Open Thead: Career Moves
Tell us about the pivotal decisions on your career path
Happy Friday! Another weekend is upon us. The sun is shining—here, at least—and today is Sant Medir, where residents of Gracia make a pilgrimage into the mountains to the saint's shrine, and return to the city riding on horses and carts, distributing sweets to all and sundry.
The weekend and weather are contributing to my sunny demeanour, but another pertinent factor is how well things are going here. This once-small experiment saw a record month, and my 90-day graphs are starting to look like a Strava readout from a weekend in Yosemite. At the beginning of February we were starting a steady ascent to 7,000 subscribers. Today we sit 9,034 dads strong, a five-figure milestone in our sights, as we look down on El Capitan together.
It’s also been a bumper month for paid subscribers, with just shy of 100 more putting your hand in your pockets—or, more accurately, fingers on your screens— to support what we’re building here. All new subscribers, paid or no, are asked what they need more of to help them be the best dads they can be. One emailed me with a few topics he’d love to explore: three brilliant suggestions, which I’ll be tackling separately. Today felt like the perfect time for the first one. I’ll hand over the mic:
“There are many great insights from your journey of going freelance, but I’m intrigued to learn more from the community on how they made big/risky moves during the early years of fatherhood. Every decision feels like it carries a lot more weight now, and it's easy to get stuck in a comfortable groove knowing your (current) needs are covered.”
Great question on a subject percolating for many. If you’re preparing for your first, second, or nth child to come into the world, or trying to make sense of a tiny baby whilst putting career progression to the back of your mind—what’s the best thing to do? Should you stay put and continue working, taking a “better the devil you know” mindset? Or do you make a leap into the unknown?
I did it differently each time. The first time around, I made a big switch when my daughter was close to making her grand appearance. I moved from a team inside Google that had run its course—two years spent marketing a social network that people continued to ignore (despite my best efforts) and was knocking on death’s door—into one that it had been my dream to work with since I found out they existed. I made friends there that remain my closest to this day, folks I call whenever I have a question, that I text to check in on when times are tough, and that I’ll move hell or high water to spend even a few hours with. But unfortunately, that meant working for a boss who—I’m going to be kind here—had a very different set of values around family and fatherhood than my own. This led to a lot of conflict and I ended up leaving the team—and the country, and the entire continent of Europe—by the time my daughter turned two; an experience I touched upon in You Are Not Your Job, one of the most popular essays on the site:
“It was sometime around 2015 I started asking myself these big questions: a year after my daughter was born, and around the time a manager told me that "leaving work at 5pm to go see your kids isn't working for the team, and it's hurting your chance to get promoted." I became disillusioned with the company and what I'd been working towards my adult life. The thing I thought I always wanted? It wasn't what I wanted at all. I felt lost. We moved to SF, because maybe that's what I needed: a new challenge, a new team, a new set of problems. But I was papering over cracks.
Another big career move was in 2018, leaving Google entirely, driven by an encounter with a professional coach in the kitchen of a friend’s house party. That was less around a career change, but more a complete reconfiguration of what career meant, the role it played in the definition of who I was, and learning to let go of the mental deadweight I once cared most deeply about.
Some wonderful opportunities have come up in the last few years for me; job offers that the old me would have lept on—big money, big titles—but that I now know would mean sacrificing so much of the life we’ve intentionally designed for ourselves. I know now what I didn’t know then, and am happier for it; hindsight, just like regret, can be considered a gift from the right vantage point.
Anyway. Enough about me. Let’s help a dad out. Did having a child change how you felt about taking risks with your career? Did it change your relationship to work, and quell a need to climb the ladder? Did it do the opposite, and make you want to push yourself further? Did it drive a complete “capital P Purpose” pivot? Did it make you happier to stay put, knowing you could focus your energy at home?
Come one, come all. The only rule today? Nobody gets to be wrong.
I just recently discovered your writings and I’m really enjoying them!
I arrived at fatherhood a little later than most and started navigating the beautiful and treacherous waters of fatherhood at 40. By the time our son was born, my wife and I had been together for fifteen years and married for thirteen. We had traveled extensively, earned graduate degrees, and had successful careers--her’s in healthcare and mine in as Naval officer. We were doing well and quickly moving up the rungs our respective professional ladders. Then, in 2015 when our son was getting ready to start kindergarten, I left my version of the corporate life and told the Navy to fuck off after 26-1/2 years of service. I was 45-years old.
Over then next few years we downsized our lives, sold our home, traveled the country in our Airstream travel trailer and roadschooled our son. After 2-1/2 years of travel, 39 states, and 102 National Park sites, we settled down on an island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. Now four-plus years into our new life I’m a stay-at-home Dad supporting my wife as she pursues a career in a profession that she loves and excels. Our son has grown into a caring and empathetic young man and each day is becoming more and more responsible and self-sufficient. I’ve been battling through the final throes of a DIY remodel while keeping the dogs exercised and the chickens alive. After the past two plus years of pandemic, I’m beginning to feel the pangs of wanting something more purpose-wise in my life, as well as more social connection.
Solidly in year seven of my *early retirement* I finally have the sea room for a bit of reflective contemplation and have embarked on a voyage of self-development. I’m still feeling my way around this new territory, but to help scratch the itches of “purpose” and “social connection,” I’ve started volunteering and serving on a local board, as well as being an active member of my local fly fishing club. These things help and have opened up other opportunities and I potentially have a few future projects on the back burner. I’m not sure what the next chapter (or volume) will look like, but I’m excited to see where it goes.
I started my dream job when my kid turned 3. Quit 5 months later because I didn’t see a pathway to growth. More growth potential at home by being dad more, and starting my own business. 7 months later now and every once in a while I wish we had the income and security from that job. But I’m way happier. My daughter knows who I am. Worth it.