Pete Cheslock

DevOps, RelEng, DevTools, Automation, Randomness

Day One

Friday, May 16th was my last day working for Dyn.

Monday (today), May 19th is the first day I’ve been unemployed in nearly a decade.

No plans. No job. No idea what my next step is going to be.

Saying “unemployed” doesn’t quite feel right for this one. I wasn’t laid off or fired. I simply quit. I ended up in a situation where I was no longer able to continue doing the job that I was originally hired to do. I give Dyn a lot of credit, they offered other positions but none of them sounded interesting to me. I had been increasingly unhappy for the past few months anyway, so it seemed like a perfect time to take a break.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about my leaving, and I feel like (since I have some time on my hands), I would get back to writing again and maybe share some thoughts. The question that I’ve most often received as been:

How can you just stop working? Don’t you have bills to pay?

I never used to do a good job at saving money. I used to make money, and then I would spend it. Granted, I never had a job where I made enough to actually cover expenses, so it wasn’t like I was wasteful either. Like most Americans I lived on debt. I had credit cards. I had student loans. I had a car payment. I was a “normal” American. Even though I worked my way though college, $7 an hour wasn’t enough to cover my living expenses.

In 2004, I moved out to Boston. I didn’t have a job, my girlfriend (now wife) was going to grad school here. I sold my car for $2,500 (which was the first time I ever had a savings account), brought myself and my $40k in debt out to Boston. Even though 2004 was a rough time to be looking for a tech job in Boston - I got lucky and of the 2 interviews I had, one of them gave me a job.

Fast forward 2 years, and the company was acquired. You would technically call it a acqui-hire. I was not part of the acquisition, but at least I got a small severance and a 2 month head start looking for a new job. I still had lots of debt, and was freaking out. So, I took the first job that came along. It was a train wreck. After 30 days there my boss didn’t even know who I was. I quit, and it took 2 months to find something else. That next startup only lasted a couple months before they shut down the US office.

Back to where I am at again…

I knew that someday I would have a house, a wife, a child, and this might happen again. I needed an emergency fund. I needed to get out of debt. So I trimmed my living expenses down to nearly zero. Didn’t go out to eat, sold a bunch of stuff, whatever it took, and paid off that debt in a couple years. I kept living like that for many years after, saving money until I had an emergency fund that could last me for a while…just in case.

Many people in technology make crazy money (over $100k a year), most of us make far above the median household income of ~$51,000 per year. My first tech job paid me $24,000 per year. Everyone’s situation is different, but if you don’t have enough cash in the bank to cover at least 6 months of expenses, then you need to change your spending habits. If you work in the volatile tech industry, you should have a year.

Do you need that new iPhone every 2 years? Buying a $4 coffee from Starbucks every day? Do you have every single premium channel on your cable bill ($200/mo). Eating out twice a week? ($400/mo). Gotta have that new iPad that just came out? Buying a new car because it’s “only” $200/mo? (for the next 8 years).

It all adds up.

Everyone should be free to live life the way they want to. But, always have your “fuck you” account ready to go. You might need it one day. And it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable to take time off knowing that you can wait to find the right job for you, not just the next thing that comes along.

The alternative? Sitting at home looking at all the stuff you own while drowning in debt. All the while thinking about the shit job you have that you wish you could leave.