Blog Post

COVID Life Update

🗓 May 17, 2020 :: 🕑 5 min read :: 👏 0 💬 0

Where do I even begin? 2020 is turning out to be one of the strangest I have ever experienced. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this as we all have been affected in one way or another by COVID-19. The invisible virus wreaked havoc throughout the world, many people have lost loved ones, we were forced to stay within the bounds of our four walls, the economy has also taken a huge hit and like many, I lost my job in the midst of it all.

Before I start talking about where I am now in this roller coaster, let’s unwind…

2020, a roller coaster 2020 a roller coaster (caruizp - pixabay)

The Sea Change

Since late 2017, I’ve been consulting with an AWS partner helping businesses transform their IT operations and assist them with their journey into the cloud. During this time I had the privilege to work across industries from financial services, governments to airlines. I lead those projects responsible for the design and implementation of APIs and microservices. I have had my fair shares of WTF moments while working in consulting but that’s a story for another time.

After a fair amount of project work and reinventing the wheel if you will, the speed at which I personally operated has started to wear on me. While the hours I worked were pretty normal, but the stress to deliver and keeping the clients happy were getting to me. The onboarding process, getting to know new people (not only within the consulting company but also clients), understanding how they operate and their skills all took significant effort. So imagining repeating this process every 3-6 months as you start/finish the projects and moving on to another.

I made an internal move to the product team towards the end of my tenure to help build out a plug-n-play identity and access management system. The team and the tech stack used on the project were top-notch. I was not on client site anymore and rather than reinventing the wheel, we are making the wheel better, faster and strong. All perks of working on a product team.

Around August of 2019, I found out a close friend of mine joined a new company and they have an open position for an Engineering Manager role. At the time I didn’t want to move off the tools and move into management just yet. But after some careful consideration, I decided to have a chat and find out more about the opportunity (never turn down an opportunity). I didn’t know what I was expecting, after all, I have never sat in an engineering manager interview previously, all I had was my prior experiences of leading engineering teams and consulting. To my surprise, the chat went super smoothly and I got offered the position on the spot.

That didn’t last…

A month later I found myself in unfamiliar territory as an Engineering Manager of a fintech startup (it still sounds a little funny when I say it out loud and introduce myself). At the time we had about 12 engineers and more than half of them only started within the last 6 months. I guess you can say the company was in a hyper-growth stage.

I hit the ground running immediately and applied a lot of what I have learnt in the past. I also picked up precious knowledge on managing software teams and scaling (future posts). Everything was going along fine, the team grew to close to 20 people and I was starting to find my rhythm until…COVID-19.

On 25th March, I received the unfortunate news along with the rest of the company that everyone’s role has been made redundant. I still remember this day vividly and I’m sure everyone there would as well. The news was delivered to the entire company via Zoom, since only a week prior, we were all asked to work from home due to the strict lockdown laws.

I was shocked. Although I found out about the news earlier than the rest of the company, it didn’t make the news any less shocking. The worst part is watching people’s reaction over a computer screen. There were lots of supportive messages for the CEO and the company at the announcement. As they try to seek additional funding to bring the company back from suspended animation. Like anyone who has been told their job is no longer available, I updated my resume and decided to put myself on the job market again.

Or did it?

I was SUPER conflicted. I had an important decision to make, whether I continue down the managerial route or if I should get back on the tools. The different paths would have a different lead-time, preparation and steer my career in the opposite direction.

The job market was dead slow at the start of April and there were a lot of companies going through the same fate as mine. Companies hiring were forced to tighten spend and freeze unnecessary hires. It has picked up since then as companies start to accept the status quo and begin to live with the fact that COVID-19 is here to stay.

Around mid-April, the Australian Government announced the JobKeeper program, its aimed at helping employees stay in jobs and take the burden off Australia’s welfare system. As a result of this, some of us were asked to come back on a part-time basis to keep the ship going while the founders try to secure the funding. This made my decisions a lot easier and I was not forced to make a career decision out of my hand.

While the development team is a lot smaller now and things are still not back to normal for a lot of us. I am getting a lot more positive about the situation as I continue to receive news of people who are no longer with the company locking in full-time employment or other forms of freelance work.

Working part-time also meant that I have got a lot of free time on my hands. I find myself reading and coding a lot more. I am waiting for the lockdown to ease further. When that happens, I’m sure everyone will meet up and catch-up on everything over a beer or two in a pub.

So that’s where I am now, I’m optimistic the world will start to recover and everything will hopefully get back to normal by the end of the year.

Ben Shi

Where do I even begin? 2020 is turning out to be one of the strangest I have ever experienced. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this as we…

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