Turning a cruise ship
tl;dr I found a job!
During the six-month hiatus between the last blog post and this one, I quit a job I’d been at for fifteen years, and ventured into the new world (for me) of programming professionally. It wasn’t easy. At times I felt like I was trying to turn a cruise ship. And I couldn’t really blog about the process because of the whole don’t-let-your-boss-see-your-job-hunting-blog-post thing.
It took a bit longer than I expected, but here’s how I did it, in a nutshell, in case you’re thinking of making a similar move:
- I found a problem in my life that could be eliminated (or ameliorated) by using software. I was on a co-ed soccer team at the time, and we were sending each other 80 emails each week trying to make sure enough people were going to show up for the game, so I taught myself PHP and MySQL and made a simple attendance website. You can still find a demo version at turtleherder.com/bobcats. Feel free to mess around with it — it’s a fake team.
- I started to think about making the jump into programming as my primary living, but I suffered a bit of an existential crisis for a while, in that I was afraid it was going to take over my mind. I enjoyed programming, but I got very intensely focused on whatever project I was working on, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to turn it off at the end of each day when I got home from work. I resolved this issue by talking to a lot of working programmers. I met some people around the country who worked remotely and seemed to have a good work-life balance, and also a lot of people at tech Meetups in New York. Eventually, I decided I would be able to handle it. As indeed I have.
- Last but not least, I wrote a resume and started slowly looking for jobs. It took me months just to get around to writing the resume itself — the psychological block that gets built up around that after fifteen years at the same job is quite formidable — but eventually I did it, and then I made a blitz, both on my own and through recruiters. One week in late May I went to six interviews, the last of which was four and a half hours long. I got a few rejections, but just when my savings were almost gone (going down to two days a week had been a calculated risk that began to seem a little scary towards the end there, financially), I ended up with two offers for half-year contract positions. I took the one that was the smaller company, 35 minutes closer to my house, $5 more an hour, and had a pit bull puppy in the office.
The job turned out great, but that’s a topic for another post. I’m over half-way through it now, and looking for my next gig. Whatever happens, I’m sure the process will be a piece of cake this time, in comparison.