I’ve been lucky in my career in that I’ve been able to keep a balance between my work life and my home life. If you’ve read anything about the technology industry, you know that these jobs have a tendency to be all-consuming: stories of people sleeping in their office, or working through weekends are not fiction — they’re reality. I recently read the fascinating story of the initial release of Windows NT. 4 years of people’s lives were consumed creating the last operating system ever to be built from scratch… It was a gargantuan effort, but that level of commitment isn’t unusual for my peers and leaders.
And to be clear, I’ve put in my overtime. In the early 2000s, just married and in my first real job, I worked for a year and a half, often late into the night, on AppCentre — a web-based container for AJAX applications, long before anyone knew what AJAX applications were. I bled code and learned a lot through the process. The company who owned that IP is long gone now, but at the time, the project was the most exciting thing I’d ever lost weeks of sleep over.
My patient wife put up with that — and with the multiple moves that have followed as my career grew — but once we had kids, I no longer found the creation of code to be the most important outlet in my life. With my previous role, distance from the head office forced a high-latency work day; no less demanding, but with plenty of time at home to spend with my kids. My new role is of significantly lower-latency. Back in an office, in an environment where things change quickly and furiously, for 10ish hours a day, there’s barely time to use the bathroom, much less spend with my kids.
In exchange, I’ve decided to clearly delineate home life. While before I was working where ever I was, now I work only at work. To that end, I don’t have a desk at home — I don’t even have a computer. I have a laptop from work, but I try not to bring it home, and if I bring it home, I try not to turn it on. The mixed blessing of the smart phone means I can be responsive to work if I need to, but even that I try to ignore. I’ve paired down my collection of gadgets to only what’s needed in the home, and installed my historic technology trophies in my little half-office at work. On the main floor of the house, anything higher-tech than the microwave can be hidden behind a cabinet door — even the TV can get put away. On the top floor, there’s an allowance for a decent home theater — but the LaserDisc player from 1992 has the same pride of place as the receiver from 2011 — and a little desk with Nic’s old laptop and our printer, which are for family use as the kid’s get old enough for school projects.
If Ben’s (or Abi or Eli) curiosity drives him toward technology, we’ll make room to explore such things, but he won’t grow up surrounded by artifacts from my career. Daddy has a job, but at home at least, the job does not define Daddy.
That said, I spent Monday in Silicon Valley this week, treading on ground stomped by some of the legends of this industry that I’m part of. Reading the stories of the once-young men and women who are now giants shaping the face of the planet through technology, still stirs a passion and excitement about what it is I do. In little more than 3 decades, a generation of dreamers discovered, invented and intuited the digital fabric that defines the world my kids will grow up in. I still wake up almost every day from dreams about where this job can go. And go to bed every night astounded and blessed that I’m living the dreams I had 10 years ago…