There is a part of me that just wants to spill everything about my job search in blog entries and LinkedIn posts. Some of this would be valuable information for readers, and it would certainly be cathartic for me. However, I don’t think it would be in my best interest when negotiating with potential employers. Women in tech have a reputation for not being great at negotiating or even selling their skillsets to potential employers. I’m aware of these potential weaknesses and cannot afford to further handicap myself there. I have been doing a lot of writing for myself as I think through things. Somehow over the years of writing here, writing has become one of my primary tools for learning and for working things out.
One month after being laid off, there are some things I can share.
Thanks for the Support!
First, I want to thank everyone who has commented on a blog entry and reacted, shared, or commented on LinkedIn posts. In some of the rough patches, I’ve gone back and reviewed these things, and it has greatly helped my confidence and my emotional state. As of the time I’m writing this, there have been 399 reactions to my LinkedIn post about being laid off, along with more than 30 comments and nearly 20 re-shares. I’ve had people from my network and outside of it reach out with solid opportunities and very interesting ideas. The support has been a warm hug, and I needed that after the rejection of being laid off. Thank You.
I pivoted to spend a day at IDUG in Philadelphia, just over a week after I was laid off. I couldn’t do the whole week, as it was my son’s graduation from high school. I went for two main reasons – first, to talk to people about jobs, since I’ve discussed job opportunities in detail at conferences before. Second, I went for the ego boost. One of my favorite things at conferences is when people who read the blog walk up to me and talk to me about either specific technical topics or about how the blog helped them in general. I certainly got that, and it was wonderful. The thing I did not really expect was the general hug from everyone I knew – “How could anyone lay EMBER CROOKS off?”. People with just as many decades of experience as me, if not more, offering support, ideas, and sympathy was just amazing. It makes me even more strongly consider returning to the Db2 community.
I had also already purchased a pass for PerconaLive a week later – a conference focused on MySQL and PostgreSQL. This was a new community for me. I decided to go ahead and go since I had at least a couple of contacts to introduce me around. This was a fun few days I spent mostly hanging out with a couple of former teammates from Shopify. In the end, it made me sadder that I would really miss my former Shopify coworkers, but it also led to some new connections and opportunities. I also sat in some interesting technical sessions. I learned a bunch about PostgreSQL indexes!
Each conference led to at least one solid job lead, so was also worth it on that front. They also taught me to talk unabashedly about being laid off, though this may have been awkward for others.
What is Working and What is NOT
I have yet to get a single response from any application I submitted anywhere cold, and I’ve submitted at least a dozen at this point. All of the opportunities I’m actively interviewing for came through a direct contact. Either someone I actually worked with or someone I knew well from conferences or the Db2 or MySQL communities. This makes me really feel for those who haven’t yet built a solid network. I feel like it might be a tough hill to climb to find a new position in this market in four months or less without a significant network.
This also emphasizes one of the values of being involved in a technical community in whatever way you can that I haven’t previously valued all that much. When you need them, they come to your aid. To some extent, I’m reaping what I’ve spent years sowing, though I never thought of it as an exchange before – I just like sharing what I learn.
Potential Career Directions
Even though I’m deep in the interview process with several great companies, which direction my career goes from here is really up in the air. There are three main options, the way I see it – taking a Db2 role that’s mostly in my comfort zone, taking another technical database role, or taking a technical writing or content creation role. I’m talking to at least one company in each of these categories, and I find something exciting in each role.
I’ve spent two decades building my expertise in Db2 to a very deep level. This makes a Db2-focused job a comfort zone for me. After being laid off, a comfort zone could be nice, but on the other hand I tend to not really like comfort zones. If I end up in a Db2 consulting role, I could even rejoin the IBM Gold Consultant program. Speaking at Db2 conferences is my favorite part of my job.
Non-Db2 Tech Roles
A year ago, I left Db2 for a reason. I found that in a role that had both Db2 and non-Db2 work to accomplish, I gravitated towards the Db2 work. In my last job change, I specifically only considered job roles that involved no Db2 whatsoever. I still waver on whether to hold tight to this decision or not. One thing I learned over the last year is that my deep database skills do put me at an advantage when learning another platform, if the employer is prepared for that. And one of my core personality traits has always been a love of change and learning.
During my last job search, I realized that I could actually make the tech writing that I’ve learned writing this blog a career in itself. I love to write, I always have ideas to write about, and when I’ve worked with a mentor or worked mentoring others in writing, I’ve learned so much. Writing is a skill in itself, and I’ve developed it as it relates to the tone of this blog fairly well. I’ve done less writing in collaborative environments, though I’ve done a fair amount in the more formal tone required for work to document things for the teams I’ve been on.
There are some skills in technical writing and content creation that I’ve always wanted to hone, but have only scratched the surface on. I’d like to be better at generating useful images, and also to spend more time with video as a medium.
The job search does have implications for the blog. I’ve talked to potential employers that would require me to stop writing my blog, essentially (or they would own whatever I wrote). I’ve also talked to potential employers who seem to covet the blog and already seem to be thinking about how they can use it for their product. I’m actually not sure which of these is worse. In the end, an employer supporting me in continuing to fully own and contribute to this blog gets some points in the final decision. I’d prefer to continue the work I’ve started here.
There are several standards that I have for myself that probably hurt me when negotiating with potential employers. First of all, I’m not willing to lie. This also was awkward as a consultant – I wasn’t willing to say I knew how to do something that I didn’t, even when I had the context to quickly figure it out. Sometimes I see the easy lie and immediately run in the other direction.
Secondly, whatever I commit to, I plan to really commit to for at least two years. Every job I’ve had, other than Shopify, I was at for a minimum of two years. This rules out things like accepting one job offer and then abandoning it for another job. Maybe I should have learned from Shopify not being as loyal to me as I was prepared to be to them, but it’s not something about myself I’m willing to change.
Emotional Impact of Being Laid Off
It hurts to be laid off, a lot. I find that most of the time, I’m handling it fine. I’m still getting up in the mornings and exercising and showering and all the good personal stuff. I am spending hours a day on work for finding a job – working on my resume, communications, interviews, searching for opportunities, and preparing for interviews. It feels a lot like a job this way. There are some times when the emotional toll just hits though, and I try to be kind to myself when that happens. I’ve found it hard to get into the things I always wanted time to do, despite having stretches of time. I’ve had a hard time getting into sewing or reading or baking much, and need to find time for that. I may need to structure my days more for that. I have enjoyed afternoon naps though – never really had much of an opportunity for those before! I am hoping I get a couple of weeks between accepting a written offer and starting so I can really just take time to relax.
At last count there were more than 10 of us laid off just from my department, and other talented Shopifolk that I worked with in other departments. If you’re looking to hire people with experience working with large-scale databases (MySQL) in both VM and Kubernetes on cloud environments, let me know, I know some great folks to refer you to at all levels, including some junior folks who don’t yet have an extensive network. I don’t recommend people I don’t know and believe in, and these are people with great skills and attitudes.
Finally, It continues to amaze me that every potential employer I talk to has aspects to the role that I find really exciting and interesting, and each also has at least one aspect that I am wary of. I can see myself working each place and how it could take my career in a direction I want it to go – even when that’s a different direction for each potential employer. I’m also paying attention to the connections I make to the managers and teams. Many are hard to read, particularly at first. The big-tech 4+ rounds of interviews are sometimes tedious, but also give the company more of a chance to show me who they are and give me a better idea of whether I’d like to work there or not. I also know a lot of people in a lot of places, so am often asking questions to understand the culture when I have those connections. Whatever’s next, I’m excited for it, and trust that it will take me in a good direction!