Chapter Two at Deque

Crouching down in the woods

After 2½ years at Deque Systems (pronounced D-Q, if you aren’t already hip to it), I’m happy to say that they’ve approved a new role for me. As of Monday, June 25 2018, my job will be 100% Developer Advocate for Deque’s accessibility services and products.

Why the change? If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen that I was a little stressed recently. To be honest, I was having a rough time balancing 50/50% product engineering and evangelism, and I burned out for the second time in my career.

My original role with Deque was intended to be a balanced mix of responsibilities, but in reality it felt like two full jobs that I wasn’t excelling at. I started to feel unprepared for talks, which previously were both a joy and a breeze to get out there and execute (even though they were a ton of work). I constantly felt like I didn’t have enough bandwidth to contribute to the product team, and it weighed on me as a huge source of stress. Distributed team members across time zones, a very busy manager and remote work don’t really help with that. Add wedding planning and a very scary political climate on top of it, and I nearly lost my mind.

I took some time off to recover (yay functioning adventure van!), reflected on my career and thought long and hard about how I could excel at my job. I yearned to do my best work again without it being such a daily struggle. Job satisfaction is very important to me; when I’m doing good work, not only do I feel productive, but it helps my team. Feeling burned out and anxious helps no one. Luckily, I do have a lot to contribute and was able to make changes that have restored my mental health and happiness.

Starting Monday, I’ll be a member of Deque’s Services organization instead of Product. My time will be spent on a mix of things that play to my strengths, including research on cutting-edge accessibility techniques, creation of demos and writing articles. I plan to host some workshops, both virtual and in-person, along with the annual axe hackathon at CSUN. Teams can book my time for pairing and limited consulting, should you need some one-on-one technical accessibility help.

One cool thing is that by continuing to support the axe ecosystem, I’ll naturally facilitate communication between the Services and Product groups. It’s sort of an experiment, as Developer Advocate is a brand-new role for Deque…but I feel like it’s a natural fit for me, and I’m excited to apply my skills and interests to it. I see this role as a shift from product evangelism looking outward to representing customer and user needs from the outside-in.

I still plan on doing some public speaking, but less than I have in the past four years (feel free to get in touch with me about your event, but recognize that I’m going to be quite selective). I’ve learned that 10 talks a year is far too many for me, and I’d rather spend some of that energy listening, doing research and building up my own skills so I can start making solid contributions again.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Now that my energy is coming back I’ll be ready to contribute ideas and code again for the good of our industry. So look forward to seeing more from me out there on the interwebs to (hopefully) help make web accessibility easier.