Status update

I left Microsoft at the beginning of July (after two years) and also stopped working on Rust at the same time. I intended to finish up some work and hand stuff over etc. on the Rust side, but I found that I simply did not have the energy. I've been resting since then and it has been fantastic. I don't really have much to report on, since nothing I have been doing is of much interest from a tech perspective, and this blog is mostly about that. But I feel like I should make some kind of announcement that I've made a change, rather than just disappearing, so here it is.

Leaving Rust and Microsoft

Short story: I was burnt-out on Rust development and work/life more generally.

Longer story, when I left Rust and Mozilla for PingCAP a few years ago, I thought I just wanted a change and to do some more technical work. After I left, I realised I was pretty burnt-out on the whole situation. Working at PingCAP was great - it was everything I wanted in terms of being a big change, interesting technical work, and good people. However, being remote and dealing with the pandemic was rough (lack of international travel and thus face-to-face time with colleagues, primarily). At the time that was happening I was feeling very motivated to work directly on Rust again. I love Rust. Working on it has been a privilege, and a huge part of my career and development as an engineer. Having an opportunity to use Rust in a large, real-life application was great, but got me thinking again about how to make Rust better. An opportunity at Microsoft came up to do exactly that, as well as help Microsoft adopt Rust internally; that sounded like a dream job.

Unfortunately, I was not as recovered from my burn out as I thought I was. Being so passionate about the project (and therefore tying my identity to my work more than I should) has made me more susceptible to some of the causes of burnout than I would like. It was also a difficult couple of years in my personal life. As well as the general pandemic conditions, I caught Covid, had a second child and thus a baby/toddler to care for, moved literally across the globe, then did it again, and supported my wife through a challenging and time-intense period of her career. Navigating the duality of the work role (its relation to the Rust project and to Microsoft), as well as a step-up in responsibility and my first time working at a mega-scale corporate, added to the stress. I found it very difficult to navigate my return to the Rust community and how I wanted to fit into it. I found myself in disagreement with more people, more often than I had in the past. Due (I think) to its increased size, the multiple new interests and employers, and my own decreased social energy, I found it hard to deal with the various people/culture/political issues. It was all a lot. I decided I needed a long break and probably another big change.

After I stopped working, I realised just how burnt-out I had become. Very luckily, I am able to take a decent break. I'm feeling much better now (five months in)! I can read books again! I'm feeling motivated about tech! I'm also really enjoying having the extra time to do non-work stuff, and catch up on all the various chores and general maintenance stuff that I've been putting off for years. I still feel far off my 100%; I hope that more time and a gradual reintroduction of tech stuff (focussing on learning interesting things and the things which bring me joy) will help with that.

It's kind of a shame. I still feel motivated to work on and improve Rust; I still feel the passion for a project which feels so well-motivated and well-timed, that is technically interesting in so many ways, and has such a great community and culture. Working at Microsoft was great. I was learning a lot and was working with a fantastic team (I miss you all!). Despite being a huge corporate and very business-focussed, I liked the culture. It was great to work at a place where things were turning around and getting better, rare for an established and mature organisation. I was impressed by the competency and communication of my leaders. In short, it was a good place to work and I would recommend it. But the timing for me was terrible :-(

Vague plans for the future

I plan to take more time off work, probably another six months. I'm starting to read some of the books and papers I've been meaning to read, and I plan to work on some of the side projects that I haven't had time for. Mostly these will be private, learning things, but one or two might be of broader interest. If so, I'll write about them here because I would also like to write (and perhaps talk) more.

I would love to work on Rust again, but I really have to find a way I can do that without getting burnt-out again before I do that. That is probably more of an emotional balance issue than a work-load issue for me.

I'm not thinking too much about returning to work right now, and I'm definitely not looking for anything right now. But I will probably be after employment or contracting opportunities in about six months, preferably in the realm of distributed systems and databases, preferably using Rust; if you have any interesting leads, please get in touch! I'm also thinking that I would like to share more of my experience with Rust. I love teaching (one of the few things I miss from academia) and mentoring. Perhaps I will look at offering some kind of training and/or consultancy work; if that sounds interesting, again, please get in touch!