A Year of Lessons
I learned a lot this year. I think my biggest takeaway from 2022 is that there is no clear cut good or bad. Being happy in life is about finding the best balance in tradeoffs from your choices, making sure you always put your family first.
I started 2022 in the depths of one of the worst burnouts i’ve experienced in my entire career. I honestly felt quite trapped, and was unsure how to go about fixing how I felt. There was a lot I did to contribute to that situation, and a lot my employer did, but I will get into that in a different post.
Thankfully we were able to book a short vacation to Disney World in January which helped to give me a small amount of relief. It was incredible be able to take my daughter on her first rollercoaster, and to capture that experience on video. She is such a dare devil.
I’m generally very goal oriented/driven. I set goals for myself regularly, I talk about them, and then I execute on them. At any point in time I usually have a bunch of goals in mind that i’m shifting around to make sure i’m always moving in a forward direction. The last two years leading up to 2022 I watched myself miss the mark, and not achieve goals that were actually pretty reasonable. I tend to set incremental challenges, and goals so it was weird to not be able to achieve them over 3 successive years.
So why aren’t I accomplishing any of my goals anymore?
I obviously had to do some soul searching to figure out what was preventing me from reaching them. I though the work project I was brought into in January would be a good reset. A fresh slate to help me be in a position to learn new technologies, and get some of the passion back for development i was missing lately. I did a deep dive on Kubernetes, and was able to architect a PaaS solution for TRD over the course of a few days. I then went on to build a working POC shortly after. I enjoyed learning, but the anxiety I was feeling, the dread of starting my work day, and the feeling of wanting to escape (and never touch a computer again) was still there.
What i ended up realizing is that the crux of what I personally needed to get out of burnout spiral of death, was to either take months off, or leave TRD.
It’s just a job… right?
I think it’s actually quite difficult to verbalize what it meant for me to leave TRD. I was one of the initial employees there, and when i started i don’t even think there was a git repo. It was a manager, a project manager, myself, and another developer. Everyone except the manager was a new hire. The only thing we had was a desire to be the best at all costs. Our core tenant was to influence the outcome of races with software. I had a hand in designing, architecting, or building (almost) everything produced by the Technology Department for 7 years. We grew the Technology Department from an idea to a team of ~20ish developers, and data scientists which provided products, and services internally, to race teams in Nascar & IMSA, Toyota North America, Toyota Japan, Gazoo Racing, Toyota Research Institue, AVL, consumer software, and more. We presented at AWS Re:Invent. We were officially accused of cheating by Hendricks Motorsports because our software was so good. The comraderie was absolutely insane.
And besides the literal time, emotional, blood, sweat, and tears investment into the department, I grew up in the street racing scene. I drove exclusively Toyotas for years until i got my first turbo car (1988 Mistubishi Starion ESI-R). I had a panda AE86 hachiroku hatchback, red aw11 MR2, celica supra, and more. I can still explain to you all the structure of the engine code designations, and what they mean. I can tell you tidbits about the relationship between yamaha, lotus, and toyota and how they conspired to make some of the best sports cars of the 80s and 90s. But the only thing that matters, is that this was a job I never saw myself leaving. It was essentially the pinnacle of what i wanted…. and I was considering leave it behind.
I stumbled across a podcast called Shelf Healing where they interviewed TinkerSec, a prominent Dallas Texas InfoSec figure, about his burnout. It turns out I was experiencing a lot of the same physical effects he was experiencing. Unfortunately the specific podcast seems to have been taken down, and TinkerSec has moved from twitter to Mastodon, so no relevant links for those things.
I was devastated when I realized if I wanted to continue to grow, to not be stuck in this spiral of burnout, to heal, I had to leave the situation that caused it.
As a last ditch effort, I tried to get some of my good habits back in place prior to actually starting to look for a new position. I started running again, lifting weights, and started doing BJJ at a local Gracie Barra. My daughter turned 3, and we threw a huge party. It was great. My dad came out for an extended visis, and we were expecting our second daughter to be born in June.
I truly did get some joy from these things, but I knew deep down inside that if I was going to make a career move it had to be before my wife gave birth or i would be stuck waiting until the end of 2022.
The big decision
I chose to leave Toyota Racing Development. I started fielding interviews with PlutoTV, AWS, LinkedIn, and a few smaller companies. I absolutely slayed the first round of interviews with all those companies. I was on top of the world. I had an offer I was negotiating with PlutoTV, where they bumped my position up to Lead Software Engineer with RSUs, and was was due for my final with LinkedIn.
Then, just like that, I had my second daughter. Tech jobs started drying up. LinkedIn called me to tell me there was a hiring freeze. I was able to reschedule my final AWS interview for Senior Cloud Architect for a couple days after my daughter was born, but I had only slept a few hours and the 5 hour interview started AFTER an 8 hour marathon planning session at TRD. Needless to say i was not in any kind of shape to shine. It was a huge disappointment to get rejected, but I knew they were not actually able to see who I am, or what I can do from that interview.
And it was right about this time that i started to freak out.
I’m not naive, but I do believe in trust, and holding to your word. My original boss was the department head, and we had a 100% honesty policy. I always told him straight up what was going on, and in he returned the favor. So needless to say, I let him know I was interviewing. I wanted them to be prepared, and have as much time for offboarding/knowledge transfer as possible.
As most things go, my stress/worry was unwarranted, and things ended up being for the best. I got an offer from a seed stage startup as a Staff Software Engineer, and accepted. I love the product, and I see the value in what they’re building. I’m told how happy they are to have me, how much they value my input/experience/work, etc. Although these are things that I value, it doesn’t mean other people do. This brings me to the next thing I was missing.
Remembering who I was
I enjoy highlight other people’s accomplishments. On my teams at work, with my friends, with my family members. I like to tell people they are doing a good job. I like to mentor. I did have a few opportunities to do this at TRD, but not how I would have liked. It’s something I genuinely missed.
There are a lot of ways to give back, mentor, etc. One way I used to do this was with blogging. I fully intend to start it back up, and people like this guy make it easy to want to do it again.
Setting goals again already?????
Last but not least, I decided I want to run an Ultramarathon…. but I wouldn’t feel right running an ultra without running a full marathon first, so I signed up for one in December. This gave me 22 weeks to do a 20 week program.
We ran through Brazos Bend State Park, which I highly recommend you visit if you have not.
I’m started out extremely disappointed about my time, but I did get very sick during the peaking weeks of my plan, and literally couldn’t run at all. I had an absolutely horrible sinus infection, which was so painful I thought I needed a root canal. The dentist is the one who informed me it was actually a sinus infection, and showed me on the x-ray.
The day of the race started at 99% humidity in the mid 70s when we were expecting mid 50s at max. A random storm blew in and just wrecked the day. In training I was running 10:00 miles up to 20 miles. To put that in perspective, I ran an average of 2 minutes and 30 seconds slower PER MILE in the actual race than I did during training. It was pretty rough. I drank 2.6 gallons of water in 5 hours and 45 minutes. I only peed once during the race.
I finished at 5:44. Initially I was very disappointed with my performance until I saw the full race results.
I came in 48/111 who finished. There were 8 DNF, and 17 who didn’t start. So 48/136 isn’t bad :D
Thank you Trail Racing Over Texas, your events are second to none!
I had a couple PRs this year, and as time permits, i’ll be adding my own impossible list to the blog.
- Furthest run: 28 miles
- Best long run pace: 20 miles @ 10:15 pace
- My furthest distance prior to this was 13 miles, and that was 7 or 8 years ago! That’s an increase of 15 miles over my last PR in 22 weeks of training!
I also signed up for a Biathlon (run and gun) in January. It has been wonderful to train for both of these. I’ve been able to rediscover my passion for running while doing my marathon training, and I discovered that road races are trash in comparison to trail races.
At the time of signing up for the RWR Run n Gun - 2023 Series Opener by Old Eighteen Defense, i had 3 weeks to train, so wish me luck.
Mirror Photo by saira on Unsplash