Recently, I came off of a six week, yes six week, sabbatical. UserTesting just introduced this year yearly perks for their employees. The list ranged from gift cards for your first year to a team gift to ultimately a six week sabbatical given to those hitting their five year mark with the company. I have been with UserTesting for almost seven years now and have loved every minute; this was just icing on the cake.
I never thought I would be working for a company that gives such a long extended vacation time; let alone, did I think I would even know what to do with myself during that time. Now that the time has past, I can sit and think about my time away and what I had learned during that downtime. Hopefully the following will give good insight if you are ever faced with a nice long vacation.
The first thing that comes to most minds with such an extended time away from a company, as I know it did mine, is will they still need me when I come back? Hopefully during the tenure at the company you have made a great impact that has been seen by the eyes of not only upper management, but also your peers. You are a knowledgeable source of information and have a great deal of valuable history. The company wouldn’t be offering this perk if they thought you were expendable.
I am lucky enough to work for a large product and engineering department. Yes, they missed me while I was gone, but I knew everything was in good hands and they were happy for me to have this time off.
Turn off email. Turn off Slack or whatever other communicative applications you use. At first I thought I would not be able to do this, but my product manager encouraged me to do so. I set up mail filters to archive all incoming mail so that just in case I needed it — which I did not — I could go back to it.
This time is about me and my family, not work family.
I will mention towards the end of my sabbatical I turned Slack back on so that I could start to prepare myself with anything that may be of importance when I come back. In addition to being an individual contributor I am a manager, so I wanted to check in with some of the other managers that ended up taking my directs into their care.
Take this time to learn something new. It does not have to be job related, but it could very well also be. I ended up using this time to get up to speed on React and Redux. We currently use Angular in our application, but React has been on my list for some time now. I know have somewhat of a basic knowledge set of how the frameworks work and have already started a small personal side project utilizing both.
Everyone has hobbies. Use this time to devote to your hobby that you may not have been able to in the past. This is one thing I did not do fully on my time off. I love photography and love Atlanta. My plan was to do a walking photography tour of Atlanta and shoot all the things we love about living here that remind us of it. Unfortunately, I was not able to do this, but I was able to take many photos of the places we visited during my time off.
In the same vein of keeping my learning going, as mentioned above, I found time to start on and continue creating a small personal side project. This allowed me to bridge that gap of learning with the creating and kept my brain wired for software development.
Take time to experience new things. Whether it is traveling to some new location or trying that restaurant down the road you haven’t been able to get a reservation. Make sure to experience something new so that you can come back to your coworkers and tell them what you did as they will inevitably ask.
I have two little girls, so doing anything is always an experience with them. Since my sabbatical was during their summer vacation, I spent a lot of time with them. From traveling to Charleston for the beach to traveling to the Bahamas to swim with the dolphins, it was definitely an adventurous summer.
If you happen to be in the same position as I was staring down at a six week vacation, use it to its full extent. Remember, don’t fret, make sure to learn and create; do you while you are experiencing something brand new.