Mr GFY: “Hey RIP… I reached my number! 😀”
RIP: “WTF… holy crap… congrats! Do you mean you’re FI now? Wait, how do they say on reddit? GFY!! I’m happy for you bro 🙂”
“And in my spreadsheet I don’t even account for pension pillars! From where I come from you don’t trust governments handling your money!”
“Holy crap, so you don’t include your Pillar 2 & 3 (and of course Pillar 1) into your Net Worth? You’re FI even without considering your pensions??”
“I don’t do Pillar 3, and I do contribute the minimum I can into Pillar 2. And my SWR is very conservative, like 3% 🙂”
“Uh… ok, holy crap again! Wait… you don’t contribute into Pillar 3? You really like to pay taxes bro! Anyway, huuuuge congrats! 🙂”
You’re not following, are you?
Hi Game of RIPthrones readers (Halt Catch Fire 😉 ).
This is the third post of my midlife crisis series. First post was about a dinner with KM Finanzen in mid June 2019. Second post was about my chat with SuperBoss at the end of June. In this post we’ll explore what happened in the first half of July 2019.
Like in GOT, episodes spacing is shorter than real life events spacing, which means that at one point the series will overtake real life events… like in GOT, expect a shitty finale 😀
After my chats with KM finanzen and SuperBoss, and all the June events I was 99% convinced the right thing to do was to quit Hooli, take some real time off (go on vacation), decompress, and postpone important decisions until the end of summer.
Decisions like “what do I do with my life now?”, “should we stay in Switzerland and burn at least 5k CHF per month?”, “should we send Baby RIP to child care and burn an extra 1.0-2.5k CHF per month?”, “should we get a bigger apartment and burn an extra 1.0-2.0k CHF per month?”, “should I interview for other companies?”.
How easy was life when the toughest decision was “what do we do next Saturday evening?”
So we booked vacations, as planned.
We already planned a few months ago a 17 days trip in Italy in August: few days in Rome to visit my parents plus 2 weeks in the Adriatic coast with a couple of friends and their 3 years old son. We planned a 3 weeks (at least) trip in Portugal in September, since Portugal is on our shortlist of “candidate geo-arbitrage solution to FI”. Didn’t buy the tickets for Portugal yet though. Then we planned a kind of “last minute” 10 days trip in Croatia in mid July. Yes, Croatia is another candidate geo-arbitrage solution to our FIRE problem. Ticket freshly purchased from July 10th to July 20th.
The plan looked like “quit as soon as the doctor sends me back to work, in the meantime relax, visit candidate next destinations, think about the future“. It would be great to have a more concrete plan by the end of summer, and complete the transition by the end of 2019.
Cool. Sounds like a (WIP) plan! Let’s relax now!
Don’t think about Hooli, it belongs to your past!
Hey RIP, do you listen to me? Just don’t think about Hooli! Decision made!
Bad habits die hard…
Hooli offices here, in this city of “German Switzerland”, are spread across two campuses. Each campus is composed by several buildings. Few thousand of people in total. I’ve spent my entire career in the Old Campus, that’s where most of the Hooli employees that I know work. All my colleagues and most of my ex colleagues are there. I don’t know much about who works and what they do in the New Campus. Since the beginning of my medical leave I’ve been coming to the new campus to find time and space to think, write, plan, read. I’ve been using the new campus as my free coworking space, with access to internet, printers, privacy (I know almost none here), meeting rooms, and – more importantly – free food.
I’ve been coming to the new campus 2-3 days per week since early May I guess.
The building I chose as my coworking area was of course the one with the best cafeteria. It’s also the building where all the Reliability Engineers work. The good guys who keep services up and running, who also optimize resource consumptions (CPUs, memory, bandwidth, data centers) at Hooli. I’ve never directly interacted with them, except a couple of times while in Team B (a “search ranking” team) when some of my “innocuous” code changes crashed production and they got paged at 3am. Good guys! They wanted me killed, but I’m a forgiver 🙂
One day in early July I was having breakfast in my favorite cafeteria in the new campus and I met Andrey (fantasy name), a Russian coworker with whom I’ve been working in Team A, both being managed by SuperBoss. I liked working with him, didn’t know he moved into this building:
RIP: “Hey Andrey, long time no see 🙂 how is life? Why are you here in the Reliability Engineer office?”
Andrey: “Because I’m a RE now 🙂 Did you remember how I struggled back then? I changed a few teams and it didn’t work. I was close to quit Hooli for good! I then jumped the production barricade and I’m now a Reliability Engineer, a RE. It’s been the best decision of my life, I’m very happy now! I got promoted and I’m finally Tech Lead. Most importantly, I’m happy to come to work each morning 🙂”
“Uh… really? Interesting… Can I ask you why?”
“Things are less bureaucratic here, the environment less political, less corporate-BS. We have clear goals that are stable and don’t change every other day. When things don’t break it means we’re doing a good job. The day to day job is more hands on. “Hope is not a strategy” here. I write a lot of code, I solve a lot of challenging problems and I feel like an expert in my field now. And being on call twice per quarter is not that bad (and it’s very well paid). How are you doing btw?”
“I’m quitting 🙂 I’m burnt out. I can’t take this shit anymore.”
“Oh, sorry to hear… why don’t you give it a try as a RE? Things are different here, and there’s a huge demand for former Software Engineers because we need to develop new tools. Self contained projects… where one can feel an expert… mastery… autonomy… ikigai… and you probably did hear how many outages we had in last few months. Hooli wide priorities are changing: we need more reliability and less new features. Let me forward our monthly internal email with open positions. We have 65 open positions right now just in this building. Many developer teams need a reliability team. Three new teams are forming from scratch, and they’re hiring like crazy. Just take a look at the email 😉”
“Ok… thanks… will take a look, maybe.”
I took a look, out of curiosity.
Days went by, and I met other friends/colleagues who work in this building. I also met a RIP reader for lunch, which is also a Hooli RE. He moved from SE to RE and he’s also happy with the change.
I started seriously considering having a chat with some of the hiring managers, to check what’s like to be a RE, what skills are needed and so on. It won’t hurt anyway, will it?
I also met Faustino (fantasy name), and Italian friend and a RIP reader (who will of course recognize himself here).
Faustino: “Hey RIP, what are you doing here in RE building? Enjoying the best Pizza at Hooli in our cafeteria? 😀 Btw, I need to thank you a lot! I used your Net Worth spreadsheet, I made a copy, adapted for my situation and my data, started tracking assets, liabilities, expenses, saving rate… I improved my finances a lot and I can’t thank you enough for that! Please don’t stop blogging, you’re the best (memories are fading, I don’t remember if these were his exact words), a demigod, a deity, I worship you days and nights (Yeah, let’s push the pedal and blame my memory!). Again, why are you here?”
RIP: “Well… I’m quitting Hooli. Decision taken. I’m here to think, to write awesome blog articles… even though I’m not writing that much on my blog… even though I’m supposed to have a lot of free time. I’m more or less self analyzing, reflecting on the future, writing stuff for myself and so on. And yes, finally eating better Pizza than the one we have on the old campus!”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that 🙁 that’s not right! when I was on the verge of quitting a couple of years ago you helped me, so I want to help you now! why don’t you try to be a RE? Let me put in contact with X and Y. Talk with them!”
“Thanks Faustino, I appreciate but…”
“Just talk with them, they’re very cool! They have open positions, just have a chat with them! it won’t hurt, will it? Here we are on the other side of production. Your reliability skills, your perfectionism is welcome here. And don’t think there’s no creativity on this building! it’s the exact opposite! Solving production problems is all about creativity!”
“Yeah… but… ok, let’s do this. I’ll talk to X. Thanks for your help 🙂”
An intense first week right after having took life changing decisions.
A too intense week.
On the first weekend of July we hosted the usual Pizza RIP & Terraforming Mars event at our flat with a couple of very close friends (VCF) we hang out frequently. I’ve talked about Mr VCF many times: he’s also a Hooli colleague, a member of the Italian Hooli Investing club, one of the contributors of the 2018 ETF List, one of my wedding witnesses, and travel friend both in Mexico and the Maldives. He works as Program Manager for a RE team, in the RE building.
RIP: “Hey VCF, I’ve had a few serendipitous encounters this week in the new campus. Someone is recommending me to talk to RE hiring managers and apply for a position there. Please, be brutally honest: do you see me as a RE?”
Mr VCF: “Well, I think…”
Mrs RIP: “Whaaaat? I thought we discussed this already, didn’t we? Are you changing your mind again??”
RIP: “No no no my dear wife I didn’t change my mind, I’m just curious. If you think about it this is an option we didn’t consider. That would allow us to stay in our beloved Switzerland. Maybe I can try this new thing out… maybe working as a RE is closer to what makes me happy at a workplace, at least for a while. Andrey, do you remember my Russian friend in Team A? He said that moving from SE to RE has been ‘the best decision of his life’… Faustino too keeps telling me ‘how cool is to work in production’… Let me explore that. Btw, Mr VCF what do you think?”
Mr VCF: “I think that…”
Mrs RIP: “Does it mean that if you were to start this new thing at Hooli we will cancel our summer vacation? We need some peace, relax, space for us this summer. It’s been 16 months since last vacation, and I’m handling Baby RIP, unemployment duties, and your craziness all alone…”
RIP: “I understand. But listen… our summer plans are not going to change. Promised. We need to relax. Prepare your luggage, we’re going to Croatia in a couple of weeks 🙂 Plus, all of this is purely hypothetical. Even if I decide I like the new role I need to convince a manager to hire me in their team. Who do you think is so crazy to hire a 42 years old, burnt out, average performers like me?? Am I right VCF?”
Mr VCF: “Well…”
Mrs RIP: “I don’t know how to handle this situation anymore. You’re broken inside but I f***ing love you 🙂 Ok, explore ‘this thing’, talk to people, and if you think you want to apply for a new position go ahead. But I give you 3 complaints points: the third time you complain that your job sucks again you quit, ok? Do we have an agreement? How do you say there… are we on the same page?”
RIP: “Yes, yes, deal… but you’re running too fast! I’m not applying for any position yet! And I probably won’t. A week ago I felt so relieved we had a plan. Planning is everything, someone said. I think the guy also said that plans are useless though. Anyway, I’m not going back on an old abandoned road. This would eventually be a completely new game, a thing worth evaluating. I won’t apply if we don’t have a shared plan that we like more than the current one, ok? I’m still 90% sure it would not lead to anything really happening, but does it hurt to talk with people? VCF, am I wrong?”
Mr VCF: “For sure it doesn’t…”
Mrs RIP: “RIP, your phone is ringing…”
RIP: “Who the f… Oh, come on, it’s Sunday afternoon, give me a break! Sorry guys, it’s the realtor that’s trying to sell my shitty flat in Milan for 2 years. Missed call. What the hell, isn’t this guy able to text or write me an email? Wait, a whatsapp from him… What???”
I can’t believe! mortgage approved for the Colombian lady who wants to buy your flat in Milan! Selling price confirmed 70k EUR. Bank director going on vacation on July 20th for a month. Notary act set on July 16th. PLEASE be free by that date, it’s two years we’re trying to sell your shitty flat. It’s a dossier that won’t hold for much. The lady has other debts and the (not sure how honest) flat evaluation expires in August. House market in that shitty neighborhood is going down. If we postpone the sale it would be a disaster. PLEASE BE FREE BY JULY 16th. PLEASE REPLY ASAP.
RIP: “holy crap 😮 is this real??”
Mr VCF: “Congrat…”
Mrs RIP: “Holy shit… that’s great news, isn’t it?”
RIP: “Yes… ok… wow… btw what the hell has it to do with this post?”
Mr VCF: “which post?”
Mrs RIP: “which post?”
Mrs VCF: “Which post? Btw RIP, is your turn to move.”
RIP: “I’ll raise temperature on fucking Mars, here are 8 heat cubes. Anyway, July 16th… it means goodbye Croatia trip?”
Mrs RIP: “is this a sign that our summer is screwed? Is this a premonitory signal?”
Mr VCF: “Maybe you could…”
RIP: “Listen, my love. I’m selling my flat! My shitty flat! For 10k EUR more than I account for! Yes, still 35k less than I paid for it 9 years ago though… but it’s a great news! We’ll find a solution for the July trip, I’m sure 😉 It’s a premonitory sign that things are finally going in the right direction!”
Mrs RIP: “What about the 29 pages of rants about working at Hooli that you showed to me in Tuttlingen?”
RIP: “I’m just exploring the possibility to change ROLE, not just team. It’s like joining a different company! Am I right VCF?”
Mr VCF: “…”
Mr VCF: “May I?”
RIP: “Of course dear friend, I asked for your opinion. You know how much I value your words!”
Mr VCF: “Actually…”
Mrs RIP: “Ok, I need a good night of sleep to digest these new facts and elaborate”
Baby RIP: “You need what? A good night of sleep? LOL”
Mrs VCF: “VCF, it’s your turn to move! Stop talking, let’s focus!”
Mr VCF: “But I didn’t even…”
RIP: “Thanks VCF for your support and for your always welcome opinions 🙂”
Mr VCF: You’re welcome 😕”
The following week I’ve been talking to people, testing the water, check if this role could be a good fit for me… But I felt empty. It seemed strange, unnatural. I didn’t want to have to convince someone to hire me, I didn’t need the job.
But I do want them to want to hire me. My ego is getting in the way.
I met again Faustino, who sent me to talk to another X, and another Y.
I met again Andrey, who told me “why don’t you meet my manager? I’d be happy to work with you again!”
I tried to find a solution for our Croatian trip, including the option of taking a lot of flights and/or trains, but selling the house required bureaucracy and presence. So flight canceled, 500 CHF lost, trains for Milan purchased.
Then on Friday I met Mr GFY.
Mr GFY is a colleague who was born in a poor country and expatriated many years ago. I first met him while attending a 3 days Value Investing course at Hooli. Yes, we have value investing courses at Hooli! Everybody has money here, and everybody wants to be the new Graham, Rockefeller, or Buffett. Another colleague who’s interested in stock picking and value investing in general organized a course back in March/April. I attended it. It was very interesting, I learnt many things I didn’t know about long term investing, evaluating a company, reading quarterly reports, financial statements and so on. Maybe it’s something I want to invest more time on, not in the near future though.
I met Mr GFY back then, we exchanged a few mails, shared some thoughts on investing, index funds, passive income… and the discussion quickly headed toward FI.
Mr GFY: “…And there’s this blog I started following recently that shares a lot of useful information I didn’t know about! I think he’s a colleague of ours. It’s called retire in progress!”
RIP: “Oh, really? Sounds fun 🙂 Tell me more 😀”
“He his Italian… like you… you are Italian, right? And he’s into passive investing… like you… he’s 40something, he moved here in 2012… like… WAIT…”
“Noooooo waaaaaay YOU’RE MR RIP??? Holy shit THANK YOU FOR WRITING!! Your blog is so AWESOME! PLEASE DON’T STOP WRITING! Holy crap I can’t believe it!!”
“Won’t do 😎”
We became friends. We started having lunches together in the new campus, chatting about investments, FIRE, passions, desire to enjoy a second phase of life after FI.
Small parenthesis: it’s incredible how quickly I go deep with the people I meet thanks to my blog. No small talk, no boredom, no bullshit. Money, life struggles, passions, dreams, desires, plans… I love this. I love the 10 layers of defensive shield my blog destroys when meeting a new friend. It’s probably because I’m so candid, transparent, honest here. That makes people willing to open their skeleton-holding closet with me, and I love that.
I met Mr GFY on Friday July 12th, at the end of this intense week split between Italian bureaucracy (I might write a post about selling my flat, it has been a weird and folkloristic experience), Mrs RIP management, RE investigation, physical and mental health management, attempting to relax.
Back to the beginning of the post:
Mr GFY: “RIP… I reached my number! 😀”
… few congrats, awesome, and GFY later…
Mr GFY: “So? how are you doing today? Is your medical leave working? Are you more relaxed?”
RIP: “Well, I told you last time I was 99% close to quit. Something changed, now the odds are still high but declining. I’d say 90%. I’m thinking about an internal transition instead of quitting. I’m getting slightly interested in trying a RE position. It may be a better fit for what I need now, and I don’t want to leave anything unattempted here, you know… but I’m not convinced, it feels unnatural. Maybe it’s just my ego who wants to get hired to prove I’m still worth a Hooli job. Anyway, even if I decided I want this job I should find a team that would hire me and…”
“Whatever you decide, please don’t stop blogging! You’re amazing, and you’re a helluva storyteller! And this post is coming out to be amazing!!”
“Thanks… wait… which post? Btw this dialogue is happening 3 months before I write the post, and it may even be that I delete this section… What are you…”
“I remember the post when you did the reader case with… who was it… mr ATM. Well, the spreadsheet you created for the study is truly awesome! I copied it out and adapted a bit to my needs… it’s the best retirement calculator I’ve found in Switzerland!”
“Oh, wow… I didn’t think about it that way. It was just a spreadsheet I’ve put together to help a reader. I don’t even use the spreadsheet for myself. I should, actually, it’s more precise than the FIRE section on my NW spreadsheet though…”
“No, you have no idea! I shared it with friends, and they used it for their own goals too! Please don’t stop blogging, you have a depth that it’s hard to find on the web! Keep doing it, man! You’re impacting more people than you think!”
“Thanks. I’m speechless. Btw, do you plan to retire now that you’re FI?”
“Not yet, I want to have a plan. I don’t hate my job, but I have the impression that my role could be made redundant in the near future. I don’t have a clear ‘what to do next’ vision like you have. If I had something to ‘retire to’ I wouldn’t be wasting a second!”
“Ok, well, I’m not sure I have a concrete plan though. I have many possible futures in my head, many passions, many things I want to try before it’s too late but I also want to…”
“I read all your posts on your blog, please don’t stop writing! I learned a lot! More from your blog than from the other dozens that I follow! You’re a software engineer and that reflects in your writing. You go down to numbers, it’s hard to find another blog with your depth. ok, maybe except this post series which is more storytelling and entertaining than mathematically sound but…”
“Wait, what the heck are you talking about? Which post series?”
“Hold the door!”
“Thanks to your post about the Swiss Pension System I discovered that if your wife doesn’t work and you pay more than double minimum AHV contribution your wife is covered!”
“Oh yeah, my famous post on Swiss Pension System for dummies… Yeah, I have a plan to also write similar posts on Banking, Health Care, Housing… Well, I’m happy to have helped you 🙂”
“Not just me! I told it to other people, pointed to your post. People didn’t know. One of them contacted the authority and then got a confirmation letter! You’re impacting more people than you think! I hope this feedback gets you motivated. Please don’t stop blogging!”
“Hold the door!”
“Tha fuck… I don’t underst… are you from the future?”
Pride. A bit. Double pride. Pride as a software engineer: I want hiring managers to fight over my application and to beg me to join their team. Pride also as a blogger: I want to help everyone in the world and receive hundreds of email of the kind “you changed my life”.
Well, the latter looks much better than the former. It’s not even about money anymore.
I have a mission. People need me. SuperRIP is coming!
After Mr GFY after lunch, on the same Friday I met Faustino right before leaving the office.
Faustino: “Hey RIP, did you talk with X? I think also team XYZ has two open positions, It’s a cool team, let me forward the manager’s contact.”
“What? You already talked with him?”
“No, Faustino. Thanks. A sincere THANK YOU for helping me, but I’m not going to meet another X and Y. I’m quitting. This is it. Here it ends Mr RIP’s adventure at Hooli 🙂 I’m really happy with my decision. Thanks for your support 🙂 Thanks for your understanding. Have a nice weekend!“
I look the resignation in his eyes. He got it. He won’t try to help me anymore.
Took the train to Milan on Sunday July 14th, ready to sell my flat. My biggest physical possession is going away. A place where I lived for a few years, where I met my wife, will be gone in a few days. I’m also quitting Hooli. A workplace where I worked for several years will be gone as well.
My identity will be redesigned from scratch.
But let the dust settle while in Italy, let’s sell the flat and we’ll see.
See you soon!