Saturday, February 27, 2021

Perfectly Overwhelmed

It's been a long time with no blog posts. In part that's because of my newish role at work. I interact with a lot of people and so any talk I have about others at work would be immediately obvious who I was talking about, and I don't want to write anything about my friends without their consent. It's also due to my running being so mediocre compared to where it was prior to 2018 and the pulmonary embolism and broken ankle. Next, I haven't felt exactly like I'm "learning to do" a lot in 2020, it was kind of a rough year, with a lot of triage just doing, and not taking the time to learn. I took time to reflect, but not necessarily learn. Then of course taking care of my own mental health. On the upside I have a girlfriend, and that's going really really well. For example, we spent six hours together the other day and spent about five of those hours talking with each other, it's pretty great.

Let me get to the point, in my department we've had five new people start in the last six months including two in essentially the same role I have. All sorts of great questions have come up, such as, "What should I be working on?" We've come up with a prioritization system of the daily highest priorities to address that. The next issue is dealing with the volume of work that is headed at our little group. It's actually been comforting to me as my new coworkers become "overwhelmed" because that's exactly how I felt at the end of the summer as we were trying to ship a lot of product and people I was relying on were leaving the company for more money and a more suitable culture to their personalities. Plus, back then there was no one to ask for help. The defining moment was a Saturday when I and another coworker who has been at our company for two years showed up for half an hour when FedEx arrived to pick up a Custom Critical shipment to a customer (who still have not used the product yet months later). It was simply exhausting, and it just felt very isolating because instead of having a team to help I felt like, 'who's going to do this, because person X and Y left? ... I guess I'm going to do this.'

The situation was clearly an issue, so we reorganized and hired those five people I'm talking about. We've started to hit a stride in the last couple weeks. We're kind of at the peak wave for paper work in 2020 in my department. In other words, in a few weeks the changes will have settled down so the paperwork is taken care of and it's really hardware problems we're dealing with, which is of course more fun. There will likely be another paperwork surge late in 2021, but depending on how the next few months of design go, it may be 2022. 

The point being, the new employees seem to be perfectly overwhelmed. It's crept up to too overwhelmed at times, and when that happens I try to step in and ease the burden, but I'll admit I can only do so much, and frankly most of them have skills I don't have. At many of the old established companies things move so slow people are not engaged, they are not overwhelmed at all. Often the expected daily work can be done in half a day by an experienced employee. At some of the other startups in my industry people are too overwhelmed and just burn out after several years. There is this happy medium where the work is exciting, there is a lot of it, and when you leave at the end of the day you feel like you did enough and aren't letting the company down because you want to go on a run and take care of your mental health and family. I think we're pretty close to perfect in that realm. Personally I think we are closer to the burnout side than the not engaged side, but close enough that I'm not a black sheep when I leave at 4 PM for the day. 

I've been excited the whole time I've been at my current company, all two years and five months of it, but recently I've gotten to be the most excited I've ever been about it. It's like the feeling when you leave the South Col at 8:30 pm for the summit of Mt. Everest. I had been waiting 12 years for that night, and when it happens, and the weather is objectively great you know it's going to be a good day just doing what you've been preparing to do for years. That's how I feel now at work. We're not at the summit but we know what it takes, and the path is incredibly clear the next year and a half. 

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