The good, the bad, and the ugly (+ the wonderful!) 🙃
Clearly Syk LOVES 😍 his job and his team – but that got me curious: what are the things that he most appreciates about working in tech, and, conversely, are there things that he doesn’t love quite as much?
Favourite things… So, I have a bunch of favourite things. I think my favourite thing about working in tech is that I feel mentally stimulated all the time I feel challenged all the time… I’ve done a lot of jobs where you feel brain-dead, where there’s nothing that is being requested from your brain, where passing 8 hours doing that job is torture for me. I’ve done so many jobs where you start with a certain level of difficulty, and then you get used to it and then it becomes just a routine, and it becomes boring… and in tech – and I know I’ve only been doing this for two years – but the difference is that it just challenges you constantly, and it makes you think constantly, and it’s always pushing you to try harder and to learn new things. And that – I LOVE. I also love the aspect of the problem solving and the thing that feels like a puzzle that you’re trying to solve and figure out. I get a task, and I have to figure out a way to make that work, to figure out a solution to every tiny step of the way to get it to work. And that is a very engaging process for me – it activates my brain, it excites me, I find myself wanting to think about it even when it’s time to rest (which is not a good thing, of course – you have to rest your brain) but it’s the kind of thing that you want to think about because it’s exciting and because you want to solve it, not because you’re stressed about it. And that’s something I really like. It’s not because you’re under pressure where I have to do this… Instead it’s because you’re intrigued, like ‘How am I going to solve this problem?’ ‘How is it gonna be done?’ And you’re just trying to think of ways of doing it. And it gives me a lot of satisfaction, really A LOT of satisfaction; I enjoy doing it, and it feels like it’s a very good skill to have and it’s a wonderful thing to feel like you’re working in a field that is in demand and where it feels like the future is quite positive. I’ve done lots of other jobs also where you’re just a number, and if you go, someone else will come – and nobody cares, really. And it’s nice to feel a certain job security, a certain… it’s just a nice feeling to feel like your skill is in demand, and also that you’re rewarded for your effort and your learning and your enthusiasm that you’re putting in – and you’re rewarded in a way that is proportionate to what you’re doing, not just with kind words which many people don’t even get when they’re doing their jobs… So yeah, these are some of my favourite things.
And the least fave thing, Syk?
There’s very, very little at the moment, not just in tech, in particular, but probably also because I’m very lucky because I have a very good team, and very good situation… The whole atmosphere, the whole culture is very positive, and helpful. So I have very little to complain about… I miss the level of energy and movement and interaction that I used to have with kids when I taught kids – walking into a class and having a burst of energy and movement. This is a much more sedentary job, where you’re sitting down and that’s not as exciting, but that’s just nit-picking, trying to find something to say really, because also the other side of it is that I get to listen to my music for maybe about 6 hours a day, and I LOOOOOVE that. That’s one of the best things about doing the job is that I can sit down and just enjoy my music for hours and hours and hours.
One thing that tends to cloud your days when you’re transitioning into tech (or making any other major change, really), is having doubts. Turns out you can’t escape them until.. you get there, but you really have to stick to your guns and don’t let them distract you from reaching your goals:
OH YES! See, here’s another image to kind of drive this point home. Both me and Elena, my wife, we were doing this at the same time, and we were both taking these big risks in deciding to do this. And we were at the time in Granada, as I mentioned, and we knew that the tech scene was almost non-existent there, so we would have to move city. I had a very comfortable job, in a good situation, very secure, and we were just putting ourselves, exposing ourselves to big risks. Huge risks, really. We had no idea even if it was worth it or not, if it was a good idea or not… I didn’t know what an office jobs looks like, If I was going to enjoy it or not, so I had millions of doubts. I had PLENTY of doubts! I think that the main thing is that you push despite the doubts. Because we were just… we kept on imagining, jokingly, this bench where we’d be sitting down without a home, without a job, where whatsoever… and we’d be like homeless and jobless and in a terrible situation… And we jokingly kept on referring to that bench, as the worst case scenario.And it was jokingly, but really, we were taking lots of risks. We were putting, exposing ourselves to lots of risks. So the fear is a normal part of it. You cannot get past the fear, you just gotta do it DESPITE the fear! You just gotta have the the kind of crazy confidence that hey, I’m just gonna jump and see what happens… Of course, I say that – but it’s still a calculated risk; you’re not jumping completely blind, you’re taking your time, you’re measuring, you’re taking every step that you can, but at some point you gotta just… let go! And basically Elena got a job before me in Madrid, so I decided to quite my job and move with her and move with her to Madrid before I even got a job, so I was, it was all really scary and really worrying at that time, and it just happens to fall in the right place that a few weeks later I actually got my job and everything fell into place. But yeah, there were doubts, there were fears; doubts about whether this is the right thing for me, is this the right career, do I wanna leave teaching (I really have a good job!), plenty of doubts. There were doubts all the time; I wasn’t certain about any of it until I started working, really…
What about doubts later on, once he got the job? Oh, plenty of those too, it turns out. He mentioned the imposter syndrome during his transition – does it still come up, every now and again, now that you have been in your job a while?
The imposter syndrome? Of course it does! Absolutely, absolutely! You’d think after a couple of years that that would not be the case, but it’s not. Some of the things that were utter mysteries to me when I first started, are just… pfff, just bread and butter, just normal stuff now; I don’t even think about them anymore. But in their place there are other things that I still don’t know, I am still not sure about… And I still have to ask questions and I still have to understand, but I think that’s just the case – I think – for anyone that’s working in this domain. I’m sure you’ll get to a point where you feel that at least you control all the basics and you know how to move around and stuff, but there are always new challenges and things that you don’t understand and you don’t know – I mean one of the things that calmed me down when when I was getting stressed and feeling a bit like an imposter, in the early days, was noticing that all the other programmers, all of whom had more experience than me, all of them – they were all saying the words ‘I don’t know’ regularly, and they were asking each other for help all the time. So I was like: ‘OK, so if they’re doing it, and they’re experienced, then that’s not a weird thing to do in this kind of business…’. Of course it’s not actually the most normal thing, that’s HOW it works. People constantly ask each other for help and people constantly ask each other for knowledge. For what someone knows that they don’t know or how this can be done, or you need someone to think with, that might know a part of the solution… Or you find yourself frustrated and you don’t know how to move on and just by talking to people it might open the way for you. So yeah, this is just the way it is. So of course I still get the feeling – the imposter syndrome – and I think it never goes away… However, when it happens now, I’ve learnt from those first few weeks that it’s just a feeling that I have and that I can keep it under control and deal with it and push forward, and eventually I will crack the problem, with help, and I will move forward. Because in the end it’s all logical and you’ll find a way to do things.
Tips for dealing with doubts and the imposter syndrome?
1. Fight them hard – don’t let them get the best of you!
2. Go for the team first – especially in your first job
I think it’s key – the group of people that you find yourself with, in that first job. If I’m gonna give a tip to someone who’s looking for a job, and it’s their first one, it’s to think first of the team, above anything else. Because the money might be a factor, but that comes later. You can earn more money later. Whatever factors you might be considering – for me, my top tip would be the team is number one because if you feel comfortable with you team, and you have someone that will support you, then you have mentors that are actually ready to invest time in you, and they’re not annoyed by your questions, and you don’t feel like you’re wasting their time, then that is the key to your development. I know of people whose first experience wasn’t like that – they did not have a team that would support them and they did not have mentorship and that is a very negative situation for someone who’s just starting. So if you have the choice – and obviously not everyone has the choice – then you could choose… Go for the team first! Always the best thing that
3. Never stop learning – learning is not optional in this field
I think that if you stop learning, than you probably shouldn’t be doing this job. Yeah, you become obsolete and you’ll probably not interested anymore because it’s not a job that you can do mechanically; it’s a job where you have to keep on growing. And for me – I have too keep on learning, and I’m constantly thinking of all the other things that I still need to understand, and know, and do, and so I dedicate AT LEAST two of my evenings a week for my personal development – I call them ‘my personal development evenings’, where I would do anything that is needed to help my career, whether it’s doing a course, reading an article, writing an article myself, anything that I find that would be useful – building an app, working on a side project, anything at all. And two evenings a week is not enough, so sometimes I take a weekend, and I just call it my bootcamp weekend, and then I would lock myself in and just work the whole weekend. And I do that quite regularly – I don’t do it with the same intensity as I did when I was learning before I got the job, because I was working full time and I was studying so I literally had to take every available moment, which meant every evening, every morning of every weekend, every holiday, non stop for 10 months… That’s how it was. Right now I understand that this would be completely unhealthy to do I have to take weekends off, and enjoy my time and go out… I have to take evenings, you know – and sometimes we might decide to go out for some beers with the team and I would just drop my learning evening and just go and have fun. So you have to maintain a social life, you have to maintain your equilibrium, but I try my best to keep on learning. And it’s hard sometimes, it’s hard after spending 8 hours looking at the screen and working, it’s quite hard to then sit again in front of a screen and… work some more!
PS – as you get your learning schedule on, remember to find the time to document your transition; it’ll help you chart (and prove) your progress, give you something to talk about during interviews, help you expand your professional network or, at the very least, it will give you some giggles a few years down the road 😜.
Both Syk & I hope this is helpful for you, if you’re transitioning too. Be sure to visit the last page to hear his take on whether it’s all worth it plus a summary of Syk’s top 3 tips, a list of all the resources he mentioned and all the ways you can reach him if you’d like to get in touch.