Year 2: Demotion

A year of rethinking work, writing ridiculous amounts, starting to read again, re-introducing travel, heaps of weddings, and being a much happier person.

Posted on by Rowan Manning.
Tagged with YearnoteWorkBooksWritingSide ProjectsHolidayWedding

Has it been two years already!? Weird. There’s been a lot of change over the last year, post house move I focused on sorting out my work life. Despite the world burning around us, I’m a considerably more happy person than the guy from 12 months ago.


I think the biggest news is that I demoted myself. It’s been, by far, the best career decision I’ve ever made. Last year I wrote:

I’m going to rethink over the next year and work out what I want from work…

I was in a big rut, I’d been a Principal Engineer for three years and was feeling a bit disillusioned with being in a less directly-technical role. There are plenty of rewarding aspects of being a Principal but I just wasn’t seeing them anymore and I recognised that I needed a change. Around this time, Alice introduced me to Felicity, who is an excellent career coach.

After several sessions and being given some useful tools, I found a pretty clear pattern in what I liked and disliked about work: I wasn’t getting any enjoyment from most of my principal responsibilities anymore, and all of the times I’d had good days were when I was embedding myself in teams as an engineer and solving technical problems more directly. I proposed that I take a demotion and become a Senior Engineer again.

I’ve been working directly in an engineering team since January:

Next week I’m starting a slightly different role for a while. I’m going to be embedding in our support team and getting more hands-on with the code…

The Support Team is now the Reliability Team for, I’m shipping production code most days and I’m absolutely disgustingly happy with my job. I’m feeling that sense of team camaraderie again and I think I’m doing my best and most impactful work.

I remember saying to myself that, despite not enjoying my job, it wasn’t impacting my personal life. Well, friends, it definitely was. I’m just a more happy and light person in all aspects of my life now.


Not long after the change in job, I found my capacity to care about programming really returned full force. I’m definitely more pragmatic about it than I used to be, but I’ve been picking up little side projects and maintaining my open-source libraries a lot more consistently over the last year.

I’m completely on top of dependency bumps, having merged close to 2,000 pull requests across 30 repos. The trick seems to be consistency – if I let the PRs build then it’s a massive task, but if I check every couple of days with my morning coffee then it’s very manageable.

It also helps that I did the work to make all my projects really consistent, switched to conventional commits, and started managing all my releases with Release Please. These things have completely eliminated the “toil” part of Open Source for me.


I picked up reading again this year, not in a huge way but in a way that’s been fairly well sustained.

In non-fiction, I’ve been reading The Pragmatic Programmer as part of the engineering book club at work. It’s been really fun to chat about it with my colleagues and there is some solid advice throughout.

In fiction, I’ve been reading at a fairly slow pace (compared to my past self) but it’s becoming a habit again. Over the three months since I picked it up again, I’ve read:

I could use some recommendations for authors who aren’t white men if you have any, ideally more in the fantasy or sci-fi genres.


I’ve been writing so much. While most of it is in my team’s internal work blog, I also managed to squeeze out one blog post on this website.

This is very likely underselling it because I can’t be bothered to trawl old Google Docs, but I’ve definitely written at least 48,500 words over the course of the year (not including the actual code).

  • Weeknotes: 17,500 words
  • Public blog posts: 500 words
  • Internal blog posts: 4,000 words
  • Internal tech design docs and investigations: 7,000 words
  • Technical documentation: 19,500 words

Writing weeknotes has made this super easy. Writing isn’t daunting in the slightest. Blank page syndrome? Who’s that? I’m also finding it easier to enter flow state.


I’ve travelled a lot more in the last year, with COVID restrictions being lifted we slowly started to travel outside of the UK again. We visited Jordan, Bordeaux (where we caught COVID), Turkey, and Costa Rica. I feel very lucky and I’ve missed this a lot.

We also spent a bit of time in the UK, some highlights being The South Downs, Scotland for a stag do, Wales for a getaway with friends, and The Isle of Wight.


Another theme this year has been weddings! We attended six in total and they were all lovely. Congrats again to Ben & Jess, Emma & Perry, Gallal & Kim, Leigh-Ann & Andy, JPD & David, and Mo & Alice.

I have to admit I’m quite pleased to be able to retire my suit for the winter, although I think we already have two more weddings booked for the next couple of years 👀

What’s next?

What’s gonna happen over the next year? I have absolutely no clue. I’m going to buy the maximum amount of holiday and see what 50 days of annual leave feels like (I assume relaxing). I’ve let the home improvements slide a bit so maybe I’ll pick up on more of that.

Generally, I don’t feel like I need to make any more major changes in my life in the near future, so maybe it’ll be a nice quiet one.

Whatever happens, I’ll keep writing these, might be my longest-ever hobby apart from Minecraft. Wild. Thanks for reading!

A full year of weeknotes represented as a grid of thumbnails