What now?, one year later
It’s been a year since I graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology. (it’s also been a year since I posted something on here, yikes)
One year ago I posted “What now?” in which I talked about what I planned to do now that formal education was complete.
First, let’s recap how I did on the goals, and then I’ll talk about some things I learned these past 365 days, and finally what’s next for me.
Goals Check #
- Advance to Level 1 Senior Engineer at Packback
- Completed! Since February I’ve been a Senior Engineer.
- Organize my professional and personal networks, then catch up with at least 4 people a month
- Incomplete - I did do some catching up with people, but fell short of the 4 per month goal. Did do some work organizing my network, though that is incomplete.
- Host or speak at 3 or more meetups
- Incomplete - Attended a couple meetups, but did not host or present at any.
- Automate 3 projects I made while at IIT to be self-sustaining
- Completed, at least to the degree I could (a couple things need manual input which can’t be avoided)
- Go on a trip more than 500 miles from Chicago
- Soon-to-be complete, but late - I do have a trip planned to Glacier National Park at the beginning of July with some friends from Packback, but technically past this goal’s deadline. I’ve never really had an interest in travel, so that’s contributed to me pushing this off.
What I Learned #
Graduation was an exciting and freeing time for me, but it soon became also worrying. I like to think of reaching graduation as getting to the peak of a small mountain. Upon reaching the peak, I look out at the landscape and see a wide valley with dark forests, rolling hills, then in the distance there’s some taller mountains. I must reach the mountains in the distance.
Entering the working world without the constraints of school, I was able to do more exploration, but in that I realized how little I actually knew - as we call it at Packback, “conscious incompetence”. I realized there was still so much more to learn, and even still, despite being a senior engineer, I know there’s much more to understand, experience and accomplish. That feeling of incompetence was uncomfortable and overwhelming at first (particularly when being faced with lots of big challenges).
However, I learned to accept that feeling and embrace it, use it as my fuel. What I did was pour my extra hours into more learning and experimentation. Early on after graduation I realized the field of Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) was where I wanted to head towards, so I’ve taken it upon myself to be responsible for SRE at Packback (yay, another self-defined job description!). A year later, I’m starting to see the projects I’ve been working on related to SRE make their way to production, and increasing importance of the work I’m doing. Over the past year, I’ve been most passionate about this work.
The hardest part has been an increasingly vivid realization that code itself is the easiest part of software engineering, it’s all the non-code things that are difficult. There’s no use in developing a tool if everyone besides the developer doesn’t know how to use it. A feature isn’t complete until concerns like security, privacy, performance, safety, and others are addressed.
Finally, I’ve learned that [for myself] keeping healthy balance is not something that happens naturally, it requires effort. Balancing school and work meant I couldn’t spend too much time on either one, but with those boundaries missing once school was over, it took mental strength for me to develop my own balance and keep it - something I’m still not doing a good job at.
Going Forward #
I once again don’t have a predefined path, but here’s some items I want to improve on:
First, I’d like to post on here more often. In a week or two it will be my 4-year anniversary at Packback, so I’d like to do a more in-depth recap of my time here so far and what lessons I’ve learned. Besides that, what do you want me to write about? Contact me with your ideas (DM, email, etc).
Secondly, I want to get move involved in CrimeIsDown.com again - I have some pretty cool features I worked on a few months ago, but they are still unfinished - hopefully I can release them soon. My general purpose for that project is to answer the question “Where is that siren going?” or “Why do I see flashing emergency lights?”, satisfying people’s curiosity about public safety-related happenings. Future product developments should be serving that purpose.
Third, I want to better understand what makes me happy / what do I enjoy, and how I can create balance in my life to best achieve that. This involves lots of exploration and moving from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Keep asking questions.
P.S. - I’m sorta treating this post like a public journal entry, so in case it sounds unclear or rambles, that’s why.