first post-doc job than my previous two jobs — it has about twice the people of the former and I can see some of the neo-startup traits that were absent in the latter two companies. From what I interpreted they are having to become more corporate due to growth and demands of the industry as a whole, but so far the resulting dogma is far below the tolerance threshold I built up over the last few years.