Time for a sabbatical


Though I started my vacations a bit earlier, 6th of June was officially my last day at 1928 Diagnostics. It's been an incredible almost-six years that passed by really quick. I'm grateful to the Cofounders Susanne and Kristina, CTO Fredrik, and all my peers that I feel incredibly privileged to have worked together with. In the coming months, I'll be taking a sabbatical to lazily tinker on a few ideas, and possibly start thinking about my next role some time later in the fall.

umkay, tell me a bit more

It's already been several weeks since I've officially stopped working. This is the fourth attempt to write this post. Regardless of the attempts, I continuously converge into the same mental space of "I left my job, in really good terms with everybody, and I'm really really proud of what we've built together." So, this time around instead of fighting that train of thought, I'm just going to work with it.

A workstation desk with a laptop running Qubes OS and a teapot on the side
Day 1 : Running Qubes OS on a brand new XPS. I still have that teapot, the cup however is a whole different story.

I joined 1928 Diagnostics as an early engineer in September, 2017. During this time period, we've accomplished a long list of milestones, going all the way from a single bacterial DNA analysis pipeline to a multi organism type, multi species type, multi analysis type, DNA analysis platform. When the pandemic arrived, we only picked up more velocity and built stronger capabilities. Incredible times !

I remember the early months, where I was trying to learn "just enough bioinformatics", while leading the containerization efforts, which eventually culminated in running all our analysis workloads on highly available auto-scalable clusters. All of the effort spent on automation was ready just in time for the anticipated consumer growth on our platform; the benefits which we could immediately see as more customers started to use the platform for routine & critical analyses.

In the following years, we spent a lot of time building more automation to support product growth, in terms of various product pipelines & features, various research experiments, dataset collection & validation, to mention a few. We embraced even more automation and tooling in the product pipelines that would help our customers go about their usual routines; sometimes without them even noticing that several knobs and dials weren't needed anymore while everything "just worked".

On the development side of things, we anticipated changes early and often, extending the platform architecture as the customer needs increased over time. Instead of constraining ourselves with highly specific roles, we worked together with overlaps to amplify our capabilities. I personally jumped between various team responsibilities every now and then, with the goal of supporting my peers to move swiftly towards our common big picture goals.

There's plenty of details I could write about, and this post would go on for a while, and so much other that might not even fit into the theme I'm writing on. For eg. that one time where one of the migration scripts I wrote did some irrecoverable damage, luckily it was very early days. We executed a great early migration from AWS to GCP and Kubernetes, which has been hugely beneficial to the date. Another one reminds me of the time where we migrated from Javascript to ReasonML and then to Typescript. We also dabbled with Go and Rust, eventually coming back to Python for the majority of systems we wrote. It was considered magical when we first launched the automatic pipeline identification and dispatch in the product, that one brings me joy every time I think about it. We spent a good amount of time on ISO and HIPAA related certifications, which our customers have been immensely thankful for. And having said all this, I'm sure that I'm leaving a huge chunk of things that I might have just have to go back and check on my notes.

In the process, I've learnt a huge amount. It was a great opportunity to build a platform and grow a product from almost-scratch into the highly resilient set of services it is today, serving a lot of happy customers. I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot working together with my peers who are deeply knowledgable and highly passionate about the industry, and it's long term benefits to humanity.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank all the people that I've had the the pleasure to work together with: Susanne Staaf, Kristina Lagerstedt, Fredrik Dyrkell, Elin Ljunggren, Dimitrios Arnellos, Emil Karlsson, Eric Loren, Karl Johan Hultin, Oscar Aspelin, Fanny Erre, Pernilla Gill, Silvia Petterfy, Brittany Van Dyk, Celine Torloting, Robert Engberg, Göran Danielsson, Johan Ehn, Jonas Bäckman, Oscar Andersson, Iris Rodal and many others. This was a stellar team, I really enjoyed working with you all and I'm looking forward to working together sometime soon again.

so, what happened then ?

It was my decision to leave 1928 earlier this year, when a bunch of events finally all came together. During a period of slow and reflective vacation at the beginning of the year, I made up my mind to wind down my journey. Afterwards, it took a couple more months to time my resignation properly.

A bottle Taittinger champagne along with a book - 'Life 3.0' by Max Tegmark
Got a lovely present from the team on the final day. Too bad I forgot to take some more photographs at our goodbye fika.

First and foremost, I had fully accomplished what I personally had set out to do at 1928 Diagnostics 6 years earlier; not just that but what we have built together far exceeded our early plans and expectations. Earlier this year, the company was starting a new chapter and I had full confidence in the current team being able to take the journey forward without me. It definitely was the perfect window of time to responsibly end this journey on a happy note. What I absolutely did not want to do was leave behind chaos; If nobody needed to reach out to me during my employed vacation period for any decisions/unblocking, then I would have considered my final self-assigned handover task to be fully accomplished. And, I can happily write down that it's been a major success of being able to partly automate myself out of my own job.

On a personal level, I have been meaning to take a break from the everyday work, to carve out some time to pause and reflect towards the next episode of my professional journey. As we all know, the last couple of years have been highly unstable in a variety of unpredictable ways, and we are definitely not on calm waters yet. However, looking at both the forward and backward trajectory in my life, it seemed obvious to me that this was the perfect time to execute on my plans for sabbatical, regardless of the uncertain waters. I'm really excited to have some unhinged free time to just lazy around a bit, tinker with some ideas that I have in mind, let myself get bored, perhaps read a book or two.

What's next ?

Naturally, the question comes up as to what's next ? As of now, I've gifted myself a 3-6 months period to spend on my sabbatical. I've already gotten started and have been spending some time at the lovely Recurse Center, albeit virtually over this summer. This has been something that I've been meaning to be a part of for almost a decade now, so I'm really glad to be able to finally make time for it. The RC experience is definitely more intense than what I had originally planned for the summer, but it's a lot of fun. I almost feel guilty for being the low energy attendant in a space full of highly motivated and energized individuals.

Afterwards, I'm really looking forward to wind down and spend some slow time before I stick back my head up to decide what I'll be working on next. Admittedly, it's sometimes hard to not consider an opportunity that just shows up on your doorway, so there's a real chance I might be working again sooner than expected. But, it's definitely not the way I've planned for the rest of the sabbatical as of now.

After this period comes to an end, I intend to take on another engineering leadership role with interesting challenges. I hope to start chatting about new opportunities possibly around October later this year. In the meantime, I'll be taking some time to bore myself off a bit.