Is it important to be growing all the time?

September 09, 2021

The day that this is being published, it is my 2 year anniversary at OpenTable.

This dawned the horrifying realization that there's only 2 months until performance review season starts... and this year I have nothing to show for it.

I could rapidly switch gears and go into overdrive these next two months, desperately gathering something worthwhile to elicit the all-important "above average" rating.

But, let’s be honest, I think I'm pretty average and I have no grand plans to change that in the near future.

What have I been doing all year if not growing?

I'm not sure. I've spent a lot of time thinking. I've spent a lot of time off. I've spent a lot of time hiring. I've spent a lot of time soaking up the change of being the best junior engineer ever to the most inexperienced mid-level engineer ever. I've spent a lot of time just finishing up tickets.

I'd like to think all of this has made me a more well-rounded engineer, but I'm really not sure, at least in a performance review case. (No, this doesn't mean I think performance reviews are bad. I like them and am happy to talk about why at any point.)

I think there was a lot of personal experimentation that never went anywhere, compared to big epic projects I worked on that were a huge success. Is that bad? Does that make me a bad engineer?

Here's the elephant in the room:

Career trajectories don't happen in a vacuum.

This happens to be the year after my promotion, but it also happens to be the year of the covid vaccine and the Delta variant. It's been a weird, weird year.

In particular, it's been a year that isn't as friendly to growth as 2020 was. I'm personally no longer working from home and all of the work/life nonsense that entailed, and my team/company has produced a lot less this year as a kind of pandemic burnout recovery. I've taken weeks off this summer, and plan to take weeks off again for the holiday season.

I'm at this pivotal point in my career where I'm supposed to be growing like a rocket, but the rest of the world has seemed so much more important.

I don't know the answer to the question I posed in the title of this post. I'm leaning towards no, you don’t have to grow all the time. That's how I've acted this year, but maybe you disagree. I'd love to discuss it . How's your year been? If you are past the 3-year experience point, what was your memory of this year in your career?

I'm mostly writing this down to document for the longevity of this blog that the real world exists. Will this matter in a decade? We'll find out.

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