November 4th, 2019. That was the day I joined a new company, started to meet some amazing people, and started on my journey as a full-stack engineer (my previous engineering job was technically full-stack but I didn't so much do what I thought my job was, so I tend to not count that). June 4th, exactly a year and 7 months later, is my last day with this company. I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had at this job, the people I've met, the things I've learned, and the work I've done, but it's time for me to move on.
This all happened a little bit by accident - while I'm (almost) always open to new opportunities, I wasn't actively looking for a new job. About a month ago, a company reached to me via email to see if I'd be interested in a position available on their engineering team. I didn't think anything would come of it, but it seemed like a great company, so I scheduled I call. I liked what I learned about that company, so I decided to continue with the process. I worked on a code challenge and then did a (long) virtual "onsite" interview, and ultimately I was offered a position as a software engineer II at that company. After some deliberation (I was also considering another very good offer and wasn't sure I was ready to leave my company), I ultimately decided to accept this offer (and leave my current position).
I'd be lying if I didn't say that the money was a factor in my decision to accept this new position. The offer I accepted pays more than the job I'm leaving, and since I'm currently in an apartment search, a few thousand dollars a year makes a big difference in terms of what I can afford. Plus, they threw in a signing bonus to help with my move, which gave me some peace of mind during a stressful moving process. I was also very excited about some of the upcoming projects and challenges that my interviewers mentioned (and while we're on that topic, my interviewers were all fantastic and I'm excited to work with all of them). Based on my conversations with the recruiter and the team, I felt that I'd have more opportunities for leadership and promotions at a company that was growing more rapidly and had a better-defined vision for its future. There were a lot of things about the company and the job that felt similar to the company and job I'm leaving, but there were enough differences for me to decide to take a chance on this new opportunity.
As soon as I signed the offer letter, I started doubting my decision. Am I giving up on my company too soon? Am I going to find myself having the same struggles at the new company? Am I being ungrateful leaving a company that just promoted me, managers who I know want to see me do well, and teammates who have always helped and encouraged me? As I contemplated these questions, I started to come up with reasons why leaving my current company was right. I felt insulted by the drawn-out comp review and promotion process (which is true). I didn't have the leadership opportunities I was hoping for (also true until fairly recently). I was concerned about the recent departure of some people I worked closely with and questions about future work and the future of the company. I had never felt that I could be my true authentic self at work (which, to be fair, has more to do with me than the company). I came up with a long list of things that I was unhappy about, but I honestly don't know how many of those were things that I couldn't overcome and how many were just me looking to stop doubting my decision.
Ultimately, I knew that once the decision was made I didn't want to change my mind. I have a lot on my plate right now (did I mention the apartment hunting and moving process?) and I felt that it was better for my stress level and mental health to accept the decision I made, even if I wasn't 100% sure it was the right decision. The truth is, there was no wrong answer. Staying at my old job could have been great. Moving to this new company can be great. I had an additional offer I was considering that also would have been great. All of my options were good options, so I knew that whatever I chose was a right option - I just had to accept that once the decision was made, that was the right decision that I would have to live with.
Once I had made my decision, I reached out to my manager to schedule some time to speak. I shared my news with her (she was disappointed, but we had a nice conversation about work and the future), and she agreed to inform HR, our VP of Engineering (with whom I have since spoken), and my new manager (who would be starting as my manager the following week). I shared the news with my cross-functional team at our next sprint retrospective and with a larger group of engineers (to be honest, this was a larger group than I wanted to share with and I do regret it) at a meeting the following week. Beyond that, I didn't want to tell very many people. There were a few individuals with whom I had worked closely that I wanted to know that I was leaving, but I didn't want to make a company-wide or org-wide announcement. I rarely interacted with people outside of my immediate team, and I didn't feel a strong desire to tell people who don't really know me that I'm leaving the company. As much as I didn't want to make a big deal out of leaving, I knew that I wanted a chance to say goodbye (and for people to say goodbye to me). My new manager set up a happy hour, and while it was a pretty small turnout (a few people messaged me before the event saying that they were sorry they couldn't make it), it was nice to get a chance to say goodbye to a few people. I also sent an email to some of the people I've worked with to say thank you and share out my contact info, and I'm hoping people do reach out and keep in touch. Once the office reopens and it's safe to gather, I'd like to visit the office to see everyone, or maybe go out for drinks or coffee with some of my teammates. One of the hardest parts of the departures of the last 15 months (including mine) has been not being able to say goodbye in person, and I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing my (now former) teammates soon.
While I am leaving my company, I am not leaving behind all of the knowledge and skills I've gained in my time here. I've grown my technical skills by leaps and bounds, learned new languages, and discovered new areas of interest. I still have a lot of work to do on my interpersonal and collaboration skills, but I've seen a noticeable improvement in that area as well. I've learned that I am more interested in leadership opportunities than I ever expected to be (who knew that one day I'd be considering "engineering manager" as a possible career track?). I've learned to advocate for myself and be vocal about where I want my work focus to be (and what work I'd rather do less often). I've learned that it's okay to cry in 1:1s (and that it can be productive sometimes) and that I don't actually have a problem with authority if that authority is willing to work with me and understand my concerns. I learned that I do deserve recognition for my work and that I'm (somewhat) okay stepping into the spotlight. I learned that working with a great team is always better than working alone. I learned that while sometimes I don't see the impact of my work right away, what I do can make a difference.
At the end of the day, this company has been good to me. I've learned a lot. But I don't feel that I've been given the opportunity to reach my full potential, and I'm hoping I get that opportunity at my next company. It's hard to leave behind a company that has helped me grow and teammates that I genuinely enjoy working with. But I'm excited about my next opportunity, and I think things will only get better for me from here.