Carving My Own Path
I graduated from University in 2007 as a software engineer. I immediately got a job as a developer. Then another, then another. In the last 15 years I've not had a single job where I truly felt like I was carving out my own path.
I've had some amazing jobs and my career has grown by some external assessment (job title, experience, salary). I've met some amazing people. At the same time, I've never truly felt free.
While you choose your job, and in doing so exercise some control over the sort of stuff you work on – the kind of value you add to the world – it stops as quickly as it starts.
You mostly don't choose your colleagues. You don't choose the future problems people more senior than you will decide to focus on. You often don't own a part of the thing you're helping to build. Even when exceptions to some of these things appear, they're still far removed from being the founder – from it being your mission.
The idea of running my own startup felt like a possible route to this sense of freedom. However, those who've done so will know first hand that a startup (the typical model – angel, accelerator, VC) is just a reconfiguration of a lot of the same issues.
What I really want is to work on cool shit with my friends, where revenue comes second and never becomes the only goal.
It's a very strong second, to be clear, but only because without money supporting your endeavour, it's back to helping someone else build their dream idea (which, sooner or later, is to appease a group of people who put money into the thing so they could extract more back out).
Freelance is another route I tried. I like the independence but it doesn't solve the "working on other people's problems" part.
In the end, I came to the conclusion that the most reliable route to what I'm looking for is to find a way to cut costs. Living cheaply lets me buy back more of my time and put that time into being an indie developer, working on what truly excites me.
From time to time I have to find unfulfilling work to top up the "staying alive" fund, but otherwise I can create conditions where I decide entirely what sort of value I want to put into the world and what I want for it in return. Sometimes it's nothing, sometimes something, with the core goal of finding a self-sustaining balance.
Today is my last day at my current job. For the past year and a half I've been working for a company in London as engineering lead of (at peak) about 40 engineers. It was full of unique challenges for me, and luckily I also spent a lot of time doing training work.
Helping junior engineers learn from first principles and seeing them grow step by step into capable, productive members of teams is, contrary to my points above, a very rewarding thing to do for other companies.
But after 1.5 years of being in this world, it's finally time to step out and return to the indie way once again. I've saved as much money as I could and I now have around two years to begin carving my own path again.
It's time to pack a small bag, leave my current world behind and begin overusing the word "nomad". This time I'm focusing harder on finding indie market fit, and I'm very excited to start working on something that will get me out of bed each morning.
If you were nodding a lot while reading this post, please reach out. I want to know what you're working on and how you're doing it. I want to meet more fellow indie developers with similar goals so we can encourage and support each other.
In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.