Where have you been?

Nov 8, 2023 04:40 · 2309 words · 11 minute read

Where have you been?

It has been around eighteen months since I last posted on this blog and I thought I would take the time to reflect upon the period. Traditionally, people tend to reflect upon years as a new year begins. But, like everything about being a parent, sometimes life gets in the way.

Anyway, I thought I would take the time to talk about what I’ve been up to and how the eighteen months has been both personally and professionally. Whilst this blog post isn’t meant to be in some sort of chronological order, I think it makes the most sense to start out back in January last year.

Early last year, my partner and I were waiting the impending arrival of our daughter. Melbourne, the place where I was living at the time was in the peak of the Omicron COVID wave. For a period of weeks, this meant that I faced the very real prospect of not being able to be at my daughter’s birth due to the public health orders of the time. The thought of missing her birth caused me a great amount of internal conflict. In the preceding two years up to her birth, I had been following all public health directives to the best of my ability as I believed in doing my part for the greater good of society.

Witnessing the birth of your own child is one of the most captivating, intense and rewarding experiences I think I will ever experience in my life. I was lucky enough to be given that opportunity during my son’s birth and started an unbreakable bond with him from the from his first moments in life. To minimise the risk of myself not being able to attend, or getting the members of our household sick, we decided to live in our apartment isolated from any non-essential contact with others in the five weeks preceding her due date. We reasoned the time whilst this might not give us any guarantees, this was an option at least worth trying.

It even resulted in me developing the RAT hunter, an automated tool to help my family find Rapid Antigen Tests as there was a nationwide shortage. Without me providing a negative result, I wouldn’t have been able to attend her birth. As with the first time it turned out to be just as special, and arguably more intimate experience as there were no visitors to speak off.

During my partner’s pregnancy, the rules at the company I was employed at changed whereby I was entitled sixteen weeks paid parental leave, instead of the original four weeks paid parental leave. When my first son was born, I only was entitled to two weeks paid parental leave and decided to take another two weeks of annual leave. At the time I can distinctly remember how I felt the first day I had to go back to work. I remember it at the time thinking this hasn’t been anywhere near enough time for me to bond with my son and support my partner. When the opportunity arose to take more parental leave, I decided to take the opportunity for a few reasons.

Firstly, as a parent who believes in modelling the right behaviours to my children, I thought it was important to be able to look back upon this period in my life it looked both my son and daughter in the eye and say that I was there at the start supporting their mother and them during this great new time.

Secondly, as a father and someone who is established in their career, I think that there was an opportunity to show other new fathers that taking parental leave isn’t something that should limit you in a professional sense regarding your career. Living by the saying you can’t be what you can’t see, I think there are often many dads out there who would like to take their full parental leave, or even perhaps take longer than that but culturally speaking they don’t feel it’s safe to do so. After both periods of parental leave, I believe I came back as a better employee as I was grateful for the experience to fully immersed myself in getting to know both my children. I become a lot more effective at time management prioritisation and just generally being more empathetic to the world that I was in and the people within my direct circle.

Thirdly, it allowed my partner to continue her work relatively soon after our daughter was born whilst I looked after her and helped them both out wherever possible. Whilst my daughter will have no recollection of this time with our life, this will become evident in time that both mums and dads can work and both mums and dads have house responsibilities and family responsibilities. This will allow her and elder brother to understand that anything is possible no matter your gender.

Whilst I value my work and I would like to look back upon my career and think I’ve had a positive impact on the people that I’ve worked with and the places of worked at, being a reliable supportable and giving partner and Dad is definitely higher up on my list. Saying this might come across as if I now view my career as punching the clock and then getting on with other priorities, however I do think the both can exist, perhaps not the levels of perfectionism that I have historically held.

The treadmill of life since having another child has gone up a few levels. Often, we’re trying to manage many things at once, which often conflict and require creative solutions. I think that at this phase of my life with very young children and all the micromanagement that goes with that I have noticed that I am more flexible, pragmatic patient and forgiving of them and myself and my ability to meet my previously high standards. As a noted perfectionist, coming to terms with my new reality of my current circumstances has meant that I’ve had to let go of a lot of pre held conceptions about the way things should be.

But the period hasn’t just been about becoming dad for the second time. There have been a lot of big life changes cover which have brought their own choice and challenges.

Firstly, we decided is a family that we would like to trial moving to a smaller coastal regional town. I have never been a fan of big cities, but due to the nature of the work that I have been in I have always been in this constant conflict. Big cities have lots of great things about them, I could largely take or leave most of the benefits. I tend to enjoy things that are relatively modest and I like to be connected to nature and my community.

To facilitate this move, this would mean I would have to find a new role whereby I could work remotely. For years, I have the lamented the fact that I have had to commute to it office only to then VPN into someone else’s office to work on their network. I have never understood the logic of this and always thought that remote work would unlock so many other life benefits. During the pandemic, I was able to work remotely and all the benefits that I had suspected were true.

I was lucky enough to find a new role, but not in the traditional fields that I had been working in. Over the last few years, I have been working more and more in the automation space and I have been consciously moving away from networking. I will always look fondly upon networking, however I feel that I am always looking to evolve in all aspects of my life and some of the lack of work life balance aspects of running critical networks don’t align with my ambitions outside of work.

I have now pivoted into more of a general automation role. Gone are the days of routing and switching, firewall migration and all that other stuff. For the last fifteen months, I have been doing tasks ranging from:

  • Writing Ansible playbooks
  • Proxying FastAPI endpoints with custom HTTP headers
  • Configuring Celery workers
  • Troubleshooting websockets and pub/sub subscribers
  • Deploying AWS infrastructure with Pulumi

Combining this with many sleepless nights as a parent has been challenging but nothing that can’t be overcome with a supportive family and company. I was transparent about my situation and my life intentions during the interview process and I feel that has helped when there has been some inevitable disruptions. Each day presents many new learning opportunities, some of which I am excited about, and some which I meet with internal dread as I might be exhausted with everything that’s going on in my world. However, generally I tried to approach the situation as an opportunity and not a roadblock.

Life comes with no guarantees, but I am certainly enjoying moving more into this profession as I thoroughly enjoy the idea of building platforms that others consume and trying to be an empathetic developer to make sure that the systems that I design and deploy reach the right level of usability, simplicity and elegance.

Which brings us on to the last major change, which has been moving to a coastal town on the Bellarine Peninsula. Throughout my life, I have moved at least twenty-five times in my life. I think that’s allowed me to become adaptable to new situations and new environments. However sometimes I forget at how disruptive this process actually is, particularly when you haven’t moved as many times as myself. It has been tough for our whole family to restart new relationships with new people, and new places in new environments. On the whole, the move has been very positive for everyone in our family.

For me personally, I am enjoying being back in a smaller coastal town again. A typical week for me will involve cycling down to the beach as part of my daily exercise, removing all technology soaking in what the beach doing on that day. Whether there’s a biting southerly wind, baking hot or packed with tourists, I try to fully immerse all my senses any environment. As a digital worker, it’s so easy to live every single minute of your life in the digital world or it’s tentacles. Today, I really enjoy having an analogue activity whereby you are connected to nature and its impact can be felt on you positively or negatively as you ride.

Twelve months into the move, I have enjoyed experiencing all the seasons and the lifestyle of where we live. I have found a greater, more spontaneous life outside of work in terms of socialising with other young families add talking to people at the local businesses. This greater enjoyment outside of work has a direct positive impact I’m what I do inside of work.

Throughout the year, I’ve been working on my own personal development to become the best version of myself that I can be. I have read quite a few books on these subjects and have putting new practises into place to be more mindful and more present. It’s certainly a work in progress and to be honest I don’t think I will ever master it, but there’s enjoyment in the journey add continually trying to evolve based on your experiences.

I have taken a step back from social media an interacting with all the content that’s swirling around everyday. I had an experience late in 2021 whereby I was misunderstood online. At the time, I noticed that I wasn’t living by my own personal values, and that I was over indexing the thoughts and opinions of virtual strangers than the people that I respect and confided in. I maintain that social media is a positive tool when used wisely, however the idea of being able to convert complex articulation of your ideas doesn’t seem to be compatible with these platforms. Perhaps at some stage. I may re-engage with these platforms but in the meantime I think I have a greater balance in life by not getting caught up in the minutiae of the day.

One really cool highlight since my last post was being interviewed by Eric Chou. On his podcast. From afar, I always thought that Eric was a humble and generous person, the type of person that makes you think gee I could really lift my own game. His book quite literally changed my trajectory in life sometimes I reflect upon how people places or experiences can do the same for others. I generally try to keep this front of mind in my daily existence in the world. It turns out that Eric is even more humble and generous off the mic. I spent at least a good hour and a half of his time just picking his brain and sharing ideas when he probably had 100 other more important things to do.

Thanks Eric it’s people like you that make sure we all move forward in a positive way.

What does the future hold for this blog?

As my career continues to evolve, I feel like there are other people out there who are more passionate about the technical aspects of certain technologies. I am enthused about the idea of writing more philosophical topics, as I am currently finding this more interesting. I certainly hope to increase the regularity of my posts, as I do enjoy committing thoughts to the digital world a worthwhile experience. I have a few ideas in the pipeline, so we will see how they eventuate.

Hopefully it won’t be as long between posts, but even if it that the case, I thank you for taking the time to reading this particular one.