A Fresh Start in Midlife
Over a year ago I posted a life update, and now it’s time for another! In Nov 2021 I hinted about a new job I was starting. So let’s go back a year and see how that developed.
The cliffhanger that I ended the last post with was getting a job with ClimatePartner as a team lead. A team lead in this context was a mix of tech leadership and people management. Along with that, I was bootstrapping the technical organisation in the Berlin office. The job began in Jan of 2022.
Several months were spent learning about the organisation, the mission, and what role software had to play. It came clear early on that going back to a full 40hr work week wasn’t something I want to regress (I went to 32hr weeks for the last 8 months or so at VMware) on and thankfully was able to switch to a 32hr work week a few months in.
The Berlin team wasn’t going to appear from thin air so a lot of my time was spent interviewing candidates. It wasn’t until June of 2022 that the first new hire of Berlin was coming to the office. New hires would be added to the roster every single month until the end of the year!
In the meantime, I also managed to get my German Permanent Residency title! This was a huge milestone and has been a goal of mine for a couple years. This was one of the reasons I needed to be working again. As articulated in my last post, permanent residency wasn’t the only goal of employment, but an aligned benefit.
The feeling of relief and freedom after acquiring this permit is hard to describe. To keep it short, acquiring permanent residence means I can live in Germany without being employed. Otherwise, I would be reverting back to a tourist visa which has a limit of 3 months. Now a myriad of of life possibilities were in my field of view that were previously obscurred by the work permit requirement.
As mentioned in my last update, I had the OG Covid and it was horrible. Over a year had passed and I still didn’t have my taste/smell back 100%. In June of 2022 I caught Covid again. It hit me like a ton of bricks again, but thankfully it was a shorter stint. I fully lost my taste/smell again too. The odd thing is; when the taste/smell came back, it returned much stronger than before I caught Covid the second time!
I did a little travelling in Feb/Mar of 2023 and I noticed that my taste/smell were still improving. Perhaps it was being in the same place for 3 years that desensitised me. I wouldn’t say I’m back 100% but I’m back sufficiently enough that I can enjoy a much wider selection of food and drink, so much so that it’s made dining out pleasurable again.
Unfortunately, I still wonder what the long-term negative impact of having Covid will have on me going forward.
Shelly Passing Away
Sadly, Shelly passed away during this time. I knew adopting an old cat would have a shorter time span, but 3 years was shorter than expected. Not much to say other than it was a very difficult time for me. I’ll get another cat at some point but not sure when.
Saying farewell, now her ashes are on a shelf in an urn with all my other relics
Lack of Motivation and A Fork in the Road
At this point (Aug 2022), I was feeling like something wasn’t quite right. My motivation was down, and I couldn’t say my surroundings or people were the cause of it. I felt like I didn’t fit in with what I was doing. It wasn’t quite imposter-syndrome because I felt competent at what I was doing. In the end, I am questioning my current career direction.
I couldn’t have predicted the feeling of empowerment the permanent residency gave me. During a train trip in August (my first real trip since Nov 2019), I gave a thought to my current life/work trajectory. Some books I read during the trip are:
- Wild Problems (my review) by Russ Roberts and Transformative Experience (my review) by L.A. Paul – These two books gave me the confidence to make a risky decision and a bold choice.
- Midlife (my review) by Kieran Setiya – Helped me understand that many people feel this way at this point in their life. It gave me a language to understand my lack of motivation.
Over the course of the trip I felt I had to make a decision on whether or not to leave ClimatePartner or stay. By the end of the trip, I decided that I needed to leave! I think my book review of Midlife describes my rationale for my decision. To summarise, I want to take some time to explore work outside my bailiwick. Though I can’t deny a decreased interest in my current industry. Identifying what my issues are with “current industry” will need to be explored and written about in a future time.
The decision to leave was made in August and I gave my notice in September. This meant I would be working until the end of the year (3 month notice period). Little did I know how much the remaining months would test me.
As each month passed, the vibe and culture in the Berlin office was becoming incredibly rich, fun, and energising. I was extremely proud of the people that I was a large part in bringing to ClimatePartner Berlin but was feeling guilt and sadness for leaving them so early. It also tested my decision to leave. I’m glad it was difficult though because despite the incredible people and team I was leaving, I still felt in my gut that I was doing the right thing.
During my last days the teams gave me the most amazing farewell I could have imagined. I didn’t want to do much and I suggested a graveyard walk as a group activity (I learned earlier that many others on the team like strolling in graveyards too). They turned it into a funeral ceremony for me and even read a eulogy to my departure! They also gave me this hilarious conversation guide (see below, inspired by How to talk like Boromir). Below are also a couple lovely pictures of the spirit of the office and colleagues, and I am proud of the framed picture the team gave me as my final gift. Sadly, ClimatePartner laid off 50% (Feb 2023) of the folks in Berlin so several of the people in the picture are now looking for work).
How to sound like me!, Digital Solutions Berlin at Christmas, post graveyard festivities in a Christmas market
Like SoundCloud, ClimatePartner was on the shorter side of employment stints I’ve had, but impactful. Building up the teams in Berlin has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career. But now it’s time to move on.
To start the year, I thought it would be good to revisit the goals I stated back in 2021. I’ve had a dubious history of goal setting on this blog but nevertheless do ok in progressing or course correcting. Here’s the progress made so far:
- ✔️ Permanent Residence – Complete! Things really fell apart on this in 2021, but happy to have ended 2022 with this special entitlement.
- ✔️ Winding Down Work – Complete! I was working 4 days a week with VMware from Apr 2021. Likewise, I was doing the same with ClimatePartner in 2022. Now I’m unemployed and revisiting my relationship with income and work.
- 🚧 Cycling Initiative – This hasn’t gone so well. I was tracking progress in 2021 and was doing some significant rides, but this regressed in 2022.
- 🚧 Launch Personal Finance Website – The extra time has worked well in helping me better understand what I want to build.
Feels good to have a couple of these significant goals checked off, and decent progress made on the others. I plan on continuing with the unfinished goals and reflect on goal setting in 2023.
Starting Career Break #2
So… Now what?
Digesting the books I read over August, and the emotional test of my decision to leave ClimateParter, gave me a lot to reflect on. I knew I wasn’t getting the same satisfaction from my career as I was previously. I was on autopilot for a bit, and at some point was at a place where I wasn’t sure I liked doing my job, despite all the good feelings I had about my colleagues and work environment.
On the train ride back home in August, I asked myself one simple question: “How would you feel if you were at ClimatePartner 5 years from now?”. My immediate answer to myself was “regret”. I would regret not having the courage to pursue all the things that don’t exist on my current career direction.
So… I am going to explore those things. I don’t have much of a plan, but now I have the space to explore. I intend to rediscover the things I intrinsically am motivated to do. Over the last few months, this has narrowed down to 3 specific topics:
- Personal finance mindset and modelling
- Gaming (development, playing, reviewing, designing)
- Personal IT infrastructure aka SmallOps
I can’t really say specifically what I’ll end up doing, but those are 3 topics that I can effortlessly research, explore, tinker, share, and educate. My only plan is to see where these interests take me for the next little while.
My last career break was a special time in my life. The context was different then; I was younger, didn’t have a fixed address. This time around, I have a home that I love. My travel ambitions are smaller and nearer. I’m going to travel in mind and spirit more this time around, and less physically.
That being said, I did take 3 weeks to travel by rail and ferry to Brussels, London, Cardiff/Swansea, Liverpool, Dublin. So physical travel isn’t completely out:
Liverpool cathedral, beach near Tenby Wales, Brussels museum, Pen y Fan Wales
Following My Updates
I understand that being absent from social media has made it harder for everyone to keep tabs on what I’m up to, so I’m going to re-evaluate how to broadcast updates in a humane way.
This post took 12 pomodoros (and a lot of pondering on train rides)