Where are you from?
This is a pretty common question we ask each other in Australia as most people I know aren’t living in the city they were born in, and it’s a question that I’ve been asked from time to time.
While I live in Sydney most people are surprised to find out that I didn’t grow up in Sydney, but I’m from Melbourne originally. A few days ago I had a memory pop up on Facebook that told me that it was 10 years ago that I left my job in Melbourne and started the journey that would see me where I am today.
Feeling nostalgic I decided I wanted to share that journey here.
I grew up in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, went to school and uni out that way and in 2004 graduated with an IT degree from Deakin University. I was a solid-B student, I did well, but never great, and honestly, I was glad when it was done. Being a student isn’t my jam.
In 2005 it was time to enter the workforce as an IT professional (I didn’t work IT in uni, I worked fast food!) and my first job was mobile tech support, I’d go out to people’s houses and plug their modems in. Glamorous stuff.
In mid-2005 I started interviewing for some software jobs. My first interview I was really excited for, it was as a software tester in gaming! Awesome, who doesn’t want to software test games?! This is where I first learnt what gaming meant as it was a role as a software tester for slot machines. I declined the 2nd interview.
Shortly after I was offered a role at a web development company, it was a graduate role but I didn’t care, I was being paid to write software! This is where I learnt about Content Management Systems (in hindsight I’m surprised I’d never stopped to think about how content on websites was managed…), I got to experience the browser wars, was introduced to Umbraco and learnt all sorts of other technology.
I had a pretty shitty start to 2009. I’d only just started living out of home for the first time (I was living on my own too) and I separated from my long-term girlfriend so a combination of loneliness and pining saw me pretty down.
But the upside to this was that it was the catalyst I needed to start properly getting into Open Source. To fill me, ever-expanding free time, I started contributing to Umbraco and as a result of this, I was invited to Umbraco’s yearly conference, Codegarden. This was the first time I’d ever attended a conference (and I think I’d only once been to a User Group) so the fact that I was invited to travel to Copenhagen was kind of a big deal!
As I was preparing to head to Codegarden I made a decision, I would be looking for work. I was pretty unhappy with my life, there was no reconciling the relationship I’d lost (and the friends I’d lost as a result) so I needed a change, and my rationale was that I was starting to get a bit of notice in the Umbraco community and there’d have to be someone looking to hire while I was at the event so why not take an opportunity, even if it meant moving to Europe.
It turned out that there was at least 1 person who was hiring there, but the move would be a lot less dramatic. I met Shannon at the retreat prior to Codegarden itself (the retreat is a pre-event where contributors and community influencers join the HQ team to discuss strategy, roadmaps and other stuff) and he was the head of technology at an Umbraco-centric agency based in Sydney and they just so happened to be looking for a Senior Developer. Well, when we got back from Denmark I chatted with them a bit more, I put forth what I was looking for, they agreed and at the start of August, I told my parents I was going to move to Sydney and I resigned from my job.
To a certain degree, the move to Sydney was not being done for the right reasons, I was ultimately trying to escape my past by running away. Totally healthy! But at the time I thought it was the right thing to do.
When I moved to Sydney I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t attend User Groups or conference then so I just went to work and then went home and coded (or watched TV). Not an overly glamorous life and what’s more was it started feeding into the self-doubt that I had about moving to begin with.
By the end of 2009, I was pretty miserable, I hadn’t met any new people (other than those I worked with) which was probably not helped by the fact that I wasn’t really trying to meet people.
I was left with two options, pack it in and move back to Melbourne or make an effort to actually try and meet some people. Given I’d tried nothing and was reaping the benefits of that it was time to try something.
In 2009 Twitter was starting to take off in the tech community and this was where I started. While I might not have “got” it (and maybe still don’t) it was a useful tool to start finding out about people in tech that were in Sydney without actually going out!
The next step was starting to attend User Groups and I started attending ones that the people I was “meeting” on Twitter were also attending. This helped make it feel a whole lot less daunting; I was no longer going somewhere where I didn’t know anyone, I was going somewhere that I hadn’t met anyone, which was an important difference. Since I “knew” some people in attendance from Twitter it was a lot easier to strike up a conversation, we’d just carry on from something we were chatting about online.
10 years and 3 employers later and I’m still in Sydney.
When I look back at where I was in 2019 it does feel surreal. I very nearly called off the experiment of moving interstate but now when I look at it I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like if I had.
It took me a while to get over the self-doubt that I had but something that I think everyone can relate to, everyone’s had points in their life where they wonder if they’ve made the right call.
I might not have moved to Sydney for the right reasons but there are plenty more wrong reasons that I could’ve stayed in Melbourne.
In the end, you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you never give it a try. So what are you waiting for?
Have you made a big life decision? How did it work out for you? What did you learn along the way?