Come next spring I’ll have been at my current job for four years, which means that my initial options will all have vested. The company is doing well; given that, I think it’s reasonable to think the expected value of those options is non-negligible. Or, in other words: the expected value of my total compensation is likely to go down noticeably next spring. Given that, it might well be a better choice financially for me to look elsewhere.
It might not, of course. I mean, just the language “expected value” pretends to a precision that is inappropriate; and, whatever that expected value is, leaving my job would cause the expected value of my initial options to decline, at least a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think my current company intends to try to pull a Skype or anything, but even setting that aside: companies frequently try to keep their current employees happy by reducing the effects of dilution on their stock (or otherwise inflating the values of that stock), whereas they don’t do that for past employees. Still, though, it at least suggests that I should start thinking about this; and changing companies might make sense just for portfolio diversification reasons alone.
Or for non-financial reasons. Because I don’t think of myself as a super money-driven person, though I’m certainly not about to take a vow of poverty. The end of my vesting period is really more of an excuse to re-evaluate what I’m looking for in a job: certainly doing that once every four years is not a bad idea! And, while I think my last job change was absolutely the right choice, I got swept along by external forces a little more than I would like. So, if I’m considering the possibility of changing jobs next spring, then now is the time to think about that: think about what’s important to me, and to think about what sort of process I might want to go through to increase the chance that I’ll end up in a good place.
And I’m certainly not at at ruling out the possibility that the best place for me might be my current job. That’s another reason to think about this now while I have quiet time: external recruiters are going to spin stories (and help me spin stories) about how the grass is greener elsewhere, so I need a countervailing force for that.
So: what is important to me? Recruiters and interviewers like to talk about how interesting the work they’re doing is, and how smart the people there are. And those are both important to me, no question; of course, if that’s the criterion, then my current job does quite well, I don’t have any complaints on either of those scores.
But I also think I’m, if not mellowing on either criterion, at least broadening. Sometimes I’ve gone into a job search with specific technologies (or at least technological directions) that I’m looking to explore; right now, though, I’m not feeling a particularly strong pull in any technological direction. Any problem worth solving is probably complex enough to be interesting in some way, I feel like there’s a fair range of problems that I’ve enjoyed in the past. (I’ve worked on a debugger, on a video server, on a Facebook game, and on log management; if there’s a common theme there, it’s not obvious.) I’m still somewhat picky about technologies, but even that’s more of an “I want to avoid having to use X and Y” thing these days (there’s no way I’m taking a job that’s focused on writing PHP code!) than “I want to work with Z and W”.
And then there’s the “smart people” theme. Now, I like being around smart people, and I’ve spent basically all my life around smart people; so yeah, that’s where I’m likely to be most comfortable. But I’m getting less and less comfortable: this desire for smartness seems to me to be excessively linked to dominance behavior and to a focus on individuals over teams. So you have rooms full of men arguing with each other, you have anointed architects who decide how things should be done, you have people fitting into small silos where they get to be the expert who wins the arguments in that area. Honestly, I actually enjoy some of that—I’m so used actively participating in and doing well in the arguments that I almost didn’t see them for years, and I can architect fine (but I’m nosy enough that I’ve never liked silos too much)—but that doesn’t mean that I think they’re good things these days.
I wish I knew how to feel out collaborative teams. It seems like something that it’s potentially possible to feel out while interviewing, but I also think that companies present themselves as less siloed than they actually are. (Or maybe I just ignore warning signs.) And it’s very difficult indeed when talking to recruiters: probably recruiters simply don’t know one way or another in the first place! There are also a lot of project management dysfunctions that I would like to be able to feel out, too.
Also, not to put too fine a point on it: sometimes the issue isn’t lack of collaboration, sometimes it’s plain old bias and discrimination. I’m getting pretty tired of hearing about a company, searching for their employees on LinkedIn, and finding out that there apparently aren’t any women working there in engineering. (And then, of course, going to their “About” page and finding that there aren’t any women in upper management, either. But hey, they have investments from fancy VC firms!) Really, Silicon Valley? Do we have to still be that way?
But I’m not even sure that even all of that is what’s most important to me. When I think about what makes me happiest about my current working situation, it’s frequently much smaller things. Like: I wasn’t that thrilled when we outgrew our Mountain View digs and moved to Redwood City, but Pamplemousse is amazing, I am so glad I can stop by there to get a croissant on the way to work. And, actually, the train ride itself has turned out well: it means that I have to get up noticeably earlier than I had been, but that hasn’t been a problem in practice, and I like having dedicated time to read each day. (But I’m also glad I’m only commuting as far as Redwood City, I’m pretty sure that San Francisco would be much more of a problem.)
And then there’s the fact that I can get a good Netrunner game at work a few times a week. I’m suspicious of companies that spend too much time talking about having fun instead of working, but still: I’d rather not work during lunch, and I think Netrunner (or other board/card games) is an excellent way to spend that time.
Most important to me, though, is: a job that I can go home from at the end of the afternoon. Not every day: emergencies arise, and I actually enjoy being on call, I learn a lot from that. But I want my regular pattern to be that I show up relatively early in the morning, work pretty solidly during the day except for lunch, and then go home to hang out with Miranda and cook dinner with Liesl.
And that last part certainly isn’t going to go away for the next job search. Miranda is a sophomore in high school, but I still have the great good fortune that she enjoys spending time with me and strongly prefers that I come home at a regular time. In less than three years, I won’t have the choice to see her regularly: I would be a fool to not do what I can to enjoy those remaining years with her. So when I see the Y Combinator president quoted as saying:
[S]tartups should look for their first 20 to 50 employees to be “maniacally dedicated” to the company and its products, and to “believe it’s bigger than themselves. They believe there’s a purpose to what they’re doing. That’s what inspires people to do great things.”
then my answer is: fuck that. I’m part of something bigger than myself, it’s called my family. And if there’s anything I’m going to be manically dedicated to, that’s what it will be. (And, honestly: carving out time for myself to pursue my own interests is pretty important to me, too!) But Y Combinator is influential, and the above attitude is far from isolated to them.
So yeah: I want an interesting job, and I want to work with smart people. But I’d also like to work with nice people, with collaborative people, and with people bringing different perspectives to the work. And I’d like to have really good pain au chocolat and games of Netrunner, and I’d like to be able to go home at the end of the day.
- September 27, 2014 @ 15:33:28 [Current Revision] by David Carlton
- September 27, 2014 @ 15:33:28 by David Carlton