S02E17: Firebreak

Oh yeah, we’re going heavy on metaphor here

A firebreak is a path cut through a forest. It’s wide enough that, if there were a fire, it shouldn’t be able to jump across. It’s a deliberate act of destruction to guard against future calamity.

My organisation has regular firebreaks, for people to blow off steam and do side projects that improve the organisation in one way or another. For me, it was an opportunity to get back to where I started and do some work to improve the Fast Stream. I worked up a clickable prototype of a service that people could use to submit roles they’d like trainees to fill. I showed the thing every day, made content changes and tweaked what I was going to do. It got great feedback, so now I’ve got to figure out how to make a case for a proper team to turn it into a real service.

I ran out of time to put it on infrastructure, but if you’d like to play around with it you can download the code and run it yourself.


I learned how to use Redis and how to drop a user into a variable-length workflow and then ping them back out. I used Docker, I coded in the open, and I managed not to publish any credentials.

As a sidenote, I’m so grateful that I’ve found a job where I get money to do something I love and can lose hours on. It’s wonderful.

This was my fun thing.

Despite this; despite having been doing this for only a month, I’m already looking ahead. There are good career paths in my area, and I’m planning mine out already. It involves a secondment to a cold, North American country at some point — preferably before my French gets too rusty. I don’t know if this is running away from emotional distress or trying to make the best of the situation: I am now freer of things that keep me here.⁰

And so I’m excited about next week: I’m seeing a couple of people to talk about how they got to the senior places they did in the hopes that I can emulate them. I’ve got breakfasts (including a potential return to #OneTeamBreakfast) and I might even make it to chess club.

A scene from Harry Potter. Queen takes knight.

This week I’ve been grateful for all the people meeting up with me. Company is immensely valuable, particularly at the moment, so thank you to the kind souls who let me word vomit all over them in various cultural landmarks.

Particular thanks to the individual who broke my “I’m an emotional mess, I’m not drinking” run with eight gins. I feel like a new person this morning, by which I mean my tongue feels unfamiliar and my skin is both too hot and too cold.

Finally: next week I’m going to experiment with intermittent fasting — only eating in an 8 hour window between 1200 and 2000. Join me on a journey of grumpy, hangry emails before devouring lunch at 1202.

⁰ I am choosing to call this “ambition” rather than “running away from your problems”. I’ve wanted to visit Canada for a while, and having fewer roots open up new routes to career success. No word on romantic success; indeed, if there is any nation in the world where being bilingual in French and English is unlikely to help you attract a partner it must surely be Canada.

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