Hello friends, how have you been?
It’s been a weird year. I hope you’re doing well and finding some joy out there.
As for me, I just finished my first month of working at Twitter. In this issue I’ll explain how I ended up doing that, then I have a rant on workplace policies, followed by a bunch of interesting links for you to check out. Definitely scroll to the bottom and click on those.
After leaving my previous job earlier this year, I was a mess. I wasn’t sure what to do next, and had very little energy for figuring it out.
But, ya know, mouths gotta eat and mortgages gotta mortgage, so I just started interviewing and hoped everything would sort itself out. Eventually I discovered the types of jobs I was gravitating to: the total opposite of what I had been doing before.
In company terms, this meant big instead of small. Public instead of private. Structured instead of scrappy.
In job terms, I wanted something different too: a more collaborative environment, plus working with completely new processes and tools.
So that’s what I did. I decided to join Twitter, where I’m working on evolving the platform’s core timeline. It’s been a good experience so far, even though I’m still stumbling around and learning how everything works. I feel a bit like a person with two broken arms trying to put on a shirt (but in a positive way?)
It would have been much easier to go somewhere that operates like my last company, and do all of that same work again. It’s uncomfortable and humbling to change contexts drastically, but it felt healthier to make a clean break and start fresh. Highly recommended.
THE VALUE OF RESETS
One of the best aspects of starting over is the chance to reassess what you care about now. Your priorities and circumstances naturally evolve over time, but your job usually doesn’t. You might be sitting in a job that made sense in the past, but now doesn’t suit you so well anymore. It seems like a whole lot of people are realizing this simultaneously.
The last time I switched jobs I was younger and eager to prove myself. This time, I don’t feel that pressure. Now I’m looking to broaden my experience, have a lot of impact, and maintain a healthier separation from my work. I’m not expecting any job to be a dream job, I just want to work on interesting things with kind people.
Whatever your circumstance is, make sure to do a gut check every so often. Guts have a tendency to change on you without advance warning.
OUR SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS AND EXISTENTIAL CRISES ARE BLEEDING INTO WORK BECAUSE LIFE AND WORK ARE NOT SEPARATE THINGS
This week, Coinbase’s CEO Brian Armstrong wrote a thread congratulating himself for establishing a no-politics policy at his company. To summarize, he enforced a rule that prevents his employees from speaking their minds, and some people resigned over it. Then, to the surprise of no one, people who stayed or recently joined the company have praised his decision.
This is sort of like going to a concert and surveying the crowd to see if they enjoy the band. Pretty obvious you’ll get a plurality of votes in favor!
Needless to say I disagree with this whole premise. Here are a few other reflections, since I’ve had a lot of time to chew on it all.
1) Given the past several years of global chaos, we’re all despondent and traumatized in varying degrees.
Women and minorities have especially suffered a disproportionate share of pandemic-related burdens, alongside all the other disproportionate burdens they already have to suffer.
People are increasingly isolated, and they’re hurting. Some more than others. Whether they’re saying it out loud or not, they’re bringing that pain to work with them, because these problems don’t just magically disappear when you clock in for the day. For some people, work is the only place with regular social interaction and support at all.
In these conditions, the truly brave choice for a leader is doing the hard, unpredictable work to help people get through tough times together, not slamming the door shut and silencing them. Creating a controlled echo chamber is not exactly a profile in courage.
2) These sorts of policies will keep happening. There will be more isolationist companies, and more open culture companies. Employees will have to choose accordingly. Isolationists may claim a productivity advantage, but they’ll always have a deficit in institutional empathy.
3) If execs really want their employees to “just focus on work,” there’s an excellent alternative no one is talking about. Companies could get aggressively political instead, and dedicate some real energy into addressing the many simultaneous crises we’re facing. How about throwing some of these staggeringly vast resources into fighting climate change, reducing income inequality, advocating for universal health care, and advancing civil rights causes?
If more companies did this, maybe we could make some actual progress, and people wouldn’t be showing up to work so damn burned out and scared in the first place. Imagine that.
TIME FOR A LINK BLAST
Alright, enough ranting! As promised, here are some good reads and things to click on:
Why video games age so quickly, by one of my fave writers, Clive Thompson.
A good looking blobby personal website by Wojtek Witkowski.
A great guide to designing realistic shadows with CSS.
Math symbols converted into for loops. This should be a required lesson in mathematics study! If you’re into this sort of thing, be sure to check out one of the greatest books about math, The Joy of X.
The HÅG Capsico ergonomic chair. I recently got one of these for my home office, and it’s so nice. It pairs well with a standing desk, and works perfectly if you’re a fidgety sort of person who likes to sit or lean in weird ways throughout the day. Kinda pricey, but well worth it for a trusty companion you use every day.
Tribe by Sebastian Junger. A more detailed history of how modern individualism and social isolation run counter to human evolution (and contribute massively to the destruction of the planet.)
What did the poet say to Luke Skywalker? Metaphors be with you.
COMING UP NEXT
In the next issue, I’ll share thoughts about designing in Figma vs. code, plus some ideas for keeping your professional and personal computing devices separate while sharing the same desk (this is surprisingly challenging!)
I’ll probably also continue ranting about work topics, because obviously.
Is there anything else you’d like me to discuss in a future issue? Reply back to this email with questions, and I’ll answer if I can.
Thanks for reading! See ya next month.