You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Change is good” at some point in your life. Although change can be hard, I’ve found that for me personally, it’s the only way to grow and move forward in life. It was a big (and hard) change starting my own company 20 years ago but I wouldn’t trade the experience I’ve gained for anything.
To set the stage for this post, let me share a little about what I’ve been doing, walk you through what I’ve been thinking, and then discuss the next big change I’ve decided to make (jump to the bottom if you don’t care about the overall thought process :-)). Over the past 20 years I’ve been running my own consulting and training company called Wahlin Consulting and really enjoyed it. I’ve consulted with large and small companies around the world about various technologies, designed enterprise-level architectures, helped developers improve their code, helped move companies to the Cloud (specifically Azure), developed over 100 instructor-led and video training courses, and taught millions of developers (in person and through video courses) about various technologies as well.
While running a company is something I can continue doing as long as I’d like, over the past few years I’ve found myself asking the same question more frequently….”What comes next?”. Staying at home during COVID provided me with plenty of time to think and evaluate if I want to keep doing the same thing or change things up entirely and tackle new challenges. I started working through pros and cons and thinking about what I really wanted to do in the next chapter of my life.
Pros and Cons – Is it all Roses?
The pros of running your own company far outweigh the cons I’ve found but it’s not all roses. There’s one aspect of my job that I’ve liked less and less over the years – business travel. There have been many years throughout my career where I’ve been gone 2 – 3 weeks per month. Many times I’d head to the airport Sunday morning, fly to some location around the world, and then get back late Friday night. The next Sunday would roll around and I’d do it all over again. Although my family would come along when I went to “fun” places in the summer, most of the weeks I was away from them and on my own.
Don’t get me wrong, travel is fun and the financial aspect was great, but it can definitely wear you down over time especially when you want to be there for your family. Sure, you get top level “status” and points with airlines and hotels which sounds nice at first, but ultimately that means you’re away from home a lot. I’ve found myself dreading going to the airport, staying in yet another hotel, and eating yet another dinner alone in some new city more and more as I got older. Being stuck at home during COVID really made me realize that I’d like to get to a point where I don’t have to travel so much.
Another downside of running a company is the number of hours you typically work in a given week, the pressure that comes with keeping the business going during good times and bad, negotiating and finalizing contracts, always being on the lookout for the next contract, dealing with corporate taxes (thankfully my wife handles the finances), handling customer issues that come up, and more. You learn to work “smarter” versus “harder” as you gain more experience but the long hours and stress never really end (note that it’s not lost on me that many of you working for a company feel the same way as well at times). As mentioned, the pros of running your own company far outweigh the cons in my experience, and having flexibility to work where and when you want is great. But, there’s an associated cost. Nothing comes for free.
Having said all of that, do I recommend venturing out on your own? Absolutely! There’s a lot of life, career, and entrepreneurial experiences and lessons that can be learned and there’s a really big financial upside if you do it right. I’ve talked about many of the pros and cons of running your own business or being an “entrepreneurial coder” on different podcasts if you’re interested (here and here). Although running a company certainly isn’t for everyone, I do feel strongly that everyone should start a “side hustle” if possible to bring in extra income and add additional stability and flexibility. The trick is figuring out the proper work/life balance.
That circles this little story back to “Change is good”. In the back of my mind I knew I was looking to change things up, travel less, and try something new. COVID (sadly) gave me plenty of time to stay home and think about it. I talked it over with my wife and we both agreed it was time for me to change things up career-wise. I let a few close friends know my thoughts and started thinking through what my next steps would be. Should I continue doing what I knew worked really well from a financial, flexibility, and comfort standpoint or should I venture into the unknown, mix things up, and tackle some new challenges? Sometimes timing is everything as you’ll see next.
The Big Change
I received an email in April asking if I’d be interested in considering a brand new position that was opening up on the Microsoft Cloud Advocates team. The role would bridge Microsoft 365 and Azure and focus on a new real-time collaboration framework being released in the near future called the Fluid Framework.
I know a lot of great people on the different Cloud Advocates teams and had considered moving into that type of role several years ago when the group was first started. As a result, I decided to go through the process and see what happened. After finishing the “interview loop”, talking more with people inside and outside of Microsoft (including my friends John Papa, Craig Shoemaker, Shayne Boyer, and Jason Helmick who all work at Microsoft – thanks for your feedback guys!), getting buy-in from my wife, and spending a lot of time thinking through it on my own, I decided to make the jump and take the Cloud Advocate role at Microsoft.
In this new role I’ll have the opportunity to do a lot of the same things I’ve been doing over the years which played a big role in my decision. I’ll still get to interact with and help developers, architects, and technical management, listen to feedback, work with various communities, build apps, create training content, speak at conferences and other events, record videos, and more.
I’ll admit that this type of change is a little scary and intimidating especially since I’m giving up something stable that my wife and I built up over 20 years, but I do believe that “Change is good” and I’m ready for a change. I’m looking forward to working with the Fluid, Microsoft 365, and Azure teams and to the challenges and new experiences that lie ahead!