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The next step in my career: joining Buffer as Senior Design Engineer

Over 5 years ago, I created Build UX to provide free, high-quality educational content on building accessible and polished user experiences. And nearly 4 years ago, I started consulting full-time in the summer of 2020. Over these past few years, I've loved the flexibility, interesting problems, and scaled impact of being fully independent.

So, it may come as a surprise that I've chosen to return to full-time employment. But, I have an opportunity that I can't pass up with many of the same benefits I've enjoyed as an independent consultant.

Why I'm stepping away from full-time consulting

The opportunities to guide my clients through technical, process, and cultural transformations have made the past few years the highlight of my career, but running your own consulting business is not without its challenges.

Following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank early last year, the tech industry was in a reactionary and panicked state. Nearly every consultant and educational content creator I know, including myself, experienced a significant drop in demand through much of last year.

While last year was rewarding in its own way as I explored my potential future product business, it was unpredictable and challenging financially. Luckily, demand started recovering last fall as confidence started returning to the industry, and I was returning back to normal levels of engagement.

At the same time demand started returning, I found the single opportunity that started calling me away from consulting: joining the team at Buffer.

Why I'm joining Buffer

I've followed Buffer for years through their continuous experiments with their way of working and passion for doing what's right. In past leadership positions, I used Buffer as a leading example in transparency with open salaries and equitable pay. In consulting, Buffer has served as a trusted point of reference that teams can and should question assumptions and continuously improve their culture, process, and product, with practices such as 4-day work weeks, embracing side projects, and building for the long-term.

Back in December, I was reading a post and was curious what roles they typically hire for. I saw an opening for a completely new design engineer role, which aligned with my whole career as both a designer and developer. Without hesitation, I decided on the spot to apply with the hope that I could join a team I've admired for years.

I'm not an impulsive person, especially when it comes to my career. But, I can be compelled to move fast and when good opportunities appear, and this was one of them.

Buffer's job openings can be quite competitive: a previous job posting in the same team had around 1,500 applicants just a few months prior. I wasn't even searching for a full-time role. But I knew I wanted to try.

Soon after, I was asked to start interviewing in January. I had several rounds of interviews from January to March, and each step in the process only strengthened my interest in joining. Everyone I spoke to, including the CEO, was incredibly transparent and kind, openly sharing their successes and struggles, their needs and ambitions, and their personal interests and projects.

Throughout the process, I experienced reassuring honesty and genuine support. When I was offered the role in early March, I accepted without hesitation.

What's next?

As a design engineer at Buffer, I bridge design and development and oversee technical strategy for Buffer's marketing website and blog, while also contributing to accessibility and their evolving design system. I also benefit from the cross-mentorship of a larger, senior team, which is something that's difficult to get from consulting.

Now that I'm 3 weeks into this role, I can confidently say that Buffer actually lives up to their values. I've observed people in all areas of the company act without ego, express sincere gratitude and optimism, be fully transparent to inform and empower others, and be open to any suggestions to continuously improve.

Like any long-standing business, Buffer has technical and process debt. But with such a trusting and supportive culture, I've been able to make significant dents in tech debt and propose different ways of working, especially between design and engineering.

Buffer not only supports, but encourages meaningful side projects. People openly share and celebrate everything from hobbies to content creation to even successful businesses outside of Buffer. And, with a 4-day work week, people are able to retain energy and curiosity for things outside of work that make them more fulfilled and productive in the long-term.

For me, this transition has been surprisingly easy. Nearly all of my time as a consultant has been with fully embedded, long-term engagements, so the schedule hasn't been too much of an adjustment. And, with the autonomy of my role, I've been able to start introducing practices such as Daily 3S (sweep, sort, standardize) and pairing that I would bring to my clients.

The 4-day work week and calm way of working has also left me with solid energy and inspiration to continue working on my own projects. I'm planning on reserving my Fridays for creating educational content and continuing to build the product that might become a business at some point.

After going through this change in my career, I feel relieved and grateful to be part of a team that's optimizing for the long-term with a people-first approach to work. And I look forward to the calm, stability, and balance it provides, so I can optimize for the long-term in my own life.