Leaving my Job to Focus on Open Source (For a bit)

Last week I handed in my notice at my current place of work, Clevertouch Marketing, with the intent to leave at the end of September. By the time I leave I will have been employed at Clevertouch for over 7 continuous years. Clevertouch kindly put their faith in me by offering me a job in 2014, after previously only taking on developers with some level of official education. My previous role was as a Sales Engineer at a temperature sensor equipment distributor so this was at a point of significant career change for me, as my first coding job. Clevertouch are a small company (Relative to who they work with), in a small village, with big ambitions, doing grand things within the realms of Marketing Automation. I’m extremely grateful for the time, flexibility and growth that the company has afforded me. I have worked with, and got to know, so many great people over the last 7 years.

Why am I leaving then? To be honest it’s a combination of things that make this the ideal time to change things up. Over the last year or so, since the pandemic started, I’ve been padding out my savings. Recently I got the idea in mind that I could take a break from work and live on my savings for a while to focus on something personal. I’m in a financially stable position with no current dependants, with great support from family if things go very wrong, which makes it an ideal time for this, and it’s something I might not be able to do again in the future. This break also allows me to provide extra notice to my employer, since there’s no rush to move on to the next job. I like being able to do this to make the transition of leaving smoother for both myself and those I work closely with. In addition, I’m at a point where I think I need to jump into a new environment, where I’ll be forced to learn new workflows, technologies and methods of working. Again, this is still my first job in tech & coding, 7 years after changing careers into this space.

In regards to the break I’ll be taking, My current plan (which may change) is to focus on BookStack and open source in general for 6 months or so. I don’t want to set specific feature goals or anything, since I want to ensure this break time is relatively pressure free, but I love the idea of just attempting to accelerate BookStack forward and see where it can be after 6 months of full time work rather than just my free time. A side affect of this which I’d like to explore is what I could then do with my free time, instead of feeling like I should be working on BookStack during those times. After 6 months I’ll then start exploring new job opportunities. I’m not sure what the job market will be like, but I’m hoping the maintainership of the BookStack project will help me stick out amoungst those with more varied experience and higher education.

There’s a few risks to this plan. The first is the working conditions and culture change of working on BookStack full time compared to working at Clevertouch (and their fresh new office). Working on BookStack will be much more solitary and that may be difficult, especially since I’m not very social within my free time. This is my primary reason for the default 6 month timeframe. I initially thought 12 months but I think I’ll struggle working alone into next summer. Another risk is upon BookStack after those 6 months. The change of development pace may push the project into a position that takes more effort to maintain thus having a significant slowing impact (and therefore be less rewarding to work on) when I jump back to part time maintainership. Hopefully this can be mitigated by just keeping maintainability, and breadth of scope, front of mind during these 6 months. The last core risk will be the variability of the job market when it comes to the end of those 6 months. The developer job market could crash in these months. That said, this should be fairly unlikely and is mitigated by having a buffer of savings to allow for months of job searching if required.

Overall, While it’s sad to leave Clevertouch, where I’ve been for the majority of my adult life, I’m exited to take this jump and see how things pan out.