writing

state of the nerd


It’s been awhile since I’ve written, and much has changed. I thought it was time to lay down some updates. Since my last post, I’ve made some big career decisions.

Career

The elephant in the room. Let’s tackle that first.

Happiness is important. And it’s been a little while since I’ve had happiness in my career. I think the last time I was truly happy was the first time that I actually enjoyed being in a leadership position.

[a 3,000+ word essay about the last five years of my career was here]

I’m really happy to announce that I’ve resigned my role as Principal Software Engineer at NetSuite/Bronto to take on a role in the leadership team at Optum. I started on Monday as Manager of Continuous Delivery. And I’m hiring.

The last few years of my career, coinciding with when I switched from Management back into Engineering, have not been very fulfilling or challenging. The happiness has been missing for awhile. I’ve not had stake in influencing the kind of organizational growth and change that really make me want to come to work every day and do my best work. So I’m now back in Management, and I’m already getting access to influence the kinds of things that I’m really passionate about.

 

Reading

My reading habits had actually been hurt the last few months. My love for reading took a hit based on some other big changes that happened, mostly around my career path. I did read but I didn’t find joy in it. I don’t think I have any books that I want to single out right now as being wonderful. I know I’ve hit a couple of turkeys, but I’m not going to shame them here.

I’m looking at a stack of ten books on my desk that I’ve singled out for reading. The last time I was a manager, I read a lot of books that were meant to help me better understand the discipline and help me to imagine better solutions. When I went from Management to Engineering a few years ago, I’d found that my input was discouraged without the leadership title attached. This was true to the point that I even got a formal reprimand when I was at Red Hat for tweeting praise of Ricardo Semler’s book “Maverick“. So I’d drifted back into reading, and writing, fiction during my time as an Engineer.

The ten books I’ve singled out for reading that are sitting on my desk now:

  1. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People
  2. Winning Teams, Winning Cultures
  3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  4. Up The Mood Elevator: Your Guide to Success Without Stress
  5. The Practice of Management
  6. The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance
  7. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
  8. Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur
  9. Leading the Transformation: Applying Agile and DevOps Principles at Scale
  10. Designing Delivery

I’ve also re-started my digital subscription to Harvard Business Review on my Kindle. I tend to use the Kindle only for things that I don’t feel I’ll want enduring hard copies of.

All of these books were picked specifically because they will help me to understand the existing leadership culture at Optum, or because they will help me to better focus my own individual leadership values.

Writing

Back in February I took a week off with my family and went to Clearwater Beach, Florida. I spent a little bit of that time on the balcony of my hotel room, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, (re-)beginning the manuscript for a very existential science fiction story that’s been kicking around in my head. Unlike the last manuscript I wrote, which was done 100% electronically, this time I’ve been writing with a fountain pen on paper. Neither way is better than the other, but I will say that writing with a pen does change the cadence and does change the quality of writing.

I’ve been a badly behaved writer. Or perhaps I’ve been a typical one. I came home from Florida to a job that I was feeling really sad about, and this story that I’m writing is meant to be one of hope. I’d put down the pen and stopped writing. I haven’t touched the project in the last two months.

Perhaps now that I’ve so thoroughly rearranged my life, maybe I’ll get back to it. Though I’m still trying to figure out what my new routine is going to look like. I’m now part of an international organization. I have meeting requests for time slots outside of the traditional 9-5 which need to be respected because, well, there are no times that are convenient when you have attendees everywhere from Utah to Minnesota to India.

One of the things that worked well for me when writing My Love, My Slave was taking a Macbook Air everywhere with me. I’d chip away at that story any time I had five or ten spare minutes to call my own. I might need to do that again. That would mean abandoning the pen & paper approach to writing. Or maybe just putting that project away and starting with one of the others in my backlog that could better accommodate my hectic new schedule.

Fitness

I’ve been trying… again… to reclaim my fitness. I’m using apps to help me out now. Mostly MyFitnessPal and MapMyWalk. Since I’ve been so overweight for so long, I’m using a Schosche Rhythm+ armband heart rate monitor to help me find a cadence that lets me get to an aerobic workout without pushing too hard. I’m down eight pounds so far.

I’ve also splurged and picked up a Bowflex Max Trainer M5 for the house. It kind of scares me, to be honest. Even on the easiest setting, my heart rate shoots up to a level higher than I think is probably safe. I can only last a minute or two before my knees grind to a halt and can go no further. It’s going to be a long time before I can get a full fourteen minute workout out of this thing.

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2 comments

  1. Excellent choice of books. I just listened to a segment of the audio version of the first book. Knowledge of these tools will greatly enhance one’s ability to manage. However knowledge of these tools when one is not in management will lead to frustration should they not be practiced in the workplace. My greatest frustration in leaving my old company, was seeing that the new management was abandoning the principles of encouragement and empowerment, and with that the success that the company once enjoyed.

  2. Congrats on the career change and getting healthy. I aplaude your courage in embracing so much change. I miss your posts but well understand the needing to establish your new routine. Good luck on your writing. Cheers, james

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