Hey, LaunchDarkly

I’m really excited to officially join LaunchDarkly and work on their Internal Tools team on Tuesday, January 4th.

When I was 22 and just starting my career, I remember thinking in my parents' kitchen about what I want out of a job. I came up with three things, because my brain starts protesting really loudly when I don’t follow the rule of three. Those three things haven’t really changed much in the decade since, and served as a weirdly good compass to navigate my employment opportunities. These aren’t things I think everyone, or even anyone else, should use as their compass; they’re just mine.

I Want to Solve Problems I Care About

The first thing I thought of is that I want my job to be solving problems I care about. I have ADHD, and executive dysfunction is a bear. It’s so much easier to do my job when I’m invested in the outcome. But I can’t get behind tech for tech’s sake; the point is and has always been, for me at least, to help people solve their problems. They may be silly or frivolous problems, but at the end of the day, someone can do something they couldn’t do before, and the ability to do it makes their life better. And that’s what kicks my executive dysfunction’s ass, and helps me engage my brain.

When I was looking for my next thing, that largely meant that I didn’t want to work on cryptocurrencies or healthcare systems or insurance platforms. Not that solving those problems isn’t useful–except for cryptocurrency, that is a solution in search of a problem and we’d all be better off if people stopped building in that area–but it seems unlikely I’d be able to make people happier with my work. And that’s less fulfilling for me, personally.

LaunchDarkly offered me a role on their Internal Tools team, and the best job description I’ve heard so far is “bring an engineering mindset to everything our business does”. It sounds an awful lot like I’m going to be pointed at problems and asked how we can make them go away, and I’m excited about that prospect. We’ll see how it all works out, but LaunchDarkly is a product I believe in helping people do neat things I care about, and so I’m optimistic I’ll find plenty of problems I care about to solve. I’m even more optimistic that solving them will be in my job description when I find them.

I Want to Work With People I Like

We spend almost a third of our time working, and if you don’t like the people you work with, that’s a lot of time to spend with people you don’t like. Even people you’re neutral on can make that a slog. The people I surround myself with can have a huge impact on how I feel and think, and so it’s worth surrounding myself with good people.

I’ve been fortunate in my career so far and have found just so many good people to surround myself with. I’ve got a reputation for referring to people as “friend” at the drop of a hat, but it’s sincere. The real career is the friends you make along the way.

I got to talk to so many people at LaunchDarkly when interviewing with them, and they were all excellent. I have no concerns or qualms on this point, I’m just excited to meet everyone.

I Want to Do Work I Can Be Proud Of

The last thing I thought about in my parents’ kitchen ten years ago was why I wasn’t focusing on the easiest or most lucrative opportunities in front of me. The answer I came up with is that the third thing I want from my employment is to be proud of the work I do during it. I want to be able to tell my family, my friends, my kids what I do not only without shame, but with pride. Someone on Twitter (I want to say Corey Quinn?) said they want to feel good when they tell their kids where their college funds came from, and I feel like that’s part of it. But also, the externality of my employment that I’m interested in isn’t the salary (though money is important! And it’s an important way employers show they value you, which is a healthy thing to demand of them!) it’s the work I produce. There are a lot of ways to make a lot of money, often rather quickly, if you are good with computers. But what’s the point? At the end of it all, all you’ve got to be proud of is your bank account, and I felt like that was a bottomless pit that would lead ot me never having made “enough” and that at the end of it, the bank account wouldn’t actually make me proud.

This took on an unexpected importance the more I realized my responsibilities as an engineer. That I’m responsible for what I build and who I build it for, even if I didn’t mean to do harm when I built it. There is no ethical consumption under capitalism, and there is no ethical labor under capitalism, but there is certainly less ethical labor and more ethical labor. It’s important to me to have those ethical standards for myself, and important to me that I do not allow myself to cross them for my work.

I had some really good conversations with LaunchDarkly about this when I was interviewing, and I’m really confident that I’m going to be as proud looking back on my tenure there as I am on my tenure at HashiCorp.

It’s going to be weird starting a new job after five years. Especially since I know by now that my jobs never turn out to be what I think they’ll be at the beginning, so I’m not fully sure what to expect. I think so much of how HashiCorp works has been ingrained in how I work that it’ll be jarring to be in a new system. But I think that will be healthy, and I’ll learn things from working in new ways.

There’s a quote on the Voyager Golden Record that I’ve loved ever since I read it in one of Becky Chambers' books:

We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are called upon, to be taught if we are fortunate.

I love this quote because of its framing: that we don’t know that we have anything to teach, but if there’s something we know that you want to learn, we are committed to teaching. That we don’t feel entitled to learning from you, but if we are very lucky, we will be taught.

Given LaunchDarkly’s space aesthetic, this has been on my mind as I navigate this transition out of the professional world I know and into one I have guesses about but have yet to explore. One in which I will teach, if called upon, and in which I will be taught, if I’m fortunate.