Ask Auntie Pattern: challenges, douchebros and robots

Ready for a new round of letters from our brand new Tech Agony Aunt, Auntie Pattern (aka Jessica Rose)? Auntie Pattern is back, now with 300% more obscenities.

1. Senior Motivation Blues

I recently took a senior position at much larger company after having worked at startups for a long time as an associate. It’s great to have the title and I enjoy the company but I don’t feel pushed anymore. I could do this job for years and have a good time but never feel like I was changing the company. What do I do? – Challenge Seeker

Dear Challenge Seeker,

It sounds like this new role isn’t pushing you, but that they’re giving you valuable support in other ways. A reliable paycheck and an enjoyable workplace you enjoy offer you a springboard to seek your own challenges and learning experiences from. Work in startups often pushes us to learn and grow to meet the company needs. Working with larger, more established companies often means pushing yourself. To direct your own learning, you’ll need to have a clear idea of what skills you want to develop. Do you want to deepen your technical skills? Learn new ones? To become a better manager? To become more involved in strategy?

Once you know skills you want to develop, you’ll need to source opportunities to stretch yourself. If your work has leadership programs or you have an understanding manager you may be able to push yourself through your current role. If work can’t supply you the space to learn, you can find space to develop your skills outside the office. Teaching, mentoring, side projects and open source involvement might give you the space to push yourself in. But for folks who are tight on time, self improvement outside of your work hours might not be possible. If this sounds like you, have a think about if a push-free workplace is the best fit for you or the risk of a change might be worthwhile.

Tl;dr: If your job isn’t pushing you and you want to stay, it’s your job to push yourself.

2. Douchebro Burnout

I’m increasingly burnt out at work because my colleges are casually terrible on every social justice angle you can think of (homophobic, transphobic, sexist, etc) and are constantly trying to pressure me to go out drinking with them when it can only end with me telling them What I Really Think i.e. not well. I’ve been looking for a new job for a few months, and I’m still quite new to the industry, but I thought finding a new job was supposed to get easier after a while?

Do you have any tips for finding a job whilst you have a job and are still relatively junior? – Despairing Junior

My dear Despairing,

It sounds like you’re aware that you need to get out of a toxic situation and are actively working to keep things from escalating by staying sober and tight lipped around your -delightful- team. Switching jobs when you’re still relatively junior can be a challenge and finding the energy to research, apply to and interview for new roles while being burned can feel impossible. The first things you’ll need to do is take a deep breath and start tallying how many fucks you have left to give. Take these remaining fucks and set them aside, you’ll need them later.

“Take these remaining fucks and set them aside, you’ll need them later”

These fucks are yours. Don’t spend any of them at work, your coworkers don’t deserve them. Preserve your energy by doing enough of your job to stay in it and by divesting emotionally from your codebro colleagues. Spend these instead on your job hunt. And maybe on planning your grand revenge for the future.

Spend them instead in researching places that you would love to work. With people you want to work with. Don’t worry if they don’t have any open roles listed right now. Reach out to people working there to chat about the company and ask for advice. Network selectively with people you want to work with, letting them know that while you’re not looking for work right now, you’re not not looking for work and you would love to [hear more about, meet more of the team at, chat about working at] $company.

When speaking with potential employers, you’ll need a reason why you’re leaving this company so early as a junior. And while “they’re all bastards and I had to leave before I went to prison for murder” may be the justified truth, you’ll likely want to focus on positives through the interview phase. If you’ve spent time researching and networking in places you would love to work, highlight this in your interactions with potential employers. Don’t talk about your current situation, focus on how the chance to work with $company was too appealing to pass up.

Good luck, godspeed and may 2018 bring you a speedy escape to broless pastures.

3. Ethics and robot-driven unemployment

As a person involved in AI and neural net development, how do you go about creating a responsible and accountable environment when developing to replace jobs? – Neural Net Nerd

This question feels a bit above Auntie Pattern’s paygrade! Determining how and to what degree you’re willing to automate human labour out of employment is a very tricky, very personal ethical question.

“Creating an ethical environment is a group effort”

Understanding that the work you do will eliminate employment for others demands you research how these workers live to make your own ethical choices. Are the tasks you’re automating held by workers who might be able to find other employment? What is the average age of workers in this space? Will unions, social supports or a efficient and equitable welfare system provide employment protection or an alternative income? If you look at all these factors and find yourself uncomfortable with the lack of social responsibility or accountability to these workers, creating an ethical environment is a group effort.

You may find that work with governments and NGOs to advocate for an environment that deals with unemployment in the age of automation responsibly may give you the peace of mind you need to continue doing your work. But creating your desired accountable and responsible environment is going to be a long, large-scale group effort and only you can determine if you can comfortably continue your work in light of that.


Want Auntie Pattern to answer your question? Email her here.

Auntie Pattern is written by Jessica Rose, a technologist obsessed with fostering more equal access to meaningful, less miserable work in tech. You can also listen to her advice on the Pursuit Podcast, find her online at jessica.tech or argue with her on Twitter.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash