Episode 397: Skunkworks and too much work/life balance

Soft Skills Engineering

Feb 26 2024 • 25 mins

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Listener Davide says,

    I have a lot of ideas for significantly improving manufacturing processes, but management wants us to focus on business “priorities”. These are fun tasks such as making sure part numbers are replicated in two disconnected systems that have no way of talking to each other. Makes getting Master’s degree feel like time very well spent.

    I end up setting aside some time and doing the legwork for my improvements in secret, and showing my boss when the solution is 90% there. I have a fear that they think the solution appeared out of thin air and required no work, but also if I told them in advance I was going to spend time on it, I would get told off and forbidden from doing it.

    Am I alone in this? Am I stupid? Should I quit my job? Have I written too much? Is the world really relying on a handful of Excel spreadsheets which are keeping us one circular reference away from total annihilation?

    Thanks for reading this far, and greetings from a listener from some place in England.

  2. Sorry for the long question and thanks in advance for any help or advice :)

    I’ve been working for a small 20-year old B2B company. It makes money. The work-life balance is amazing. Our workdays are 6 hours, and we are remote. On busy days, I may work 3 hours a day. So everything is great.

    But I hate it. I have no interest in the product. Everyone picks one ticket and goes to their corner to fix it. No collaboration unless necessary, which is rare because there are no complex challenges. I feel no one in the company is ambitious technically. It feels like I’m not growing and learning.

    My previous company was the exact opposite. Brilliant invested colleagues. Lots to learn and I was always inspired to work with them and learn from them. I felt like the stupidest person in the room. They cared about technical decisions and problems a lot. It was as close to my ideal workplace as it could be (the product was meh, and the management sucked). But I got laid off after 5 months of being there.

    Now whenever I talk with anybody about how I feel demotivated, and lifeless, and want to move on from this company, they say I’m crazy. And if I’m looking to learn and grow I have all the time in the world. I want to be in an environment that challenges me, inspires me, and pushes me to learn during work hours at least. I fear that if I stay here for a few years, I will not have the experience and resume needed to move to a company like the one I was in before I got laid off.

    Am I wrong to want to move out of this company in this situation?