Build Bridges, Don't Burn Them

April 4, 2014

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career

Building the Bridge

I started my career at a software shop that worked on enterprise software and was very successful at it. I was placed as a build and install engineer, which was never a problem for me. Althought the work was fun, one thing that really wasn’t my cup of tea was “Corporate America”. I don’t like rules for the sake of rules, or rules because thats “how it has always been”. For example, I didn’t like wearing a shirt and tie, now I actually wear sweats and a tee shirt everyday (I’m nicknamed Captain Sweatpants!). While I learned a lot and will always cherish my days as a DevOps engineer, I wanted to move to a smaller team that moved swiftly.

Landing a job at a startup, I was in a much faster paced environment with a lot more freedom and responsibility. I loved it, and loved it way too much. I was addicted to work. Working long hours, cutting out sleep, and skipping the gym, I found myself in a position that I just couldn’t manage. I’m amazed that I could keep up that pace for almost two years. Overworked and underpaid is something that is very real in the software development world, and not everyone is as aware of it, just like I wasn’t. After realizing I had fallen into this trap, I set out looking for another job.

Leaving without Burning the Bridge

I found a job fairly quickly, working remotely for a company in San Francisco, CA. After accepting the job and looking forward to starting, I had to resign from my current position. Initiating the conversation was by far the hardest part. Telling people I thoroughly enjoyed working with that I was going to be leaving and pursuing different opportunities was difficult. Always being respectful and honest was key. I was overworked and wasn’t enjoying my work anymore, and I tried for months to flip the switch and change how I was doing things, but I simply coudln’t change my current situation.

Being such a small startup, I didn’t want to ruin anything that was going on and was worried my bosses would be bitter. Fortunately for me, they had an open mind and understood everything I was going through. I was a very essential piece on the software engineering team so I was asked to stay for three weeks even though the standard is really two weeks. Those three weeks were a lot different than my previous ~2 years. I was helping the other devs and passing my work off to anyone willing to take on my responsibilities. My exit went smoothly, but was still bittersweet.

Maintain Relationships

I have always kept in contact with different people from my preivous jobs, and this was no different. Frequent conversations and updates from me and from my previous company were a regular thing in my life. Nothing more is needed to keep those bridges up. I don’t regret leaving, and I’m glad I could talk with my old team about what was going on.

Initiate Coming Back

This conversation was almost as akward and intense as the conversation I had when I left. How do you say “I want to come back, but things need to change”. It was difficult, but after explaining my situation and how I was out of a job, they were open to talking to me. Long conversations replaced interviews, and new terms were discussed. Work life balance was my biggest concern and being reassured that ti wouldn’t be a problem was great for me. I was in as soon as I heard that. Now I am back working at my first startup, and loving it again. Grabbing a handle on work and my life has taught me to never burn bridges.

The next time you make a career move, remember that you can’t predict the future. You might be back and there is no reason to ruin that future opportunity.