1. Unpack the lumber.
2. Restack the lumber in a formation that would allow for maximum lumber loaded into the shipping containers.
3. Rewrap the lumber in plastic and staple the plastic in place.
It was mindless work where I didn't have to think about anything, had no deadlines, and I got physical exercise to boot. It paid $12 Canadian per hour. Long-term, it would have sucked because the wage was too low. But short-term, it was exactly what I needed at the time to recharge my batteries.
In terms of real career work? Just after I graduated from university, it was a team of young hotshots that made custom .NET apps for improving work processes at a telecom company. Ton of freedom, ton of competence, ton of stuff that got done. Still possibly the best team I've ever worked with.
But the pay was not great and the career options were non existent.
But I don't think I'd be able to be very happy outside of work on that sort of money now days.
It wasn't just because I had no bills to pay, I just didn't worry about work. I knew the pile of dirt wasn't going anywhere and the area we were digging out was going to be the same when I got back to work.
I never brought work home. It took me a good 14 years to re-learn that in tech.
I told my wife.. If I could somehow make a tech salary doing what he does, I'd do it in a second. She questioned me like why? I just said what I said before. I could come home and not worry about anything.
Are the backups working. Is that new HA solution I rolled out working. I have this lingering problem with disk latency I can't get to the bottom. List goes on and on.
$15/hr which was great money at the time.
Its never about the company or the work.
You'll be happy if you have a boss who trusts you completely and colleagues that aren't a-holes. If you have this you will find the work thats interesting.
I agree with you. However, I suspect HN has a lot of people who value these things, but I wonder what percentage of people are purely focused on other things (e.g. money, power, etc)and don't care much about these values outside of how it serves their primary motivations. Sometimes these are the people who value autonomy in their own jobs, but want to make sure nobody else has autonomy in theirs. Relationships are also a means to an end.
Mastery sticks out to me in this. In a lot of years of working, I've only met a few people who really pushed themselves towards mastery. Or worse, they mastered focusing on their Job Title/Salary. Many people seem to be fine with being satisfactory. I don't think there's anything wrong with this since satisfactory means you're doing a good job.
The only way that comes to mind is knowing someone well enough in a company that needs your skills when you need a job. Its a very small intersection in time/space/relationships.
I've always lucked into these situations. And honestly I never really realized how lucky I was because I didn't have anything to compare it to.
Not joining teams with bad bosses is one way to go about this. This is also very very difficult because these guys will offer you a ton of money.
Honestly, the best advice I think is to follow your best boss when he moves once you've found one. (Again this advice only "works" in SV where there are a massive number of growing companies where people move very frequently).
Given that you know to look for a good boss and you know to resist offers purely based on financial terms, I think you are helping yourself to make your own "luck" :)
Yeah, I'm at the same company I was at 18 months ago and at that time it was the one I'd been the most happiest at in my career. Autonomy, great leadership, trust, people over process.
Same company today, same work, but the opposite of all those intangibles. New leadership, new values. Significant turnover now, following an era of unusually low turnover. Total commitment to the new direction despite the picture painted by direct feedback and turnover.
I worked as an intern at a factory while at university studying computer science. All the process machines were computer controlled, along with office computers for accounting and material control. Despite having a workforce of 200, there were only 2 IT guys there - 1 sysadmin, 1 developer, and I was slotted between them.
I was given a year-long development project, but during lulls in the activity, I was able to help both guys with their work, and in doing so, found several long-suspended projects the sysadmin had wanted to implement. I was able to kick some of these into gear; for one of them, a virtualisation project, I wrote a design document in my own time, presented it with projected costs to the CEO and was given the okay to start it. We built the platform (ESXi) on time and under budget, and there were a lot of immediate benefits. I was able to retire half the servers in the server room.
It all really boiled down to trust; I was given the keys to the kingdom at that job, with domain admin access to do tech support, and not only did I get to play with some cool technology, I was able to implement stuff that made people's lives easier - I built a Windows Deployment Server (another long mothballed idea) which brought our workstation build time from 6 hours (fresh install of XP plus post-install updates, not even slipstreamed, then install software manually) down to 15 minutes (deploying the pre-built image over PXE). I do believe I left the place in a better state than when I joined, but it was quite bittersweet - I came to realise I'd probably never be trusted with that kind of power over the company infrastructure again.
My first real job, I was a tiny cog in a global machine, and I couldn't deal with that. I lasted 3 months before quitting. My next job was in development, I stuck that for 3 years as it was predictable and fairly calm. I didn't enjoy it as much, but I needed the stability at the time. I moved into DevOps for a year, but my boss was an incredible micromanager who didn't trust people beneath him to do their jobs. After a year of being ignored and getting little work done, I lost interest.
I found another job, which I started last month. In contrast to my previous experience in long-established companies, I'm now working at a start-up as a sysadmin. And whilst the pace and the rapid hiring are really different to what I'm used to, I have some of that intern power again - my suggestions are taken on board, and I am trusted to do my job. I also get on very well with the people here, and they're coming to appreciate having someone to turn to for tech issues - previously, no single person was in charge of inventory or tech support, and now they can just ask me.
I think the intern job was the best of both worlds - the calm, predictable pace of an established firm, but with the startup-ish get-it-done attitude to IT work that stopped bureaucracy getting in the way. But I think I can deal with the fast pace so long as I can stay in control of my responsibilities.
The work was like this: they gave us access to the product's source code and a set of high level requirements (i.e. support standard X, write a new tool that enables automation of Y, add feature Z, etc.). It was up to me and my team members to figure out how to actually implement those things according to the requirements they gave us.
I absolutely loved that setup and really, really miss it. It was challenging in the sense that I had to learn a code base, learn new stuff, read RFCs, and figure out real solutions to real problems. But the problems were handed to me - I didn't have to come up with them.
Every job I've had since then comes with the IMO unreasonable expectation that I be super involved with the product and come up with new ideas and features for it as if I owned it somehow (which I don't). I absolutely loathe that - if I wanted to have that attitude towards work I'd start my own company (which I haven't since I have no business ideas). I'm much more of a "tell me what's the problem and I'll fix it" kind of person, but I haven't been able to find any jobs like that after my first one.
Which might sound surprising, given the pay and work hours... but there's a lot to be said for working with a group of people you love with all your heart, who have your back, in a field you are passionate about and have been since you were a kid.
Grad school was incredibly hard work, and the pay sucked. But I wouldn't give back a single day of it.
(I get the impression that the trend has been gradually towards more structure and less autonomy in "doctoral programs" -- from my point of view, that's sad).
PS. did you follow Akin's Laws?
37. (Henshaw's Law) One key to success in a mission is establishing clear lines of blame.
I also worked in a hypergrowth unicorn from the early days and I would also call those first couple of years there my happiest job, even though it was tons of work and full cowboy mode.
That was when I was in my mid-20s and single. I am 100% sure that I wouldn't enjoy that right now in my current stage in life. (mid-30s and married now)
Unfortunately, I like getting paid and I've been let down in that regard. I was there for 5 years and left for a job at a big 3-letter corporation and then some other corporations. I've been soul searching for a decade now.
I went through a period 15 years ago where I would work 60-80 hour weeks and be on call 24/7. I learned a lot from that experience and it helped get me where I am now--but it was difficult.
Easily the best job I've had.
These days, every office is open office. Kids so crazy.
Mostly I drove a LandCruiser through all kinds of conditions, checking cables and geophones and swapping out telemetry boxes. Occasionally I would get a week or two in the "Veribo" - which was an air-conditioned room full of automated test equipment. There were long sessions of component level troubleshooting, swapping out components like voltage regulators and power transistors and so on. I became a Senior Observer and moved to the "DogBox" where the main telemtry system was and operated and troubleshot from there - it was much less fun than "running line".
In the rainy season in Sudan we were flown to work every day (and returned home) by an Vietnam Vet who I'm pretty convinced thought the war was still on - attack take offs, landing in clearings with only a few inches between rotors and trees.
It was my first job out of Polytechnic, back in 1984. It was a HELL of a lot of fun. Some great friends made, and sadly lost, in those years.
We had enough time to really connect with and influence the kids. I also keep up with a lot of "my kids" on facebook, and they are all grown and many are married with children of their own. I'm very proud of so many of them.
Working with children is incredibly rewarding, but there was no obvious career path where I was. When I was promoted I hated it, and quit.
I was young though, and I didn't care about the money at all while I worked with the kids. It was the best time of my life, so far. Development pays better, but it's really drab by comparison.
1. Much more interaction with people
2. If I didn't sleep too well on a particular day I can still teach but with programming I'm not productive enough
3. Deadlines and pacing is easier
4. Much more free time when students are doing an exercise or don't need you that much anymore (after 2 months)
 The source is in Dutch but Google Translate works good enough to understand the gist, see: https://uurtarief.tips/nl/zzp/ict/uurtarief-ict-zzp-freelanc...
Since you asked, I personally work directly with all of the above (as a product lead). My expertise is in software, mechanical, process, and systems engineering.
When I'm unhappy, I ask myself why, and how much effort I think it will take to change what I don't like (which often is something I can change in myself, rather than expecting the environment to do it for me), and if I think it's worth the effort to change (myself or my surroundings) I do.
Otherwise I stay where I'm at until I can figure out how to improve things.
Regardless, that was easily the most creative period of my life. I would work on one project after another, investing into productivity tools. The company was at the time doing daily deals. I wrote a suite of tools that would take a word doc which was the terms of agreement with the merchant, and convert it to the relevant HTML blocks to be pasted into our ecommerce CMS. After that was done it would cross-check the site against the doc to see if everything was pasted in correctly, and then use a set of defined resources to generate newsletters.
I passed that autonomy down to the rest of my team and it resulted in people tweaking workflows to be more efficient and learning things and taking on other jobs around the company without having to consult me.
Easily the best work of my life for now. By far.
Loved also the skiing game easter egg. Had the first and second phone, was crazy in love with them. Still have them in a box somewhere, was thinking about resuscitating them for hipster purposes.
Seriously, I loved these phones, one of my best gadgets I ever had. Unbreakable, full of functionality, clever design... i hated to see them go. Had a Nokia Blackberry clone afterwards that I couldn't stand.
Nice to see someone from Danger. Whatever happened to the company, rumour was it was bought up by Apple? I also heard Steve Wozniak was somehow involved?
The SnowBored easter egg was the subject of some internal controversy because it wasn't part of the standard QA testing process. There were initially some bugs in invoking it from localized keyboards where the asterisk wasn't on the 8 key.
The company was bought by Microsoft, and the Kin was the ill-fated result. Many of us went to Google and made Android; others went to Apple and made the iPhone; still others went to Palm and made the Pre.
Secondarily, every time I've volunteered my hard skills, it's been a lot of fun (and oftentimes has a positive payoff down the road). Eg back in Atlanta, I volunteered at a local private school for a couple of months which turned into a $50/hr * 20hrs/week gig.
When I first moved to the Bay Area, I met with a friend of a friend, and when he said he had kids, I casually mentioned that I'd be happy to tutor them if they ever needed any help. This blossomed into a great relationship, and this person is now a good friend and mentor that I've kept up with for the past 6 years.
I suspect one reason that volunteering is so fun is because it's low stress because you can't really get fired, and if you do, it doesn't matter because it's not your primary livelihood. I might sort of say the same thing about some second jobs (in that it doesn't really matter if you lose the second job); however, if the second jobs pays really well (or you really need it), then that stress of keeping the job can creep in.
Driving for Lyft was also a lot of fun. I only did it part time for a few months, but it was great meeting people and exploring the city. The limited-time casual conversations are very interesting because people are more willing to overshare because chances are you'll never see each other again. Back when I drove, it wasn't as mainstream, so the clientele was mostly tech-savvy early adopters, so most conversations were very interesting. I wish I had done it for longer so as to better learn the city's nooks and crannies and also to meet and chat with more people.
It was mostly student staffed, but probably one of the best, most professional crews I've ever worked with in a technical production capacity. The equipment was also pretty top notch. It was probably one of the better-equipped venues in Los Angeles.
My coworkers/fellow students and I were pretty dedicated. A lot of us worked full time on top of taking a full course load because we loved what we did. We also socialized a lot and partied together a lot. Most of the friends that I still retain post-college are those folks.
I've really been missing and seeking out that kind of tightness among a group of coworkers ever since. I don't think I'll ever find a dynamic like that ever again, and that's okay. People in the "real world" have their families to go home to and other social lives.
Most other jobs after that I ended up building things that were never used, or used to get some kind of grant or impress investors, and wasn't even what the user wanted.
A lot of the more senior jobs I get, I end up doing a lot of management and getting little work done. Sometimes when someone else does the hiring, I get complete idiots in my team, the kind who typo variable names, spend 3 days discussing specifications, but don't do them, refuse to use source control.
I would really love to get back into a job where I can just build things that people use, with smart people.
1. My current company has been pretty good to me. During the 2011 Super Outbreak , when my city lost power for a week or so, they took all the employees and their families and put us up in hotels in Nashville for a few days until things stabilized and we could return home. We didn't even have to work if we didn't want to. After a stressful day of tornadoes and a few days with no power, a nice hot shower was very welcome. Stuff like that is pretty normal here. They take good care of us.
2. I worked for a company that did e-learning materials while I was in college. Our product was basically a self-contained website with videos, subtitles, tests, etc, distributed on CDs. This was the early 2000s, so pretty bleeding edge then.
The owner was a business professor full time and this was his side project. We were always small, and him and his wife always took an interest in all the students that worked for them. Getting a home-cooked meal and a night of poker once a week was a nice perk for a poor college student.
The cool thing, though, was there was no pressure to stay. They knew we were students, they knew we were going to graduate eventually and take jobs elsewhere. It was a mutually beneficial scenario where they got relatively cheap labor (but compared to my friends I was making bank), and we got good experience before heading out into the world.
3. I was a park ranger for the NPS in Yellowstone for a few seasons as well. And that was a fantastic job. I wrote about that in another HN thread .
To be fair, for most of my career it has been my current job: Whenever it got to a place where I wasn't happy (mind you - not even unhappy, just chronic normalcy or lack of exciting work), I usually left either the team or the company. It has worked out so far :)
Best full-time job
Consultant for embedded systems software, mostly prototypes, short projects (2-3 months), jack-of-all-trades work, often going to cool places. Long hours and often in horrible places, away from family and friends, too though.
Had to quit because I was moving out of the area.
(that's only happened the once, though)
Alas the obvious downside was not making nearly enough to live on remotely comfortably in the Bay Area.
Load truck with furniture, take furniture off truck.