On moving on towards tomorrow
Ezra MorseMarch 31, 2021
“The mountains are calling and I must go.— John Muir
For nearly a decade, Mt. Arrowsmith gazed down upon me, as if chiding me. Modestly boasting a mere 6000 feet, this "jagged face"—as translated from the Coast Salish word "Kulth-ka-choolth"—stands resolute above the villages on Vancouver Island, often blankented by a brilliant coat of snow. But throughout all that time—as the seasons crept by and the years took their toll—I just watched from afar imagining the glory and splendor attainable at the tip of this peak.
It was two years ago when a business associate visited, and what better adventure could there have been? With a short drive we were at the trailhead, determined to race to the top and embrace the coveted viewscapes. We trudged up steep inclines and dug footholds into packed snow with our ill-equipped running shoes, climbing higher and higher towards the heavens. I held back the insistant gnawing at the back of my head; that constant reminder that I was paralyzed by a fear of heights, and yet, surrounded by cliffs. Instead, I leaned into the adrenaline and soaked up the sights. As my heart beat out of my chest and exhaustion crept in, I found myself reveling in the human experience. I was alive in that moment.
I was not dissapointed at the 2 hour mark as we approached the summit. The Georgia Straight nestled the shorline to the east, surrounding my home town. To the west, the Pacific Ocean swallowed the horizon. In every direction, I was overcome with divine beauty; shades of blue danced in the swirling clouds, and touched down to the radiant forests below, where the Sitka stood proud. My chest swelled, knowing I chased down this goal, fears by damned.
Putting the euphoria and gratitude aside, I stole a quick moment and captured a few photos that would attest to the view. Above I posted my favorite; one look and I see a possibility realized. But it is also a lesson learned. Here, I see a reminder of a decade wasted while I put off a relatively simple feat. It was, afterall, just something to do to fill an afternoon.
What does this have to do with Software Engineering?
16 months ago, I joined a healthcare startup as VP of Engineering. Being the first employee, I had the privilege of—from the ground up—architecting the technology stack, workflows, processes, CI/CD, etc. From nothing, I transformed that first line of code to a Hello World and embarked upon a long-term technical roadmap to complement our business goals. Once again, I stood at that trailhead filled with hope, anticipating the trials and splendor ahead.
I also immensely enjoyed—after scouring through almost 900 resumes and screening hundreds of candidates—building and coaching a high-performing engineering team. In my 2 decades of Software Engineering, I have never had the pleasure of working with a more talented group of developers, so adept at solving problems in elegant ways.
And yet, on the back of a successful Series A, I tendered my resignation 2 weeks ago; today is my last day. An idyllic technical stack, the perfect team, a mission-driven company... Just what am I thinking?
It's time to grow
We all need to ask to tough questions. Am I learning enough? Am I headed towards my long-term career goals? For a technologist, is this the right fit? Does every moment here bring me closer to who and what I want to be, or does it distract me from the possibilities that I dream to experience?
“The power of imagination makes us infinite.— John Muir
What I've come to realize is that I am surrounded by mountains, unclimbed & unchallenged. As far as I can see—as far as I can imagine—there are possibilities abound. These are opportunities to grow and learn; opportunities to be fully alive and realize the human experience. But how many decades do I have left to simply watch from afar?
Unless we face these possibilities and have a willingness to trade comfort for courage, we cannot challenge ourselves to climb those peaks. It is up to each and everyone of us to determine how we will reach our goals, and sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves about the path we are on. Sometimes, even a great job isn't the right one at the current moment in time.
So what's next?
There is something quite exhilarating about possibilities; it is as if I am standing upon myriad trailheads simultaneously, gazing up at the peaks above, if only I can ever climb just one of them.
Consulting, coaching, advising or maybe more start-ups? What I do know is that as I move ahead, I'm putting my back to the fear of the unknown & complacency, ready to embrace the only constant we know: change. And I hope to share a few pictures when I get there.