Wait…what? I traded a lucrative programming career for…buying and delivering groceries?

In short, yes. For now, at least.

Simply Put – I Got Burned The F– Out 

I left my development job just before Thanksgiving. I all but literally told them “it’s not you, it’s me,” because that was the truth. I don’t have anything but good stuff to say about the company I worked for, because they were about as close to perfect as I’ve found. They really didn’t care about the number of hours you worked, as long as you got the work done. They care about their employees (I went to the upper management a couple of times with some issues, and not only did they listen to what I had to say, they took it seriously and made change in order to fix the underlying problem). They valued employees’ time and acted accordingly (kept meetings and interruptions to a minimum, had an unlimited paid time off policy, etc). The code, itself, is what burnt me out, really, and even that, had I been able to stick it out, probably would have resolved over time, as we modernized the legacy system.

Unfortunately, between the system, which was built in a way that was basically opposite to how I think and operate, so I was fighting my own brain the whole time, and various events going on at home, I pretty much crashed and burned. In the last couple of months of working, I became less and less able to do the work, and when I got off of work, I was so mentally exhausted that I couldn’t function to do home stuff. It was all I could do to make dinner and put my son to bed in the evenings, let alone work on a side project that would allow me to apply to other companies that might suit me better (I didn’t even want to look at computer after getting done with work). So, I made the decision to resign, for both the company’s and my own sake.

It’s now been a little over a month – a much-needed month off. I’m actually getting back to a point where I can function, where the idea of doing just about any kind of work doesn’t awash me in anxiety. I can, at the very least, open an editor and work on tech-related stuff, including working on this blog (both writing and hooking it up to Travis CI, so I can add posts from just about anywhere). I hope to be able to start working on actual development projects again in the coming weeks.

Changing Trajectory 

One thing I’ve wanted to do for some time was run my own business. Since taking time off, I’ve been able to focus on growing that part of my life. Right now, I’ve focused on getting vendor opportunities for my soap business and craft projects. Over Thanksgiving, I was able to land a good deal with a small, but popular shop near my mom’s house. It’s actually been keeping me rather busy keeping up, since cold process soap requires a 6-week lead time. I actually need to work on expanding my production and curing stuff. I’ve run myself out of room in my current setup!

It also uncovered a bit of a pain point in the soap making arena – the lack of production, inventory, etc. software. There is, as far as I can tell, one option out there, and it leaves quite a bit to be desired in the user experience department. So, I plan on working on an alternative option for it that serves three purposes for me – 1. it gives me an application to use that has the features I want/need, 2. it provides me with a code sample should I want to go back to working for someone else, and 3. it provides me with a potential source of income once I get it completed and up and running.

All of these things are long-game plans, though. It takes time to build an application (especially when you’re the only one and you’re designing and architecting everything), it takes time to build a vendor/customer list to sell to or through, and it takes time to get the money from those things. Unfortunately, when I quit working, I inherited most of the home-based things, which includes bills that were okay while both my husband and I were working for companies, but made finances tight when one salary dropped off. We’re close to living off one salary, but need some extra cash sooner rather than later.

Enter Shipt 

As it so happens, a nifty little company out of Birmingham, AL was just about to expand into the Columbus area (in fact, today is launch day). Shipt is an on-demand grocery delivery service. The core company has built a platform where customers use their mobile app to order groceries, and shoppers go buy and deliver the groceries. They employ independent contractors to be the shoppers, though the salaried team at the corporate office also make a point to do at least one shop a month to ensure they don’t get disconnected from their core model.

They do the contracting right, too – we set our own hours, limited only by the hours the grocery stores – and, by extension, Shipt – are open (they work with particular chains in each area to allow us to shop there, since Shipt is technically a “reseller,” so there’s some paperwork that needs filed), we determine how many hours a day or week we work, we determine how many orders we can take on at once, we can even do our own advertising/marketing and whatnot (as long as we follow the branding guidelines).

Finally! A source of income I can do while my son is in school in the afternoons (he only goes half-days right now) and when my husband gets off work, that doesn’t run me all night, and doesn’t require me to do while my son is home (and, therefore, split my energy and force me to multitask by default). It’s perfect! Now it’s just a matter of picking up the orders so I can actually make money. Still, weekly pay as long as I fulfill at least one order, is still more frequent and more immediate than once every 4-6 weeks, and even more than 6+ months from now. It will definitely help smooth out the inherent rockiness of selling physical products of my own, and provides an avenue for some quick cash when necessary, as well as extra money to invest into building my company. Best of all, it’s something that gets me out of the house, which is nice, and doesn’t take a ton of brainpower, so it complements my coding work and doesn’t interfere with it.

The Future 

I became a developer, because I loved writing code. I loved solving problems by making software. I want to be able to get back to that, because working as a software developer has largely lost sight of that core love of problem solving. Over the past several years, working as a software developer became less about solving people’s problems with code, and more about completing tickets and meeting deadlines. Technically, the problem solving was still there – I last worked on software that was solving problems for people (I actually got to hear sometimes about how a new feature was a lifesaver to a particular client, those were awesome moments) – but I was thrice removed from those things. By the time it was my time to work, the solutions were dictated to me and expected to be done a certain way (even if the way wasn’t always communicated to me).

That’s not really what I want. I want the code itself to stay largely out of my way, and I want to spend my time coming up with solutions to problems. This is probably why I’ve started getting into DevOps type of stuff lately (though, unfortunately, my path into that suffers the same issue my looking for work with other people suffered – certain requirements needed to be filled, but I didn’t have the energy to fill them in).

I’m hoping that my software project will fulfill that need for me, while still allowing me to keep the software industry a bit more at arms-reach, so I don’t get mired in its not-so-pleasant depths again.