Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Learning What You Need From A Job

I’ve been working in tech in some form or another since 2011. I’ve had some great jobs, and…. some not so great jobs. But I’ve never really thought about what I wanted in a company that I work for until recently. Partially because I never felt like I had the options available to afford me those considerations. It’s a new thing — but I’m learning that standing up for the kind of culture and environment I want is just as important as a company making sure I will fit in with them.

It can be a difficult paradigm shift, because when you first start in tech, you work with companies that are willing to hire you (unless you are amazing and have many companies fighting for you from the start). You also may not know what kind of culture works best for you — and there are so many. Do you want a small, startup culture with few employees and you wear a lot of hats? Do you want a bigger company with a little bit more structure, yes, but also more internal resources? Do you want a job with a fixed schedule that works for you, or something a little bit more flexible? Do you want to be bleeding edge? Do you want to work with established sets of technology that aren’t liable to change frequently? Do you want to work for yourself?

These are all pretty valid questions, and I didn’t have the answer to many of them until recently. While I have worked for a few different technology companies, I’ve only ever really worked in Operations at one company. And the company had roughly 75 people in Operations. If I wanted something done with the Network, I would walk over to the Networking people. Questions about Security? Just ping the Security guys.

When I was working there, I was a little bit frustrated. There was so much to learn, and I had gatekeepers keeping me from learning about it! How could I possibly learn how networking worked if I never got to touch it? My database management skills would never be up to snuff, we had database people to handle everything (plus, Oracle).

They were however, flexible with letting me switch teams, allowing my knowledge to grow, so that was nice.

I thought that in order to really learn everything I wanted to about Operations — what I really needed was a company with a small Operations teams. That’s what I wanted. To do everything, all by myself.

I was wrong.

Tanja Heffner

Coming to a different timezone and working for a company where I was one of only 2 Operations people (the other being in another country) was really difficult. I learned that I missed having people I could bounce ideas off of, and from where I could be the recipient of their tutelage. My Operations support network was 8 hours behind me, and not super useful during my day-to-day. I tried reaching out on Twitter, but quickly found that it’s difficult (for me, at least) to build a network within Twitter, and there are so many other, bigger names in tech with which to engage.

So I decided to leave, just a few months into my current job. I chose the agile method of failing fast — because I knew deep down the company could never provide me what I preferred.

I hated quitting. I felt like a failure. I was letting the company down. And, well, I felt like a quitter.

I’m slowly coming to terms with the idea that not being a fit in a company is OK. I don’t need a large company with resources, but I do need to have Operations people available to bounce ideas off of (whether inside the company or outside the company, just, around). I’ve also learned that I don’t really want to be in an Operations job where most of it is development-esque — though that may be more difficult to avoid in the coming months. I do not want a company where I feel I cannot advocate (at least partially) for their value proposition. These are just not environments where I thrive.

I love to learn. I love to try new things. But I also love to debate. And I learn through that process of discource.

You can’t have a discussion with a webpage.

I’ve tried.

The webpage was incredibly firm on it’s stance.

So here’s to my next great adventure. I’m going to spend some time really trying to find a company where I feel like the culture is a good fit for me. Because it’s not beneficial to either myself or the company if I’m in a situation where I know I won’t be doing my best work.

And doesn’t both my future company and my sanity deserve the best?

Originally published at on December 8, 2017.