When I started this blog post (it's taken me days and days) it was 6:31am on a Saturday morning. I'm was laying in bed next to my wife with my dog at the foot of the bed. Both if them were sleeping; I was not.
Normally I would chalk up my being up that early to the 6 hours of sleep I got the night before (I've had actually been up since 5:15am when I started this). Apparently 6 hours is my bodies sweet spot for sleep. More than 6 hours and I'm usually a wreck. I'm usually okay with less than 6 hours for a couple days (it's going on almost 15 years now, but who's counting).
But that day was different. That day I was awake because Charity and I have a big decision to make that weekend about my job. Should I stay or should I go? This has been the question on both our minds for several months now.
Looking in from the outside it appears that I've got a very sweet setup at work. I get paid well, I set my own hours (45 - 60 a week) for the most part, I set my own projects or have a lot of input into what my projects are, and the benefits are amazing. But I've been very unhappy at work since last October. Why would someone who has a job like that be unhappy? There's several reasons, but the overarching reason is that I'm learning that a job is much more about what you choose to do with your time at work than what you are doing at work or how much money you're making at work. But that's jumping ahead to the end. To really understand what brought me to my present level of unhappiness about work I need to start back almost two years ago.
Two years ago was when I had my first conversation with my (now previous) manager about my career. It was two years ago that I really started to feel the desire to have the accountability of leadership. I've been a leader at work in unofficial capacities for several years now. What that means is that I've taken responsibility for leadership, making sure I'm setting a good example, mentoring, and etc without having the accountability for leadership. Sounds great right? Wrong. It's in this accountability that one really gets to grow. When you're held accountable to something you strive harder to do it right. I have a lot of natural leadership qualities but I want to grow tremendously in this area. That's why I wanted the accountability to go along with the responsibility in leadership.
For the last two years I've been trying to get my bosses to lay out my career path and help me understand where, from a management perspective, I need to grow. But all I would ever get from them was "you're doing great" and "we should talk later about what you want to do in your career." Not exactly the most encouraging things to hear when all you're looking for is a clear path to excellence. So for the last two years I've been forging my own way setting my own path and doing it all without the feedback or the luxury of knowing from an executive level where the company is heading. So I just had to guess, hope, and pray that where I was steering myself was in the same direction that our executives were steering the company.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the freedom to chart my own path. But it gets really disconcerting when you're trying to chart your own path with a blindfold on and no maps to go by. But in the end (thanks to God) I've been pretty successful. I'm one if the most senior developers at the company and I contribute significantly to the architecture, direction, and best practices we use at work. I'm also currently mentoring a handful of folks on software development best practices. But all of that success has come with a lot of frustration and a general lack of faith in my leadership. After 5 years (I started in 2006) with my company I've unofficially taken on a lot of responsibility but officially I'm in the same position with the same accountability as I was in 2006. All the while I've seen leadership positions come and go and have never been considered for a single one.
Another thing that's been making me unhappy at work is not being able to pursue a lot if my passions for the mobile development world. For the last several years I've been trying to get the company to invest in mobile without much luck. I think that our executives honestly thought mobile was a fad that would pass and they didn't want to invest in the emerging market and "waste" time and company money. This past year I had a breakthrough mostly because apple released the iPad which was a shiny enough object with enough press pre launch to finally catch managements attention. So I worked vigorously prior to the launch of the iPad to create a mobile video experience in HTML5 that would be a pleasure to use on the iPad. Our sites video players are all flash currently because it allowed us to write once and deploy anywhere as Flash is supported on over 95% of desktops connected to the internet. That was, until Apple released the iPad and so vehemently denied Adobe the ability to port Flash to run on the device. So the end result was that I wrote an HTML5 video player and it worked well and is still serving our video to iPads around the world. After that I was given the opportunity to start working on our company's first native iPad application. And very quickly I started unofficially leading this project.
All's well right? Well, not exactly. For three months I had been unofficially leading the app development effort on that project and we were making a lot if headway. By the time my wedding rolled around (August) we had finished 90% of the application. In fact we had made so much headway that the company was talking about creating a devices division and bringing in someone to lead up that effort. I expressed a lot of interest to my boss that I would like to be considered for the job. Remember I'd been talking with him for a little over a year at this point about getting an opportunity to lead in an official capacity. Unfortunately the only responses I ever got were along the lines of "you're too good a developer for us to make you a manger and not have you spending 100% of your time developing."
This was frustrating for many reasons. First I'd shown that I could successfully lead a team and get just as much software development productivity as before. Second it was frustrating because it was a great opportunity that I really wanted to pursue but was told I wasn't allowed because it wasn't in my career path; even though I couldn't get them to tell me what my career path was. Lastly the most frustrating part ended up being that the guy they hired ended up being one of our vice presidents good friends who didn't know, understand, or have any previous experience in the mobile landscape. He's released 2 iPad applications since joining the company. All have been copies of the one that I started (literally copied the code, updated the branding, and added a few features) without understanding the importance of writing reusable software. So now they're stuck with three forks of the same project without a clear way to unify the code base. To make matters worse, after he started he and I butt heads on the direction of the project and I was eventually told "thanks but I've got it from here" and shuffled back to the world if enterprise software and away from a passion if mine. I had invested months on that project and was told several feet from the finish line that my part of the race was over. Frustrating.
Then all if a sudden my boss stopped talking to me one day. No reason, no argument, no nothing. Just one day stopped talking to me. It wasn't for another 6 weeks that I actually got him to acknowledge my existence. When asked if everything was alright or if I had done something wrong he said "no you're doing great, I just have a lot on my mind." I'm all for needing space and time to think and plan. But you can't go 6 weeks without interacting with your direct reports. Those six weeks were some of my most unproductive because I was really worried that I had done something to piss him off. It didn't provide a very secure feeling or a lot of motivation at work. My bosses distance eventually made sense when all of a sudden one day he came in and quit. He had been courting with another large company and just didn't have time for us. Turns out that new job was the "a lot on his mind" that he was mentioning.
There are many many many more things like this that have been contributing to my unhappiness at work. Most of which I don't want to bore you with. But while all of this stuff was going on I had another set of things pulling my heart away from work as well. Charity and I had started getting very involved in service at our church. We were both helping as counselors within our community and started leading the morning children's ministry service which oversees bringing the Gospel to anywhere between 80 and 120 kids at any given service. I had also started playing drums again in one if the children's ministry bands. All if this was very fulfilling. Knowing that you're doing work that will affect peoples lives for eternity is very very fulfilling.
It got me longing for being able to do kingdom work more. God started impressing on my heart that he was calling me to do kingdom work more full time. Not as a pastor or church planter. Just pressing on my heart that he wanted me to be able to use my talents in leadership and software development skills for his glory and his kingdom. He started impressing on my heart that a lot if the frustrations I was dealing with at work were due to my desire to be more fruitful with my skills and talents.
Now this is not to say that everyone should go quit their job and go work for a church. That's not what God was impressing on my heart. God wants us out in the world living as lights for his glory. He wants us on mission at our jobs in retail, in the grocery store, at the gas station, or wherever he has put you. He wants us out bringing the Gospel to our co-workers, our friends, and our family's. No, what he was impressing on my heart was that he was calling me to do something more kingdom focused with the leadership and software talents he had given me. But i didn't know where or what that looked like.
Through this process God had shown me a lot if where my idols were at work. My idols had to do with pursuing the career I wanted, the status I wanted, the influence I wanted, all without asking how any of it was contributing to the kingdom of God. He started showing me that my unhappiness at work wasn't due to anyone at work or to anything that's been happening to me. My unhappiness was stemming from tasting what working for God's kingdom looked like (through our service at church) and not having that at my day job.
Still I didn't know what this looked like or what God wanted me to do. I couldn't just quit my job and wait for a sign. That would be foolish and I would be going against what God had called me to as a husband and leader at home. My work decisions affect who God is asking me to be as a provider for my family, as a leader to my wife, and as a financial steward of the gifts God has given me. I was being asked to be patient while God molded my heart to better understand his will. It was hard to be patient. I wanted to be happy but God wanted me to be holy.
That brings us back to the present. Well, closer to the present. Several weeks ago a friend if mine who owns a small software company down the street from my house half jokingly and half serious asked me if I'd consider coming to work for him. He owns a company that started out doing consulting on design work. Over the last few years he and his company have been working on a platform which allows churches to reach a wider audience utilizing the web and mobile applications. Their platform allows churches to make their sermons, music, events, blog, giving, and etc available on your smart phone, iPad, or web thus spreading the word of God and helping to fulfill His mission to make disciples of all nations. I wasn't sure if my friend was serious or not but it started conversations at home between Charity and I about whether or not something like that would be feasible or not.
Our big concerns were with being able to honor the commitments we had made both financially and personally. We have certain financial obligations that we've taken on like our mortgage that wouldn't be something God would want us to walk away from. He wants us to trust that he'll provide for us but to do a good job managing what he has provided. We had also taken on some personal commitments with our condo (rental property) that had financial implications. We increased our financial burden on the condo by lowering the rent several hundred dollars in order to bless a family who felt called to be on mission in Seattle.
So neither one of us was sure we could actually consider from a financial stand point taking this job. But there are other concerns that we had on our hearts about the security of work and about possibly having a baby in the next year or two. These two things actually lead to some great conversations between Charity and I. There were a lot idols in our lives revolving around my job that we weren't aware of. Idols that were standing in the way of our being able to fully trust that God would provide for us and that God had a plan for us.
So we talked and we prayed. I sought wise counsel from my friends and family. I talked extensively with my friend about where Charity and I were and what God had laid on our hearts in terms of finances and our commitments. And after a few weeks my friend came back to us with a plan that allowed us to honor those commitments while also allowing us to root out some of our idols by allowing us to learn to trust that God will and does provide. So after some more thought and prayer Charity and I decided this was where God was leading us as a family. We tested this plan against the character of God in the bible and against what the bible says about leading, being good stewards, sacrifice, and stewardship. And through that we were able to confidently say it was God's will for us to take this job.
So Friday is my last day at my current job. I'm excited about the leadership opportunities that God has laid out for me in my new job. I'm excited to write really great software that brings the word of God to more and more people. I'm excited to be able to mentor other people in software development and to be mentored my self. I'm excited for the next phase of life that God has me in where he's teaching me how to live what I learn. I'm excited at the chance for my wife and I to put some of our idols to rest. But most of all I'm excited to have a wonderful wife who is willing to help me and walk with me through this process.