I was once very spoiled - quite recently - very spoiled.
In my previous role, I was a Software Engineer in a highly structured organisation. I hated the hierarchical structure. I hated the focus on process over outcomes. I hated the approach to operations.
In my currently role, I'm a Reliability Engineer in a highly unstructured organisation. This post is about how things are different.
There are too many directions to take this, so here are a list of ways that I was once spoiled:
Sometimes I broke out of this process space. I pushed back against some of the above, citing efficiency gains. I had earned the trust to do so from time to time, and even landed on a sort of green-fields team of like-minded individuals, but even there, I always had a safety net.
As a brief aside, I originally wanted to write this blog post about how I perceived my coworkers now as being the spoiled ones.
They're blessed with a pure, naive, Layer-7-only view of the world. They're utilising powerful infrastructure to safely roll out changes into production without testing. They're building microservices to integrate with a powerful software platform that handles critical capabilities like auth, data storage, and data versioning by default.
But I was wrong. My coworkers are pushing the boundaries of operational responsibility. They're taking on calculated risks, always pushing the envelope for monitoring and observability, seeking out big-impact changes proactively, identifying high-criticality work reactively, and at times, accepting enormous pain to achieve desired outcomes. Outcomes that they defined and put on themselves without much external input at all.
At times I have tried - and still sometimes want to try - breaking out of the accepted processes at my workplace.
I attribute a lot of my success in life to a slightly maverick, anti-authoritarian approach to things. To shun process that doesn't serve outcomes. To identify what can be done better, and to vocalise it.
Being a black sheep works well when process is dysfunctional and imposed. It works poorly when unjustified, unearned, and unmeasured.
In the last two years I've learned what it takes to lead a technical team to excellence from first principles. I understand the meaning behind having "startup thinking". I know what it takes to affect worthwhile change.
I find it incredibly motivating that I will use these skills - skills that not everyone has access to learn - in every role for the rest of my life.