For many of the folks I know, twenty-one years is a long time in a career, let alone in a single company.
But the strange thing is that, while on the resume it looks like I’ve had just the one job, in reality I had the great fortune to have experienced a remarkably diverse series of roles, and it seemed like every time I started to get a little antsy, a little bored, in need of a change, INVIDI offered me another opportunity, another challenge, another path to walk.
And it has been quite the journey, though one that has come to its natural end.
I entered the workforce way back in June, 2002, in the wake of the tech crash of 2000 and the world shaking events of 9/11. For all intents and purposes it was a risky time to enter the job market, but my then girlfriend and I were bright-eyed and optimistic, with a confidence that only a couple of fresh-faced new graduates can have.
In hindsight I have to admit that, in applying for INVIDI (which itself is a whole story that I might tell one of these days), I don’t think we had any idea what we were getting into. But to give some idea, understand that at the time, INVIDI wasn’t its own independent company. Rather, INVIDI was the brainchild of a local entrepreneur running a company called Interdynamix, and was composed of a small handful of engineers1 and mad scientists working out of the back corner of the IDX offices located in downtown Edmonton. In reality, for that first short period of my career, I was an Interdynamix employee, something which didn’t change until about 18 months later when we received our series A financing and incorporated as an independent company.
At the time I genuinely don’t think I understood that I was, in fact, joining a tiny, self-funded startup with all the odds of success you’d expect from a company that size attacking an industry of giants. After all, they had, like, cubicles, and a boardroom, and an office admin, and all the other trappings of a real company. Except, of course, the company that would become INVIDI was just bolted onto the side of a real, actual, functioning business. Thinking back it’s pretty incredible that we survived at all, but survive we did, and over twenty years later the company is over two hundred people strong and beginning to attack the world.
My first role at the company was as an Associate Software Developer where I contributed to the Java codebase that would take us through the next few years as we established ourselves with customers and proved the potential of our technology. From there I continued to grow through a whole range of different projects, having developed a reputation for being the kind of person you could throw at something with the confidence it would get done. Through it all I learned a lot, often the hard way, and gained valuable experience that would serve me well later in my career.
About twelve years into my career at INVIDI I found myself feeling the need for change, and to my surprise an opportunity was presented to me: would I be interested in leading a new Product Management group at INVIDI?
You see, at the time, like many startups at that stage of growth, INVIDI was a largely engineering-led organization, with the priority decisions made by senior management and then directly executed by the teams. While this model successfully carried INVIDI through its early years, there was recognition that it had come time to cultivate more formal product expertise that could help focus the company one what was most important.
After some very real hesitation–I was truly nervous about the transition given how little I knew about the role–I came to my senses and gave the obvious answer: absolutely!
And it was then that my career took a hard right turn.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was being offered an extremely rare opportunity, and one that can only really appear in a company so small: not just to change the direction of my career, but to establish a whole new function that would transform the way the whole company would work.
Of course, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, as evidenced by the many mistakes I made at that time (this, too, is probably worth a post some day). Looking back, the fundamental problem was that I had no idea how to think in terms of organizational functions and structure, nor any experience managing that kind of change, and so I simply did not appreciate the complexity and magnitude of the change I was attempting to lead.
It was only out of pure coincidence that, shortly after I transitioned into my new role, management also made the decision to adopt Scrum, and I found I had been handed a model I could use to build out a product function: The Product Owner. And so for the next two years I worked as the lead product manager in the company, relying on my colleagues in development to provide support within the teams (while I, myself, also acted as a Product Owner).
Why so long operating on my own? Bluntly, because I was utterly terrified of hiring and managing someone. It is, after all, one thing to provide people with priority and direction. That’s easy. It’s another thing entirely to be responsible for their performance and to be accountable to them as a mentor and coach.
But, eventually I did hire, and so began a new phase of my career as I learned how to build a team, to manage staff, to evaluate performance, and to create the culture, processes, and practices that would allow my people to do their very best work.
It was at this time that I discovered a truly deep passion for staff, team, and organizational management, something that, at the time, I would not have anticipated, but in hindsight was clearly inevitable. Since then it’s been that kind of work–partnering with people to enact positive change within the company–that’s proven to be the most exciting and rewarding for me.
The following seven years in Product Management were enormously rewarding. Our success gave me the opportunity to help bring together a kind, thoughtful, utterly brilliant Product team that now spans the globe. I’ve been joined by other amazing senior leaders from whom I’ve learned more than they can possibly know. I’ve had the chance to partner across our many functions to solve problems and steadily improve the organization. And through it all I did my best to help create the kind of place where I would want to work.
If there’s a pattern in my career at INVIDI it’s one of regular change. Looking back, during those times of greatest change, I can remember a feeling of excitement and uncertainty as I knew I was stepping into the unknown. And looking back, I realize now that those moments of fear were the very moments when I was making the best decisions of my life, as I was stepping outside the familiar and doing something truly new and exciting.
And I have to admit, I haven’t felt that excitement and uncertainty in a very long time.
Instead, in the last year or two, what I’ve felt is a level of stress that, at the worst of times, manifested as exhaustion and anxiety attacks that had me taking mental health days to recover.
In the past that stress was always coupled with a sense of creativity and challenge and accomplishment that made those difficult times worthwhile, and so the burnout never came. Unfortunately, as of late, I’ve not felt that level of excitement, as the work I’m doing now is so deeply in my wheelhouse that I no longer feel challenged and interested.
In truth I hadn’t really understood what was going on until I began working with an executive coach who forced me to think about what motivates me, and how I want to create impact through my work. As I began to answer those questions I realized that what the company needed from me was no longer able to spark my interest or fuel my curiosity. What was ahead for me at INVIDI looked the same as what was behind me, and that was no longer where I wanted to be.
Turning the page
For many months now I’ve been experiencing a vague sense of unease, though until recently I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. And while I began a half-hearted job search, the prospect of re-entering the market while holding down a job that was burning me out was simply too daunting, and so for a time I just held on and hoped things would get better.
That is until quite recently when, after a particularly bad few days, I had a sudden and, in hindsight, fairly obvious realization: maybe I could also just choose to stop for a while?
It may sound strange, but that idea had simply never occurred to me before. I took it for a given that I had to have a job. But as I took stock of our situation I realized that I could, in fact, take a break, and a lengthy one at that.
So that’s what I’m about to do!
That said, I knew I couldn’t vanish that quickly. While I know it is the right time for me to move on, I have no interest in harming the company as I go, and so we’ve arranged a fairly lengthy off-boarding period so that I can leave things in the best state I can.
And so it is that at the end of June, 2023, just a month after my twenty-first work anniversary, I’ll be leaving INVIDI.
After that? I honestly don’t know! For the first month? Probably a whole heck of a lot of nothing. As one person I spoke to put it recently, I really need to uncork for a while. What comes after that, I’m honestly not sure, though I certainly have a few ideas in mind.
Along the way, maybe a bit of contracting? A side project or two? Heck, maybe I’ll finally say “yes” to one of my friends and allies who have, over the years, tried to pull me into one of their crazy schemes.
But that feeling of excitement and uncertainty? It’s back again. And I’m ready to see what comes next.
As in, you could feed the group with two pizzas. ↩