Sun, Aug 8, 2021
Read in 10 minutes
I have decided to try going on a Sabbatical so that I can focus on stuff that interests me outside of my current employment at Wandera. This post is meant to be a brain dump summarising my goals and fears.
Being employed had its perks and I’m grateful for the opportunities I had been given at Wandera (now sold to Jamf) but because I didn’t want to commit to the management track unconditionally, there wasn’t a lot of personal development going on in the last year or more.
There are certainly people that have the ability to be creative outside of work even when they are employed, working for someone else. Unfortunately I haven’t been gifted with this ability because even when I’m not officially working, I tend to spend a significant amount of time thinking about the “main” project I’m working on.
That’s why I decided to move on and live without an employer for a while by going on a Sabbatical.
The ultimate motivation and goal of my Sabbatical is to wind down a little after spending a fair amount of time working in an employer/employee relationship (7 years in total, 5 years in my last job). Winding down doesn’t mean doing nothing, quite the opposite. The decision to go on a Sabbatical was heavily influenced by my desire to continue self-improvement in both my professional and personal life. I’ve divided my main goals into several different subcategories that helped me sorting through my thoughts and pick things that I’d like to do.
My wife has been building a bootstrapped accounting consulting business and we would like to advance it to the next level by creating an internal document management system that our customers can use for data exchange and displaying financial reports in a digestible way. One of the main goals of my sabbatical is to see the system work in production and develop it into a useful product even if it’s going to be for a fairly small number of people. Being an entrepreneur also requires a lot of grit which I sometimes lack. I unfortunately wasn’t strong enough to work on anything substantial on the side when I was an employee so I first have to build my creativity back up again and start coming up with some ideas for projects that might earn me some income. I’ve never been a fan of startups (although it was fun working for one in the beginning of my career), so I definitely don’t want to start a company with external funding. On the contrary, my lifelong dream has been to have several small projects that I would build in a small team or completely alone and that would come with a recurring income that could provide me with the means to live simple and frugal life.
I love programming and technology and I also like to work on an assortment of different projects at the same time. It would also make me sad if I had to give up mobile development and all the experience I’ve acquired over the last 7 years. Since I ultimately don’t want to be sad, I’d like to split my time between the accounting system and mobile development, either working on my own projects (I’m planning to compile a list with more details for each of them), using them as a vehicle to learn new technologies and possibly even trying to monetise them.
I’m also intrigued by the idea of having a personal brand. There are certainly developers that are well-known in their respective communities and here I’m not necessarily talking about cult followings (definitely not interested in that) but rather about professionals that are your go-to people when you want to solve a particular problem. For me, having a personal brand means that I will have a (technical) blog that is read and found useful by some people and also be seen by other professionals as someone who might be a role model to them or who might introduce them to interesting ideas and concepts around programming. The opportunity to mentor younger and less experienced people (sometimes those who weren’t so lucky and might not have had as many opportunities as me) that comes with it would also be really fulfilling.
I don’t want to sound old because I’m not by any existing social standards but I’ve started to feel my age in the past few years. It usually manifests itself as a very subtle reminder in a form of a signal that my body gives me when I don’t properly care about the amount of sleep I get, sit too much without stretching or overtrain myself by doing a strenuous exercise after a longer pause with none. I’ve also discovered that my mental performance is at its highest when I don’t have any aches and I feel physically fit (yeah, I know it’s obvious and considered common knowledge). The problem is that I’ve never created a strong habit to exercise regularly. When my schedule was full or the life was too stressful, I always fell of the bandwagon and stopped doing sports. Since there shouldn’t be a lot of external pressure on me during the Sabbatical, ultimately freeing my schedule to do what I desire, it shouldn’t be a problem to incorporate daily exercise (my favourite still being swimming, bodyweight exercises/stretching or long walks with my dog in nature).
I picked up crafting from leather as a hobby around the time the coronavirus craziness started. I’ve been enjoying the process but I’ve never been especially gifted when it comes to manual work so it takes a lot of time to craft even the simplest products. Since I would like to eventually get to a level where I’m able to sell the products I will have made, I need to put in the hours that are required to shape me into a leather-crafting journeyman. People usually don’t have time for their hobbies but I’m now in a unique position where I can have all the time in the world.
I also always loved working with dogs and training them and lately became interested in canistherapy training. Although one of our dogs is too old for this and the younger one is probably too temperamental, I’d like to give it a shot by training her and get her accustomed to different situations by training her to behave in a calm manner. I’m almost sure that this won’t bear any significant results (her temperament really is crazy) but I’m sure I’ll enjoy the process because there are very few things in life that give me as much joy as seeing progress that stems from animal training.
Every big decision that has the potential to change a person’s life is usually accompanied by a general fear of the unknown. That fear shouldn’t be ignored but instead evaluated within a rational framework. The best method to do the evaluation I’ve found so far is using the question “What’s the worst that can happen?”.
Sometimes the answer might be “I could die immediately if I do this” at which point you should probably reconsider doing the thing you were planning to do.
But most of the time, the answer is completely different and even the worst outcome doesn’t seem to be that bad. That conclusion helps to contain the fear (which is emotional) back inside rational boundaries and might also help to cope with the situation if the worst outcome really happened.
Since I’m as human as everyone else, I have very concrete fears that I had to run through the “filter” I mentioned above.
I have a tendency to get stuck in a rut for prolonged periods of time when something throws me off momentarily. It could be a failed project, a fight with my partner or anything else that reminds me that my time on Earth is limited. I’ve been trying to eliminate this behaviour and it’s definitely getting better since I noticed that the unproductive periods got shorter over the last few years. They still happen from time to time so I fear that my Sabbatical could turn into a year-long self-loathing experience.
To mitigate this fear and decrease the probability that I will get stuck in a rut I plan to stream (almost) every day on Twitch to give my life at least some structure and to feel a little bit of external pressure. I’ve already started streaming and building a community around my channel. I’ve already achieved the affiliate status on Twitch so now when my Sabbatical starts, I’m already accustomed to the routine and I have something that I’m used to doing every day.
Although me and my wife have been living conservatively and managed to pay off a big portion of our debts from our salaries and the bonus that I got when the company that I’ve previously worked for got sold, I’ll always have some doubts that we might run out of money and I’ll be forced to find a tedious job just to get by.
Rational me tells me that this is highly unlikely but at the same time I try to condition myself for the possibility that it happens. I didn’t burn any bridges at my previous company (in the case I decided to come back) but I cannot really predict how the situation is going to look like in a year.
I might also agree to do some contracting work if I’ll feel that it aligns with the rest of my goals. I want to build at least some presentable portfolio of my work so why not get paid along the way.
The Sabbatical should be about me and my personal development but I cannot shake off the need to be productive in an external sense by providing people around me some value. Putting that into a context, in my head that means that I’d like to finish at least some minor projects and see them being used by a few people.
There is no immediate remedy for this particular fear but voicing it out is supposed to help me keep this constraint in mind in the long term.
This is a fairly insignificant fear and is closely related to the previous one. I have a tendency to jump from project to project, often without finishing anything. The worst case scenario that might happen here is that I won’t really finish any projects but the experience that has come along with working on them is not going to just fade away. My goal is to explore, not to have laser focus on a single thing.
It’s unlikely that the job market will take an unpredictable turn before I will have finished my Sabbatical. Even in the case the situation won’t change, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get through the HR sieve when I have an awkward gap in my resume.
I’ve never had a strong professional network and I’m not particularly sure that people will remember me after I’ve left my current company. That usually means that nobody will recommend me to their future employers. With that said, I haven’t severed any ties at Wandera and I think that there might be people willing to work with me even after I have left.
Change is scary but there probably won’t be a better time to try stuff like this. I’ve managed to go through all my fears, address them and start my journey with a calm mind. Of course anything can happen but I think I have strong foundations to deal with problems that might arise. My initial plan is to do this for a year and the re-evaluate my current life situation. If I fail to find a side-income that could sustain this “lifestyle” for more than a year, I’ll at least know that I’ve tried and happily go work for someone that can offer me stable income.