The Longest Journey

Eric Lawler

January 30, 2023

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10 days into the current year, I was unceremoniously terminated with the click of a button. 150 peers shared the experience of one’s laptop abruptly freezing and throwing up a “PROPERTY OF [FORMER EMPLOYER]” lock screen halfway through an otherwise ordinary Tuesday morning.

Having never been involuntarily separated from a role, I found this an exciting and novel start to 2023! It came at a convenient time, too. I had already been thinking through the next steps to take on this 50-year mission to provide food and shelter for my family. The opportunity I was sold in late 2021 at a fast-growing fintech startup wasn’t going to deliver on a number of promises“Past performance is no guarantee of future results” applies to more than investment funds., so after a full year in the role, it was clear I needed a fresh direction.

After weeks of reflection, I’m determined to apply what I’ve learned in the past few years to another role working as head of engineering in a smaller company. Seeing the rampant waste from hiring hundreds of programmers and then “keeping them busy” pains me. Watching organizations ship less software year-over-year–despite doubling “resources,” adding PMO groups to tame cross-team dependencies, etc.–stresses me out. There’s so much waste in the generic American corporate model. Why are we satisfied with this status quo?

My previous role reminded me that I’m most fulfilled when I’m helping a company ensure its product is actually serving its customers. YCombinator’s mantra “Make something people want” feels trite, but it’s disappointing how often this basic mission is lost as a company grows. Concocting clever ways to quickly test our riskiest assumptions in a project? Figuring out novel means of actually shipping that “value” to our customers? Sign me up! My hope is that we associate 12- to 24-month waterfall scrumfall projects that can’t be validated until the entire effort is launched with the wasteful, VC-fueled “hypergrowth” era we left behind in the 2010s.

I firmly believe in the simple, centuries-old business recipe: Take care of your employees so they can take care of your customers. Take care of your customers and you’ll create revenue for the business that can be reinvested to serve yet more people–employees and customers alike.

In the meantime, while I’m in the “meet with everyone who finds my experience interesting and learn about their needs” phase of this job search, I’m taking advantage of the unexpected time off to explore more of the paved roads in the greater Boise area. After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothes.

The author dressed for 33* bike riding in the snowy Eagle, Idaho foothills35° on the road is downright balmy contrasted to 25° fatbike rides through the snow.

I don’t know what my near future looks like–let alone where I’ll be in December 2023–but I’m excited to see where these unexpected twists in life’s journey lead me.

Finalized at 9:59 AM.

Tagged with personal.