I was talking with my manager during our weekly one-on-one and I brought up that I was having an off day.
It was one of those days where I just couldn’t get into a productive state; you don’t get a great night’s sleep, you wake up with twenty texts and emails to respond to, and your workout is bad, and then by the time you get into the office you’ve got another dozen emails but also a 9am meeting and a 10am meeting and by the time you’re done with those it’s practically lunch, so of course you eat lunch, and now it’s suddenly 1pm and you have nothing to show for the first half of the day.
His correct rejoinder was that of course you have something to show; that thing isn’t code, and it might not be any artifact at all, but it’s still good, you know? Meetings and conversations (or at least the right ones) add value; as you grow more and more senior in an organization, the time you spend coding is less valuable than the time you spend writing, and the abstractions you provide are at the social level rather than the technical one.
Still, I got into software development not because I like enabling technology or because I like facilitating paradigms or because I like building architectures but because I like writing some code and then hitting a button that loosely translates to ‘save’ or ‘compile’ or ‘run’ and then seeing the output of my handiwork. The REPL is an addicting drug; the feedback loop that coding provides is a thing I find myself most desperate for when I am most removed from it.
I didn’t quite realize this at first, but this has been probably one of the biggest shifts from me working from home for a startup with interesting but solveable implementation changes to working in a more mature space. Something I took for granted was how easy it was to chase the dragon of productivity when I was in my own space; no distractions, no meetings, just me and an issue tracker and a whole bunch of flow state. This was nice; this was fulfilling; this was also largely exhausting.
And adjusting back to office life shares a lot of things with adjusting back to mature-company life. You’re spending more social energy (be it via break-room chatter or emails with downstream teams); you’re programming less and thinking more. There are more people to talk to and more information to sift through. There’s a lot more chaos, even as there’s a lot more order.
I find myself, today, on the first day of a week-long vacation in sunny Kaua’i, faced with the prospect of five days without taking my bike down to 2nd and Seneca and seeing my team.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not sad about this (it is not possible to be forlorn at this beach); I am very happy to be where I am, and if I could I would stay here for around seven months or so. But I caught myself realizing that a small part of me will miss the commute, will miss the idle post-standup chatter, will miss the verve and the excitement, off days and all.
Companies aren’t families and offices aren’t homes. But it is good to spend the eight hours a day you need to spend working in a place where there are people who enjoy and things you find interesting; it is good to leave work with more zeal than you arrived with.
(Have I mentioned we’re hiring?)
I hope you get some sun.