And Then There Were Eight. Photo by Sarah McDevitt.
Image by Sarah McDevitt

And Then There Were Eight

Hi, I’m Mo. I’m employee number eight. I’ve been at Apsis Labs for a little under half a year now, but working remotely 20 hours a week does a funny thing to your sense of time. I was really nervous about switching over, I always thought small companies meant big risks and I feared they lacked the foundation that larger companies needed to move constantly forward. I was wrong. Big companies have a lot of processes, sure, but that doesn’t mean small companies lack them. If anything, I’ve learned that smaller companies are more aware of their processes, and have more flexibility to change what isn’t working. I thought I’d miss the safety net of a larger company’s routines, but I don’t. I don’t miss job matrixes. I don’t miss a calendar half full of bikesheds meetings. At Apsis, I get to sit and write code, which can be a surprisingly hard trait to find in a programming job.

The interview process was very slow, I learned about the position from a friend shortly after I had joined a different company. I knew I still had a lot to learn from my new job, and wasn’t in a rush to jump ship. Luckily, Apsis was on the same page, and my interview process was spread across 6 months which helped me focus on growing skills. I was nervous about the technical challenge, but I learned quickly that they look for how people think rather than the textbook answer.

My first week at Apsis, two folks asked me my pronouns. This is always a good sign to me, and was definitely made possible by not being the first non gender conforming person to join the team. In my first few months, I worked on at least five different projects ranging from monolithic to greenfield, a smart house app to a crypto collectibles game. This variety helps me grow and stay focused at work.

My biggest fear about joining Apsis was my skill level. I could code, but the places I worked had so many levels of engineer from Junior to Architect that I wasn’t sure where I fit, and I never felt good enough because there was always seemingly countless levels above me. It’s hard to balance proving I’m the best candidate, while acting realistic about my skill level and not over-promising or cutting myself down. At Apsis, there aren’t job ladders to climb, it’s all flat. There’s no competition of “whats next” and career building is much more focused on the skills you want to build than the title you wish you had. It doesn’t stop me from feeling like the most clueless on the team at times, but it’s noticeably reduced my imposter syndrome.

Office life has been good for me in the past, but I’ve always wanted to work remotely. It tests my ability to manage my time and my focus, but has also helped make me more aware of the two. Work/Life balance has a new meaning to me, while I’m not the best at working the same steady schedule of hours each day, I have the flexibility to explore what does work for me. Instead of going to a 9-5 every day and fitting my life around my job, the two have an opportunity to work around each other. Twenty hours a week sounds dreamy but still feels like a full 40 hour week because it’s billable hours. So the times I got paid at my 9-5 to stare at the window are long gone, I still stare out the window but now it’s on my time instead.

In past jobs I was a big advocate for diversity in the workplace, it’s not unusual for me to be the only not straight-white-cis-guy on the team. Apsis is so small and it isn’t growing at the rate of previous jobs, so I don’t have to try and spend energy paving the way for other folks. I just get to focus on building my skills and spending that advocacy energy outside of the workplace.

There’s still a lot for me to learn at Apsis, we juggle a lot of clients and codebases and languages and it takes a certain flow to move from one project to the next without skipping a beat. I have to learn to trust my calendar and make managing my time part of my routine, and I’m constantly growing as an engineer. My first half a year at Apsis has been better than I could anticipate, and I’m grateful for taking a leap of faith and joining the team despite my reservations and need for stability. I can’t wait to see what projects we get to work on next :)