Technically underemployed

Warning: fire-hose of consciousness coming at you below. Buckle up.


I didn’t have to get up for work today.

Instead, I read my sister’s dissertation. I made a spinach and filo pastry pie and, in trying to do both, emptied a quarter of a pot of cayenne pepper into it.

In the afternoon I went into town for a final interview with a government department. I don’t know how it went. I am naturally pessimistic, but at the same time there were points when I had to say with honesty that I didn’t know the answer to a question.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but I made sure to ask the panel for the answer. I’m hoping “ignorant but curious” is better than “ignorant”, and almost as good as “knowledgeable”.

I also did a code challenge which I’m still puzzling over and playing with between lectures. I only had 45 minutes, but I can still remember it well enough that it’s been on my brain all day¹. Like a brainworm.

It was modelling a checkout. NEVER HAS A CHECKOUT BEEN SO COMPLEX

Immediately after that I had a call from a recruiter, who said I had good feedback from an interview last week. I think I’ll have another interview this week, but I find the velocity with which recruiters want to move off-putting. I appreciate that what they’re selling is almost certainly a perishable good, and I think it’s fair to say I’d struggle selling an opportunity that other people were trying to sell as well.

All the same. Let me have a couple of hours to think about things?

The sticking point I’m finding with many of these calls is that everyone, as far as I can tell, wants a full-time worker. There is not as much provision for part-time work as certain sources would give credence.

I had a surprisingly enjoyable technical interview with a multinational professional services company, so we’ll see how that shakes out.


Hitting that refresh button on my inbox. Day three of purposeful unemployment and I’m climbing the walls, when I ought to be revising. I’ve secured a second interview tomorrow — Thursday — with an interesting organisation that is probably the most diverse I’ve ever had the good pleasure of applying to, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that.

A good friend of mine thought of me and passed on details for a young company looking to do data analytics: an exciting prospect so coffee has been organised, again for tomorrow. If I’m going into town I may as well go into town after all.

I’ve also received confirmation that I’m through to the second round for the multinational company, which means 4–8 hours of unpaid labour. It’s a bit frustrating, and deeply problematic. I’m entirely able to do this work because I’ve got no job, but for someone working a full-time job with dependents I imagine it would present a massive barrier.

It is an interesting puzzle that has been presented to me, though, so I will do it — even though it feels like a betrayal. Capitalism puts you in this sort of spot: principles are all well and good, but won’t pay the bills.


Was offered, and accepted, a new position. Had a Nepalese to celebrate.

I’m trying to be cool because I don’t “have” the job until various things have been done. I also hope that my new manager is cool with these notes. If not — well, we’ll see.

I’m starting in June.

By the way, the offer was only the second proudest moment of the day. This most dad of all dad jokes was the number one:

I got him. I got him good.

Anyway. It was a day full of stress and minor anxiety as I fretted about turning down interviews. I am a hoarder, and that includes opportunities: I’m not as bad as Chidi Anagonye, but making big decisions is something you don’t really get daily practice in, unless you’re somewhere senior — which of course is the last place you want people who are practising making decisions.

To choose is to destroy an entire universe where I make a different choice. I can’t deal with that on my conscience.


Made quiche. Struggled with Java. Didn’t do the code challenge for the multinational. Did watch Thor Ragnarok. Feeling like this:


I am learning it. I am aiming to finish the course this week and be awarded a shiny certificate, saying that I completed a beginner-level course in Java in French. I’m really genuinely excited about adding it to my resumé, but I’m currently stuck on modelling an employee.

Update: programming is the absolute most frustrating-slash-enjoyable thing in the universe, so I’m glad I’ve accepted a job to do that.

¹ If you give me a task and 45 minutes, it will haunt me forever that I didn’t complete it in that time. You can — and the interviewers did — stress that it’s about the decisions I make, about the way I communicated, and in absolutely no universe, discovered or undiscovered, can this task be completed in 45 minutes, by anyone. I’m still going to come away frustrated I couldn’t complete it.²

² Can anyone spell “massive overachiever with imposter syndrome”?


Radical freedom

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a lot about being free. To whit: it sucks. This week I’ve mostly thinking about the fact that freedom is approaching me like a freight train.

Monday was a bank holiday, so I tried setting up an ISA. I failed. Bank websites are horrible. I’m completely bemused by how any institution with such clear and predatory competition can continue to be terrible. I also began revising hard for my Java exam with this very excellent free course from Coursera. It’s in French, which is good because I definitely need to improve my French.

I also read “Big Ball of Mud”⁰, which is an excellent paper discussing how beautiful software projects become jungles of spaghetti code¹. I really wish I’d read it sooner, and I’m putting it on my recommended reading list along with Boiling Frogs and the actual Agile Manifesto.

On Tuesday I had a very interesting interaction about IR35 and being a contractor. I’m considering it as part of my ongoing search for people who’d like to rent my brain, and that short conversation turned into a wealth of resources about being a contractor. It seems like an interesting life, but also fairly cut throat. If any readers would like to tell me why it’s the best idea/worst idea ever² I’d be indebted to you. I will of course write about it, unless I’m contracted to do work I’m not allowed to write about. In which case I’ll write about how nihilistic and existentialist media is³ currently in vogue as a reflection of our despair at the world.

So yeah, keep your fingers crossed for discussable topics

Ooh, and I offered to help Sam Villis make stickers which is an exciting little project. They’re going to say “Be generous”

At work I caught up with what happened last Thursday and started preparing for the objective setting meetings for my two Fast Streamers. I’m gutted I’m not going to be around to manage them through to the end of their postings; having had managers swap on me in posts I know how disruptive and frustrating it is. Leaving feels like a dick move.

I don’t have anything pithy here. It does feel like a dick move, and I don’t like it.

On Wednesday Spotify, a Swedish company, floated its stock on the New York Stock Exchange. To celebrate, the NYSE proudly flew the Swedish flag outside its building.

But before it did that, it flew the Swiss flag. Let’s not wonder for too long how or why this happened, but instead focus on the INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC INCIDENT that ensued.

I made some progress on an extraction-transformation-load project at work. It’s the kind of puzzle/problem/coding challenge that I absolutely love, so I’m trying to carve out time away from managing people to do this. Balancing this when I’ve still got new(ish) starters is tough as — at my insistence — I have a lot more contact time with them for them to identify problems. As they settle in I think they’ll get better at coming to me with issues, but at the beginning I want to be proactive and identify problems early. And then visibly act on them. Because:

Still, that cuts down on the coding/developing part of my job. I am currently finding that wanting to do both is hard to find in the job market: people tend to want one or the other. On the other hand, I’m finding it very hard to balance at the moment so maybe I’m the one being unreasonable.

Thursday is my non-working day, so I made approximately five kilos of ragu over five hours and it was absolutely flipping delicious. I also had a phone interview for a software developer role; way more junior than I am currently but the team seem really keen on personal development and mentoring. I’m really up for that: I like learning new things more than I like big salaries or fancy titles.⁴

In the afternoon I went to see the aforementioned Sam and we talked about fonts. Talking about fonts is brilliant, and if you like fonts⁵ then you should watch Helvetica. I refuse to link to the trailer because it’s terrible. The ratio of how bad the trailer is versus how good the documentary is can’t be understated. It’s terrible. Fine. Fine. Here it is.

90 SECONDS OF THE SAME, HORRIBLE, REPETITIVE NOISE. Oh look, Helvetica. There it is again. And again. And — yes, I get the point. Now we’re going to find out wh-oh, nope, it’s just another example. GET TO THE POINT.

My point, by the way, is that fonts are cool, and mint tea served in Grind at the Whitechapel building is exceedingly minty, and sometimes seeing a friend and talking about fonts segues into reflecting on what you’re actually doing. And that’s an analogy for weeknotes.

On my walk home a recruiter contact of mine got in touch, and since his building was on the way home I swung by. He’s in the Heron building. It has horrifying, outside facing, glass elevators. I hate them. I can feel my intestines trying to escape via my throat in an attempt to wind themselves around a nearby post and arrest my movement every time I approach them. But since his office is on the eleventh floor and I don’t do enough cardio to make that feasible, I clenched my everything and rocketed upwards.

Seriously, this gives me the willies.

He’s found a job that would suit me almost perfectly — and that sounds like the kind of coaching/developing role that I’m aiming for — and he’s going to Poland this weekend. We chatted about the role and I made a request for vodka. Keep your fingers crossed for the safe delivery of both.

I cannot undersell the gloriousness of this vodka. It is exquisite.

On Friday I chickened out of telling one of my Fast Streamer’s managers that I’m leaving soon, and I’m still trying to work out why. There was a perfect opportunity, and yet for some reason I didn’t. I’m going to think about why I did it over the weekend. It was weird. I still feel weird about it in a way I can’t really define, but I think it’s linked to what I said above: saying it out loud confirms I’m thinking about myself more than them. And that feels like a dick move.

I got confirmation for another software engineering role, although this is with an organisation that’s got mixed reviews from people I’ve spoken to. I’m waiting to reserve judgement, but it’s making me nervous before I start.

This weekend I’m finishing up coursework about a travelling salesman and a project called “Philip Hammond and the Temple of Glom”.

Like I said. Nihilism.

⁰ This is my new band name

¹ And this is our first album

² No equivocators please

³ Media is singular, don’t @ me

⁴ Although I confess I would very much like to become the world’s second Head of Data and Search

⁵ Weird-o