Today, I am leaving NetApp, a company that I have had such an excellent time working for.

The amount of support from my colleagues and management chain, the number of opportunities for a new college hire, and the quantity of challenging technical problems are immense. The down-to-Earth work culture combined with the storage products that it helps produce make NetApp a great place to work.

I am absolutely grateful for the folks that I have worked with and for an overall great first experience in the tech industry. We have accomplished many amazing things together, and it’s my belief that this will not be the last time that many of us work together.

With many great things to say, why am I leaving?

It’s been nearly 3 years since I signed an internship offer from NetApp. During that time, I began to gravitate towards all kinds of differing technologies and technical interests. While technical interests have been important to me, the core technologies themselves change, fall out of favor, and shift constantly. Ironically, macro-level, engineering motivations became more and more important to me than the micro-level ones.

It’s “ironic” because undergraduate Nick wanted to work with X technology and Y stack at any given moment. Site Reliability Engineer working on a top 100 Alexa-ranked website? Application Security Engineer working on secure emulation/VMs for old gaming consoles? Software Engineer working on an environment-agnostic, test platform? Eh, whatever. Working with the new, shiny programming language doing who-knows-what? Perfect.

I will be honest, though: working with preferred technologies absolutely elevates my day-to-day happiness. However, it’s the macro-level motivations that have primarily defined my career goals, not the technologies alone. So… what are “macro-level motivations”?

Macro-level motivations include working with morally-sound and effective organizational principles, working with transparent and achievable mission statements, and solving true customer (internal and/or external) problems with software engineering. If you would like to learn more about these concepts, I recommend starting with Bryan Cantrill’s 2017 Monktoberfest talk on Principles of Technology Leadership. It’s one of my favorite talks on the subject!

These motivations have become essential guides in my career path, and they have resulted in the following conclusions…

  1. I am not a “Go developer”, “Rust software engineer”, “Kubernetes operator”, or any kind of “$(INSERT_TECHNOLOGY) engineer”.
  2. I spend 40 hours a week generating value, be it dollar-based or otherwise, for myself (never underestimate this one!), my teammates, and my employer.
  3. I need to believe in the team’s, organization’s, and company’s principles and objectives.
  4. My career does not define me, even though I currently love what I do. I believe that’s a healthy distinction to make.
  5. I just… love being a Software Engineer right now, with all of its principles, methods, and processes.

That’s what I have realized over the past few years. I cannot determine if these conclusions are completely correct or justified, but they are how I have been navigating my career… and I’m pretty happy with them!

The good news is that these conclusions have helped me thoroughly enjoy my time at NetApp. I cannot overstate how many incredible people work there and how fortunate I was to work on a team that embodied great organizational principles.

The flip-side is that I am continuously thinking about how I can be the best engineer I can and where I focus that attention. I knew that I would eventually want to try things that do not fall under the umbrella of my current organization’s mission statement. (A generalized example: wanting to try video game development at a backend-services organization within a banking company.)

Some of the things I have not had a chance to try yet are product development, working on open source full-time, and working at a small company. Perhaps, I could do a number of these things at NetApp, but apartment living in the COVID-19 era has pushed me to try something entirely new—something that’ll get me to “get out” without… you know, actually getting out.

Weighing all the pros and cons proved to be difficult and provided a reflection on NetApp’s stellar culture and technological prowess. However, I stepped away from all of my notes and said…

“Will I regret not trying this?”

Yes. Yes, I would. Therefore, I am trying something new.

It’s been difficult to part with my team and many colleagues, but I am always willing to chat, and I am only a short message away. The support has been great thus far, and I am really excited to tackle new challenges ahead.

Thank you to the folks at NetApp who believe in me and make it a great place to work for everyone. I cannot wait to see what you all achieve.