This post underwent a lot of revisions–I wrote and tore away large chunks of it (making sure to save some I think might be interesting to revisit in a decade or so), but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that despite my having managed to hold the line, get recognition for my work and stay relevant both technically and organizationally, the layoffs took a large toll.
A very large toll–mentally, physically and even health-wise, and not just as far as I am concerned. Having a third of the people you work with across dozens of teams evaporate or peter out over an agonizingly long period of time kind of set the tone for the whole year, regardless of how well the business fared–and, often, despite of how well the business fared.
And, in a word, it sucked. I owe it to myself to be plain about that, and the fact that the things that I most enjoyed doing this year were related to investment advisory and other non-work activities (I’ve been doing those semi-regularly since the pandemic, and they’re a great way to keep my mind off work and keep learning new things).
I am experienced enough to have witnessed various kinds of corporate and industry upheaval before, so this is not my first rodeo–in fact, it reminds me a lot of my later days at Vodafone, as the business pivoted to new models and some pretty weird things happened.
Other than that, things are essentially the same–still “herding cats”, still trying to create clarity in what we need to get done (and how), still trying to get people to work together, with added emphasis on trying to get people to care about what they do nowadays.
I work on the same team as last year, as a sort of default gateway for everything cloud and analytics-related and a few winks and nudges at the AI space (although I still take my
LLMs with a pinch of salt) and focusing on the bigger picture of how products and services are built, delivered and supported, rather than the minutiae of their internals.
The engineer in me is still raring to get out and do stuff but the (de facto) manager in me1 is very much trying to figure out how to make people better, and that is a much harder problem to solve right now and which has led to a lot of personal frustration.
Given the current economic landscape (and the rekindling of tensions in the Middle East) there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. I pore over The Economist every week to get a sense of the bigger picture–and, as usual, I am not sure if I am more worried about the things that are happening or the things that are not happening–namely economic recovery and a bit more actual innovation.
For instance, I am tracking the hardware (not AI, but rather hardware security) and aerospace industries with increasing interest, as well as the automotive industry, which is undergoing a massive transformation–all of those are hard to get visibility into due to competitive or cultural reasons, but have nice, meaty hard problems to tackle, so they’re likely to be something I’ll be pursuing in my advisory hobby if I can.
Last year I wrote about how should get out of the house more during the week, which didn’t really happen for a variety of reasons–but I did manage to do quite a bit of travel on weekends, and even paid at least two (willing) visits to an actual office this year.
And yet, having to shuffle timezones still means I end up getting blocked out of the local social loop, so I’ve started setting harder caps on my work hours and saying no to most business travel as a way of lessening the impact on my personal life.
Somewhat sadly, even though my home office is now “done” and quite comfortable, I find myself less and less drawn to it even for my personal stuff (or hobbies). Winter usually flips that around, but I am not sure if that will be the case this year.
A saving grace is that I finally got back into the habit of reading voraciously (mostly about other industries), which is a good fit with the lopsided schedule–not to mention a way to unwind and get my mind off things.
Or, as I usually quip, the “organizational anthropologist”, which is a fancy way of saying “I spend most of my time explaining to people how the organization actually works”. ↩︎