2015 was tough just no getting around it. I started the year working with an amazing team as the CTO of a company I really believed in and the COO of the company that was supposed to be my future. By the end of 2015, I had been through 3 jobs (all of my own choosing), I had spent most of the year just trying to find out what my employers really expected of me and honestly never getting an answer. I don’t know if I can explain in words what it is like to go from the top of your game with people counting on you to make all the right decisions to people not even caring if you showed up to work.
But for me, it was a combination of things. For the first time ever I really experience depression. Having grown up with parent’s who deal with it and my wife who has made huge progress in her own mental health this was a shock to the system. But I found out that it is something that I can cope with when presented with it and push through so that was a win. Anxiety was not new to me. Starting in early 2014 when a critical project refused to go right no matter what I did I started having mild anxiety attacks and they really screwed with me. Being depressed is one thing but feeling totally out of control and on edge is a whole other thing that I was not really equipped to deal with. But through luck, hiking, and lots of time to let my mind and body disconnect from years of stress that I had never dealt with the anxiety slipped away and for now has become dormant. However, the hardest part was the self-doubt and that compounded both the depression and the anxiety.
After years of winning and moving forward, I had started to face failure no matter how hard I tried in my mid-30s. Let me tell you that is a tough time to face failure with 3 kids, a mortgage and staff counting on you not to fuck up. So when I jumped from a CTO/COO role to just being a cog in a big company I did so with plans to do more big things and get back on the winning path. Roughly a year later that had not happened. For about six months I had really been wondering if I had what it took to get back on the horse and do big things again. I considered a few things, start back from scratch and become the best network engineer I could be and downsize my expectations for my future. Honestly, that had lots of upsides and no matter how hard I try I would never be as good as most of my friends and engineers I look up to but I could do what I was good at which if fixing broken networks. Option 2 was to find a nice safe role where I was where I consistently bang out what was expected of me and hopefully retire in 30 years but there was lots of stuff wrong with that plan so I pretty much said screw that from day one. I am a lot of things but I am not lazy and willing to lay down and die. If I am going to go out it will be swinging even it is failing my CCIE for the 400th time if that is even possible. The final and most challenging (thus most likely for me to choose) was to go find a challenge that was bigger than my experience but allowed me to use my strengths. If you are reading this you probably already know what I chose.
Just short of a year on from the decision to take on a Sr. Director of Operations role things are still humming along. I write this hoping others see it and know that they are not alone when it feels like it is all coming unglued and years of work is slipping away. For me, it took a year of soul-searching and unexpected downtime followed by doubling down. Just remember to keep moving forward.