When I started the job at Amazon in June, I worried for a while that I would end up drowning in work and dry besides. I had fourteen years of work experience, but none as a developer. I was moving into what I had been told was a high-stress, underfunded team with a lot of legacy code. I knew my coworkers were mostly younger. I knew my manager was distracted. I knew I would have a ton of problems.
I didn’t know how dessicated I could be.
Two months after I started the job, my manager became my senior manager and he hired a replacement that, two years later, would be forced out of management for failure to perform in the role, but at the time nobody knew that. We only knew that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a manager or a developer, but that we were all going to find out together. My team mentor was more interested in finishing his promotion project and leaving than he was in showing me how to use Amazon’s tool set or helping me learn the code base, so I spent the first three months struggling and flailing, trying to make sense of it all. My manager pulled me aside and said people were complaining about how little work I was getting done, and he tried to solve it by handing me a bigger problem than I could manage alone: a critical database upgrade and systems improvement to the core workflow without which our tool would fall over dead by Christmas. That way, I couldn’t possibly be slacking off because I would obviously be drowning in work.
Of course, as soon as I drowned in work, he reported that people were complaining that I wasn’t making enough progress, so he sent in a senior developer to “help” me finish the project. The fact that said senior engineer promptly floundered alongside me, and that it took him a month to solve what I was expected to fix in two weeks, was ignored in favor of the narrative that Kristy needed lots of help. A twenty-minute outage to the main website thanks to a bug I wrote — and two senior developers missed in code review — nailed that image into my performance review.
After that, I spent a year doing okay, but not great, as I spent ever more hours at work forcing myself into a state of competency. With all my energy poured into work, I managed to meet expectations by midyear, but then I started getting asked questions about how I handled various tickets. Never, “hey, you did this wrong; let’s talk about how you could’ve done better” but “tell me what you were thinking” or “explain your thinking.” So I did, and my boss walked away with that. Then, in December 2013, he suggested out of the blue that maybe I should consider switching to project management from development, because “[my] trajectory isn’t great.” Then a month later he told me I should stop panicking.
Finally, in February, he finally pulled me into his office and said, “you’ve got a number of customer complaints from people saying they don’t like your attitude.” After much back and forth and gnashing of teeth, I was finally able to discern that people thought the way I said no wasn’t very nice, and I needed to find a more Amazonian way of telling other people I couldn’t solve their problems. So I did, and in six weeks the complaints were gone, and I started to think I was on a promotion track.
Then in April I got my performance review for 2014, wherein I had gotten another “needs improvement” for the problem he didn’t tell me about until February. That was the penultimate straw, and I went to my senior manager and said, “this is reprehensible and I want it fixed,” and lo and behold, my senior manager agreed. I suspect this is why that manager ultimately got removed, but by that point, the damage was already done; my career at Amazon was already over. I just didn’t know it for another eight months. I left in November, just before Bandaza.
All throughout my time there, Keet repeatedly told me I should leave. Twice she pointed it out to me, but what finally did it was her statement that I hadn’t written since I started. Before, at T-Mobile, the river of stories had never stopped. Custom, Beyond the Wall, and Only Human were regular companions. I roleplayed. I experienced valences of reality outside my own. At Amazon, it all dried up. I was empty, every drop of self poured into holding onto the job for one more day. I wrung myself out for that company, and it sucked away everything I gave it.
The weekend after I left, I had a drive I had to take to Vancouver, for the board of RainFurrest. It was evening when I got on the road, and I had my pocketwatch with me. I put in one of my mixes, and somewhere on I-5 north, I realized suddenly that one eye was on the road, and the other was visualizing a rabbit in a grey robe, drawing a three-dimensional lemniscate of stars around herself. I saw the other half of the a magical project I had started years ago, the So Below to match the As Above. Last month, I was listening to music — I forget whose, or which — and I could see, visually, the structure of a novel, the lines of plots and characters that interleave to form a narrative. In just three weeks, I’ve got the outline complete, and I’m happy with it. Yes, it will change as I write it, but I’ve shown it to a small number of people, and I feel weirdly empowered.
It’s like the dry spell has broken.
I picked up a copy of The Shy Writer Reborn: An Introverted Writer’s Wake-up Call, and though there are parts of it with which I disagree, there’s a lot that I’ve already learned from reading it.
As such… the Ranch will soon be no more.
I’m going to take this site and the Nail, and I’m going to merge them into a gestalt entity. Keeping them separate is trying to build two separate online identities, when really everything I do here is in support of what I’m doing there. I’m a writer. Words are my stock in trade, whether I’m crafting fiction or talking about my life. I thought perhaps I should keep them distinct, but ultimately, that serves nobody. I’ll be announcing here and on the other site what the new URI will be — I’ll be keeping it in Prisma’s house, to be sure — but soon the Ranch will be no more. I’m still sorting out a few technological issues, but I’ll be importing all my blog material, so it should be like you’re getting two for one, and only one site to manage. It’s good for you. It’s good for me. Everybody wins.
I feel like I’m making progress again in the ways that matter, in ways that I couldn’t for two-and-a-half years. It feels good. I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting. I’m getting back in the water.
The sky shall open and I shall drink my fill.