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Sarah Katz
Sarah Katz

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2019 In Review: I'm Where I Wanted To Be

2019 was the most difficult year of my (admittedly not very long) career. I went from optimistic about what was to come to unemployed in less than two months. What followed was nine incredibly stressful months of job searching, doubting myself, and wanting to quit software engineering. The year is ending on a good note, with me having started a fantastic new job two months ago, and while they say all's well that ends well, I can't ignore how difficult this year was for me.

I wanted to write a "year in review" blog, where I talked about all of the things I experienced this year, but I found myself feeling discouraged and focusing too much on the stresses. One recurring positive theme I discovered was that when reading through old blog posts about what I was looking for in my next job, I found my new job fitting many of the criteria that I had laid out. Rather than focus on the stress of the year, I decided to spend the end of the year talking about what makes my new job so perfect for me.

At the very beginning of my job search, I spent some time writing out what my ideal job would be. In that post, I mentioned that I was looking for a mid-size tech (or -tech) company, and I ended up at a 250 (and growing) person healthtech company. I wanted a company that adjusts its perks based on employee need, and I'm working at a company that will be adding fertility benefits in the new year and cell phone/internet reimbursement for remote employees. I'm even getting the gym benefits I wanted via a discounted ClassPass membership.

The job itself also fits in well with that "ideal job" description. I'm working on a React/Node stack (which is exactly what I wanted), and in my first two months at the job I've had the opportunity to learn Typescript and get my first exposure to state machines. From day one at the job I've had people available to help me learn, from an engineering onboarding buddy to frequent pair programming to one-on-one meetings with my manager and my team lead. The only thing I wanted from my job that I don't really have is a variety of projects, but I know that there are opportunities for me to take on the occasional task outside my team, and there is even room to move between teams if I ultimately feel that's what is best for me (although I am excited about the work I am doing and my new team, so I'm not looking to move right at this moment).

I also feel like my future at this company can match my expectations. There is an engineering ladder that is a guideline for growth, and there are several engineers who started where I am and are now in leadership-level positions, so I have models for my growth. The company also seems to have a good vision for its future, which means that my job will (hopefully) be around for a long time. So far, have found that the company is very respectful of my schedule and needs, and there is definitely flexibility to fit the job around my life schedule. Overall, this job fits very well with that ideal job that I was looking for back in February.

In May of this year, I revisited the idea of what my next job should be (and in particular, what my dream job would be). I started out by writing up some things I want to do in my next job, and ended up writing a fake job description for my dream job. Three of the four things I wanted to be doing in my dream job are things that I am doing in my current job. I'm writing/editing React components that are part of our user-facing app, I'm pair programming with some great engineers and learning new things almost every day, and I even have some time to work alone, listening to my music and drinking my coffee. The only thing I really wanted to do in my dream job that I'm not currently doing is write documentation, but I'm optimistic that there will be opportunities to work on documentation more in the future.

The dream job description I wrote also includes many things relevant to my current job. My title is Full Stack Engineer, but I'm working in a group (which we call a guild) that focuses on front end work. I'd consider my company to be mid-size (maybe even on the smaller size for mid-size), and the hours are definitely flexible and we're very remote-friendly (in fact, I spent a decent amount of the last two weeks of December working remotely). The company's mission is very real-world focused, and it's something that appeals to me very strongly as a human being, based on my passions and past experiences. I have already found a focus on mentorship and career growth, and I know that if I use the resources available to me, this can be a great stepping stone for me to move to the next level as a developer.

My responsibilities also match fairly closely to that dream job description. So far I've been mostly focused on modifying our existing React components (and creating one new one), and I'm currently doing some work with CSS (via Styled Components) to address some visual changes needed for the product I'm working on. I haven't quite gotten to the point of building new features, but I have done some work on a feature we're about to launch, and I know I will be working on expanding that feature in the new year. I've done a few bug fixes here and there, and while I haven't had a chance to jump into the backend or our (brand new) mobile app, I know those opportunities can be made available to me.

When I wrote this dream job description, I had recently spoken to a company that offered lower salaries in exchange for a lot of benefits, and I wasn't exactly thrilled with that - which was reflected in my post. I'm very grateful that not only does my company offer catered lunch twice a week, snacks, partially paid health insurance, vision and dental insurance, unlimited PTO (which people are definitely encouraged to take), and other great benefits, I'm also being paid a fair salary (or at least what I believe is a fair salary). My company definitely values its employees, and while I didn't articulate that as clearly as I wanted in my dream job description, it's something that mattered to me a great deal, and I'm so happy to have found it.

2019 was not an easy year for me. I started out optimistic, but the year slowly beat me down. I struggled a lot. I doubted myself daily. I almost gave up several times. But at the end of the year, I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. Writing code, learning from people much smarter than myself, enjoying going to work every day, and working for a company that is committed to making a difference in this world. After months of stress and struggle, I finally ended up where I belong, and while that doesn't erase all the struggles of the past year, it does make it easier to put those struggles behind me.

Here's to a great ending to 2019! I'm excited to continue doing work I love, and I hope that 2020 brings more exciting things for my career.

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