Life seems to be full of surprises. Sometimes you find yourself gently cruising on the waves, and other times the sea of life decides to guide your ship straight into the stormy sea. That might be frustrating and you might find yourself swimming to a deserted island quite often, but at least you’ll learn to become a good captain.
This time last year you’d find me in my office, enthusiastically writing my server code. I’ve been a backend developer for three years up until that point, living the life of databases and servers, being comfortable inside my little programmer bubble. One day my coworker asked me if I could take over the development of two small static websites that were in desperate need to get finished in about three weeks’ time.
An easy task, for sure, I thought - I sat down with my coworker to discuss both projects. After about an hour of discussion, I stepped out of the office with a new challenge in sight - something I’ve never done before. As that one prince of a town called Bel-Air once said, “my life got flipped turned upside down”. So I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the project managing programmer.
To some, it might not seem like a big deal to be a project manager as a developer. To me the idea of being a project manager was intriguing - I wanted to try it to see if I would like it. Soon I got my own little team and started working on the projects. It wasn’t the cleanest management, and I’ve often put on my developer suit, digging into the code, to help my team deliver the project.
We managed to finish both of the projects. I was exhausted but felt inspired and received a spark of motivation to take on more responsibility. Although the high pressure of clients and their deadlines frightened me, I liked the feeling of having a team and work being accomplished. I soon volunteered to take over another project. And then another one appeared. And then two of the previous ones woke up.
I was never educated as a project manager. I went with the flow when it came to my projects. I’ve made many mistakes along the way and tried to fix them as I’ve discovered them. I experimented with different approaches. And despite trying many times, I never left the code - I was managing and programming.
Feeling the intensity
About half a year later - in April 2021 - I was having a real rough time. I had the responsibility on four rather large projects with crazy time sensitivity. I was feeling the pressure and the oncoming burn-out was brewing. Being locked in quarantine didn’t help the issue. I dropped most of my hobbies and lost a lot of sleep. These were dark times.
I didn’t have time to think, though - I pushed through and managed to get out of the downward spiral of stress and pressure. Eventually, the projects settled down and I managed to delegate most of them to other people.
If I could turn back the time, would I do the same thing all over again? Or would I rather stay working on my servers and databases?
Even though I have no other description of this period than “the dark times”, I’d do it all over again. Yes, it was exhausting and yes, it was stressful, but - it was the best learning experience I’ve had so far.
I feel like a different person coming out of this experience. Many of my viewpoints changed and I gained skills I’d never have thought would benefit me.
I’m a self-employed developer now! I’m still reflecting back on my dark times and writing down things I’ve learned. It’s like a gold mine of knowledge that has still not depleted. So I’ll keep mining.
One of the things I missed the most during these trying times was writing blogs! Over the course of next weeks, I’ll be posting some of my learnings. Hopefully, I’ll have the time - who knows, maybe another coworker will need two small static websites to be done …