bookmark_borderReasons to work

I’ve been made been made redundant three times in my career, so far, and the first two were from my first two jobs. Not a great start, you’d think.

The first time was from a small Scottish company called Crossaig (I built their website back in 1999, christ I’m old…) they were, in hindsight, just trying to survive as a business and my role wasn’t crucial so it made sense that I was let go. Yes I know, it’s the role that is redundant, not the person, blah blah blah.

The second time was about a year and a half later and was prompted by Dr.Solomons being bought by McAfee who promptly made the entire workforce redundant. A couple of months later they started re-hiring but I’d already moved on by then.

My third (Sage Tetra) and fourth (McLaren) jobs I left of my own volition.

And my fifth job at Verint made me redundant due to restructuring and was, at the time, the hardest one to take. I’d spent many years working my way up and buliding a career and it was a bit of a gut punch at the time. I enjoyed the people, the work, and I was in the middle of transitioning to a new role that I was very excited about. Just before I was due to start the new role I took a holiday, went to Glastonbury Festival, and the day I got back in the office I was told my new position (that was supposed to be starting that day) was being made redundant. Ugh.

My sixth job ended outwith my control as well, but not through redundancy. It was my first (and likely only) time as a Contractor. I started on a one year contract which then rolled on every 6 months and, after 7 years of that, they finally pulled the plug. C’est la vie. The fact it happened the day before I went on holiday to France for almost three weeks was just bad timing.

Looking back I think Dr.Solomons, and Verint are the two that hurt the most. But life goes on, as does the need to pay the bills!

I’m on my seventh job now, almost three months in, and currently reflecting why I chose this company over others.

When my contract was cancelled I decided to go back to the ‘security’ of a salaried position and after a couple of weeks of interviews I had four promising leads, no mean feat considering I’d done all the research and initial interviews whilst on holiday in France. One of the roles I kinda knew I’d turn down as it was working for an agency, a way of work I was keen to step away from, and whilst the other two were both interesting (and slightly higher paid) the company I ended up being lucky enough to join held a little more personal investment from the get go.

That company is Allied Vehicles, and their core business is “Allied Mobility™ ~ Europe’s leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible cars, people carriers and minibuses. We’re also the number one supplier of wheelchair accessible vehicles to the highly successful UK Motability Scheme”.

So why did I chose Allied Vehicles? Well simply because of the massive difference I’ve seen in my Mum since she got Vera.

Ohhh I should point out that Vera is her power assisted wheelchair.

My Mum had a stroke several years ago and, before he passed, my Dad was her main carer. They still managed to get away on cruises, daily outings were common, and they had a wonderful retirement ahead of them. But after Dad suddenly passed my Mum not only lost her husband, but her independence. Dad died during the early lockdown days, so it wasn’t until the world emerged from that, a couple of years later, and we could start taking Mum out for coffees and little trips that I started to realise she just wasn’t getting out much on her own.

Stubbornly she was still walking to the supermarket to buy a paper, but that was the most she could manage, a chore that would take an able bodied person 15 minutes to do, could take my Mum almost an hour.

But it turns out that she had had the same realisation, so when she mentioned she’d been looking into getting a powered wheelchair I was more than happy to help out, did some research and ordered one. It arrived promptly and after a couple of test runs she managed to the local supermarket for a few things and back, all on her own and without the constant fear of failing over (my Mum doesn’t have the use of the right side of her body, she can walk with a stick but it’s always a bit fraught).

Vera arrived not long before I went to France so you can imagine my delight when, upon phoning Mum to see how she was, she happily informed me that she’d gone to the dentist on her own. 40 mins there, 40 mins back in her new wheelchair. AWESOME.

And that’s why I chose Allied Vehicles, because I’ve seen first-hand the difference mobility can make to my Mum’s quality of life.

I’ve never really thought of myself as altruistic, and of course I am getting paid to work, but it’s still refreshing to have these thoughts in my mind as I start work everyday, to have a meaningful reason to turn up and do my best.

When I’m in the office, from where I sit at my desk, I look up I see a large caption stencilled up near the ceiling. It reads WE MOVE PEOPLE AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO THEIR LIVES. It’s a core part of what Allied Vehicles do, and one that is a life changing as it is simple.

I’ve worked for a companies that provided indexing software for scientific journals that sold anti-virus software, that provided ERP/Accounting solutions, for a CAD Document Management company, for a Call Centre solution company and, most recently, for a large high street bank, and I can safely say that I have never sat in a meeting room in any of these places and discussed, in detail, WHY we do what we do; Just the other day I heard a story about one of our customers, who had just been moved into critical life care. We were about to provide a vehicle that was taking them on holiday but it didn’t get there in time. These things happen a lot, life inserts itself into our business processes and, invariably it means a customer has declined in their health, or passed away.

It’s sad, but just like my Mum and Vera, it gives real meaning to what we do. It gives me something to focus on when I’m in my 3rd straight meeting of the day, when I’m getting frustrated about something that is ultimately pretty trivial, and it especially helps when we are discussing improvements to our business processes; the customers we serve really do go through life-altering experiences, so the more we can do to help them the better.

Giving the disabled a form of mobility back give them much more than a vehicle. It gives the independence, it gives them a sense of control over that aspect of their life again, and just being able to leave your own house under your own steam, and go for a drive somewhere is something that so many of us take for granted that it’s easy to forget just how liberating it can feel if you’ve felt trapped inside your own home.

Yup, almost three months in and it’s safe to say this is already more than just a job.

bookmark_borderHotel Life

Hotels are strange places. Particular the big chains that always give me pause when I am woken from my slumber by an early alarm, those initial few seconds it takes to remember where I am in the world when confronted by yet another bland room with the exact same layout as the other bland rooms I’ve stayed in before.

To be fair, most of the time I only every stay in a hotel for a few nights so as long as it’s clean, has a decent bed and a shower, I don’t need much more. It is but a roof over my head, a base to explore the world from, so my requirements of a hotel room aren’t the most extravagant. As long as it’s good enough it’s good enough for me, as I’m sure someone else once said.

It’s no coincidence that I am writing this very post whilst sitting on a not too uncomfortable chair, in front of an almost usefully sized desk in a Premier Inn which, as expected, is as perfectly innocuous as any other. It’s quite a skill to have the interior design of such places broken down into a perfectly repeatable format that is used so often I’m sure most of you can picture the room I’m in without any more description.

This is not to putdown this, or any other, budget level hotel. They have a valuable place in the world and part of that is down to their insipid offerings. The fact that each Premier Inn room is essentially the same, that every Tune hotel has the same offerings (no I don’t need a window or more than one towel thanks), and all come with such similar colour schemes that there becomes a tranquility and comfort in their familiarity. When you’ve spent a day exploring the world, or been working in a new location, it’s nice to have a calm space that doesn’t challenge or overload your brain. Long live mediocrity.

I guess that’s why, when you do stay at a hotel that has put some thought into the little details or offers decorative touches that stand out, those are the ones that leave an impression. It can be the simplest of things – USB charging points next to both sides of the bed for example – that stand out, and many times it’s a tiny detail that in hindsight makes you wonder why EVERY hotel doesn’t have such a thing.

As mentioned staying at a hotel with USB points, as well as standard plugs, on both sides of the bed, seems like such a trifling matter on its own, but if you include a remote control for the air conditioning, a choice of pillows in the cupboard and not one but three different, large, surfaces to accumulate all the junk we end up with us when we travel, and what could’ve been a basic hotel room quickly goes up in your expectation. Add in some unique design touches, maybe eye catching wallpaper, or a luxurious armchair (to throw your clothes on) and suddenly it all feels so much more luxurious.

The flipside of this though is that such rooms aren’t familiar. The minute I step into the room of a more upmarket hotel, one that has a bigger budget to equip and decorate the room I’m always aware of the money I’ve spent, and try to take in the details, make sure I use all the facilities. I act like I’m staying in a hotel, I’m aware I’m staying in a hotel and I always feel a little out of place. As much as I like my creature comforts, I’m a man of simple tastes for the most part, happy to make do with the basics as long as those basics are good enough.

A posh hotel room is too far from what we have at home, it doesn’t feel familiar, it doesn’t feel safely unchallenging, it reminds me that I am not at home, that I am far from my loved ones.

So you can keep your high thread count linens, and complimentary robes and slippers, give me something bland and familiar.

Wow, I’m not sure I could be any more middle-aged than this.

I am Premier Inn.

bookmark_borderEverything changes

We human beings are a strange and complicated lot in many ways, none more so than when something alters in our worldview. I know that change is viewed by a lot of people as a bad thing yet it seems that, when it is thrust upon us, we adapt to it far more easily than we have anticipated.

I guess fear of the unknown is likely the biggest factor and the higher your natural anxiety levels are the more that can become the focus and start to dominate our thoughts as the upcoming change looms before us. On the other hand change can be seen as an opportunity, something to embrace and be excited about, even if it can be daunting. Like I said, us humans are a complex bunch.

Having recently started a new job for the first time in – checks notes – over 7 years, and I’ll be working in a new location too. It’s what is now being referred to as a hybrid role, with a minimum of 2 days a week in the office so whilst it’s not every single day, it is the first office I’ve stepped into in over 4 years. Quite a change from working at home, and it took me a couple of days to realise quite why I was SO exhausted after only a few days back in an office environment.

When COVID struck, my previous employer sent us all to work from home for a while and there I stayed, with all the perks it entails for almost four years; dress how you want, listen to music if you want, better coffee, ability to do quick chores or help out with your new born son etc. I was more than happy and I don’t really think my work suffered because of it; interactions with my colleagues were limited to online meetings, chats, and the (very) occasional phone call. It made some things more challenging but not impossible.

Fast forward to today and here I am, back in a large open plan office, with all the associated background noise and people (actual people!) that I need to chat with and interact with all day long. From the first friendly ‘morning’, the random chats about latest news topics, and work related queries as people wander up to my desk (or I to theirs), it’s all a lot more people-ing than I’ve done for a long time. And my goodness it’s tiring!

It’s not a complaint, far from it, but it wasn’t something I’d accounted for when I started this new job, the emotional energy required to just talk to numerous different people for any length of time took more out of me than I’d realised. I know it’ll change as I get to know people better and get used to all this talking and interacting again, but heck it’s way harder than I remember it being in the past. That said, with hybrid roles becoming more and more prevalent I’m not anticipating being in an office 5 days a week ever again.

What’s weird is to think about how I used to behave in an office environment, my work persona isn’t all that different from my day to day attitudes so, for those who know me well, you can imagine that I’m just as chatty and cheeky with my work colleagues as I am with my friends. However the first few days in this new role, even taking into account the amount of information I’m ingesting as I try to get up to speed, felt very different, and very draining.

I’m into my third week now and it’s already getting easier so I guess I’m just out of practice?

It’s a big change at home as well, all of a sudden I’m not there for entire days. I’ve got about 10 mins from when I get Jack up at 7am before I need to leave to get the train (if I’m cycling in I’m already gone by the time he gets up), and then I don’t get home until 6pm which is an hour before he goes to bed. His bedtime routine is the same at least, bath with Mummy, then Daddy puts him down to sleep but we no longer get to spend an hour or so hanging out each morning, I don’t see him at either lunch or dinner on the days I’m in the office.

It’s a change for Becca too, nap time was something I helped with during the day but I can’t if I’m not there. Dinner time is the same and whilst Jack is much more independent these day, he’s an inquisitive and active little boy so you still need to have eyes in the back of our head!

And for me I’ve found some old habits returning; I’m getting lost in the overwhelming amount of information I’m trying to absorb, and with all the emotional energy I’m running through when I’m in the office I’ve not quite got the balance right. But I will. I’m keen to do well in this new job – it’s not a contract so the whole career thing is back to being part of my thinking – but the big learning from the COVID years and then the arrival of my precious boy is to keep a good work/life balance. I’ve struggled with this in the past, but it’s clearer to me now, clearer than ever, that having a happy home is all that really matters.

That means making sure Jack is happy and healthy, making sure Becca is happy and healthy, and making sure I’m happy and healthy (don’t worry the dogs are fine too!). As ever it’s about finding the balance, taking a few moments for myself now and then to make sure I’m not losing myself in ‘work mode’ or ‘Dad mode’, making sure Becca and I have time as a couple (we are super excited for brunch together next week), and of course making sure that the most important person in the house is catered for as best we can manage.

We worry sometimes that we could be better, do better, do more, for Jack but I guess that makes us good parents, we worry about that stuff and do our best to keep his mind stimulated and his body moving. I think it’s going pretty well, the last few weeks he’s started to string words and sounds together, so soon there will be one more voice for me to deal with and I cannot wait.

bookmark_borderQue será será

I start a new job this week – on a Wednesday for some reason – my first new job for several years. It wasn’t planned but as my first day approaches I’m getting more and more eager to get going.

Throughout my career working life I’ve only ever really wanted to do something useful, I’ve never really had a mind for building a career as many do, not had a view of where I want to be in 5 years and, as I get older that’s increasingly the case. Que será, será and all that.

My first full-time job was in my local McDonalds. I’d worked there through college/uni and transitioned to full-time hours for a while before landing a job in a small software company, made redundant from there I moved down south for another job that I would get made redundant from a year later. A third job for a year or so before moving back to Scotland to a small ‘family’ software company that moved to Glasgow city centre and remains (so far) the only company I’ve voluntarily left! From Glasgow city centre to another small ‘family’ software company which went through numerous mergers and buyouts before, some 10 years later, making me redundant again. And so to my last role, my first as a contractor, which lasted almost 7 years before they terminated my contract the day before our recent holiday in France.

My roles have changed throughout all those companies, I’ve never been one for rigid job definitions and preferred the smaller companies where there was more opportunity to get involved with other things; I’m joining another small family company this week and it sounds like there will be similar opportunities there.

That and it’s an hour cycle away so, weather permitting, I’ll cycle to the office when I do go in (2 days a week). Given public transport takes an hour as well, it’ll be good for my health and bank balance to get back on my bike.

And at the end of the day, whilst I am hoping to will be fulfilling and interesting, it’s just a job. One thing I have learned through COVID lockdowns, and the birth of my son, is that work is just that, a means to an end. As long as we can pay the bills, feed the family and keep a roof over our heads then what else is there to worry about?

bookmark_borderAnti-career advice

A few years ago I moved from permanent salaried jobs to contracting. Ostensibly it was a shot in the dark as I needed a job, any job, at the time, and I thought why not?! It was (and still is) a means to an end. Like you I have bills to pay and so, having not yet won the lottery nor been bestowed a modest (but generous) amount of free money by a mysterious benefactor, I found myself putting on my best (only) suit, digging a slightly creased tie out of the back of my wardrobe and presenting myself for a screening interview.

6 minutes later, I kid you not, I was done and an hour after that I got the call that they were happy to offer me the position. That was over 5 years ago and I’m still working in the same place.

My current contract was due to end in September as the project I’ve worked on that entire time is finally being wound up and only a handful of staff, myself included, remained to work through various close down activities. With the end of my contract in sight I decided to start the onerous project of finding a new job, and opened up my LinkedIn account again to see how the job market was and what ‘opportunities’ might be found there.

My oh my, I had forgotten what a mess LinkedIn can be and whilst you can filter out a lot of the noise, and I certainly do my utmost to do that, it’s still a place heavily dominated by American work ethics and ideals that I’ve always baulked against, things I find myself actively pushing back against more and more as I mature (ok, get older) as the more of it I see the more I realise that a lot of the thinking and approach that a lot of that is based on just seems inherently wrong to me.

I am not against hard work but the overwhelming view that seeps out from LinkedIn is one with an undertone of ‘no matter what you are doing you should be doing more, being more effective, levelling up constantly, aspiring for more and more and more’ and whilst there is a place for that I’m glad that I’m no longer of a mindset to take on board any of that nonsense.

I recall a co-worked from many moons ago who had the chance to interview with Microsoft. He was keen on the job itself but somewhat put off when, during the interview, they listed one of the benefits was that they would move him from Scotland to California (nice!) and put him up in an apartment (score!) which also had a large number of Microsoft employees (ehh ok), so just think you could brainstorm that tricky problem over a BBQ in the evening with your co-workers (ohh dear god no!).

It’s that always on, ‘work is life’ view that has never sat well with me, although I confess there was a time when I was probably a little closer to that being my reality than I care to admit…

Longer term readers of this blog will know I’ve got a bit of an eye for productivity and life-hacks but I’ve come to realise that my approach has always been to look at the latest greatest ‘system’, pick the low hanging fruit from it (gah, I cannot escape the corporate speak), give it a whirl in the day to day activity that I call life and then keep it or ditch it. I am no slave to theoretical time savings or productivity boons, and am more and more bemused by the idea that all of these tweaks are solely, in the eyes of most of their creators at least, seen as ways to minimise your time doing X so you can spend more time being busy doing Y. With both X and Y being solely in the world of your ‘work day’ and at the behest of being ‘productive’.

What the Z?

Here’s the thing. This view that life is about pushing harder and smarter to be able to work more, achieve more, to minimise wasted time, all so you can do more work and get further, and have more and… well it’s always been a bit of a mystery to me. When does it end? Even when, for a couple of years, I willing found myself swept along on this very path, I still never really felt like I was in control, more just paddling frantically to keep up although with who, or what, I never found out.

I’ve never really had a professional career path, never really known what job I really wanted (aside from being an astronaut but that rocket has long since flown) instead I headed in a vague direction and hoped for the best. Working in IT I have spent time with a lot of people with a very different mindset, people who are always playing the game to get ahead, always playing politics or mind games or blah blah blah. Sorry, I wish I could describe it better but having never given two hoots about such things I genuinely do not know how they work, although I am pretty good at getting myself out of such situations, mostly by feigning innocence. Well, I say feigning, perhaps it’s actual ignorance as I do tend to ignore such things in the work place as best I can. This is also why I am always the last to know the office gossip!

That professional drive to ‘achieve’ and garner all the trappings of success, status, wealth, are all part of the basic premise of being better at getting things done, to ultimately have more stuff/money. Gosh I feel like such a failure! Clearly I should adhere to those 5am morning rituals that the top CEOs follow to properly set me up for a productive day of doing more, so I can get that big promotion, earn the big bucks and drive a nice big flash BMW, get that 66″ OLED TV, to go in my 5 bedroom detached mansion, right?

Well I must be doing something wrong, as I have none of those things! Sure I’m happy and content but so what! Back to Linkedin for confirmation that lots of other people I’ve worked with now have big long fancy titles, and do lots of important work, and think about work even when they aren’t at work. Ugh.

It’s just not for me. I’ve bumbled my way through my professional life as best I can, never had a plan from the moment I left school other than going to University because ‘that’s what smart people do’, and the places of work I’ve ended up in have been varied in size, role, and seniority every time. In saying that, I don’t even have a degree and what self-respecting professional would’ve let that happen!

Truth be told, I always enjoyed pointing this latter fact out to the many high-flying graduates I’ve worked with, in fact I took an almost a perverse pleasure in watching them ummm and ahhhh their way back out of whatever conversational turn had them talking about how amazed they were that people without a first class degree could even get up in the morning (ahhh to be young and know the world so well, and yes, I was just as obnoxious at that age).

Note: I did start a degree course, attending Glasgow Polytechnic (latterly know as Caledonian University) for two years, and did enough to get the HND but I never picked up the certificate.

This failure of academia wasn’t because I wasn’t intelligent enough, rather that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Which I think is a pretty common thing when you are in that weird transitional period of being an adult by law but having no idea what the future may hold for you, nor all that clear an idea of what you hope lies out there as you start to explore the world.

So I took an Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree course; if I’d been even a year later no doubt I’d have taken a Computer Science course but I doubt the outcome would’ve been much different, I just wasn’t interested in ‘learning’. It’s not something I’ve dwelled on either – which is odd given my inherent fear of failure/disappointing people – and as it hasn’t stopped me having a reasonably successful career, presuming you judge such a thing by my employment record and salary earned, in other words, I’ve always worked and earned money for doing so.

Yet many people don’t view things that way and as careers can be judged on many factors, with a lauded job title high on the list of achievements to strive for! Clearly my career is failing and always have been. It’s something I’ve made my peace with now but I’ll admit my thinking wasn’t all that different a few years ago.

I’d been made redundant twice before, but the last company I worked seemed to fit me well. Good people, a strong HR department that invested in their staff, and as a more mature member of staff (hey they took on a lot of graduates, I’m not THAT old) I had experience that many others didn’t.

Things were going well. For a time my job title was Product Operations Manager, and with an acquisition there was scope for that to become GLOBAL Product Operations Manager, my oh my how fancy!! We will gloss over the fact that the title was made up by myself and my boss at the time as I was doing a mish-mash of a role of ‘stuff that needs done’ (which was fine by me). I was considered part of the senior management team (by experience as much as age) and whilst many around me had their eyes on loftier titles, I was happy because the work was interesting and I felt valued (note: this would appear to have been my definition of success at the time).

And then they made me redundant. Next thing I know I’ve had a 6 minute interview for a role I’ve only vaguely done in the past but I’m pretty sure I can handle and, I’m still there doing the same work, happily NOT on the corporate ladder and my imposter syndrome has faded enough to get me through a working day. Fake it until you make it, right?

Now what I’m about to say might solely be down to adjusting to life as a day rate contractor.

Since then any notion of ‘career’ has entirely vanished. I could care less what my job title is, I no longer worry that there is no career path in front of me, and now that my responsibilities are largely ‘turn up and do the work’ I find my entire work/life balance has shifted. Perhaps it’s down to my age, and the hand that life has dealt me (a very good one!), but the more I shy away from the idea that work is the centre of life and how coupled that idea is with the desire to always chase for more status, more money, more material things, the happier I become.

In fact, the further I get into this mindset, the more bemusing I find the constant barrage of posts on places like LinkedIn that all push you to be more productive, to do more, work harder, c’mon on do more more MORE; there is a definitely a belief that if you aren’t striving for the ever elusive MORE then you are failing.

Now I know in reality that how you apply measures to something as amorphous as success can be easily skewed to whatever worldview you want but, having removed myself from that particular ‘MORE’ focused world, it’s even more startling to be on the outside looking in at the relentless stream of advice all delivered with a little too much self-knowledge and with little to any self-awareness. A lot of it is by ‘successful’ white men, but not all. Want to be a millionaire? Want to retire when you are 40? Want to find more hours in the day by learning to wake up at 5am? It’s all there and all couched in words that make you feel that if you aren’t striving for all of these things you are somehow falling short of some measure by which you are being judged.

I just can’t. Not anymore.

Instead I’m slowly building up my own world view on how to have an anti-career, how to be happy without knowing what your next career move is, how to not freak out when you get made redundant, how to be a hard working professional that ends their work day at an appropriate time and knows how to switch off properly. I’m still figuring it all out but there is definitely the need for something, I think.

I just need a catchy title for my new system, or perhaps I should refer to it as a movement? I’ll need to work on it a little more for sure, although first I’ll need to check I’ll have time to do it justice, ideally it’ll be a good period for active brain time and a newly downloaded app I found on a productivity website tells me that time falls just after completing my morning wake up routine and whenever I make my cold brew mix for the day, so hopefully I can block out that period, do some positive strategising and visualise the manifestation of my new journey towards a whole new …. hey, wait a minute, THEY’VE SUCKED ME BACK IN AGAIN!!

I do believe that an anti-career is achievable though, and I definitely feel that there is something to be said for a middle ground (ain’t it always so) that isn’t ‘unplug from the grid/stop serving The Man’ and yet isn’t ‘better faster more productive’, and it’s here in this ‘working professional that doesn’t find themselves beholden to their job’ that I find myself these days.

I’ll admit all this was made a lot easier by the pandemic, giving me a lot more control over my time, but it was heading this way regardless, heading to a place where I log in around 8.30am-ish, and back out around 5-ish, with sometimes a long lunch, or a walk, with a break to meditate for 10 mins, with no nagging feeling that I’m under-performing. My work is being done, I am meeting expectations, I am not streamlining my day to grab back lost minutes, I am not striving for anything other than my own satisfaction of having done a good job.

Welcome to the anti-career, a place that has no worthwhile measures of success, no goals to be attained, just a warm friendly hug and the promise that it’s ok if that thing you meant to do today doesn’t get done until tomorrow, as long as it gets done. A place that suggests you stop thinking about work, and step away from the computer more often. A place that accepts that ultimately, strive as you might, you have no real control over what happens to you and in even the best workplaces, you are still a resource that one day will no longer be needed.



Amongst the many internet trends – the commercialisation of happiness, the quasi-religion of productivity approaches – there is one phrase that makes my toes curl and my blood start to simmer.

“Do what you love.”

It’s a distillation of a thought first offered by Confucius “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” and the sentiment is a noble one yet for many it is largely unobtainable.

I used to love my job, I loved the busy nature of it, I loved the different areas of helping build a product, and for many years as I progressed through the company, getting more senior roles, I truly thought of it as doing what I love.

I am a geek, I enjoy many aspects of building a software product, most of them on the user/business side of the equation admittedly as I’m not a developer. I enjoyed learning about accessibility, usability, user research and analysis, storyboards, roadmaps and more. I invested a lot of my own time and effort into it, working long hours across multiple timezones, chatting to teams in Indonesia in my mornings and San Francisco in my evenings (my Boss was, for a time, based in Boston, MA).

And then as I was about to transition to a newer role, one I was excited for which would’ve taken me into the world of product strategy with a sales and marketing view, the rug was pulled out from under my feet with one simple word. Redundancy.

It was the third time I’d been made redundant and, as with the others, completely blind-sided me. We’d had a couple of rounds of redundancies in the past but I’d always felt secure as my role and knowledge was fairly niche and unique at the time.

It was a blow.

Looking back it was likely a very good thing for me, personally, though. I managed to take a couple of months off, and when I started working again I did so as a contractor in a role I’d never done before, although I’d worked closely with them in the past.

It’s a different world when you are paid a day rate. I work 8am to 4pm, I don’t get sick pay or paid holidays, I pay my own tax. This means it’s not in my interest to invest any more of my own time, and that’s purely on a financial basis, my current project and contract has a finite end so I know I will be moving on at that point, which is yet another reason not to invest my time too heavily. I hold myself to my own professional standards and work ethics but at 4pm I am done.

Do I love what I do? No, it is a job that pays my bills. This is not a vocation, a calling, or anything like that for me and, despite the internet clamouring for validation and the strange need to attach higher value to things than they necessarily require, I’m quite happy with that.

The issue I have is that if I was to love what I do, my job would be a mish-mash of sitting on the sofa playing computer games, walking about in the fresh air, reading books, and a few other things commonly known as hobbies.

Which nicely brings me to another point, once again peer pressured into existence by the internet, of having to always be the best you can be at something. Why? A hobby should be relaxing, a way to unwind and switch off from the daily pressures of adult life, not a way to add to the stresses and strains you no doubt already have by demanding constant improvements of yourself! So you can knit a wonky scarf, but can you knit a pair of stripey socks.

I digress.

Since I started contracting my work/life balance, something I actually place value on, has never been better.

Granted I’m very lucky to be at least working in a job that is palatable, suffer-able, and on some days is actually fun (albeit in a ‘everything is a challenge’ kinda way). I don’t think I will ever place much value on loving what I do for work, but for me that just means I have all the more time and energy to put elsewhere, in things that offer me much more value; family and friends.

And oddly, spending my time with my loved ones whilst living life as best I can boils down to doing exactly what that phrase, the one I so loathe, suggests.

Do what you love.