In case you didn't get the memo; I'm joining Facebook. In fact, I'm starting tomorrow. I just arrived in London and settled into a temporary apartment. I'm super excited for tomorrow and at the same time a little anxious for the big unknown. I have NO idea what tomorrow is going to look like. It's super intimidating.
Full disclosure: I'm completely NDA'd but right now all I know that's relevant to that is what I can infer from the contract. Without going into details there my point is that I haven't started yet so whatever I'm writing here can only be speculation and not something I've learned at the company that would fall under that NDA.
Joining marks a number of big changes for me but also my family and the people around me. Right now it's just me in London but once our second kid is born we'll all move to London for some time. That's obviously pretty huge and impacting.
However there's actually a different subject I wanted to talk about. It's unrelated to relocating; my independence. By joining Facebook I'm feel I'm no longer "entitled" to critique the policies of the major web companies because I'm part of one.
I always cringe a little when I see an engineer from browser vendor A (goog, ms, moz, etc) crap on the browser of vendor B, or a twitter engineer crapping on the amount of tracking of facebook. (Not calling out anything in particular) I have no problem with that if you are and have not been affiliated with any of the big ones, but I don't think it's cool to do so when you are. I would consider you tainted.
So next time I've got beef with the censorship of Twitter in China or the amount of tracking done by Google I feel I can't really call them out on it. I'm pretty sure Facebook is guilty of the same and it would just be the pot calling the kettle black. Hypocrisy at its worst. I want no part in that. So I guess those days are over. Probably cuts down on half my tweets ;)
Back to my whole life going up-side-down in the course of little over a month. We're eventually moving to London. Facebook, like most tech companies, doesn't do remote work and they don't have an office in Amsterdam. Or if they do there's no development team in Amsterdam. So London it is.
That's actually kind of creepy. We currently live in the southern part of Holland, in a small quiet city. Nothing really happens there and it's kinda serene. London is a super contrast in comparison. It's a lot bigger, more expensive, and kinda more dangerous on various levels.
On top of that it's far away from family and friends. It was a little heartbreaking for me to hear the responses of family and friends when we told them we were moving. I don't think I've really given that much thought before. In all fairness, when relocation ever played a role before it was mostly for myself. The relocation rules are definitely different when you have a spouse and kids...
Add to that a completely unknown area. We've been in London once before. A two day trip a few years ago. All I know from living in London I got from tv/movies. My English is fine, I'm not worried about that. And Margo will take an English course to improve her already capable English skills. But it's more than that. Where do you go? How should you behave? What's the customary standard greeting? Silly stuff like that.
This is kind of an adventure for us. We've wanted to live abroad for a while and while initially that looked like a given, lately that wasn't the case. The first born definitely changed the game and while we're not the kind of parents to stay at home for the kids ... traveling with kids may be another thing entirely. Not that we don't, mind you. We flew NL-Canada with our son when he was 3 months old. So we're not shy of that at all. But at the same time those kinds of trips are very different.
For relocating there are different catches when it comes to kids. The language is not a problem. They are too young to care and I only talk in English to my son anyways. But let's assume you're in a strange city with small children. Is child care in the UK similar to NL? Do they dispense the same vaccines? Where do we even turn to at all. What about daycare; can we just trust any other daycare? What do you look for? And then there's family; it's not easy to tell your parents that you're taking the grand kids to a different country for a while. And obviously they're welcome to visit at any time, but obviously that's not quite the same as hopping in the care for a 20 minute drive. Or walking around the corner, as it may be in our case :p
It's just different and I never really considered it before. Very daunting.
Why Facebook? To be honest; because they asked.
Don't get me wrong, I think I'm going to end up in a very good place at Facebook. But let's be honest here; there's probably an equally good place for me at any of the other tech companies. Plenty of smart people to work with and cool projects to work on.
So yeah, they asked. It was an almost perfect timing. While I had kind of let go of the idea of ever working for a big company, the subject came up not so long ago and my wife let me know that she'd want to live abroad for a while. That kind of surprised me because I thought that plan kind of went out of the window when our kid was born. However, this revelation didn't prompt me to go and actively look for a relocation job. It was just one of those moments.
Then later a Facebook sourcer (that's the one before a recruiter) contacted me at a moment where my last contract was kind of ending and I had no obligations or future plans. I was kind of planning to chill a few months until our second kid was born and just kinda wing it. If something came along that fit the schedule then that was great and otherwise it was still great. You know. So I kind of went along with it thinking it wouldn't lead anywhere. There's a history there but I had little to lose.
But it did go somewhere and long story short I did end up taking their offer.
So I'm swapping out a life of remote work on interesting projects of my choice for a lot of money at my own leisure, for .. an office job. Why? Well ... to learn.
I've never really worked in a big company before. The biggest was 30 people and that's not big. Most companies I've worked for had very short lines to the CEO. In all cases I knew them and they knew me. I talked to them face to face and could step into their office (or digitally once I went remote) pretty much whenever I wanted or needed to.
This is different in a big company. While I've seen Mark in real life a long time ago we didn't talk and he has no clue who I am. I'm pretty confident that's still true to this day and don't really expect that to change. I'm okay with this but it's a huge difference to my previous jobs or roles.
Another thing is the machine. I expect big companies to have fixed streamlined protocols for whatever. There are no shortcuts. You have to get stuff rubber stamped and this takes time. This can be frustrating when you feel like the solution is easy but these rules make it hard. It also makes it difficult to change anything since these rules tend to work against change.
The office work is another thing I'll have to get used to again. While I have worked in an office for a bit, the past few years were pretty much all remote. And I loved it. No commute, define my own hours, nobody to look over my back. And of course always home so I always see my kids and wife when they were at home. A 9-to-5 office job with commute will change that. I'll be a weekend-dad. Ouch. I'll have to get up in time every day to be at the office by 9. Ouch. I have a fixed number of free days rather than taking days off whenever it suited me/us. Ouch.
I expect some returns into that investment, though. A closer bond with my coworkers springs to mind. Remote work is nice but you can't deny that it has a detrimental effect on the bond between coworkers. And of course office work requires a different kind of discipline compared to doing remote work. I think/hope it'll be a good experience for me.
One pattern I've seen from people joining big companies is that they take a step back in the community. Their twitter is less active and they stop producing new projects or demos. Mind you, that isn't always the case, but it often is. I was always a little disappointed by that.
So now that I'm in the same boat what will I do? Honestly ... I don't know. The problem I'm seeing right now is simply related to time. Because you're required to be in an office from 9 to 5, there's only evenings left to do your own thing. And that may work if you're single but once you got a partner you're usually bound to some socializing. Not that this is a bad thing, but it's a thing. And it requires time. And if you have kids they'll require some attention as well. Though that will more be the weekends than week day evenings but still.
Just adding that already paints a bleak picture for how viable I feel working on side projects will be. Add to that watching some show or playing games and I don't even know how I'll manage anything. That is actually another challenge I'm going to be facing; adjusting to a totally different schedule. From the point of view of working as a freelancer, working remotely, and working part time. It's difficult to predict how I'll deal with it.
Ok. Enough writing. Should get some sleep. See you tomorrow, face to Facebook.