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Alex Villa
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About Leaving Webflow (Floating in a ship with no cruise control)

August 06, 2021

A blue sunset in the Riviera of Porto, the sun in the right top, a pier in the right bottom with two people sitting

TLDR: After almost 5 years, the second week of July 2021 was my last at Webflow.

Ever since, I've been having some adventures as an unemployed person in-between-jobs for the first time in my adult life (during a mini-tiny-sabbatical that I'm lucky to be able to take).

It's been peaceful. I even finished a novel in a day to join a book club on a biergarten (in person!), in between bike rides, open air cinemas, lunches with friends, dates with my wife, a trip to Portugal and back, hours in Lightroom that come from carrying my camera everywhere, and somehow, enjoying an uncertain and unpredictable summer.

But all of that doesn't erase the melancholy that's contained in letting go of something that was a really important part of my life and felt like more than just a job. The decision to leave Webflow was not an easy one.

It took me more than a few days to overcome the sadness that came with deciding to leave that job, and how hard it was to part ways with being a part of that community. Saying individual good-byes was the hardest part, it made me value every single human that I connected with on my time there, but also filled me with nostalgia because we are not gonna share that common space anymore.

Having your workplaces being your core community is a slippery slope, not the healthiest one, but it also leaves you with human connections that will last forever and will have hopefully influenced your life positively forever. So if you ask me, it's a win/win.

However, I gotta be wary of codependency. I have an addictive personality.

I joined Webflow as a software engineer because I needed a job, and also because the mission excited me, but looking back, the reality is that my first 3 years as a Webflow employee overlapped with a very rocky phase of my personal life, this lead to a rocky road.

From the outside, I was a happy digital nomad. But if you looked closely, you would have found that I was going through different nasty break ups, which meant losing communities again and again, while also being mostly distanced from my family (once a queer weird kid, always the outsider one), losing close people to cancer, and overcoming problems that come with an addictive personality.

This rockiness in my personal life led me to redirect all of my admiration, hope and ideals to Webflow.

I found my constant on my workplace. This was both amazing and difficult, but mostly dangerous, it's never a good thing to keep one aspect of our lives as the only source of an identity.

And it was all worth it. While working there, I met people that changed my life for good, forever. Caring humans that showed me that it's possible to live a balanced and peaceful adult life while moving forward as professionals that care for each other. Humans that showed me a lot about what it meant to be an adult in different societies and opened up my world to the idea of intersectionality.

This lack of self-identification was a good thing. I was able to understand something that will come to live with me forever: it is a beautiful gift to be able to find belonging among people who are different to yourself. Because these differences bring perspectives that give a lot of value to each other, again and again.

However, beyond the community aspect of a relationship with a workplace, there's also the relationship you develop in there as a professional. While being a developer at Webflow, it took me a while to find out that my professional development didn't necessarily look like the path of white male engineers, and that this was a good thing.

During those early years, it was hard to not feel like an imposter from time to time. Not in the definition of imposter syndrome as someone that finds something that gives you an opportunity for growth, but more in the sense of comparing yourself to your peers and overlooking the things you are actually good at, that don't necessarily look like theirs.

This is how I stagnated, I couldn't stop feeling "less than" my male white colleagues for 80% of my time at Webflow. I was lucky to get out of that stagnation, a big part of which I owe to The Best Manager Ever and an amazing head of DEI (both of you know who you are), they both believed in me and supported me in finding spaces to lead, to find a voice, to find what I could contribute better with.

The product is brilliant and this has led to the company to grow, but I started feeling an unexplainable divide when the number of employees started growing. Before...I loved to try to get to know everyone that joined individually, even if for a quick chat, but there was a moment where I had no energy for that...I was pouring my heart out in working as a tech lead of a migration, while also taking part in DEI efforts.

Migrations can be a big technical challenge, but DEI? It is such a blank slate in the modern world, an unknown territory. Particularly if concerns happen in a moment where both the world and the company are changing so much. Even when most people mean well, it takes a lot.

It can take a lot from you, particularly if over the years you've developed deep relationships with your team mates. And when hyper-growth is going on around you, you burn out.

That was the moment where I realized that even though working for this company had been a crucial piece of my personal story, it was time to move on.

This is not a tale of startups being evil or capitalism sucking. This is me opening out emotionally about a journey that was true for me. It was intense, and difficult and beautiful.

I was lucky to be a part of this community, it will always be a part of me, and hopefully, I left a bit from the best of me there. I was also lucky to leave on what felt like "a high", while being the point in which I had already given my best and it was time to move on.

I'm very excited about what I'm gonna be doing next professionally, it's gonna be working with a company that has been close to my heart for a while and where I sense a lot of affinity. In a few weeks, I will be ready to immerse myself into this new challenge.

For now, it's both a mourning and a re-birth phase for me. I need to figure out who I am post-Webflow, I have the feeling it is mostly who I already am. But it takes time to depart completely.

Even if it can only last for a few weeks. I'm grateful to be floating on this ship on my own, with no cruise control.

Thank you for all the fish Webflow, it was a wonderful ride.

On to the next sea.

PS: Thanks to my friend kd for helping me with proofreading this.

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