The Attitude Changes I’ll Need for Returning to Tech

If I return with the attitude I have now, I won’t be able to survive

When I quit my last job as a software engineer, I was very clear about one thing.

If I ever return to tech, I need an attitude change. I don’t know exactly what it consists of, but if I return with the same attitude I have now, I will continue to be miserable. I won’t be able to survive.

Apart from lots of reading, lots of journaling, and lots of day-dreaming, I had no particular plan for how to discover the nature of that change. I don’t know of anybody else who has come to a similar conclusion about their career — including other women in tech. So I had nobody to turn to for help.

I’ve had several “aha” moments while being unemployed. At least two of those are pointing to the necessary attitude changes.

You Can Learn From Books, Not Just On-the-Job

For reasons I can’t explain to anyone anymore, I was a firm believer that the only worthwhile learning happens on the job. I felt that most other sources of information weren’t reliable or useful.

As a result of these beliefs:

  • Many learning opportunities were locked behind unattainable jobs and projects people might not give me. I was at the mercy of other people.
  • When problems arose at work, I frequently deferred to other people’s opinions because I wanted to learn from them. I wasn’t contributing information from external sources that might help solve the issues we were facing.

My eyes were finally opened when I was studying for a job interview. I was answering the hypothetical question “So you want to learn how to scale backend services... How have you worked towards that goal?” I was shocked to discover that I came up fairly empty. I realized that I hadn’t pulled out all the stops to work towards my goals. I had simply waited for the right opportunities to come along. That answer seemed very weak. So I set out to change it.

What I discovered on the Internet surprised me. There are loads of relevant books, blogs, YouTube videos, interview study guides. There’s a ton of (almost) free information out there that I was just unaware of. Software companies are giving talks on the engineering challenges they’ve faced, and how they’ve solved them. It’s all right there, at my fingertips.

So, the learning has begun. On occasion, I’ve found myself learning entirely new things. But I’m also reading books that put my haphazard on-the-job experiences into a structured context. I’m building a stronger foundation for my own career.

You Have to Speak Up

I don’t mean this just in the sense of “I need to speak up to be heard.” What I mean is “I have to speak up, or I’ll be miserable.”

I came to this realization while I was writing about the importance of freely sharing one’s ideas.

My clue: the eczema on my hands was flaring up as I was typing. Clearly, I had hit a nerve.

My eczema first showed up years ago, when I was beginning to become unhappy at work. It was during those days that I first uttered the words “I don’t feel heard at my job.” Until very recently, I never realized that the two phenomena were tightly linked. I’d attributed my eczema to a generic “sexism” and “toxic workplace” that I had no control over.

After years of getting worse and worse, my eczema effectively healed after I quit my job. Over the past couple of months, it has flared up as a warning sign whenever I get close to getting a software engineering job. So I know for sure that the eczema is tightly linked with my mental health.

Now I know that for the sake of my own happiness and mental health, I need to speak up. I need to share my ideas. I need to have an opinion. I need to be honest. I shouldn’t let myself be intimidated into silence.

I’m Optimistic Again

Many things had to come together for me to have these major brainwaves. I’m happy that I’ve finally found the necessary attitude changes for me to survive in the world of tech.

I have onsite interviews coming up next week. I hope I do well and get hired. It sounds like an amazing job opportunity — the job I’ve been holding out for. If I get hired, I can put the “aha” moments above to the test.

For months, I dreaded the prospect of returning to work. Now I can walk into that job with my head held high, optimistic that I can be happy. With the right attitudes, I can make it work.

It’s possible that I’m still missing a piece of the puzzle. I’ll likely encounter new problems. But at least the ideas above should get me off to a good start. Every single time I have one of these brainwaves, I become more confident in my ability to survive in the tech world.