Don't Quit

March 30, 2022, at 02:43 PMerika

Shortly after undergrad, I took on an absolute dream job - computer graphics development surrounded by other smart-cookie graphics developers working on the state of the art in 3d modelling. And I worked my ass off trying to contribute as much as I could as well as I could, fixing bugs, adding small features, supporting various platforms and customers across vast time zones. I learned so, so much, and contributed decently well, especially given I was told - as a junior - not bother the non-junior engineers. But, c'est la vie, it was not enough for the company and I was put on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Unaware what exactly that meant, despite best efforts to survive, it wasn't enough.

My confidence was shattered. Was I cut out for this? Was this really the direction I wanted to go? What was wrong with me? Ultimately, I decided to upgrade via a Masters, and then the better part of a PhD in computer graphics, but easily THIS could have been a moment where I decided to leave the industry. I had seen other colleagues leave - the IT dev who quit after a few years, tired of the disorganization within her team; the software dev who pivoted to sports organization after she experienced burnout. My experience at this company was hard, with long hours, working in isolated conditions, on technically challenging problems in a code base I was not familiar with and in a language I was still maturing into. Why should I stay? Why would I stay?

Last year, I took a risk and switched jobs. The tech stack is entirely new-to-me. The team and its dynamics are incredibly different than my last job. The problems are interesting and challenging but I feel confident I can reach out and collaborate with my team when I hit an impasse. I'm not working crazy overtime hours. In the back of my mind, I hear myself worry about PIP, and not doing enough and not being as incredible as those expectations were all those years ago. And yet, during this year's performance review, my manager kept re-iterating how great I'm doing, contributing well to the team and without any negotiations, I received an above average pay bump.

So what is the takeaway? When times get tough, step back, evaluate a game plan, and try again. If someone goes to train to become, say, an electrician, sure they might pivot and leave the industry. But more likely if they aren't enjoying their immediate work, there are so many other areas to try: self-employment, part of a company, part of a building/site staff, teaching/mentoring, sales, etc. or just finding the right team with the set of expectations that suit. Just because one experience may be hard or difficult, doesn't mean that all will be the same. In hindsight, perhaps it was that I had enjoyed and thrived at a number of my co-op jobs, so I knew it is possible to find good places to work in the industry. So although my initial reaction was to upgrade, if I had been a bit more mindful, I might've recognized that the skills I acquired at that difficult position would aid me in my future applications. And in time, help me find a position, a team and a company I'm more aligned with.

The tough days aid our personal and professional growth - provided we're mindful to pay attention and remind ourselves we are indeed capable.

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