About a year ago I wrote an article called The story so far. A developers' journey. It is a very personal piece I published not too long after becoming a Google Developer Expert, because some people expressed their interest in what brought me there. What I didn't know then is that I would be embarking on a new journey soon after.
If you have read The story so far, you may have been wondering why I was focussing on spare time activities rather than telling about my jobs. Doesn't primarily your professional career shape your developer's journey? Not necessarily.
From the early 2000s until mid 2021 I had worked for only three employers (in education, public service, and consulting). Consequently, some of them must have been long term assignments, right?
Two were. The first employment was an assistant position at the university. I stayed less than three years, and I probably should have left even earlier. If you have that feeling that you must finish a thing, but every cell in your body, and your loved one scream Leave... well, leave as fast as you can.
The second job felt like paradise in comparison. I stayed there almost eleven years. It was that typical 9 to 5 daily routine. I could get the job done and still have enough energy left to pursue things giving me real fun. By then, this was all things Java (my articles on java.net and in print magazines, and the first two books.
And that job prepared me for the second long-term role: my Java experience and the public visibility through books and articles allowed me to become a speaker at conferences and meetups, which in turn made me (hopefully) well-suited for working in a consulting agency. However, it took until 2014 to make the transition. Why? When Google released the Android SDK Preview in November 2007, I jumped at it. Unlike the iPhone, Android relied on Java, which I knew well, contrary to Objective-C, which I never got to grips with. Also, Android was open, so I could write about it. Again, articles and books. Having a job that was, well, reasonably fun and left me with enough energy to do the things I love made it easy to stay.
As it turns out, too long. Because, at some point, signs of fatigue started to show up. First, there was this nagging feeling of There must be more, there must be something else... Later, frequent headaches. And the urge to reward myself. It remained mostly harmless, maybe a few more gadgets than needed. But here's the important message: your body will start sending distress signals if things go wrong. Listen to them. And react accordingly. Don't fool yourself into Am I giving up too easily?
Granted, there will always be times when your job is not fun, when you are feeling stressed or not been valued. Unfortunately, there's no golden rule that helps you determine how long such a period may last, or, worse, how bad you may feel. This is a very personal experience. The point is: listen to yourself, and listen to your loved ones. This is particularly important as leaving a job and starting a new one takes time. Waiting to the last possible moment will make the pain even less bearable.
So, what can you do to prevent this? Again, there is no general truth, no golden rule. You need to determine your personal measure for happiness. A few, among many other, possible indicators may be:
- How often do you feel the need to reward yourself?
- Have your eating/sleeping/drinking habits changed?
- Do your loved ones feel you are behaving differently?
For me, it took more time to accept the need for a change than to actually pursue it. In 2014 I got hired by a small consulting agency which I had already known for years. And they knew me, because of my articles, books, and talks.
This was a dream come true, as the company was well-known and highly respected in the German Java ecosystem. They not only allowed me to write articles and books, and to speak at conferences - they wanted me to.
So, a match made in heaven? While I could do whatever Java-related stuff I wanted, there was no mobile team. The first edition of my book about Android appeared in 2011 and it had already seen a couple of updates. Eventually, it became obvious that I wanted to do more Mobile and less Java enterprise.
It took a few years, but in the end I persuaded the management to setup a small team dedicated to mobile app development. Now, this was incredible. Not only could I do Android development, I could even hire people to work with me. I will always be more than grateful for this opportunity.
So, a match made in heaven?
In the following years we expanded our area of expertise: C# and Xamarin, React Native, Flutter, iOS, and Kotlin Multiplatform. I continued writing articles and book (edition)s, and spoke at conferences and meetups. But, as the team grew, more and more managing tasks showed up. Eventually, I needed to do more managing than coding. But I thought to myself This is alright, you have grown beyond programming, and you can do some fun stuff in your spare time.
Wait a sec. Haven't we heard that before?
The headaches did not come back. And the urge to buy gadgets remained... manageable 🤣. But that feeling that I wanted to do way more Android stuff during the day than at night, grew. In April 2021 I became Google Developer Expert for Android. I got to know so many incredible Android devs throughout the globe and I was so warmly welcomed by the international Android community, that I wanted to have more of that. Much more.
It was clear that I needed a cut to achieve that. I would have to leave my team behind. By no means an easy decision. And with it most of the management-related tasks. ...in a way, a downgrade... But, title and salary not necessarily go hand in hand. And even if they do, besides the need to earn enough money to get along, there are way more important things, like happiness, health, satisfaction. Joining my current employer allowed me to achieve this by becoming just an Android dev.