How to Balance Hustling and Family
TL;DR - My happiness with my job (the company I work for, the people I work with, the things I do) is so high that it makes me a happier person. This is something that my family can feel on a daily basis. It more than offsets some of the challenges with this non-traditional job.
In case you haven't heard, Twilio is looking to hire a developer evangelist. It has been a historically challenging role to fill, and some of this has to do with the fact that it is a highly unconventional job and qualified candidates aren't clear about how it will mesh with their personal lives. This is compounded for people who are in relationships and even more so if they have children.
Prior to Twilio, I had a desk job as a Product Manager at Microsoft. My work hours were very predictable and manageable, but I wasn't happy with the job. I've been at Twilio for ~6 months now and I thought it might be useful to share some of the challenges I ran into and how I mitigated them:
Challenge: Working Remotely
I had never worked remotely before and am definitely the kind of person who feeds off the energy of others. Twilio, being a communication company, understands the importance of connection and provides great tools for staying connected. Personally, I make an effort to be very multi-modal (email, IM, phone, Twitter) in how I keep myself connected to my co-workers and I try to be proactive about sharing things that I'm working on with the company. I work out of Founder's Co-op, a startup space in Seattle, so I'm surrounded by like-minded people who help keep my focus on how the outside world views Twilio.
Challenge: Managing Time
As a developer evangelist, there is a massive breadth of responsibility. One minute you're debugging an SDK, the next you're writing a blog post and later you'll be demoing in front of 100 people at a local Meetup. When you factor in your family (soccer practice, evenings out, family vacations) I've found it critical to have a well-defined place to document my commitments and a process for communicating these things to my coworkers, my manager and my wife. This might sound really heavyweight, but once I set it up, it became great. I'm never stressed that I'm missing something or that I forget to tell my wife about an event I'm going to.
Challenge: Evening Events
This was something that I never gave any thought to and it definitely created some stress in my family. Since I am the only developer evangelist in Seattle and I had spent 2.5 years being a tone def marketer at Microsoft, I was completely disconnected from the developer and startup community in Seattle. I had to make a point of joining and attending dozens of Meetups and other events in order to get better connected. This caused issues because my wife works, and I was leaving her alone to deal with dinner/bedtime by herself. My advice here is simple: communicate well, limit yourself to 2 evenings per week, and realize that things will settle down as you identify the right events and organizers.
When I travel, it is generally for 1-2 nights. I'd say I average 4 trips per month, but this obviously varies. My region is the pacific northwest, so I spend a lot of time in Portland, Boulder and Vancouver. I try to make it down to SF at least once a month. Here are some things I do to make this process as painless as possible:
- Arrange for my wife's friends to take her out (and arrange a babysitter)
- If possible, leave the same day as an event (this may require booking a cab for 5am)
- Come back immediately (even if you miss an after-party)
- Make the most of the trip (for you and Twilio)
Hopefully, this offers a small window into the life of a developer evangelist and how I'm balancing the job with my responsibilities as a husband and father. Of course, all of my tips and tricks above would be rendered moot without an amazing and supportive wife and a couple of angels at home: