i’m lonely

i’m lonely
me trying to survive in engineering management

Before you click away, don’t worry, it’s not contagious. In fact, you’re probably lonely too.

But I am not talking about the greater cosmic loneliness problem that is occurring as we dive deeper into online connections. I’m professionally lonely.

As a manager, I’m a contractually obligated secret keeper. People tell me things that are legally risky to share; as an extreme example, building a termination case. It would be seriously problematic if I still went around telling everyone every new piece of information I learned. (I say still because I used to do that early in my career, treating the workplace like a school playground.)

Nothing feels lonelier than being close to friends at work and knowing things that directly pertain to them but feigning ignorance. This thin veil of secrecy inhibits trust and creates distance.

So what will we do about poor lonely manager Melissa, an overly friendly creature who craves social connection everywhere she goes?

I refuse to believe that we have to bury those trust-filled intimate connections. Rather, we have to consciously carve out professional secrets and find the appropriate spaces to discuss those.

One of my favorite meetings is a biweekly gathering of frontline engineering managers whose problem sets look similar to mine. Here, since we share the same purview, we are free to air our grievances in a setting that is appropriate for discussing sensitive topics. It’s true that misery loves company.

And in my case, I’m supremely lucky to have a best friend who is also a software engineering manager. The ability to share our professional woes and wins alongside those of our personal lives is core to my ability to maintain conviction in this career path.