Eight Months Later, I’m Happy I was Laid Off

I’d really like to thank Shopify for laying me off back in May. I am so much happier in this role, and already starting to feel competent, only six months in. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton to learn, but I have a core of knowledge, strategies for learning, and am enjoying applying my skills in content creation as I learn.

It feels to me like Shopify was the first new big tech company I worked for. A company where the experience was more akin to FAANG and other silicon valley tech than the old-school tech, retail, or consulting companies I had worked for in the past. The environment was astoundingly different to me. I was introduced to the idea of a staff (or higher) engineer as someone who not only excels at tech, but also levels up the people around me. This was a role I had been playing for years, mentoring those around me and those in the Db2 community. It felt at the time like this was an important role to play. While I didn’t have time to get fully sick of the monkey-wrenches that leadership was throwing at the technical contributors, I did feel the chaos caused by headline generating things like a novel compensation change, wholesale deletion of meetings, and arbitrary changes in how employees communicated with each other.

At Shopify, I had a manager who did an excellent job of sheltering me from some of the politics that were in play. I had an amazing mentor who taught me about MySQL at the deepest levels, and who genuinely seemed interested in learning how the platform I knew – Db2 – did things as well. That was what made my year there positive.

I was devastated to be laid off. I know that no one who had actually met me made the decision, but it still felt like I had failed to properly add value in a way the organization cared about. It felt like a validation of all the lies that imposter syndrome tells. I cried for most of the first day, but I got up the next day and moved on with finding the next thing.

It felt at the time like going back to Db2 would be a good option. I had been talking off and on to some contacts at Amazon about a role there working with the launch of Db2 on RDS. If you had asked me before I started the job search, I would have expected to end up there. Unfortunately the hiring freeze there was more solid than I expected. There’s surely an alternate timeline where I was there and involved with re:invent last week and the announcement of Db2 on RDS.

I did end up with a couple of opportunities to work with Db2 for consulting companies. However, I didn’t feel like Db2 was the place for me anymore. Yes, the answers to Db2 questions still pop into my head like I never stopped, but the fundamental reasons I took a job with no relationship to Db2 remained. I wanted to learn and grow in new directions.

When I sat down with the offers in front of me, I had two technical writing, one content creation, one database evangelist, a Db2 consulting role, and one deeply technical role at Snowflake working with database performance. One of the opportunities on the table told me they saw me as a “strategic hire”, and though I would be coming in as a technical writer, I would have the opportunity to move to a different role if I wanted in the future. This was very appealing, as I’ve often wondered what it would look like for the writing and content creation that I do on the side to become my day job. Three of the companies had teams that I could just imagine fitting right in with immediately. The siren of database performance, even if not on the platforms I knew was just too much to ignore.

How I managed to get two different opportunities to switch RDMBS while maintaining senior level responsibilities in the course of two years, I have no idea. Each have come with mentors who really put in the work to help me succeed. I would have thought this rare, but it should be a lesson to others as well – you’re not stuck with the platform you know well – many of your skills will translate to other platforms.

The top reason I am glad I chose Snowflake is that it’s a fairly mature organization with leadership I really can believe in. The rate of change is still fast, as it is in most of tech. The work is just the best kind of technical depth. It requires me to understand the architecture of the product and to interact with customers in the real world on real technical problems that vary in depth and complexity. It takes advantage of my skills in content creation for internal assets and eventually some external content. And it comes with a great set of coworkers who are making sure I succeed.

I did struggle at first with the Silicon Valley approach to some things that felt so similar to Shopify. It was almost like PTSD the panic I would feel if I couldn’t log into something for a bit or if my manager put a last-minute meeting on my calendar. I’m learning to trust again in this area and just accepting and dealing with these responses in myself.

I currently have a minor struggle figuring out what works well for me to blog about and what doesn’t. I have never really worked for a vendor before. I started my career at IBM, but I was in Global Services in consulting-like roles, not anywhere near the product side. I can’t share information about internal-only tools or specific problems for specific customers. Working for a vendor now, I have to navigate what is appropriate to share and how to best share it. Thank you for bearing with me while I figure that out. I have some ideas for content and am working through how to best present it.

I do miss the Db2 community. It felt like a warm hug going to IDUG for a couple of days right after being laid off. There is satisfaction in knowing many of the technical answers and knowing how to find the other technical answers. It was really hard last week to see Db2 on RDS be announced, when it was something I had been advocating for since at least 2015, and had solid inside knowledge that it was likely to happen since at least early 2021. But the community moves on without me, and I’m happy to have played the role that I did.

I could not have predicted 5 years ago that this was where I would be, and I can’t wait to see what the next 5 years bring. I have so much more to learn and to contribute, and as always I am optimistic for the future of what I can learn and share with others. It has sure been a roller-coaster of a year – may next year be boring by comparison, but full of interesting technical problems!

Ember Crooks
Ember Crooks

Ember is always curious and thrives on change. She has built internationally recognized expertise in IBM Db2, spent a year working with high-volume MySQL, and is now learning Snowflake. Ember shares both posts about her core skill sets and her journey learning Snowflake.

Ember lives in Denver and work from home

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Ember,
    Just want to say this article truly touches my heart. I also started my career with IBM global services and help customers with Db2. I got in Amazon before the hiring freeze and am helping customers moving their Db2 workload into AWS.
    You Db2 articles are frequently referred in my daily job.

  2. I started back in DB2 UDB v1.2.1(?) (maybe earlier), setting up OS/2 machines with 2x1gig hard drives and 32mb of memory for local branch database at a motor club company. My background was mostly Mainframe to that point, and I moved from a MVS Systems Programmer position to help the other DBA setup and test machines for local operations. I forget when replication came into play, but those machines ran Db2 quite well, even better with 48mb of memory. I worked my way through all of the versions and left the company after 32+ years, and took a year off. Now I am contracting as a Db2 (11.5.8) DBA at a large Insurance company. Everything must be moved to to AWS by a certain date, but it doesn’t have to be Db2. I’ve only done a little dabbling in GCP years ago. Apparently it is hard to find good Db2 LUW DBA’s anymore. Either people are holding onto their jobs, or they are converting their skills to other systems. Whether it is that, or most everyone is now a contractor, the community doesn’t feel the same anymore, at least that is how I see it.
    This job gives me a chance to do what I know best, but learn some new things.
    Some of your posts got me past some tricky things, so I appreciated you taking the time and putting good intel out there.

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