Why I wasn't "working" for 1.5 years?

Breaking my silence on the sabbatical
By Apan Trikha at Sat Jul 16 2022


There is a good reason why I have my own website, it's not just about achieving my wisdom of my software development journey but also wisdom of real life. LinkedIn articles are good and all but given this one is personal, I feel putting this up on my website is worth it. I have been getting questions mostly from students on why I left Amazon almost 2 years ago and the reason is what I have explained in my experience section of LinkedIn.

I took an intentional career break to transition from support roles to development roles.

Apan Trikha (2020)

I got inspired by recent trend on LinkedIn of software engineer YouTubers making office tour videos which lead many to think that working at MANGA simply means subsidised food and a fancy office (which let's face it, every good company has these).

A Word of Caution

I don't know where I will be in future, but I want to warn the reader ahead of time that while I am thankful for this sabbatical this article isn't to romanticize this undertaking. I'm not demonizing this either, just presenting the blunt truth. A sabbatical straight out of gradutation is a risky move and I don't recommend it unless you clearly know what you want out of it. The potential risk can include early death of your career, so plan ahead really well before making this move.

In Pursuit of Wisdom I Need

There's a meme worthy sentence I wanna debunk

dRoP uR eGo nD fOcUs oN lEaRnInG

a LinkedIn "influencer"

I'm not knocking on professional wisdom at all. It's highly important in areas of leadership because wisdom shines where expertise fails, while writing this post, I'm a Junior Software Engineer at Aristocrat. When compared against other Junior (even Mid-Level) Engineers, I'm able to discern and find bugs fast. This is due to my prior experience in game development which I undertook independently since 2017 under this alias. During game jams, when I find a bug, I try to reproduce and resolve it under the time constraint, which I have transferred effectively under this job. However, I have my own share of stupidity too. Like there was a JIRA, I "solved" only to find I was about to break an intended design. Why that happened? Simple, I didn't look at the high level design but since I validated the problem before commiting, I saved myself from breaking the game. There are other nonsensical things I've done ranging from regression of bugs to full on production level crashes, but you get the gist.

But the why am I saying this is a shit LinkedIn bots say? The reason is this is half truth especially when used to say "pick any job you get". Humans have unlimited potential but limited capability. There is so much you can do depending on your physiological attributes. Given my physical stature, I can go Indian military but I don't have good eye-sight to see an incoming foe effectively. Similarly while working as Support Engineer intern at Amazon, I found while I can communicate and help people effectively, my abilities are better suited where I'm building or creating something like composing music, making software, videos, writing, etc. Not only that, I find myself drifting towards development too often during work hours.

So I dropped my ego of an Amazon engineer and focussed on learning how to be an effective software engineer. Usually such posts are there to tell people that MANGA isn't the end of the world, which is true since I'm undertaking more interesting projects at Aristocrat than I ever took at Amazon.

The key take away is that you must find your position in the industry as early as possible. I found that development is the best for me and have the ability to pursue it, initially my peers found this decision to be odd but most have agreed with me in retrospect.

Finding Niches and True Passion

This is an odd reason for many as many people aren't curious, a morbid reality I have to live with. However, that doesn't mean I can't find my band of brothers in this industry. When I took this sabbatical, there was a sense of incompetence that I felt in the middle of all this. There were times I wasn't getting shortlisted at all for several positions. So I thought of two things:

Had I took the second one, I wouldn't have raised myself to the heights of my programming ability where I am now. Instead, I considered the first one to be true. Now, to prove my relevance and my ability, I must undertake some good projects, however, those need to show my authentic side. After all, not only I have to show my interest veraciously but also justify this break. In India, career breaks are often considered as a red flag putting a massive question mark on one's competence. As a result, a simple project isn't going to be enough but I didn't have money to work on ML or AI based projects neither I could avail for student benefits.

This restriction made me think further, as a result, I went with hard projects. Those that are not only hard to replicate but also showcase my grounding in computer science principles and my true ability in programming. This was a hard path and while there is still some dissatisfaction, I'm comforted by the fact I'm no longer into a support position and had the courage to pivot my career as early as possible. To see, you can go to my GitHub and GitLab pages and see the projects yourself but some of the key projects I made included:

Conclusion

I personally think I am not satisfied at all with my sabbatical but I won't consider it a failure as well. Sure, I'm clearly not where I want to be but knowing that I'm on my way inspires me to move forward. I would recommend a sabbatical more as a last resort not as a first instinct. If you can't find the time but have an uncontrollable grid for your vision, then it will be worth considering but have backups in case things go South which almost happened with me. I was hellbent on becoming a developer due to this grit and I would suggest recruiters to appriciate the efforts of people making during their sabbatical because you don't know what good stuff they can bring to the table from that break.