Life, Work, and Covid
It’s been a while since I’ve done a general life update. I’m no longer active on social media and have left a lot of people out of what’s going on in my life. One effect of my lack of posting was that my immediate family didn’t know much about my day-to-day life. Social media used to be good for this type of communication until it became more of an opinion soap-box.
This post is for all those I’ve lost touch with.
Let’s treat my last life update post in 2017 as the latest context. Here is what has happened since then:
New Home / New Role
As the above post mentions, I had moved back to Berlin. Wanting to see a different side of Berlin, I found a bit of an eclectic apartment in Wilmersdorf. It once was a restaurant and a butcher shop before that. My basement still had the meat locker storage! I really do miss this place.
(Liked the office view, large kitchen, summertime office, lounge area above the workstation)
I also Joined the Pivotal Cloud Foundry Solutions (PCFS) team and began working 100% remote. This involved a lot of travel to Milton Keynes for 1 particular customer and to Norway for another. I met a lot of great people and still keep in touch with client connections and former teammates.
(Milton Keynes, Oslo, Bergen)
I struggled a bit with the travel and reflected that I didn’t move back to Berlin to be on the road a lot. Later in the year I transferred to the CloudOps team in Pivotal. Ironically, the team was based in Dublin, but I was able to work 100% remote. This was the beginning of a really fun time learning SRE practices and actually applying them. My days with PCFS and transitioning to CloudOps was in Switzerland at the CloudFoundry Summit in Basel.
(Hiking in Switzerland after CF Summit)
(Trip to Dublin to onboard with the CloudOps team)
Around summer time I decided to purchase a home in Berlin. By the end of the year I had found a place I loved and signed all the papers. I kept a thorough time journal of the whole process. I’d be up for writing a blog post on this if folks are interested.
New Home (again) / New Role (again)
At this point I had been with CloudOps for a couple months and was really enjoying it.
By February I was able to move into my new home. As much as I missed my castle in Wilmersdorf, I loved being closer to my friends around Prenzlauer Berg and the surrounding area.
(Nearby S-Bahn, music corner, enjoying the south facing windows)
Once I had settled in and got my place organized, I was ready to add a new resident to my flat. A few months later, I rescued this beautiful 10year old cat named Shelly from the animal shelter. Her previous owner had passed away and couldn’t let her stay in the shelther.
(Nothing but attitude… but I still think she enjoys my presence)
Since I was enjoying settling down, I didn’t travel very much. However, I still went to Dublin several times to meet up with the team and my last visit to Vancouver occurred in the Fall.
One of the things that I’m proud of in this year is the talk I did at the CF Summit. The theme around maintenance and motivation will continue to play out for the next few years. It took almost 20 years to learn that I’ve never been motivated by building “the next big thing”. Maintaining and improving existing systems is something I’ve enjoyed doing throughout my career.
4 Month Sabbatical
Now that I’ve feeling settled in Berlin, I wanted to take some time off to savour my new found “stability”. I figured 4 months would be a good amount of time to tackle some projects and recharge my batteries.
I enrolled in an intensive German class Unfortunately the intense structure didn’t work well for me. What I did learn was that I need to apply German in everyday life. Joining some social clubs was my plan (billiards, or something gaming related). After the course was over the pandemic arrived stopping those plans.
During this break the acquisition of Pivotal by VMware occurred. I learned that the Dublin office that I used to work at was being closed and some of my friends and colleagues were being let go (my understanding of the situation was that VMware was very generous and did make space for people that wanted to stay and work remotely in some capacity).
During my time off and in the midst of the first wave, I took some time to get back into PC gaming and built myself my first PC in over 20 years. I tinkered with a bit of game streaming but that didn’t last long because I was back to work in May.
Back to Work
Since the team I was on before my break no longer exists I was put on a new team. We worked on disaster recovery capabilities for Cloud Foundry running on Kubernetes. It was a great team to land in after my break. I got to work with some familiar faces and some new faces that I’m happy to still connect with from time to time. Looks like some of the things we worked on got released!
However, I did miss running things. It’s one of the things I found really difficult working on product software; you don’t normally run it yourself. This started in a search for a different team to join to provide a similar experience of CloudOps. This led to joining the Bitnami SRE team. Bitnami was also acquired by VMware before Pivotal was; but I suspect due to how small they were, the integration wasn’t done as quickly (e.g.: The Pivotal G Suite was merged before the Bitnami G Suite). In Bitnami, I was part of their SRE team, which was more like an operations team managing the infrastructure for all the products and services Bitnami provides.
Shortly after joining Bitnami, I caught covid in November.
This was an absolutely horrible experience and writing about my covid experience could be another post. I was lucky that I didn’t need to be hospitalized but this has been the worst illness I’ve ever experienced (my frequent fights with strep might have more pain, but they are shorter).
I had a fever for about 4 days. I lost 5kg and was sleeping all the time. I thank Spiritfarer for getting me through those days. Probably not the best idea to play a “cozy management simulation about death”. Hearing the soundtrack transports me back to that difficult week.
For the next few months I had chest pain which made it hard to sleep. I got brain fog on a weekly basis that made me useless for the day. I wouldn’t have the mental capacity to even play a game to pass the time. Thankfully music was something I could still enjoy.
The worst bit though has been the loss of smell and taste, which still hasn’t recovered to this day (yes, 1 year later). It’s partially come back but it’s degraded severely. The mental stress of not detecting my own body odour does give me some social anxiety still. A lot of foods taste drastically different. Wine tastes horrible (like mouthwash), and most beers are flavourless. Whiskey doesn’t provide that aftertaste that I enjoy so much. My diet is now quite simplistic but I have built up a mental database of things that still provide some enjoyment (I believe it’s around the umami sensation).
I was hoping the vaccine would have affected my long-covid symptoms, but it hasn’t changed much.
Something that came about as a result of being ill is that I created a system of connections between a couple of my friends who I’ve given house keys to, and my family back in Vancouver. As someone who lives alone and isn’t active on social media, enabling the ability for my family to remotely check in on me seemed prudent. Since the Fall of 2018 I’ve sent a monthly newsletter to my family and that’s also turned into a good Dead Man’s Snitch. I’ve been consistently sending an email for the last 3 years such that if I missed one, it would be a signal to find out if something bad has happened to me.
Also… a big shout out to my neighbor, Divyendu, who brought me groceries while I was incapable of leaving the flat.
Now for a tangent on the acquisition experience. An acquisition is a very disrupting experience. One that I’ve never been through before. I had the intent of continuing with VMware for at least a year to learn from the experience and to ensure I don’t make any quick decisions based off of an emotional experience in the moment. In the context of the pandemic, it was also good to have that job stability anyways. It was a roller coaster for me, but in the end I felt VMware was professional and kind.
After some time I could sense that VMware wasn’t a suitable fit for me. I wasn’t sure what to do, but stuck around because of my permanent residency application. When I learned that my permanent residency process wasn’t communicated after the acquisition and I had to start the process from the beginning with a new agency, I became very frustrated and decided to leave.
The 9 month experience with Bitnami grew my Kubernetes knowledge and experience to a new level. I wish I wrote publically about the things I worked on. I’m proud of some of the videos I created internally to demonstrate how some of the complex integrations worked.
When I left VMware, I had the financial security to take a long break, decompress, and re-evaluate the direction I’m going. Maybe due to long-covid, or just dealing with the pandemic in general, my energy levels weren’t super high, and I had a hard time doing my day-to-day job and as well as doing a bit of life planning. I figured using my short-term financial freedom, I could focus on that without work distracting me. Unfortunately, my residency status became my next urgent issue.
After enjoying a mon th and half break, it was time to evaluate what my options were. This resulted in a complicated decision tree (see image) that was made simpler after a 1 hour consultation with an immigration lawyer (Juliane Linke is my hero). It became very clear to me after our conversation that getting a job is the simplest thing for me to do in order to stay in Germany and also not jeopardize my future ability to stay in Germany.
So now I’m currently looking for a job. At this very moment I have 6 applications ongoing with a dozen more in the queue. I’m so fortunate that there’s so much available in my domain of work. At first the job search was a quest to get residency, but I found that motivation rather unfullfilling. I was near the point of accepting any job at any compensation just to end the residential anxiety. After some time and after many chats with friends that I trust dearly, my perspective broadened and saw my next job as a place to build on my financial security, extend the time for me to figure out what I desire the most from financial independence, and save up for getting some property in rural Canada.
So that’s where I am now. Looking for a job with a plan to stay in Germany. I don’t have any plans on posting in social media again, but do miss writing for a broader group of people.
note The majority of this post was written a few weeks ago. I currently have accepted a job offer! I will be writing another post about the job search. I haven’t had this kind of positive feeling about a new job since I joined Pivotal in 2016 or ThoughtWorks in 2010!
Lastly, I wish I could mention all the fabulous people I got to work with with or got to know. There are too many of you fine people and going through my pictures of the last 4 years reminded me of all of you.
this post took 10 pomodoros to complete