I’m a professional services consultant for a truly enormous corporation; for two more weeks. I turned in my two week notice today. I think I’m all done working for big companies. I spent 8 years at a major retail chain doing web architecture, middleware and ops and the last 5 years consulting for the hosting, management and monitoring portion of a megacorp.
When I took this job, it was with a group that had been a much smaller, recently acquired company. The feel was still pretty casual, annual reviews were barely a formality, attitudes were laid back and friendly and we rarely had to interact externally to our area. We had separate time tracking, VPN and client systems access. I was told that it still had a small-company feel and they were right mostly. I used a separate VPN for email, travel booking and expense reporting. I was sheltered from the corporation. All the engineers were.
This isn’t a rant about why corporations suck. They’ve got a lot going for them. This one kept me in a 6 figure salary, great benefits and a 6% 401k match. I got paid even when I was benched, although that wasn’t often. If you’re traditionally ambitious(re: mgmt chain), I hear they’re great for that too. If you’re a slacker, you get a pass at a big company. It’s hard to be noticed.
Yeah. It’s hard to be noticed. We’ve been through several re-orgs since I was hired. ProServ was moved out of management and monitoring. The work started getting monotonous. Half of ProServ was re-orgd out of our group. We kept getting moved around. All our dedicated PMs were moved to a central PMO. The ProServ team was largely forgotten except by a few folks who managed our existing client base. Senior management probably forgot we existed. We haven’t had a team meeting in a year. My manager’s manager thinks I’m a man.
About a year ago I realized I was bored. I realized that, if I had to architect one more WebSphere install, I might scream. No interesting work was coming in. Very little work at all was coming in, for that matter. I never lacked for work myself, but half my team was benched. I started thinking about quitting. Then a call came in.
A friend working at one of our current clients was starting a continuous integration project. He used to work for the same megacorp and we’d been friends for years. The work was outside my immediate realm of experience. Learn Ruby, learn a new configuration management tool called Chef and start figuring out how to automate the existing infrastructure at this client. I was skeptical. I’m pretty smart but I have a realistic assessment of my own abilities and I had no coding experience beyond some bash and python scripting.
So I dug in. I learned some Ruby syntax. I started figuring out Chef. It was a steep curve but it was so interesting, fun and exciting that I was thrilled with work for the first time in ages. I learned the term “devops.” I read a bunch of blogs. I got really excited, in that born again annoying kind of way. I knew it too and pretty much kept it to myself, although sometimes at parties, I started gushing if someone asked about work.
I’ve spent the last year doing some awesome work. The client experience has been incredible. The dev teams we’re working next to are practicing agile concepts. We work in a large open space, with pairing monitors everywhere and you can’t throw a pen without hitting corporate issue macs. The dev teams pair and we sometimes cross-team pair on things. Our team has a 10 min standup every morning. We track stories in a tool and showcase at our weekly planning (usually code review since Chef configs aren’t really “featurable”). We’re getting monitors soon and trying to figure out how to hook Chef into graphite to start metricizing.
Something that really resonated with me at Velocity on the last day was Adam Jacob who said, “You can tell the people who are doing devops right because they’re HAPPY all the time.” That’s what it’s been like. I’ve never enjoyed anything so much as I have this last year.
Unfortunately, working for a megacorp has intruded on my professional happiness too many times this year for me to ignore it any longer. I’ve known for a few months that this was coming. The project work I’ve been doing for the last year has been awesome and I don’t want to leave it behind. Growing my Ruby development skills has been super fun and a big challenge. I hope to do more of that going forward and am planning to work on my own projects as well.
In the meantime, I’m going to take a little time off, ride my bike, write some code, evaluate my options and see what’s out there for me.