I haven't been super vocal about this very much over the past few months (I maybe need to be better at that?), but you may know that I left Elvie back at the end of October 2022. I was there for almost 6 years, the business grew from 30 people to almost 300, from a £(a few million) to £(tens of millions) in revenue and I was privileged to work with an incredible team.
After such an awesome run, I decided to give myself a couple of months off. After 6 years at a lean, high-paced startup this was necessary - I was probably closer to burnout than I'd like to admit!
I did start looking for my next role immediately, and interviewed with some really interesting companies (Zapier, Expensify, Bumble to name just a few), but I didn't really go full tilt into applications and interviewing until January 2023.
And, boy, has it been a slog! Since January I've done well over 50 interviews with loads of companies, making it to the final round in a good number of them and being denied at the last hurdle on so many. This alone has come close to defeating me, making me really question if I even know what I'm doing.
Knowing the economic situation and that a hiring cycle at my level now is likely to take many months, I also set myself the challenge of generating some income on the side, either by picking up some freelance work or creating a product/something that folks might pay for - let's face it, it was always going to be some combination of the two - all in case the worst should happen and I run out of runway without another job lined up.
So I've been interviewing/dealing with recruiters, finding freelance gigs and then doing that work, plus building up some side projects! To say it's been hectic has been an understatement.
It's been stressful and tiring, but also rewarding. I've had so many interesting discussions and met some thoroughly wonderful people along the way. But honestly at 37, this is not something I am capable of doing long-term any more!
The good news is that a few weeks ago I got an offer 🎉 to go be an Engineering Manager at a big, very well known FMCG retail biz.
I am totally thrilled that after all this effort a company of this size and scale has deemed my abilities worthwhile. That's hugely validating (and relieving!)
It doesn't hurt that it comes with a six-figure salary and some pretty cosy benefits to boot.
I'd be an idiot to say no, right?
¶I said "no"! 😱
"Wait... WAT!??!?!?! Why???"
I've spent a lot of energy over the past few weeks thinking about how to answer that question and ultimately there are a few reasons.
Firstly, I will say that in some respects it's not the ideal company for me. It's not necessarily one that readily springs to mind if I think "innovative tech company". And when I dig deep, I have to be honest with myself and say that's something that I really enjoyed about working at Elvie, we were innovating and it felt great to be a part of that.
Also, the tech they use (which I would be completely hands-off from) is quite a way outside my comfort zone. While I'm sure that won't be a problem in the medium to long term, it does create a lot of extra uncertainty and trepidation initially.
And being such a large company, it's miles bigger than I'm used to and I could be hugely out of my depth. A great experience for sure, but I'd be cramming an absolute ton just to get up to speed in terms of internal knowledge and processes, relationships and social norms in the belly of a megabeast.
On top of that, it would have required me to move back to London as it's a hybrid role and they're encouraging regular visits to one of their offices. This would almost certainly mean that I would need to be away from my wife and dog for at least a few months 🥺 to see if it really is the right fit before I completely uproot my family.
I put all of this openly to the hiring manager and surprisingly—reassuringly!—they were great about it and freely offered to support from their side in trying to make it happen.
In the end though, what sank this ship before it even sailed, was something simple and in my book relatively low-cost, low-effort for them: I pushed for some incentives (such as relocation support and a 4-day week) because it would be such a big move with lots of risk for me, disruption for my family and a not insignificant financial outlay.
Sadly their policies wouldn't bend enough to guarantee any of that. So in the end I was being offered what someone who lived just around the corner from their office was going to be offered.
That just doesn't seem fair.
¶The only offer on the table
Contemplating saying no to something like this is super hard - especially at this point after almost 6 months of grinding. I'm so worn down by the process that part of me is like "beggars can't be choosers" and convincing myself that I need to snap this opportunity up and just go for it.
I do feel like I might have done something completely stupid by turning it down.
While I was at Elvie, I had multiple recruiters every single day hitting my inbox or LinkedIn - even before the pandemic craziness. Since the beginning of 2023, that's basically dropped off a cliff. I might get one or two hits some weeks.
It seems like this might be a consequence of the wider economic events unfolding and the flood of tech staff billowing into the market. Of course, this is purely speculation and I can only draw some naive conclusions; I don't have any hard evidence to prove this, but it makes sense in my head at least.
I think another big factor (probably related to the above) is this push for hybrid work and all of these anti-globalisation policies that are seeing businesses clamp down on remote working and putting hard stops on working from other countries.
I believe this is a huge shame as it opens up some huge potential for global equity that is becoming more and more necessary - as a species we're moving towards needing to tackle problems of global significance (while we still have 'local' problems too) and we need to solve these together, not apart.
Of course there would have been some pros as well:
- I would have learned a lot and believe I could bring real value to that org and team
- It would be a huge name to have on my CV, which would have certainly helped in securing future roles
- The package is basically bang-on what I'm after right now and represents a significant bump up from what I was previously on
¶I'm no beggar
Considering all of the above I'm sure many folks would accept the offer, make the move, and have a wonderful time.
But since the beginning of this year, a few other wheels have been turning that I'm excited about and saying 'no' to this means I can say 'yes' to them wholeheartedly. Here's what's going on:
- More actively support my wife with her business, Estilistas
- I started Spred to explore the possibilities of Open Banking - even just this week there have been some huge advances and I'm hoping to have some exciting news about this very soon
- I decided to try and turn Built With Bootstrap from a site dedicated to the Bootstrap CSS framework (I'm a Tailwind-er now) into a community space for folks bootstrapping their businesses - it's still early days, but I think it has huge potential
- I launched Veliance to support Laravel freelancers (like me) in finding work - it's lo-fi, completely free and costs me almost nothing to run
- I started working with the dev team at Manual - they've got loads going on and it's nice to flex my coding muscle in something other than Laravel - out of my comfort zone, but not too far out
- I've been working with a super early stage GreenTech startup helping to get things off the ground in the exciting (if a little controversial) world of heat pumps
- I've partnered with some old friends to help take a product they've built to the next level - more to come on this soon
- I tweeted about something and it went crazy and now I'm learning Rust and building NativePHP with Marcel Pociot! 🤯 (🤦♂️ tweeting a serious tweet on 1st April)
- I've had a few other pieces of one-off client work
Is this going to work? I don't know 🤷🏼 Out of that mega list of things there's only two that are earning me any sort of income at the moment, and they're both freelancing work. Everything else has a total combined income so far of about £7 (before expenses) - so, net, prolly minus... a lot.
It's all super risky, for sure. But there are two key factors for me that mean this is right, at least for now:
- I can stay where I am on beautiful Gran Canaria and not uproot my life
- I can work pretty much whenever I want on stuff I enjoy
That second point is super important for me. I strongly believe that better outcomes come from doing things that make you happy. It's now just finding a way to get that circle to overlap with the "makes enough money to survive on" circle in this crazy Venn diagram we call life.