Why I left my sweet remote job after 7 years?

I recently resigned from my position as an engineering manager after seven and a half years. When I share this news with my close circle they are both excited and curious as to why?

My wife and recently had our baby daughter. That simple act is like having a lifetime of new years eve level reflection and resolutions all at once. The impact of parenthood is so profound it’s incredible, but also led to a decent amount of reflection on the human I am, what I value and importantly what I want to role model for my daughter.

Timezones suck energy

Living in New Zealand on UTC+12/13 timezone, my manager was based on UTC timezone and fellow engineering managers were similarly located with my team spread between UTC+5.5 – UTC+9/10 and most sync meetings would start in my afternoon, extending into the evening and some days to catch Europe-based colleagues – early in the morning.

When a baby has a sleeping/eating cycle that doesn’t aligned with your work schedule it can be difficult to shuffle things around to a comfortable space.

Everyone was vying for that 3pm-8pm time slot daily.

Longer feedback cycles

Our company went fully remote from employee number 1. So we had a head start on the work with practices to support the lack of sync calls or communication. Defaulting to async comms, keeping things in text and sharing with wider teams – all positive things.

However, when something was escalated or needed a quick turnaround/response from management it was typically 8-24 hours for the closest sync opportunity – adding time to escalation management.

A close friend would often share stories of how they would huddle with their in-house teams (or at least in the same timezone where working from home) and the speed at which they can unblock and discuss was inspiring. I’d normalised the concept of async so much that I missed this one key benefit to working closer together.

Contributions and connecting locally

We had great policies that enabled individual and shared contribution to charities, open source projects and conference organisation which are embraced and encouraged for all employees. It’s amazing, but so much of my work and contribution were so far removed from those in my country that I feel disconnected from the land I am a part of.

I’d offset this feeling with charity donations to local charities or picking up the odd local project pro-bono, but again – stories of local friends growing their teams, with fellow New Zealanders just seemed to be so much in line with what I feel is missing.

I was proud to move home from Australia and start paying taxes here to contribute to society, but the thing I was most proud of in my work life, growing and developing a team, wasn’t doing much for my local community.

Remote is hard, remote without physical can feel isolating

We had an annual retreat, where everyone is able to meet in person for a week – these events are magic, re-energising and often re-connect to the people and company.

This year was the first time since the covid pandemic we would be meeting at a retreat, almost half our current team was new since the last meet and it was exciting, maybe exactly what I needed.

Until I couldn’t go. Covid can fuck right off, but the exposure vector for the retreat and bringing it home to our family was not worth the risk to us.

Losing that, waiting another year, making it 3.5-4 years since I’d seen the wider team I work closely with? It was too much.

Role modelling for my daughter

Her arrival simply increased my ability and desire to plan and forecast further into the future. What used to be “Where do I want to be in 5 years?” became 30 years, 13 years as she starts high school, 18 years as she graduates, 21 years as she celebrates and so on. I visualised myself at these milestones and asked myself “Is this path going to get me to the father I want to be at those life milestones?”.

The answer, was simply No.

What was something I could do today, that might become the foundation for those milestones in the future?

Am I on the path to be that person?

Will she be proud of all aspects of the father, human and man I am at those milestones?

And so it was

I left a great company.

To pursue something that aligns completely with who I want to be for myself and my family in the future.

Let’s see where that adventure takes us, its risky – but if not now, then when?

P.S: I can tell you leaving while having no projected income, having 3 months of financial runway with a family, new baby and mortgage to support is scary as fuck. If you’ve read this and are about to yolo / yeet the fuck out of where you are without considering an ‘exit plan’ – feel free to ping me for a yarn.