I'm taking a self-funded sabbatical after 8 years of working full-time. It feels like the right thing to do at this stage of my career.
I've had an unusually stable career for a software developer. When I graduated from university in 2011 I interviewed at a few places, including a mid-sized investment firm. I didn't know anything about finance and the… rustic state of their website was a little concerning, but the people seemed great. So I took the job, and told myself I'd stick around for 2 or 3 years.
8 years later I was still at the same company. Orbis offers a lot of different opportunities; I wrangled big financial data systems, ran a small team, got my hands dirty building a modern web stack, and worked in London and Cape Town. It was a blast, and I'd highly recommend Orbis as an employer.
Still, after 8 years, it's time to try something new. I miss the open-ended learning that's so common in school, and I want to explore my technical interests with no regard for immediate relevance to my day job. Gianfranco Chicco's description of a “serendipity break” really resonated with me:
In the note I sent out to my friends and network I mentioned that I’d be undertaking a Serendipity Break, which wasn’t a nice way to say that I wasn’t going to work for a few months but that I wanted to actively explore different possible paths.
In the book The Craftsman, sociologist Richard Sennett describes how “skill builds by moving irregularly, and sometimes by taking detours”, which is akin to keeping the Serendipity Engine in perpetual motion to encourage the strengthening of current skills and allowing the development of new ones.
Leaving a great job at a great company was
a little scary, but I think it's necessary for my
long-term growth. Reading about
Joel Spolsky's sabbaticals
helped a lot; it's reassuring to see successful developers
following similar paths.
My last day at Orbis was July 27th, and since then I've been trying all kinds of things. I've been diving into database internals, rewriting this website, and even learning Lisp/Scheme. I'm not exactly sure where my interests will take me next, but I'm looking forward to finding out.