A similar post from around 6 months earlier:
To be honest, I’m jealous of these people. I don’t really enjoy the tech industry at all at this point. I love computers, I love programming, I love designing things, but the industry removes most things I enjoy from that. The truth is, I value money more than my own happiness still, which is my problem, not the industry’s. I have eventual plans to strike out on my own, do things my way (fail, my way), but it’s terrifying, to me, which holds it back.
I think part of it is also working for large companies, my last two employers have been unicorns, which care a lot about image and the market. Previously I worked for a university which had its own market and politics, but they weren’t related to technology so I had a lot more freedom. Unfortunately, the pay was really poor.
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Amusingly enough, my experience has been the opposite.
I can’t speak to tech unicorns, but I’ve worked at a few startups with those aspirations ;) I’ve worked at:
Of all, the best by far was literally a Fortune 10 company. I think most of that was a credit to management; I’ve always believed good managers have a ridiculously strong multiplicative effect on companies, and this company had incredibly strong leaders. I never had to justify what I was doing, never had to look far for meaningful work, if I ever needed any resources I just asked… and more importantly, they were able to keep everyone working towards the same things, top to bottom.
The management I worked with at small businesses tended to be far more tactically driven - their focus tended to be on just surviving until the next day. The startups were the same, but of course that is to be expected. But none understood how to balance the tactical with the long-term strategy.
Some of this might also be the work I end up doing, which tends to be forward-looking by nature. And I can say that once or twice when my team did work for other teams that were a bit more legacy, the impact we could have was incredible - we were able to solve their problems at a blistering speed, which ended up getting them interested in modernizing, and we got a ton of credit in the eyes of the company.
I think part of it is also working for large companies, my last two employers have been unicorns
Unicorns are the worst of both worlds. There are good and bad things about working for large companies. There are also good and bad things about working for small companies.
VC darlings (and ex-unicorns like Google, where if you’re not in the top 15% on your first project, you’ll never get a transfer) have the worst of both, and none of the benefits. The advantage of a big company is that there’s room for lateral movement and that produces stability. (When you’re older, you get sick of changing jobs every 2 years.) If your first project is a bad fit, or even if your boss is terrible, you can join another team. If your division is cut, you’ll probably get moved unless the business absolutely has to lay people off.
The advantage of a small company is that you’re closer to the people making decisions and there’s less bureaucracy, and there’s usually a higher average competence among the people.
Unicorns have neither the upsides of a big company nor a small one: they have haughty, inexperienced, often flat-out stupid management that you won’t learn much from (except what not to do) and, even when they get big and diverse, they make it impossible to move laterally, much less grow, unless you spend the whole time playing politics (and have a bit of luck). They also don’t have what used to attract people to startups in the first place, which was being selective and having really good people. These days, unicorns are body shops full of mediocre young men hired for “cultural fit”. There really is nothing good about these companies, and they wouldn’t even exist if they weren’t propped up by a manchild oligarchy spending other peoples' money.
And another similar post from about 4 years earlier still:
I think most technologists hit this point at least once in their careers.
After lots of reflection, I realized that most industries are:
This is a human problem, and it’s exacerbated by Western/business culture that idolizes success and hype above all else.
The trick is to find somewhere that has interesting work some of the time, and people you really enjoy being around, and a business structure that stays off your back.
Tech is a resource extraction culture. So it’s no surprise that its upper ranks are filled by ruthless and often immoral people who just want to drink the milkshake as fast as they can. The difference is that the milkshake, here, is not some physical substance in the ground but an abstract resource: the good will earned by the U.S. political and economic leadership earned in the 1930s to 1970s (and then began to lose/spend-down after 1980): beating the Nazis, forming a large middle class, bringing this country its closest to being an actual democratic republic, accelerating the fight for minorities' civil rights.
Silicon Valley is there to exploit the good will of people who still believe in the affluent future, the large middle class, and the notion meritocracy. For this reason, they’ll work really hard if given the right narrative. There’s also a lot of dog-whistling going on, because Silicon Valley needs to attract two types of people: (a) earnest engineer types, mostly from the Midwest, who want to believe they’re contributing to something that matters, and (b) degenerate sociopaths for the founder/executive ranks who’ll administer the resource-extraction culture in exchange for a ticket into the club.
When we watch films about the gold rush or the oil boom, it doesn’t shock us that the people who rise to the top are villains with few redeeming qualities (see: Daniel Plainview). The modern Silicon Valley is the same thing, but about mining people. This makes it worse in many ways but, at the same time, much harder to spot and recognize for what it is. Thus, when tech turns out to be just as villainous as other industries (or, as is often the case, even more so) it unnerves people.
I found it telling that your post on founder quality being terrible managed to piss off quite a few people.
But, it and VC culture are the core of the problem. Greed makes you a terrible person, and to say this openly is an affront to the sacred cow of success that many worship.
Also, the efforts made by such people to damage my career and threaten my physical safety haven’t done much to convince me that tech isn’t teeming with horrible people.
I agree on greed. It isn’t good. Extreme individualism has ruined this country. It’s ironic to see a (dangerous) conservative presidential candidate talk about “Making America Great Again” when it was “big government” (to wit, ample research funding and a large middle class) that made America arguably great. We used to have checks and balances: the private sector kept the government in check, and vice versa. Now, the corporates have taken most of the power and the results are disastrous for business and government.
As for the Valley and VC, we know by now that being a founder is really just a middle management role. The true executives are the investors who flit around different companies, decide what gets funded, and put their cronies in high-ranking positions in the otherwise-disposable companies that beat the odds and take off. Middle management, I think, tends to select for being a bad person. Of course, there are good people who end up in middle management and I’d never say otherwise, but the job of a middle manager is to lead people (that is, pretend to be steering them toward a shared goal that is aligned with their interests) while you actually take orders from above. You have to pretend to be looking out for your people while, in fact, managing up– that is, prioritizing the interests of people who’d gladly throw your people into a furnace– and honest people tend to be bad at that job.
While I sympathize with a few of the author’s points, it feels a bit “first world problems” to read about someone who can cash out stock options, pay the mortgage off entirely, and have “not that much left over” but still choose not to work, or choose to do whatever seems fun and figure out the getting paid part later… as if people don’t burn out working menial jobs with no possibility of advancement? They just can’t up and quit like this because often (if you have kids and a mortgage without the fancy stock options) they don’t have the material means.
I tend to see “quitting the tech industry” as a tech-industry status symbol. Perhaps it’s the ultimate status symbol: getting out.
Look, except for the people in research labs and the “serial entrepreneurs” who have the connections to be founders, no one wants to be here. By “here” I don’t mean “in software”, because there are people who love it and there are things to love about it. I mean private-sector/corporate software, which is where smart people end up if they don’t have their shit together in their 20s well enough to do something else (business, government, medicine, law, finance) and don’t have the social skills to get in around 30 when the VC-funded tech industry unceremoniously dumps our graying asses (because skill, knowledge and competence, all of which we oldsters have in spades, never mattered in the first place).
No one wants to be a “Full Stack Software Engineer II” at Hooli or be justifying his own working time in two-week “iterations” or be working for a 27-year-old CEO who thinks he can do your job because he took a CS course in college and got an A-. “I quit the tech industry” is a humble-brag; “I can quit the tech industry, and now I’m going to tell you why it sucks and I’m too good for it.” And, yeah, we know it sucks… and you’re not “too good” for it any more than we are; you’re just luckier.
I just don’t have the guts to try and sell my very own software as a full time thing.
Ditto. There are ways to do it in a fairly risk-averse way, but even then, with a mortgage, family, etc. it’s still damn difficult for most people. Not impossible though (heck, look at @jcs with Pushover).
Damn, it’s almost like capitalism bloats and consumes all labor until its utility and enjoyability have vanished completely and the laborer is pushed to their wit’s end
Lets fix commons, work in or for the public sector, claim the responsibility for the infrastructure and teach people about openness. Wages suck, but the work is much more meaningful.
Cute. Back in the land where we aren’t rich enough to have a house and be debt free, the rest of us are working away. This is truly Rich People Problems.
Also, terrible management produces burnout. That’s much more interesting to talk about.
Forgive me, but this goodbye leaves me cold. The tech industry is terrible, its leadership is absolutely garbage, and it in no way deserves the talents of the people who keep it running on a day-to-day basis. That said, if you don’t have the energy and courage to fight it instead of stepping back, then that’s fine, but please don’t burden the discussion.
Eevee raises some good points, but it still seems like standard-issue Millennial whining about having to work. Look, the enemy isn’t “Mondays”. The enemy isn’t the end of a vacation. The enemy is a system that has coupled (a) subordination to some feudalistic lord figure’s career goals with (b) work. See, work is necessary, natural, and not unhealthy. As humans, we have a deep-seated need to do things that are useful to other people. On the other hand, subordination to a game-playing manager or slaving away on behalf of some bikeshedding executive narcissist– that part is artificial and corrosive. So how do we, in light of the human need for useful work, overthrow the part of the system that is rotten? It’s a hard question to answer. I don’t feel like this particular essay does much to advance that debate.
but it still seems like standard-issue Millennial whining about having to work.
They don’t like to work for other people and are in a position to make that a reality.
but please don’t burden the discussion.
I don’t feel like this particular essay does much to advance that debate.
but please don’t burden the discussion.
I don’t feel like this particular essay does much to advance that debate.
They’re not trying to “debate” whatever topic you just made up.
given that you generally seen to have some decent insights into tech and work culture, i’m startled to see you buying into the “whining millennial” trope. millennials don’t, by and large, whine about having to work - they are just rejecting a system that is increasingly stacked against entry level workers, and justified in the name of “paying your dues”.
I’ve delayed forming a concrete opinion of my generation.
The Millennials who are getting the most attention are generally awful. However, those are the people who were picked by Boomers. We didn’t pick Evan Spiegel or Elizabeth Holmes. Boomers did. It has yet to be determined whether we will prove ourselves to be a decent generation once we are choosing whom to promote.
We have flaws, as a generation. Our most coddled are really obnoxious with their obliviousness and privilege, and our super-rich (both legacy and nouveau) are just disgusting. Among the 99%, I don’t really see that whiny/entitled character. I see what you describe: a rational disengagement from an unfair system.
i don’t think the millennials' coddled/oblivious/superprivileged rich are very different from the spoilt rich people of any other generation. it has nothing to do with their being millennials.
They’re worse, and I know from first-hand experience, but you’re right that it probably has nothing to do with “being Millennials” per se. People talk about generations as discrete classes when they’re actually continuous transitions. The fact of the rich being awful people has been getting observably worse over the past 30-40 years, but it’s been a continuous change (rather than a discrete “generational” one) and you can’t pin it on “Millennials” since it started before we were born.
On the “Entitled Millennial” trope, I certainly agree that average Millennials aren’t as bad as our reputation, and deserve a lot more credit. I was mentioning the archetype as much in light of our (unfair) reputation as any reality. The fact is that Millennials are perceived as whiners, and it doesn’t help us when one of us whines.
from states with no income tax too
Wait, what! These exist? Does she/he (can’t find the gender of the author anywhere) mean countries?
God Bless Texas!
I know South Dakota has none. Alaska actually has a negative income tax, where they pay you to be a resident.
New Hampshire as well.
How is this possible? I thought income tax was a federal tax…
In the US, there is a significant federal income tax and, usually, also a state income tax. Your paystub should detail what both are (may say “withholding”). Here in Illinois, my state income tax costs ~25% of my federal income tax.
Most states levy an income tax on top of the federal income tax. Exceptions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_income_tax#States_with_no_individual_income_tax
From my experience in TX, those states vary a lot in which income profiles they’re overall best for, so worth doing some kind of calculation with your approximate individual circumstances if you’re going to use it for real decision-making. Example: TX has no income tax, but an extremely high property tax. That tends to be bad for people who have relatively high ratios of property to income, e.g. many middle-class homeowners have a ~3x ratio of property to income (e.g. $70k income, $200k home), and get hit hard by the property tax. But it’s good for people who have high income:property ratios (e.g. you make $10m/yr and own a $1m house), or who don’t own any property.
In other words, ditch the Valley, move to Washington :-)
In WA, you actually do have to pay state income tax if you’re self-employed (e.g., sell your own app through Apple/Google/whatnot), they call it B&O, and it depends on your Business Occupation (e.g., plumber, engineer etc).
Washington has no income tax, either.
You still need to pay federal income tax, of course.