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Career | 18 Sep 2023

New Beginnings

Last week I took the big step of putting in my notice at Spotify. I’ve been there for four years now, and I’ve worked on a lot of different things, with a lot of great people. Things have been changing, and I’ve changed, and it’s time for a new chapter.

But before launching into the new, how did I get here? My path into software engineering wasn’t a completely straight line. Chemistry was my favourite subject in my last years of school, so I went to the University of Strathclyde to do chemistry. I enjoyed the first few years, the practical lab work especially. My final year of university was a placement year working at a beverage company, and though some things were interesting I didn’t have a great time overall.

I had done computing at school, and between years of uni I had done an internship at a software company, doing a bit of python and web dev. I looked at my options and decided software engineering would be a better career than chemistry if I could make the transition.

I taught myself enough coding to take part in some hackathons, and then applied for the Tech Connect scheme at JP Morgan, a program for STEM graduates to get into engineering. After the 12 week bootcamp, I was in a team as a junior software engineer, building tools for bankers.

I learned a lot in that first team, but after two years I felt I had grown as much as I could there. I also dreamed of working on a product that I found exciting and could get invested in. I studied hard, learning the algorithms and data structures I needed for big tech interviews. I applied to some roles, and Spotify came through - an offer I couldn’t refuse!

The first few months at Spotify were so exciting. There were trips to Sweden and New York, and even Austin, Texas! The office was great, the tech infrastructure far and away better than anything I’d seen before. My husband and I had moved to London for my new job which was really exciting, a whole new city to explore and settle into. Unfortunately, 6 months after I joined Spotify the pandemic hit, which as we know changed everything. I had already been finding my actual role wasn't quite the right fit, and after a few months of lockdown I was desperate for something new.

By chance I moved into the best team I’ve ever worked with. I made friends for life and got to work on features I was really excited about, new ways for fans to interact with their favourite podcasts. It was such a good group of people and we gelled so well. I really hope I can find that dynamic again some day! The big tech reorgs come for us all eventually though, and we all got shuffled around. I worked on paid podcasts, and then audiobooks, and eventually needed a fresh start.

I moved into my final team, who were spread all across Europe. We were trying to provide a way of actively exploring music outside of your usual recommendations. The feature was pretty successful, and so over time it grew arms and legs, which had its own complications.

There were some great highlights in that team. We got to work on Spotify Wrapped which was a bit surreal, so many people I knew using it and talking about it, the social media and news coverage. We also became part of Spotify’s new design strategy which was shared in a huge press event with the CEO talking about our work. At the end of the day though, I craved bigger work, new problems, ones that I could leave my mark on. And unfortunately, they just weren’t there.

So what to do next? Spotify was still emerging from a hiring freeze, so there were not a lot of exciting new roles open. At the same time, I’d realised that working fully remote just didn’t work for me (especially when company travel had been banned for the past 9 months). And so, with some sadness, I felt my Spotify chapter had come to an end after four years.

And so back to now. Four years is a long time, and I’ve grown a lot. I’ve gotten to know myself better, to understand more about what excites me and what I want out of life and work. At the same time, I’ve been saving a nest egg that sets me up really well for the future. And these things combined mean I’ve been able to consider: what if engineering is not the only path I can take?

In my spare time I make things. I’ve done just about every craft you can do at home, taken a lot of classes, and last year I bought a laser cutter and started my own small business making acrylic and wood jewellery (Etsy linked in the top bar!). Long story short, I love making things with my hands and do it at every opportunity.

At the same time, in the past few years I’ve fallen in love with nature. My husband and I have been spending a lot more time outdoors in the countryside, walking and birdwatching, which has inspired a lot of my art and designs. I’ve read some great books about biodiversity and rewilding, and I’d love to get involved in the recovery of our natural environment.

So what do I do next? I don’t know! I can see a branching of the path in front of me and I’m not sure which direction to go. So I’ll be taking the next few months to stop, reflect, and think deeply about what I like doing, where I could be useful, what I’m good at, and what path will give me the best chance of jumping out of bed in the morning looking forward to the day ahead. Leaving Spotify is a big step, but I believe it was the right one and I’m excited to find out what comes next!