This week was fiscal year close at work, and a deadline everyone was racing towards over the past few months. And now we’re past it, a few (ever short) days of limbo have set in while the entire company breathes a collective sigh of relief and re-organizes itself for next year.
Things are quieter than usual, so I thought I’d take look back and provide a (sanitized) update on my journey at Microsoft.
A Short Re-Cap
A few months before the pandemic started, I moved to Microsoft Consulting Services and got used to being fully remote again.
I soon became involved in all manner of projects and taking in the wider perspective an EMEA role afforded–which included, to my surprise, the opportunity to re-use my telco skills to get some interesting things done, which is why last April I was appointed Chief Architect for Telco Solutions.
Although it is an EMEA-focused role, since I am one of the comparatively very few people working on telco and media, that meant a surprising degree of timezone management as I got involved in even more things all over the world, which was fun if terribly exhausting at times.
But it wasn’t a terrible surprise given that I’d spent vast chunks of the previous year working exclusively on telecommunications alongside our Azure for Operators initiative (which is currently enjoying some highly visible successes).
And, following the usual adage of performing at the level you want to attain, it wasn’t a major shift in what I had been doing where it concerns both business and strategy discussions with major customers.
My Personal Take
But it did change a lot in terms of how I relate to the job, since as an engineer I keep feeling the need to get deeply technical and my new role is essentially… more meetings and documents.
And even though I love talking to customers, planning things and running the business, having time to deep dive into intricate pieces of tech and hack the living daylights out of them is something I deeply cherish but is challenging to keep doing.
In fact, just getting things done is hard (never mind the pandemic, which has been going on for nearly 500 days now).
This means I’m still adjusting somewhat, especially where it concerns the dreariness of endless meetings, follow-up discussions and a small menagerie of Office documents trailing each appointment in an almost soul-crushing amount of paperwork.
Again, I just want to get things done, and the saving grace is that leading and advising people provides loads of opportunities to cut down on the paperwork. But what I’m missing is quality thinking time.
And that, I think, is largely the fault of our “new normal” of ten to fifteen 30-minute meetings a day, which has repeatedly pushed me near burnout from too much context switching. I’ve managed to avoid it so far by dint of completely disconnecting from work whenever possible, but I am in dire need of a break.
The Engineer In Me
I’ve see-sawed from business to technology (and back) before, and I know I’ll do it again, but over the years I’ve come to realize that not only there are different things to enjoy on either side of the fence, but also I’m not getting any younger, and the tech industry is exceedingly cruel to over 40s (something I’ve experienced for a while, and which deserves a post all of its own, later).
I’ve long been thinking of going back to a full-on technical role, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, even if it is my technical skills that allow me to navigate business discussions adroitly right now.
Given that I’m healthy (got my first shot and have my second one scheduled already), have no financial issues and lots of work to do, I should probably be in a better mood these days.
There is, however, something to be said for realizing that mopping the kitchen floor1 can be one of the highlights of a working day (if only because it feels like I’m accomplishing something).
Or that you’re so exhausted that there is a 50% chance of falling asleep on the couch2 before dinner if you decide to spend a few minutes watching YouTube with the kids. Or (and this one annoys me to no end) that you have no free time or inspiration for any of your hobbies.
My somewhat quirky sense of humor has helped, though, and I have managed to keep my spirits up by trolling friends on their birthdays or posting random existential snark on social media3.
But I don’t think I’m going to get a lot more mileage out of that, so I’m going to try fencing off more time for reading, hobbies, and a little research on what to do next.
Which, incidentally, is not something that you’ll find in Chief Architect job descriptions. ↩︎
I’ve slept more soundly of late, but I do have vague dreams about strangely unsettling things, like being back in an office or traveling (either of which I would refuse instantly). ↩︎
There is a lot to be said for Twitter as an outlet for the tech industry’s collective unconscious, as the “AWS Infinidash” madness of the past few days proves. ↩︎