My "Hit Refresh" moment

Me and my cat, no one said pictures HAVE to be relevant to the text!

This is Darcey, I've chosen a picture of her whipping me with her tail to accompany this post as (a) I like the picture, (b) Jeremiah had a pet picture, so I'm going to treat it as a pre-requisite, and (c) it kinda sums up where I am at the moment: the good, and the bad! :-)

Satya Nadella's "Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone" was published yesterday, which has had a bit of a "pebble in the pond" effect, at least for some of the people I follow on Twitter with stories about how they "hit refresh" in their lives. Dona Sarkar (Chief wrangler of things and hustler of builds on the Windows Insider program) shared a link to what Jeremiah Marble (also of the Windows Insider program) wrote:

Go on, go and read it. My story will still be here while you're doing that, and his is a smidgen more interesting - nowhere does mine involve dengue fever, fire ants or starting my day at 5am cutting pickles. That said, it's my story!

The scene's been set, there's an embedded tweet to make this post look longer, now to my story!

My full-time professional career started in September 2004 when I started working for a company called Alphameric Hospitality, moving on to work for Ultracomms in December 2007. Wednesday last week was the moment I finished hitting the refresh button as it was the day my twelve-week notice period came to an end. As of then, I'm officially un-employed. I'd struggle to call it a refresh, if it wasn't for the fact that I left Ultracomms with no job to go to, no clear idea of exactly what I was going to do next but a very, very clear focus on knowing that change was what I needed.

During my time at Ultracomms, all nearly 10 years of it, I progressed from Developer through to a Senior Developer (whatever that means!) to the lofty heights of being Development Manager and looking after nearly all the Developers, Testers and DBAs within the company. As a steady progression route, it's fairly un-remarkable and the size of the company pretty much dictated that any further progression would require someone leaving, or change at the top.

Well, change at the top happened! A role was created for someone to lead the Development, Infrastructure and the Helpdesk/Operations team. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, this was handed to someone else although as the position wasn't advertised/interviewed I think the frustration is a moot point! That didn't work out with them, so after a few months, Development & Infrastructure got handed back to their previous owner, Helpdesk/Operations to someone else. Now, flash forward a few months later (to thirteen weeks ago, to be precise!) and the same role was re-created (albeit without ownership of the Infrastructure team), given back to the same person, again, with no advertising/interviewing for the role.

That was the precise moment, down to the second, that I knew I had to "Hit Refresh"

Twice an opportunity to grow, develop, progress, take on more, be more had skipped past me, and there's a wonderful idiom that verges on being a truism:

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

That dawning realisation, I'd gotten complacent working for the same company for the thick-end of a decade, the opportunities to grow and develop were few and far between and not coming my way - time to make a change! I talked with my partner, then handed my notice in a few days later, eager to start the next chapter of my professional career.

What have I done since then? What am I doing now?

  • Interviewed for a role at Microsoft - I applied for a role as an Application Development Manager a few days after I handed my notice in; I didn't get it, but was told I was borderline and given some fantastic feedback to work on that would set me in good stead for the future, in general and if I applied for a role at Microsoft again. This is a glass half-full: "I was borderline to get a job at one of the biggest tech companies in the world", or glass half-empty: "If only I'd done a little better, known a little more", etc,... Glass half-full, all the way!
  • Re-discovered my blogging mojo - There's a bit of a (ok, a big bit of a) tempo change in the amount I've blogged over the last 3 months, as compared to over the last 10 years. I've found something that interests me, and interests me enough to write about it and share that interest on most days over the last 3 months. Some of it's been coding stuff, some of it's been about the CMS that I use to host my blog (Orchard CMS, go, have a look!), some of it's been about using Ubiquiti UniFi at home (massive overkill, but boy does it work!), there's also been quite a few new recipes as well, and some of it has been about Azure, which lets me segue to..
  • Getting a proper handle on Azure - One of the pieces of feedback I got from Ben @ Microsoft, and the most readily addressed, was that my knowledge of what he referred to as "modern development" (ouch!) wasn't up to par. The ouch is well tempered by the fact that this is fair comment. I've looked at Azure, I've poked bits of it with a stick, I've used bits of it but I'd never really taken the time (or had a work-based reason to act as an impetus) to dig into it. Ben, and the rest of the people who interviewed me, recommended I look at the 70-534 exam/certification as a way of filling that skill and knowledge gap. So, I've been doing that. Not just videos on Pluralsight, but also "learning by doing" (thank you Azure credits!). I've got a pretty good memory so I could probably learn all the information required to pass the exam by rote, whilst that would achieve an outcome it wouldn't achieve a worthwhile one.
  • Got more social - I've made a concerted effort to "be out there" more, engaging with people on Twitter (I've had some wonderful conversations with people involved in the Windows Insider program, though it always seems to circle back to cats, eh, Jen?). Coldly, I suppose you could call this "networking", but I think that whilst there's an element of truth to that, the bigger value is just in having the interactions themselves, we're social creatures by nature and it brings some balance to the amount of time I'm spending on getting my geek on!

Now, I need to decide what the next chapter is going to be. I've spent the last 7 days relaxing, refreshing and learning but ultimately, I do need to get a job to pay the mortgage. Do I contract for a while, to put what I've learnt into practice in lots of different ways, with lots of different teams and products, do I look for another role leading a team, growing and mentoring people? This question is one that it's time for me to work out the answer to!

If you've managed to get all the way to here, thanks for taking the time to read about my "hit refresh" moment, maybe it's encouraged you to write about yours, or to trigger that moment for you?

About Rob

I've been interested in computing since the day my Dad purchased his first business PC (an Amstrad PC 1640 for anyone interested) which introduced me to MS-DOS batch programming and BASIC.

My skillset has matured somewhat since then, which you'll probably see from the posts here. You can read a bit more about me on the about page of the site, or check out some of the other posts on my areas of interest.

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