My year-long sabbatical

That’s right, I’m going to be very intentionally not going to work for a year. While it’s technically a leave of absence, I’ve been calling it my sabbatical. The best news of all: Daniel is going to join me!

Everyone at work keeps asking where I’m traveling on sabbatical. I find it amusing that the assumption is that I’m going somewhere besides Seattle1. While it’s true we will be doing some of that, we’ll be here in Seattle for the next several months enjoying the beautiful PNW summer.

The brainstorming list Daniel and I have come up for the sabbatical would take far, far more than a year so there’s no worry about finding things to do. That list includes a ton of local things like glassblowing, pottery, SANCA (ie: circus school), kayaking, hiking, biking, rock climbing, running, reading, lounging in the parks, trips out to Alki, gardening, canning, game nights, and Sonic runs2; as well as some travel to places like Denver, the bay area, Austin/San Antonio, Washington DC area, RTP, among others. There’s at least one international trip on our docket as well — the problem is just deciding where and when!

I intend to use some of the time for personal projects that have been either neglected or abandoned, including some Distributed Proofreaders tasks. I hope to pick up some new skills like knitting and re-learning how to play the piano. I have a small list of personal growth goals to work towards as well.

Here’s to new adventures!

1 This tells me that most people would opt to get away from where they live with time off of work. Or that they are all independently wealthy and could afford to travel the globe for an entire year.

2 You totally saw that coming.

A leave of absence from EMC Isilon

Starting June 15th, I will be taking a one year unpaid leave of absence from EMC Isilon.

The reason for the leave of absence is that I’m burned out. Crispy critter burned out. Although I’m not going to go into detail on exactly why, the 30k-foot version is that I held myself to too-high a standard on some projects that drastically, and negatively, impacted my work-life balance to the point where I was mentally and physically exhausted when I came home from work. Every day. For months.

I’m looking forward to mentally rebooting myself and hopefully learn some skills on how to help prevent this in the future.

That said, it’s incredibly difficult to leave EMC Isilon right now. It’s hard to leave just before the next version of OneFS1 ships. I’m super excited about the work that the entire engineering team has done for this release and would love to see it complete. It’s also hard to leave right when DuctTape is releasing some cool new functionality and significantly increased capacity.

Still, taking some time off is most certainly the right decision for my mental and physical health and I leave the projects I was working on in very capable hands.

1 According to the interwebs, the code-name of the next release is not yet public, and I’m not about to be the one to make it so!

Trying to quit

[This post was non-public when first posted.]

On Monday I gave my 4-weeks notice — it was not well received. Jonathan didn’t try to talk me out of it though. He said knowing me it wouldn’t do any good since I give things lots of thought before acting on them. He did, however, throw out the idea of a leave of absence.

As a rule, a 3-month leave of absence is the most they do which I said was a non-starter. It’s going to take them much more than 3 months to address some of the systematic issues that has me burnt out and leaving. Jonathan and HR are in the process of seeing if EMC will do a year’s leave of absence instead. We’ll see how flexible EMC wants to be.

The most flattering part of all of this is management’s view that my departure is going to be very impactful to the org from a morale perspective. I’m not sure I agree with that, but it’s flattering all the same.

I also discovered this week that 3 other well-respected and long-tenured people are leaving in the next few weeks, which makes me sad for Isilon and a bit guilty for being a 4th.

Work-life balance: quantity and quality

Up until recently I’ve always considered “work-life balance” to equate with a measure of quantity. That is, establishing and maintaining a healthy balance between the time one spends at work and the time one spends at home. For those of us in tech, and increasingly in other industries as well, the lines between the two can get blurry.

Checking work email after hours? Shopping for a gift for your niece on Amazon during the work day? Dialing into that work call after dinner? Running that errand in the middle of the afternoon? Working from home and doing laundry at the same time? These things really blur the line between doing home stuff and work and work stuff at home.

But “work life balance” is more than just quantity, it’s also quality: how does the quality of your life at work compare to the quality of your life at home? Are they positively influencing each other or dragging one another down?

For the past 8 months I’ve had a negative work-life-balance in quantity — checking and responding to work emails when I got up at 4:45a, working through lunch, thinking about work even when I got home, etc. In April I decided that needed to change and started protecting my “home time”, attempting to shift the scale of work-life-balance a bit more towards life. And it largely worked, at least in quantity.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago around mid-April that the quality aspect hit me. Some projects at work were sapping my energy. These were projects that I’d involved myself in because I saw an area that needed help, not because anyone had asked me to, and in doing so I’d stretched myself thin. Last week I started to pull away from those projects leaving them in the hands of the folks assigned to them. This has begun to improve my quality of life at work (and likely been a relief to the people on the project who never asked for my help anyway).

I’m also working on enhancing the quality of my life inside and outside of work. Re-engaging with friends after work. Reading a book during lunch at the office. Empowering myself to work from home during May Day. Little things that make a big difference.