November marks my one year ‘workaversary’ at Codeweavers. This isn’t something I would ever have made a public statement about in previous jobs, but this year has been very different. It’s been a massive turning point in my life and I felt it would be good for me to reflect on how and why. Hopefully my experience is something a few people can relate to and makes interesting reading.
It is long read however, as there was a lot I wanted to cover! I’ve talked about changing career, self doubt/imposter syndrome, gender diversity, the empowerment of women in tech, mental health and so on and so forth.
So, after seeing I'd reached about 5 pages in length with my first draft and that it was more akin to a short story, I decided it would be better to section this blog post into four parts.
Let’s start at the beginning…
Since returning to work, after having my son in 2016, I had found myself becoming more and more despondent. I had returned part time and been lucky enough to get a new role that really piqued my interest. However, it was soon apparent that despite the good work/life balance, the work itself was not what I expected, and I suddenly felt like a cog in someone else’s big machine, unfulfilled, unhappy, and quite frankly lost.
As a young mother, I felt trapped. It was my preconception that not many companies would take me on for a career changing role part time, and I’d also have to take a pay cut which would affect what child care I could afford, I didn’t know what it was I wanted to do either, so a return to education was out of the question.
I found myself trawling job sites in every spare minute, aimlessly looking for some dream opportunity. After about 3 months, quite surprisingly, something did come up; a Product Owner role at Codeweavers. It seemed to fit my experience but would be much more challenging and give me a great opportunity to try something more technical.
I took a chance and applied, had an interview with the Managing Director Roland and the Academy Leader Paul, and was offered the job the same day. I was ecstatic! Over the moon! And I jumped at the opportunity. There was just one problem – it was full time.
At first I thought this would be OK. It was closer to home, the work would be more interesting, and I was always going to have to go back full time eventually, right?
It was at this point the panic set in. My son was only 2, and by the time I did all the chores at the weekend, and everything else I can’t fit into the week, it often felt like my Friday off was the only quality time I had with him. My mother had recently been diagnosed with a rare incurable cancer, and this was also the only time I got with her. It was a pay cut that meant I wouldn’t make much at all after childcare, despite the cut in commuting costs and I would see my husband even less than I already did with his night shift.
There are many reasons people choose to go part time, but my main one was to make sure I had quality time with my family. So suddenly I felt like I would be swapping one stress for another. I asked myself which one I could live with the most; the unfulfilling job or no quality time with my family for a few years?
To cut a long story short, I was able to talk this through with Roland the Managing Director, and Craig the Operations Director, and thankfully they understood and offered me the job part time (30 hours). The most interesting comment from Roland was that he’d ‘never really thought about it like that’ and he was glad I’d talked to him about it because now he had a new perspective on part time working.
That right there is one of the key things I’ve learned about Codeweavers as a company in the past year – talk and they will listen, explain and they will learn, give constructive advice and they will change.
Of course, I may not have always have seen it that way. More on that in Part 2!
In my last blog I made a start with how I ended up at Codeweavers. In part 2 I’m going to cover the first six months or so in my new role – a complete rollercoaster of self-doubt, chaos, confusion, culture shock and some worries and realisations about gender diversity in the workplace.
My first week, or even month, was a whirlwind. I was thrown completely into the deep end. Assured by Craig (the Operations Director) that I’ll learn as I go along, and make mistakes, but that’s OK! It’s the best way we learn!
I was not convinced, this was a massive culture shock for me. I was used to working as a PMO in a large corporate organisation. My bread and butter was process and documentation. Where could I read about theirs? Who could I ask? Where was everything!?
There was a brief induction that introduced me to the people and the history, a reading list, and a product demonstration. It felt like this should have been enough to get started, but it soon became apparent, that ‘Codeweavers world’ was so much bigger than that. It was also a new industry for me, so it was like learning a new language. The company was in a period of growth too, so everything was changing and it felt like utter chaos most of the time.
Starting a new job and a completely new role is stressful at the best of times, never mind when you join a company at that stage in its life!
I felt completely out of my depth and was very worried I’d made a huge mistake.
Thankfully I was paired with Abbie, an experienced product owner at Codeweavers and a fountain of knowledge, she is so good at explaining things. Abbie’s project at the time though turned out to be far too complex for a beginner, so I started working with Dan and Laura who are also Product Owners, on some smaller projects.
Dan had been there the longest and lives and breathes Codeweavers, if he doesn’t know something, he’ll know who does. Laura was a breath of empathetic fresh air, she took me under her wing and guided me as best she could, even when going through her own struggles.
Despite feeling overwhelmed and like I couldn’t take anything in fast enough, the people who work there kept me going; no question was stupid, and they all knew how it felt.
It struck me early on though that it was a predominantly male workforce; all male directors, and the gender split was about 80/20 overall. This isn’t a particularly bad ratio in tech companies, but in my previous company I had worked with many more women, especially strong female leaders and I did wonder if I should be worried about this.
Were women less likely to succeed at Codeweavers? Was something stopping them from applying that I hadn’t thought about? Did the lack of gender diversity perhaps affect the way things were done?
I soon learned I did not need to worry at all. The company is in a period of growth and is constantly evolving and learning (still is!) and the women who do work there are all amazing and respected for their hard work, just as any man in the company would be.
Women may be a bit scary to them at times, but they take it in their stride! There was one point about 3 months in where I ended up weeping at Craig because I felt so lost and out of my depth. I think at first he didn’t know what to do, he certainly wasn’t used to such a burst of emotion, but once we had a shared understanding he went to the trouble of making me a personal reading list and delivering them to my desk with the order I should read them, and has always been there since to offer me mentorship and answer my questions. Even if we do struggle with that shared understanding at times!
Every man I’ve met at Codeweavers treat the women as there equal and empowers them to be their best, and vice versa.
I’d also like to say that even though the workforce is only 20% women, the women who are there add so much to the company!
Meg our HR manager is forward thinking and helping to drive the company in the right direction in terms of policies and culture that address the needs of the workforce including mental health, benefits and rewards.
Kath our head of client support (and all her awesome team) runs a tight ship, really knows her stuff, and is always willing to try new things and help out (and often run) with projects.
I’ve already mentioned Abbie and Laura, and now we also have Carla as a Product Owner who has taken everything in her stride and hit the ground running.
Flo, one of the first women I met at Codeweavers, is always going the extra mile to learn and improve her QA skills – well done on that Agile Cert!
Kirsty, a self-taught frontend developer who rises to any challenge and is so easy to work with, and Nicole, a back-end developer with amazing skill in her craft and great taste in food (I will share babaganoush with you again anytime)!
Christina just got her first promotion from Client support to the PO team, and it’s no surprise with her gift for grasping complex technical solutions and gift of the gab, as well as running her own business on the side.
And of course, there's Beckie, our delivery manager, who has made absolute strides since she started. There’s certainly less chaos and confusion, strong female leadership, and absolute respect for her operational and delivery skills!
I haven’t mentioned every woman individually so I’m just going to shout out to all the women in the account management, sales and marketing team too – because you all absolutely rock.
And yet … despite all of these helpful people and the great company; 6 months in, I still felt ‘wrong’, I still felt like an imposter. I was bouncing between projects half way through and struggling to retain any information, questioning my skills and if this was what I really wanted to do long term. I was ready to hand in the towel and start looking for something a little less challenging.
Then things changed again. More in part 3
We’ve covered a lot so far; how I got where I am, the self-doubt that sets in with a new job or career change, gender diversity, and working in a company in a growth phase. In this next blog I’m going to cover the turning point of that self-doubt and how I’ve come to love my job.
I think things suddenly started to turn around when I was given the responsibility of the GDPR project. It was the first time I’d been able to sink my teeth into something from the start. So, all of sudden, I had to put my skills into action and I had a fantastic team of developers to work with. The people who had supported me so far were still there, I was still asking a huge amount of questions, but I was finally ‘owning’ something and that gave me the sense of adding value that I needed.
Doing the GDPR project helped me really grasp the Codeweavers ways of working, I finally saw the benefits of Kanban and the Agile methods we were using. I also had to use my organisational skills and communication skills to the max as I was having to keep the whole company and all of our customers up to date. I definitely made mistakes, but as Craig assured me when I started, that’s the best way to learn – and he was so right. No one made me feel bad, they just helped and supported me through it.
When I received some really thoughtful and personal feedback from two of the developers in the team (Will and Milosz – you stars) and a phone call to thank me personally, from one of our biggest customers, for the delivery of their GDPR changes, I finally had the light bulb moment that I could do this. They hired me for a reason, they had faith in me, and I just had to have a little faith in myself.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing from then on, I would still have doubts, didn’t always agree with the way things are done, but the difference from other companies I’ve worked in was that I felt like I had a voice. We may not always agree, but you were always listened to. Sometimes this means things change too often, and too quickly! It’s one of the worst and best things about working here.
I’ve learned to ‘ride the wave’ of unpredictability and change now and I love it. Just like anything; adaptability comes with practice, as does asking the right questions, and learning from your mistakes. Put all that together and you have a powerful combination. That’s what sets Codeweavers staff apart – once we get past the initial fear of chaos and embrace it, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together.
Things at work were much better, but I was still unsure if this is what I really wanted to do.I had always said ‘I’m not technically minded’ but the truth was I had never tried! The first step in exploring that part of my brain was taking the job here at Codeweavers, and although I had learned so much, I didn’t feel like it was something that comes naturally. I am a people person, I like to help others and work in a team and my strengths lie in clear communication and organisation. I was certainly able to make the most of this in my role, but my struggle with the technical aspect of the role scared me, and it still does a bit.
I attended a women in tech conference in June this year (Women of Silicon Roundabout - highly recommend) which was paid for by Codeweavers and had a fantastic time with my colleagues Beckie, Carla, Nicole and our token male (the magnificent) Indy. It was a really interesting conference and I went to some great talks. They really helped me think about what it was I wanted for the future, and also to realise that I do have the traits to be a good product owner; curiosity and empathy!
It was at this point I had a realisation that I needed to do some conscious personal growth, figure out what would make me truly happy, and if Codeweavers was the place for me to do that long term.
If you’re reading this final part in my blog series, I’m impressed, and want to thank you now for sticking with it! This was the really hard part, because I had to take a good hard look at myself and my life, stop blaming other factors and my environment for my unhappiness and self confidence, and start figuring out what it was that I could change.
I started with some self reflection, asking what was really making me miserable. The clear answer was the anxiety that had reared its ugly head after the birth of my son and never quite disappeared. I was fearful of everything, and fear leeches you of mental and physical energy. So, the first step was to get some counselling. Somehow I ended up down the hypnotherapy route and it made a HUGE difference. It was like I hadn’t noticed I’d been carrying the weight of the world on my back until it was lifted - because that was what was normal for me.
The anxiety that had been crippling me started to release its grip, and for the first time in a long time I was able to focus on what I wanted - without fear. Unless you’ve suffered this yourself, it’s very hard to describe. I urge anyone though who is recognising themselves in this blog to go and get help. We’re often happy to spend a fortune on our physical health and appearance but your mental health is just as important - if not more! And talking to a professional really does help.
I made small changes, like starting to exercise and try new things in my spare time, reading a chapter of a book on my lunch break or talking a walk with my colleague Beckie. I threw myself into any challenge at work, and was really excited to take on an actual product (our part exchange tool) as well as projects, so I am constantly learning new things.
The next step was to ask myself; what are my ‘yes’ moments? What makes me tick? It turned out that this also came back to helping others, especially around mental health. I helped my husband recognise his own anxiety and get help, I counselled my friends and colleagues through difficult times, and pride myself on recognising people's emotional responses and body language where others might not be so aware.
I had always wanted to do a psychology degree and the anxiety and self doubt that held me back before was gone now. I was worried about time, but when I thought about how much time I spend watching TV or scrolling through my phone after my son’s in bed, I realised I could quite easily fit it in and make myself a much more productive person! It’s obviously a massive help that I work 30 hours and Codeweavers are so flexible with my hours.
The psychology degree has been the final piece in my puzzle. Now I’ve started, I’m really enjoying it. It’s helping me with work, and it’s something that’s just for me. I don’t actually know what I want to do with it when I’m finished - that’s 6 years away yet as I’m part time! What I do know is that I would like to use it here at Codeweavers.
Just as I’ve been through massive personal growth this year; from an emotional and insecure wreck to a pretty confident and happy person, the company has also been through massive growth! Since I started the workforce has increased by almost 50%.
When I started I was one of only a few parents, especially mothers, but since then we’ve taken on Katie who only had her son 6 months ago and I’ve been so impressed with how flexible and gentle the company has been with her and her partner Alex who is also a developer here. I’m also excited for the return of our marketing manager Charlotte after her maternity leave! Even though the gender ratio is still 80:20, the presence of women, diversity and equality is strongly felt here.
Codeweavers is a truly unique place to work, it’s got an old fashioned family bond, but it’s also always thinking about the future - especially the people.
I would, however, LOVE to see some more female developers and QAs join us - so if you’re looking please apply!
In conclusion - I’m literally the happiest and most self assured I’ve ever been, and a lot of that is down to this career change and picking the right company in Codeweavers. If you’re scared about taking a leap, then I say just do it, because what might be even scarier is looking back a year later and finding you stood still, or even went backwards, in that time. You have the power, you have the control, to make a positive change in your life.
The first 6 months was damn hard, but it was totally, utterly worth it.