The Ever Increasing Commute

Over the years, my commute time has steadily grown.

When I first came to the city, I could make it between my apartment and office 20 minutes, door-to-door.

Then our company moved across the river and my commute increased to 30 minutes.

Then I bought my condo in a slightly less central suburb further from transit and it catapulted to 45 minutes.

That is, of course, assuming it isn’t raining or snowing, which confuses our subway system. On those days my commute can be as long as an hour and a half. These instances haven’t really become more common over time, but they have certainly been a more grating. I’ve not infrequently the past few months left my office right at 5 to catch a 6:15 exercise class near my house (<5 minutes) only to be fifteen minutes to late.

One of the things I’m prioritizing for my next job is to work somewhere closer to where I live. 30 minutes on normal days by subway on my side of the river so I have an easy (< 3 mile / 1 hour) walk when the subway is rolling over playing possum.

Before you suggest it: yes, I listen to podcasts and audiobooks and music, etc. Sometimes, though, I just want to get home on time.

How long is your commute? What’s the longest commute you are willing to endure?


Networking While Introverted

With less than a month to go, I’ve started by job search process in earnest.

First, I updated my resume, LinkedIn, etc. per the recommendations of my career coach. Then I started messaging what feels like every recruiter in the metro area, even though I know it’s been more targeted than that. I’ve hit up both internal recruiters at companies I want to join and external recruiters (i.e. headhunters). I tailor my message for internal recruiters for the positions I’m interested in and external recruiters based on their areas of specialty. No dice. I’m switching roles, so I don’t think I’m the safe bet they’re looking for. Sigh.

So, given my lack of success using the arm’s-length methods, as of last week I started working my network hard. There are four leads in the picture right now:

  • internal referral by former coworker at Big N company, where there’s an opening on team I’d love to work for even if it’s probably way more work than I do now for roughly the same pay,
  • referral by current coworker/mentor for niche position at another Big N where he knows the hiring manager and also turned down the position himself,
  • coffee interview for mid-sized startup based on recommendation from a professor I work with who knows the founder, and
  • lunch date with a college acquaintance who works at big company doing the kind of work I want and that has contacts at some of the big firms hiring in town.

Who knows if any of these will end up panning out, but just the process of networking has really engrained in me two things: (1) people have been supremely generous toward me for which I am eternally grateful and hope to return the favor someday and (2) oh my goodness, my anxiety from so much online and meatspace social contact is off the charts.

I find it really difficult to ask favors of people with whom I am friendly but aren’t my close friends. It feels slimy and disingenuous, especially if I haven’t talked to them in years. I’ve tamped down some of these feelings by making the interactions as quid pro quo as possible– “Hey, would you like to meet for lunch to catch up? (my treat!)”– but still. Ugh. Humans. Talking. Introversion. Blech.

If this round of “shaking the tree” doesn’t yield anything, I’ll be taking the route of all the meet-ups, all the time. Then poking my close friends for job leads which feels less self-serving but higher stakes in terms of killing it at interviews (so as to live up to friend’s recommendation).

That’s the rub, I guess. Always paying for these things one way or another: with your time, your spoons, your social capital.

But if I want to find a job, I gotta hustle, hustle, hustle.

How do you feel about networking? Do you find it easier to ask favors of close friends, loose acquaintances, or total strangers? What helps you with your social anxiety?

Will I Regret Quitting My Job?

We’re down to the last month.

Because I’ll be gone soon, a lot of the stress associated with the huge crunch of work has been muted. If our work flops, I won’t be there to deal with the fallout. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying– I’m still working hard— but I’m not as worried about it as I would otherwise.

But because I’m not thinking about the work aspect of work, I’ve had time and energy to think about another aspect: the people.

This was my first job out of college and I’ve been here six years. Over that time, I’ve made a lot of really good friendships with people I like and respect.

Little by little I’ve been telling my colleagues that I will be gone soon. I started with my former roommate during a lunch out, then told some of my teammates during a late-night work crunch. Some of them (like former roommate) I know I’ll spend time with even after I quit. But there are others, though I enjoy their company very much, with whom I don’t have that kind of out-of-the-office relationship and therefore will probably fall away in my memory over time.

Yesterday, I told my mentor that I was leaving. He was super supportive about it, had suspected for months and has thought about leaving himself, and offered to send me a job lead he thought’d be a good fit. We were both kind of bummed about the situation. I wondered to myself whether I’d ever see him again. I like him as a person, and we have hung out outside of work during some now-defunct political meet-ups, but he also has kids and lives on the opposite side of town, so the likelihood that we’ll see each other again is kind of slim. That makes me sad; I’ll miss him.

As I’m leaving, I realize that I don’t really mind losing the projects I’m leaving behind– which, I’m kind of annoyed at the timing that now as I’m about to be gone I get some of the most interesting work of my career, but whatever. Nor am I fretting about my loss of income (though ask me again in a few months). Instead, I’m saddened that these people, my colleagues, my friends, that we’ll grow apart and those relationships will fall by the wayside. Which, if a friendship is so tenuous, is it really a friendship at all? But anyway, starting over in a new place… it’ll be hard.

If there’s one thing I’ll regret, it’ll be leaving these people, for whom I care deeply, behind.

Are you friends with the people at your job? Would you miss them if you left? Would you maintain those relationships? Why is adult friendship so hard?

Be Entitled

On my way out the door, I’m starting to impart my last words of wisdom to our newest hires. It didn’t really dawn on me until the past year that there’s a cohort of people who look up to me. Not just as a manager but as a… mentor? Whom they ask for… advice? It still feels awkward to think about.

When I joined my company, there were no other women in the firm’s technology group. Just twenty-five-ish guys, most of which were at least six feet tall, all of which were white.

Now, our team has six women out of a group of thirty-ish, not including myself. Two of which are non-white. In spite of the fact that I’d never considered myself the type of person to actively lean in, guess how many of those women moved into our group after I started getting involved in hiring decisions.

In my short time I’ve even been in the position to mentor others– not just women, but especially women– there’s one thing that I’ve wanted, desperately have tried to impart, over and over:

Be entitled!

Now, being entitled doesn’t mean what you might think. It doesn’t mean being a jerk, doesn’t mean to obstinately block progress lest you get exactly your way. But it does mean getting what you deserve and really knowing you deserve it too, even if the little gremlins in your head tell you maybe it’s an overreach, maybe you aren’t ready.

Here’s the thing: over the years, I’ve had the benefit of learning from some really smart and talented men. One thing I’ve learned is that when those men have very strong convictions about something, they make sure those convictions are heard. Sometimes prolongedly, sometimes stepping on the toes of others, sometimes ad nauseum until a poor new hire is checking the clock every thirty seconds to see if she’s going to make it out of this meeting in time to catch the train to a dinner party she needs to get to. And these men do this not because they are trying to be jerks, but because we work in an environment premised on collaborative argumentation and in that environment they are entitled to have their opinions heard in full and considered by others in good faith.

It took me a while to get used to this way of working. When I was new I would often come and go from meetings not having said a word, feeling unsure of how to interrupt and make space for my opinions. Managers would have to call on me like I was still a student, YAPFB, what do you think about this? YAPFB, you’ve done the analysis, does this fit what you’ve seen?

It took a few good mentors, men who are staunch feminists and walk the walk, to reiterate for me again and again: You can interrupt. You are entitled to have your opinion heard. You are allowed to take up space. It had been so engrained in me all my life to be as background as possible, to take up as little oxygen in the room as I could, that my understanding of my own desert was warped. While I didn’t need my mentors permission, I did need their reminder:  I am not just allowed, I am entitled.

This revelation of entitlement expanded to other areas of my work life. I was not just entitled to be heard, I was also entitled to be paid. I was not just entitled to be paid, but I was also entitled not to take on all the career-stunting admin work that nobody else wanted to do because I was so “organized.” I was entitled to work-life balance and, as a human, I was entitled to sometimes make a mistake. I am entitled not to hear sexist jokes by the water cooler and I am entitled when I hear them to call them out.

When I see newer, younger women in my group, I often see a mirror of my younger self’s habits and behaviors. Recently, one of our newer hires jumped back into projects the day after a semi-serious head injury and working into the late hours of the night to hit a couple of deadlines. Because she felt like she had to fulfill her obligations to the team, she ended up exacerbating her injury. When I told her manager that I was concerned, he said, “I think it’s cute that she works so hard.” #nope, going to go flip some tables now

Because she, you, I, all humans in decent living conditions are entitled to drop tasks after a head injury. (Hopefully not silently, but whatcha gonna do?) Basic things, health being the first among that list, nobody else should be able to take from you. Not your employer, not anyone. You as a person, an identity you had way before you as an employee, are entitled to that.

It’s taken a lot of practice to feel comfortable being entitled. To learn to assert my own desert than to wait for others assert it on my behalf. To learn to state what I feel entitled to instead of asking if I am entitled to them. To be– if I’m being flip about it– like “one of the boys,” who haven’t had a sense of diminutiveness, of sweet and passive deference cudgeled into them from the day they were born. I hope to pass this along to the next cohort of women as well as I can, with what little time I have.

What advice would you give young professional women in your field?


Whenever I read threads about retiring early, people talk about feeling elated and almost nostalgic at their jobs before they leave. They often say things like how leaving takes the pressure off the office politics, how for the first time in years they’re able to really focus and crank out their work. Sprinting to the finish line.

On the one hand I definitely feel less annoyed at office politics. Knowing that I’ll be gone in two months has helped me take a lot of really painful changes in stride. Though I still continue to think about the long term wellbeing of my group– and in particular about the colleagues I really care about– I no longer feel like each change at the organization is going to upend our team. They’re bad business decisions that require annoying workarounds. And that’s okay. Not my circus, not my monkey. It won’t affect me for much longer anyway.

On the other hand, I don’t feel any less stressed doing my actual work. I still feel this need to make clients happy, to be “on” weekends leading up to a deadline. Lately too I’ve started having work dreams where my brain works on projects while I’m unconscious. This is something that hasn’t happened to me since college, when I’d debug difficult assignments during the course of my most restless sleep.

Sadly though this stress hasn’t translated into motivation. As I get closer to my leave date I can feel my motivation levels suddenly and precipitously drop. I find myself sitting in front of my computer minutes at a time blankly thinking, “Just type. Just type. Just type.” Or, “Why am I here? This is meaningless. Maybe I should quit sooner.” In some ways I feel like I’m in those couple of weeks leading up to finals and my brain’s convinced if it don’t do well I won’t graduate or something. So it’s procrastinating, hard.

I’m still two months out from when I leave, so maybe my mood will change a month out, a week out, on my final day. Right now I’m feeling a bit of senioritis, but I’ll try my best to push through until the end.

How did you feel on your last days/weeks/months before leaving a job? Were your motivation and performance affected?


Are Career Coaches Worth It?

Over the course of job searching, my confidence has gone through many ebbs and flows.

Some days I feel super confident, like when I felt good enough to turn down an offer. Other days I feel like the only thing I’m qualified to get paid for is donating my plasma.

In either case, my feelings are volatile and highly subjective. In hopes of anchoring my expectations to “reality”, I sought out an external sounding board: I hired a career coach.

I’ve hired a career coach in the past, to mediocre effect. My previous career coach didn’t have specific experience in tech and gave some generic resume advice, nothing I felt like I couldn’t get off of self-help articles I found online.

This round, though, I found a career coach with specific knowledge in tech recruiting and, let me tell you, the difference was like night and day. She gave me very targeted information about how to restructure my resume and LinkedIn for making a career change, which job boards are used for which section of the market, which recruiting firms and Meetups to target in my area, and what to ask and expect for compensation down to the company level which is a big f’ing deal and worth her advice for that point alone.

One major downside though is that career coaching is not cheap. I paid ~$200 for each session of coaching (about an hour each), though it also included some amount of prep time and follow up from my coaches. If they help me secure a job or avoid making a multi-thousand dollar mistake, though, the price seems incredibly worth it in comparison.

If ever I’m in this situation again in the future, or for others who might be, I would say career coaches are only worth it if they:

  • have experience recruiting in your specific industry of interest,
  • have knowledge of your regional job market,
  • have reviews and testimonials which indicate they can give specific and actionable advice, and
  • are of roughly the same generation / target demographic or otherwise have insight into career development for your cohort for things like, e.g. what can I expect for maternity?

Have you ever used a career coach? Did you feel it was worth the money?

Lowest Common Denominator

Anxiety has started to set in as I begin to approach my leave date. It’s still three months away, but that’s basically tomorrow in anxious-brain time.

As I get closer I’m working through some worst-case scenario plans to hopefully put my mind at ease. For instance, if my projections are correct, I should be able to make it seven months (until the end of 2018) just on my cash earnings between now and my leave date. Which means, assuming I don’t make one red cent after I quit, I shouldn’t be moving “backwards” but just stuck in my March 2018 net worth. That feels like a nicer way of framing the situation than saying I’m drawing down my cash reserves.

Ideally, though, it’d be good to have some small stream of incomes coming in to buffer myself. For whatever reason, though, I never think of doing anything tech-y or managerial (my highest ROI skill areas). If I consulted at the market rate for my current work, for instance, I could probably live off of doing 10 hours/week indefinitely. No, when I think of generating small side streams, I think of: donating my body to science, participating in psychology studies, tutoring. All relatively low-ROI but easy things to do, like I’m a college student again strapped for cash.

The better way to approach this, obviously, is to figure out how to do high-pay work part time.

The first stop, I think, is to see if my employer would be willing to hire me as a contractor to finish up some of my ongoing work. This would let me build up a fat cash cushion and walk away from some of the internal dynamics that are making me unhappy, but may or may not pan out due to various state regulations. I have enough contacts that I’m sure I could dredge up clients on my own, but unfortunately, I can’t consult in my field outside my company for at least two years due to my non-compete.

The second stop, then, would be to retrain for a closely related but not identical area of consulting that I can probably get certified to do in a month.

The third stop would be, I guess, to find part time jobs that play to my skills (assuming I can’t get a full time job that plays to my skills?). This is where I start drawing a blank. Maybe if it gets really bad I could do some freelance coding, but it’s difficult for me to imagine scoring freelance coding gigs and not just signing up for a FT position at a start-up since the job market here is pretty favorable to employees. In any case, it’s an option and probably a better one than selling my eggs.

Do you have a list of Plan B jobs? Do they adequately utilize your high ROI skills?