Today was my final day at the software company where I've worked for the past (nearly) five years. When I began working for the company, its total headcount was around 180, most located in Portland. The current headcount is over 500, with offices in London, Sydney, Belfast, Seattle, Tokyo, Singapore, Plzeň and Timișoara. Every employee has a profile in a company directory, and on that page, there's a little meter that tells you what percentage of the company began working here after you did. 83% of the company is newer than me, just after four-and-a-half years of my hanging around.
When I joined this company, I hadn't had much direct software experience. I'd been a designer since the late '90s, but most of my work was done in the digital advertising field. A lot of that work had begun to bleed into the application space, though, and I discovered how much I enjoyed working on things that had a longer shelf life than a seasonal campaign, or a social media event, or a television commercial. Here I had the opportunity to work on a product that people would use over a sustained period of time, and taught me a lot about the importance of cultivating a relationship with those users, and improving their experience year over year.
Monday I'll begin my next adventure. I'm joining a startup that focuses on software tools for educators and students and parents, a particular field I have a strong personal investment in. I'm not an educator, but I've been a student and of course I'm a parent of one now. There will be new challenges, of course, and a vast array of particulars to learn about this new field. I'm really excited to learn them all. In a way, every new job is an opportunity to be a student all over again, to listen and learn and ask questions, and then to apply all of that to solving problems. This is very exciting stuff.
When I decided to leave my former company, a few people asked if I was going off to write full-time. A few friends lamented that I wasn't. One pointed out that my new endeavor might even threaten my writing time. (I've discovered that other people worry about this much more than I do.) There are a lot of things that interest me, so I do those things. I design software and its many experiences; I draw pictures; I goof off with my daughter, go on adventures with my wife; I write books and sometimes design them; I play games and read (a lot); lately I obsess over pencils and things; I'd spend a whole day in a movie theater if I were able.
Life's way bigger than any one pursuit. It took me a long time to learn this, but I'm grateful for the lesson. I am more than any one thing I do; I can do many things and be satisfied and whole in each of them. This is a lesson I'm constantly reminded of by my daughter, who aspires to be a scientist and a princess and an artist and a writer and a knitter and a rock star and so many other things. By day she attends the first grade; on alternating evenings she takes piano lessons, or swimming lessons, or horsemanship classes. Try to pin her down and tell her she's one thing; she'll quickly inform you that she's so much more interesting (and interested) than that.
Anyway, writing is a flexible thing. It's like water, in a way, spilling into and filling the cracks that exist in a life. My writing schedule, while at my former company, was fairly steady: I wrote two nights a week during the week, and a full day on the weekend, when drafting; I worked near-nightly when editing. With the new job, the particular days might change, but I suspect that's all that will change. Writing isn't rigid; it's fluid. And, I might add, as I've mentioned many times before, when your writing doesn't have to pay the mortgage, you're freed from many burdens that might otherwise weigh it down. Your writing grows stronger when you have a full, challenging, interesting life from which to draw. And the work I do in software benefits from the lessons I learn from iterating on each draft of a writing project.
Everything you do feeds everything else. That's how it works.
I wrote a little about this in a previous post. It's different for everyone, yes, but for me, I've learned that writing is a facet of life, not all of life. It's okay to love writing and to love designing software, too. It's possible—it's rewarding, in fact—to be a student of both, to constantly learn to be better at both.
So: Monday I'll begin my new, fascinating, exciting, interesting, complicated, fast-moving thing. I'll get to work with new and talented and capable people, all of whom will have their own complexities and varied interests and abilities. It's all of those things that make it so compelling to work together to make something great. Greatness is hard. It's worth the effort.
One might even say the effort is the point.