Unexpected Career Turn

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It’s amazing that I’ve had a 22-year career in tech, and until last week, I had never been laid off. Last week, I was a victim of the 20% layoffs at Shopify. Along with me came very talented people with years of experience there.

Just the Facts

I started out my Thursday morning excited for a presentation I was about to do on BLOBs and some of the implications and gotchas of larger data types in MySQL. My mentor had given me some ideas for improvements, and I logged in at my usual early hour to get them incorporated into the presentation before an 8 am session. I developed the format of this session, and nearly always had great questions and bounced back and forth between the technical details and the best practices.

I pulled up slack and instead of the normal rich list of channels, I saw a single tile on it that said “Farewell”. I think I verbally said “no, no, no!” while pulling up my email to read the email telling me that I was no longer employed by Shopify.

I’m not going to write about the actual layoff beyond that.

What’s Next?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Shopify. I don’t think I’d change taking the risk to learn a new RDBMS platform – it has taught me so much in so many different directions. My role at Shopify was partially focused on learning, and sharing that knowledge with others. I ran a session every week or two where I took a MySQL topic and covered it in detail. Sometimes it was a fundamental topic like buffer pools, and I covered the technical aspects of it. Sometimes it was a question or problem we had recently experienced and I ran through the details for everyone to talk about. I also spent time building out a sandbox environment that made it easy for people to set up and experiment with MySQL locally. I spent a fair amount of time answering the questions that came in from developers or mentoring the team who answered these to help them answer them better. These were the parts of the job I loved most.

My biggest problem now is what I want to do next. I don’t know if it seems like this to anyone else, but I feel like I’m constantly re-answering the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?”. While my immediate gut answer is still “Melanie Stopfer”, her role doesn’t really exist any more. I spent a lot of the last year talking about some of the deep architectural differences between MySQL and Db2, and in those conversations, PostgreSQL also came up. I’ve been side-eying PostgreSQL as something that would be really interesting to work with. On the other hand, the last year has been a lot of hard work outside of my comfort zone. I don’t really know yet whether I’m addicted to learning or whether I want to go back to my comfort zone. After the traumatic experience of being laid off, a comfort zone sure sounds nice.

I’m actively seeking opportunities, and after having had just a few discussions here and there, I’m already excited about what might be next. I can see several different directions that would be amazing. I would be really interested in returning to a consultant role where I could do some work for clients and somehow have teaching and writing as a part of my day job. I love digging into interesting technical requirements or problems and working through them. I love training people while setting up systems or doing the actual work. I like automation, helping develop it and helping to define and automate runbook processes. Query performance is a puzzle I love to play with, and something I am qualified to do both on MySQL and on Db2. It would also be fun to work with a really big Db2 implementation, and really just help it sing. Each person I’ve talked to so far has added one more item to my list of things to potentially be excited about. There are just so many interesting directions to go!

I know I don’t want to manage people. I do fine with people. I love mentoring, teaching, and working with people. I just don’t want to manage them.

Upcoming Conferences

I wasn’t originally planning to go to the IDUG North American technical conference in Philadelphia next week. My son is graduating high school on Wednesday – right in the middle of the conference. I’ve decided I’ll be in town on Monday and Tuesday, and go to the first day of the conference. This serves two purposes for me. The first is networking and looking for my next opportunity. The second is the ego boost of being around people who value my work and my contributions, which I could really use after the trauma of being laid off. Look me up if you’re there!

I had also already bought my pass for Percona Live in Denver, so I’ll be there the week after. Would love to know if there are any friendly faces there! If you’re going, drop me a comment or an email and we can meet up.

Summary

In summary, if you’re hiring for a database professional (or know of someone who is!), reach out to me on LinkedIN. I’m excited to see what comes next!

Ember is always curious and thrives on change. She has built internationally recognized expertise in IBM Db2, and is now pivoting to focus on learning MySQL. Ember shares both posts about her core skill set and her journey learning MySQL. Ember lives in Denver and work from home

10 comments

  1. I always wanted to be Ember Crooks when I grow up – since my db2 career start 10 years ago.
    Hold on – my heroine.

  2. Layoffs are a real gut punch, but I know that you will end up just fine and learn even more technologies. Take Care

  3. Thanks for sharing. Your reputation precedes you everywhere you go. I’m sure this is just another step for the grand journey you’re taking.

  4. As someone who worked with ember these last 12 months I am devastated she is gone.
    Always looked forward to our chats and always came away with more than I walked in with.

  5. It would be too easy to say, “Ember, welcome back to Db2”. You tasted the other side and it makes no sense to come back to a place you’ve left behind in search for new shores.
    I’m looking forward meeting you again in Philadelphia!

    Cheers
    Roland

    1. I was so excited when we convinced Ember to join us at Shopify, I knew it was going to be a long shot. But she was so open to the challenge of learning new things, and in the meantime applying her vast industry experience that it was a perfect match. Layoffs are part of the industry, but losing people like Ember is a serious blow.

  6. Hi Ember,
    Thanks for sharing the experience. For years, as a db2 dba, I have followed your blog for all the interesting db2 topics. 5-6 years back, I decided to jump, feet first, in a startup using only SQL Server. In couple of years, I moved the data infrastructure completely to AWS and in a variety of databases, PostgreSQL, MySQL, DynamoDB, Redshift and of course SQL Server. It has been an interesting learning and journey for me till now. I feel comfortable learning/using any database now, sql or nosql.
    Whole point of iterating my experience is the hope that you will also continue to learn new databases and take us along in that journey.

  7. You said “Db2 was so comfortable and easy”, SURVEY SAYS as well 🙂
    Regardless, Db2 user community need you to stay “live” 😉
    Thank you Amber.

  8. Very well drafted with a right balance of emotions and the great attitude of being a strong technical women. I am sure you would get a great opportunity soon, which will certainly lift you up! God bless.

    I just remember signing up for your newsletter a few years ago, right after going through one single article of this website on DB2 🙂 Thanks for sharing this with us, and we always love you for what you do! Keep rocking.

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