There’s a phenomenon in tech — the post-conference depression. You’ve probably experienced it. Though you may not have realized it.
Here’s how it goes. You attend a conference. After you arrive, grab your nametag and t-shirt, you settle into a chair. There’s some awkward introductions. Maybe you see someone you know five rows up from you.
A mic screeches and a hush falls over the room. The first speaker dons the stage. There’s usually a few technical issues because — let’s face it — a room full of engineers can’t figure out an AV system to save our lives.
Then something magical happens.
A developer, someone just like you, starts to share a problem you’ve had. The topics run the gamut:
- How to sell DevOps to your team.
- Lessons learned from that time your boss asked you to upgrade Ruby from 2.1.1 to 2.4.1 overnight after he figured out it’s no longer supported (even though you’ve written 14 emails and had 2 architecture meetings about it).
- ChatOps and how it can simplify deploys.
Your shoulders relax. You chuckle. You realize you’re with your people. You’re home.
The next speaker comes up with an equally enlightening talk. You realize that everyone deals with the same bullshit you do day in and day out. We don’t have it all figured out. But we’re trying. We’re sharing lessons learned. We’re striving to be better.
That night, you grab a beer with a group of conference attendees. You meet some new friends and lament as a group about how incompetent your manager is, how you haven’t gotten a raise in 2 years but seriously don’t want to go on technical interviews because it would destroy your ego if, as a senior with 12 years experience, you bombed bubble sort. (Not that any of us have had that conversation…)
The next day is even better. Sure, you’re all a bit hungover. But the room is relaxed. There’s fewer awkward encounters. You’re friends now. All victims of the same bureaucracy and overwhelming tech debt.
Heading home that weekend, you’re full of ideas.
A new blog post you need to write. A new book concept. Hell — you’re making business plans for that company you’ve always wanted to start. The sun shines a little brighter. The air is a little fresher. You feel like you can breathe again. Like you’ve got it all figured out.
Off To Work...
Sunday comes too fast and you’re off to work again. Monday morning, after nabbing your favorite liquid treat from the coffee shop — and a chocolate muffin, admit it! — you stroll into the office with a little extra pep in your step.
Right into a brick wall.
But you muster the strength to fight against the overwhelming sense of dread permeating your office. You know the other devs just don’t know how bright a world it can be. They haven’t heard your awesome new ideas.
So you sit down and write out a thoughtful email. You collect your top 3 favorite talks and include the videos. Proud of your work, you click “Send.”
And wait. And wait. And wait. Crickets.
No one mentions it during standup. It’s just the usual, somber regurgitation of what each person worked on the previous day. No one replies. Your boss is too busy bouncing from meeting to meeting to read email.
Throughout the week, you realize you’re just one person. Trying to change the hearts and minds of 9 others. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but you didn’t expect this much pushback. No, apathy.
The week progresses and you start wondering if you can be the change agent you thought you could be. Should you start studying bubble sort? It may be time to face the whiteboard again…
This is the post-conference depression. What was irritating but tolerable becomes staggeringly deflating. You saw the light at the end of the tunnel only to realize it was a train.
Change Agents Are Like Water
You work from home Thursday to escape the melancholy and shuffle into standup Friday morning. A colleague taps you on the arm before the scrum master begins calling on people, third-grade style.
“Loved that talk on Apache. Let’s look into whether we could implement the same solution.”
After the momentary look of shock and confusion falls off your face, you smile and nod. “Awesome. Yea, let’s do it.”
Change is slow. Painfully slow. You are not an earthquake. You are not a mountain violently emerging from the surface. That kind of sudden change doesn’t last anyway.
True change agents are like water. Slowly and consistently, they carve grooves into the landscape. They don’t quit. You shouldn’t either.