They have figured out that its much more about connections and office politics than hard work.
They have figured out that there is really no job security, and they could be one layoff wave away from unemployment.
They have figured out that its much more about face time and spending long hours at work rather than actually being productive.
They have figured out that the majority of their work, to their surprise is not actually that important or necessary.
They have figured out that its important not to take too much vacations, because its an opportunity to loose the little work they have to someone else.
They have figured out that they are never going to get payed the true value of their work,and that is almost the definition of being an employee.
They have figured out that its all a system of serventry not too different from the medieval relation between master and servant.
They have figured out that its a system that they are being grinded through and discarded, and that they are condemned for life to making someone else rich, never getting a chance to trully furfill their dreams and ambitions.
All of this takes a lot of time to figure out and piece together, it takes over ten years, and so the age 35 seems about right.
It cynically divides corporate workers into sociopaths at the top who step on other people to get where they are, idealists in the middle who don't realize they're being stepped on and think they'll eventually get to the top through hard work, and then pragmatists at the bottom who come in in the morning, do their work, and find meaning in their lives elsewhere, like family or hobbies.
I found myself much more relaxed at work when I realized that I would be better off as a pragmatist (though YMMV). I have since left the corporate world for a smaller company, and I'm much happier at work now.
How do those pragmatists deal with the fact that, summing job, commute and sleep, over 2/3 of their lives is not part of the purpose?
My great-great-grandparents that I know about were all farmers, using 19th century technology. I'm pretty sure they'd just laugh at the "purpose" you're talking about. Pull the other one, it's got bells on. Now shut up and go milk the cows, ye useless git.
(shudder I'd be so useless in that environment. Not just because I've been raised in my own environment, but because I know what it's like to have celiac in that environment; my grandmother did, and it was not enjoyable.)
Edit: I want to add, I'm not just showboating here for virtue points (which I detest). There are times when I'm a bit down, and remembering these things really does help me. I really do think about them spontaneously sometimes. Gratefulness is something that can take a bit of training, and I say that from the perspective of one who still feels he could stand to be quite a bit better at it, not as one who (believes he) has already accomplished it fully.
Our ancestors worked themselves to death (in the sense that they died before what we'd consider retirement age) and didn't have to worry about finding meaning outside of work.
People today has more free time to ponder things like the meaning of life and has potentially a lot of time after retirement, and I think that is part of what makes people think differently about their careers once they reach 35.
Bear in mind that different people will find meaning in different ways. If you find meaning in participating in the rat race, then by all means go for it.
For me personally, I thought I _had_ to participate in the rat race, but this was a lie.
I saw this scenario play out at my last corporate job:
At that company it was typical for some managers to over-promise on what they can deliver to customers, knowing full well that their developers and QAs would have to work serious overtime to achieve those goals.
Even mentioned before the project started and the first line of code was written they would say something along the line of "this is a very important project. We're going to need you to put in lots of overtime for this".
The developers who were _idealists_ would then overexert themselves: Work until midnight, always be tired and miss out on quality time with friends family. They thought they would get rewarded when promotions are doled out, where in actual fact they were being exploited by the managers.
The managers in the meantime wasn't that concerned with the project or the goals of the company per se. Rather they were concerned with looking good in front of their managers. They were playing the _real game_.
There was always some form of emotional manipulation, like "the team depends on you". When you're an idealist you don't recognize it.
One of the developers had been with the company for 30 years, yet he didn't have a senior position, precisely because he was a pragmatist. He did his work during the day, but never did overtime. Then in the evenings he would go home to his family. Over weekends he would work on his photography hobby. He seemed a lot happier than all the others rushing around.
A younger version of me might've accused him of having a poor work ethic, but older me sees his point.
Well you wouldn't want to promote the most gullible would you?
I think cynical might be a better description than pragmatist. A pragmatic person might see the reward in working hard but a cynical person will see through that. It's a shame cynicism has come to be seen as a negative trait (probably by people who like to manipulate you), a healthy dose of skepticism, cynicism and pessimism has served me well so far in life.
What do you do now instead? How do you view your work?
I realized that I didn't have to be promoted into management. In fact, I think I wouldn't be as happy in my job if I had to do management instead of coding.
I also read a lot about stoicism at the time. I think a lot of young people think success is measured by how much money they have, but I came to the conclusion that I'm happy at this moment.
Burning yourself out at work to earn money has diminishing returns; I'll need to earn a lot more money to be a fraction happier than I am at the moment.
I'm now working at a smaller company. We still have corporate clients, but there is not a lot of politics going on.
- Commute: I work from home, doesn't apply
- Sleep: This is part of life, so is an irrelevant metric
So, that narrows your question to, how do I deal with the fact that I spend 40hrs / week programming. The way I look at it is that the deepest source of meaning in my life comes from my spiritual practice and my family. The job fits into both of these buckets:
- Spiritual: A job well done, or properly understood is a part of most western spiritual practices-- there's a reason that Catholic monks don't just sit around and chant all day. The western monastic life, which is deeply spiritual, always incorporates work.
- Family: Providing for the needs of my wife and children is a key part of that source of meaning.
Of course, it helps that I like programming. I've been doing it for 20 years. Every indication seem to be that I'll enjoy doing it for another 20 years at least, so in that sense, I'm fortunate.
The cool thing about being a developer is that we can live a long time on a quarter of our salary. And the cool thing about contracting is that they pay you twice as much to do it in short bursts than they would to do it full time.
No one is coming to save you but you. Have an exit strategy. Buy your time back for yourself.
I've left jobs paying over $1 million / year to do something that barely breaks even to chase this, and ironically it always seems to end up delivering another well paying venture with too much of the things I don't enjoy doing at the other end. It's immensely productive and counter intuitive all at once. I'd love to find something that lasts, but instead I feel destine to cycle over things that initially I love, and eventually despise for what I've turned them into.
Right now outside of my job I am replacing 100 feet of fence on my property. It is hot, sweaty, miserable work. At my job I sit in a very comfortable chair in A/C with snacks close at hand and headphones on doing work that I actually enjoy. My coworkers and boss are super nice. All in all my job is absolute luxury compared to the life of a manual laborer. Monday is my favorite day because I get to go back to work and relax instead of working on projects around the house ;-) Plus, they pay me really well.
Also, don't discount weekends. You don't really work 1/3 of your life because you get 2/7ths off every week.
(and can you really factor sleep in this? No matter what your state of employment everyone needs to sleep)
- 8 hours of work + 2 hours of commute / 5 days per week
- weekend 2 days per week
- 20 days of vacation + 5 public holidays per year
5840 hours of waking time a year.
1845 hours of work time (217 working days * 8.5 hours; 1590 hours in a sabbatical year).
3995 hours left over to potentially do whatever I want.
"The Gervais Principle" series home: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/the-gervais-principle/
I used to keep wondering when I was going to get found out for not contributing to the company's bottom line like the other thousands of employees around me seem to do every day.
But then I realised that everyone else is probably doing exactly the same. And either a) none of us are doing anything valuable b) a small % are the driving force or c) we are greater than the sum of our parts
I hope it's c), feel like it's probably b), but maybe a) really is a real world scenario.
That's kinda what makes them a talent — almost a tautology.
"Excellent talent" means a strong inner drive, it takes something like an obsession to put in the grind to get there. The feeling of contributing and creating and playfulness and attacking new frontiers is non-negotiable. You lose it, you're no longer "excellent talent".
No money can replace that (though life circumstances may force a detour — that's why it's almost a tautology, but not quite).
"Being found out for not contributing"? You know you can do better.
At my company I think it's true that a small % are the driving force, in terms of our central product, but the rest are important in that the company would be dysfunctional to the point of collapse if that small % also had to take care of the ancillary tasks they do.
Also, if you embrace the "no job security" part above and don't sweat your "career" at any given shop, the rest of them stop being things you need to worry about.
Let the other guys stress office politics and fear for their job if they take vacation. You're the guy who knows what this job market is like, and that you have options.
Just a heads up that the majority of people are not in your/our situation with regards to their employment.
I don't know why every time a discussion about work or employment comes up we feel the need to have these tautological discussions about how some people have it easier than others. It's only a matter of time until we get a sub-thread of Europeans discussing how insane it is that Americans don't get 65 days of vacation every year, and a few off-topic healthcare rants then I think the cycle will be complete for this thread.
the same reason that this thread is posted and re-posted at all. both of these things are cultural memes: the people complaining about work and the people relishing work. nothing in any of these threads is ever novel.
So yeah, go us. Our gig gets better over time, while it appears that others don't.
People 35 and over, are somewhat likely to have families and find it difficult to relocate.
There are a lot of places where you get a job in this industry faster than you can say "Software Engineer", so it's definitely not only a Bay Area thing. NY/Berlin/London are just as bad from personal experience and as a rough estimate every city above 1mil population, is probably not too different.
From your list that leaves Berlin.
Few other towns have the density and variety of startups that the Bay Area has to be honest.
This is about ease of finding a job in the field, and startups are not the only employers there.
Saying things like "embrace no job security" is something most people simply cannot afford to do.
as someone currently job hunting, i feel this is overly optimistic. the job market is extremely conservative, so if you have a strange background, be prepared for the long haul. this is extremely stressful as no one seems to care where you have worked or what you have done. they care about what little specific subset of things they care about in a single interview, and have no conception of “can this person learn what we need them to learn” or how to understand what a person already knows. it’s almost as if they treat your resume as some base gpa requirement and throw it out once you pass, because they feel asking silly little one-sided questions to gauge your aptitude in a couple of hours is better than an actual conversation about things.
the way interviewing is done in the software industry is infuriating and makes me want to leave it at times. the cliquish culture is suffocating.
Every comment like this on HN is an opportunity for someone desperate for talent to reach out to you. When you're job hunting make sure you use proper capitalization. Include your email in your profile. Make sure you show that yes, you're struggling, but that you also have some hope. Avoid certainty when ascribing mental state to others.
Here is how I would write your comment:
I'm someone currently job hunting in Boston, with five years of .NET and multi-platform C++, I wonder if you have an overly optimistic view. I've found that, at least here in Boston, the job market is extremely conservative. It seems that if you have a background that's a little different you need to be prepared for the long haul. I'm finding this extremely stressful. When interviewing I find that there is little interest about where I've worked or what I've done.
Interviewers seem to care about a small, specific subset of things that they surface during the interview, and they don't seem to evaluate whether or not I can learn what they need me to learn, or how to understand what I already know. I feel like they treat my resume as some base GPA-like requirement and forget about it once the interview starts. I find myself asked shallow questions to gauge aptitude, rather than engaged in a well-tailored conversation about software and its challenges.
I know I'm venting right now because I'm having an especially hard time, but at time the difficulty I'm having makes me want to leave software. I find it hard to break through what seems to be a cliquish culture and I wish I could find a software firm that celebrated diversity.
I hope this helps. Best of luck with your job search. I know how difficult and desperate it can feel. If you want me to review your CV or cover letter reach out. My email is in my profile.
I found your comment extremely patronizing to the person you're replying to. HN is an informal place where people feel comfortable to speak casually. It's not necessary to have perfect grammar in the comments.
Going through the trouble of rewriting their comment to be more professional implies that the original commenter can't write and needs you to teach them. Nobody asked you for a course on writing.
Also, HN is not primarily a place for finding work. If someone doesn't have an email in their profile, don't assume they are bad at job hunting. Maybe they don't want their comment history associated with their professional life.
The only safe way to see if a person can do the job, is for them to do the job, pretty much.
I'm speaking from painful experience: we also used to hire based on potential. Bad idea (or we just couldn't make it work). Our hiring process is now very close to the actual job, whether the position is junior or senior, and although it can take weeks (a test project), "I could learn this later" doesn't cut it. Too many scars, not enough resources.
you simply can't hire well if you ask what amounts to puzzle questions in interviews. it doesn't address what a person does know. so in my opinion, an interview should be about finding out what a person knows, and in the event that it doesn't overlap with what the employer true needs, then some extrapolation or further digging is needed.
however, even when a person's skills do overlap with the needs (whether the employer knows or it or not), it is my opinion that much of the overlap is often ignored (architecture, organization, perspective, personality, design skills, api philosophy) in favor of the more "hardcore" stuff (algorithms, data structures). we all know that even in the with the most efficient algorithms, software can be a mess if employees lack the former qualities. but software that is well designed can get away with less efficient algorithms except in extreme cases and niche contexts.
tbe problems faced in a software company are rarely of the form "tell me the big-O behavior of this algorithm". rather, it's much more about how to manage large amounts of complexity, reducing complexity, designing flexible architectures, well-defined APIs, etc.
> They have figured out that the majority of their work, to their surprise is not actually that important or necessary.
> They have figured out that they are never going to get payed the true value of their work
If their work is not that important or necessary, isn't its true value also not too high?
As mentioned in other threads, as people mature they often begin to look for meaning in their work beyond pure compensation. As a software engineer, I can produce something that is of value to the company, be compensated fairly for that work but still derive no personal value from the primary results of the work because software, by nature is so ephemeral. The result is so malleable, that what was done yesterday can be scrapped today. There is little permanence. Couple this with an immature industry that actively disdains "old ideas" and it is pretty easy to get drug down into questioning what you are doing.
For those that care about what they do, this situation almost amounts to maintaining an exercise in double-think as a coping mechanism to make it through the day. But I've found that year after year it gets harder and harder to play that internal mental game.
If you are one of the unlucky few who work in an organization that actively works against personal growth and development, then the lasting second order effects of your work, especially in leadership positions (e.g. the growth and development of those around you) may not last either.
I contrast this to the mechanical / electrical engineers who are around the same age who can point to an airplane and say "I designed that part / system 20 years ago; each time I step on the aircraft, I am reminded of the value of my work."
The problem is that much of the economy is pure bullshit, and it takes brainwashing to make the thing run/make people want stuff that is really of no value. So, there are very few jobs that provide real value - other than keeping the hamster wheel moving.
In the meantime, we build up these absurd fantasies of how we're going to be important or do great things as a way of justifying our existence, but neither the economy or society can support infinite heroes, so consumerism becomes rampant. People fight for status and recognition with their possessions, not their achievements. After all, most of us value the achievements of others more highly than we value our own, and we place "real" achievement far higher than we can reach and are never satisfied.
Personally, as it relates to work, my job is boring, largely pointless, and will never amount to anything useful, but I try not to let that affect me. I try to always do my best so I am the judge of my "achievements," not others. I spent a week rewriting a terrible contingency plan for IT systems. It's a formality. No one will ever read it, much less put it into practice, but it's well done and I am proud of it nonetheless. Whether or not the hamster wheel moves is, to me, irrelevant. It can move or not move. I pride myself on performing the same regardless.
So, while you're right, the brainwashing is largely voluntary, and people seem to even enjoy it in the short term, it's up to the "adults" to set a sustainable structure - to not succumb to greed and petty wants. With regard to politics and business, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, 'Where are the adults?'
My situation is similar to yours. My job is fine but only fulfilling in short bursts, where I get to alleviate pain for people. The rest is pure shit. But, my life is pretty great. This morning, I saw four wood storks overlooking a canal in a warehouse district that most would consider an eyesore. It was beautiful.
My current solution is to basically be at a small enough company that I can actually see the impact of my work. Of course, that doesn't pay as well and it leads to other frustrations sometimes.
Went from the "exciting" world of digital agencies to the most administrative public sector job I could find.
Now, at least while I am away from home, I can work on my own projects and learn things, rather than properly wasting away slaving over someone else's completely meaningless pursuit of profits.
I always found that term to imply that we're just meat for the meat grinder.
As long as your organization has an HR department (with that name), that battle has been lost on the organizational level and haranguing individual managers isn't going to accomplish much.
You want a steady paycheck immediately, so you sign up for what you hope will be a sort of friendly "master-slave" relationship where you do a good enough job to not get fired, accept the office politics, accept that someone else gets all the upside, and give up a large chunk of life instead of pursuing your own business, hobbies, spending more time with family, etc.
This should not be a surprise to anyone, but I suppose its easy to be overly optimistic as a young person and become frustrated when reality sinks in.
Just to be fair, developing/maintaining/managing connections and the political side (negociation, argumentation, understanding of the social mechanics, etc) is hard work.
A little bit too cynical for my taste. You make it sound as if companies serve no purpose other than extracting value from the employee to the company. Your work value inside the company is higher than the value of the work per se; the order that the firm institutes has a value for society, minimizing information, decision and transaction costs. That is why firms exist, and not only markets; a gig economy in which everyone is free to sell their work is worse. You could even argue that the power relations that the firm embodies for you end up also appearing in a market, without the securities of a job relationship (see Uber drivers and the like).
Also, job security is not perfect, but it sure does exist.
It’s about the mythical alpha.
You can get the 1950s average unit of work out of a person, and maybe get 100 gidgets made in a day.
Or you can figure out how to optimize the assembly line and reduce pee breaks and get the most out of those things you have to pay to employ.
So now in the 2000s, you make 5000 widgets a day, employ fewer people and have identified more places where you can reduce costs to improve shareholder value.
All the fancy lunches at the googleplex and so on, they’re a way to differentiate and keep expensive workers at work.
If a firm found a way to keep high end workers for cheap, then they should do that because that’s their job - to optimize and get the benefits of those optimization’s to shareholders.
In short be a shareholder, not a worker.
This. In 2018 with our current economy, I think this is essential. Unfortunately there are some who won't be able to save and invest much.
What is a "firm"? Most executives in a company optimize for they own benefit, not for yours, not for the "firms".
There is a famous article frm HBR. How to manage your boss
(paywalled but I am sure you can find it for free on the net).
You have to make your boss happy. In some cases this may be done by an outstanding performance. In most cases it is done by being a good talker, walking overtime, look busy, give him a blow job under the table, whatever. But it is rarely connected with your real job performance. And again, how to measure performance? Performance for the company or performance for your superior?
And the end goal? Some shareholders more happy than others, and some random economic statistic, that's not really related to quality of life.
Still one issue I did not account for was too much idle time while at home. I found that once I had something to do or more things I wanted to do that stress of the job lessened.
There are known stages in life at which you will think about who you are and where you want to go to.
"Early Adulthood" is one of those stages starting around your 20th and ends around your 35th year.
After this the "Midlife" stage starts. This is the stage most people start thinking about the deeper meaning of life.
Also, any employee who thought that way would probably never rise far in their company, hence a self fulfilling prophecy.
When I was young it didn't seem to matter than much, I had plenty of time on my hands. As you get older, time moves to fast, and there's to little of it.
Maintaining relationships with different kinds of people is work. It's hard and meaningful work.
> They have figured out that there is really no job security, and they could be one layoff wave away from unemployment.
There most definitely is job security. Some people have lots of it, some have very little. There is no 100% job security, if that's what you were hoping for.
> They have figured out that its much more about face time and spending long hours at work rather than actually being productive.
Again, spending time with people in a social environment is a meaningful thing to do with one's life.
It's not surprising that the majority of the product / code is not that important or necessary. If you are a good teammate, you might be an important or necessary part in your teammates daily lives.
> They have figured out that its important not to take too much vacations, because its an opportunity to loose the little work they have to someone else.
"many", "lose", "it's". I'm pretty close with my teammates, and I've never heard of any of them giving up any of their vacation time to get respect from our boss.
> They have figured out that they are never going to get payed the true value of their work, and that is almost the definition of being an employee.
I think that you if you'll try to give a definition of what you call "true value", it could be reduced to an absurdity.
> They have figured out that its all a system of serventry not too different from the medieval relation between master and servant.
I wish every person that said that would get to spend a couple of weeks as an actual slave, and would then report on their impressions.
> They have figured out that its a system that they are being grinded through and discarded, and that they are condemned for life to making someone else rich, never getting a chance to trully fulfill their dreams and ambitions.
Anyone wants to take on this one?
Totally agree on that one, but I would rather that social environment is not overlapping with all sorts of economic power dynamics. I would much rather hang out at cafes and public places and spend time outside economic contexts based on shared interests such as literature, art, music etc.
> its much more about connections and office politics than hard work
Whether or not it's "much more" depends as much on your employer and your field as anything else, but nobody should reasonably expect that employment is a pure meritocracy where your work product is judged in a vacuum irrespective of how much people enjoy working with you or how much objective (and subjective) value you can bring to the business.
> there is really no job security, and they could be one layoff wave away from unemployment
Why would there be? Nobody I know is signing employment contracts or working in Civil Service positions.
> its much more about face time and spending long hours at work rather than actually being productive
This is entirely dependent on employer. We have a handful of developers who spend maybe 25 hours a week physically in the office but they are as productive as anyone else.
> the majority of their work, to their surprise is not actually that important or necessary
This will depend heavily on industry, employer, project, and seniority. If you're an entry level dev and not particularly skilled in what you're doing yet and new to the industry you're going to spend a lot of time learning which will pay dividends 15 years later but is not objectively important to the specific project you happen to be working on.
> its important not to take too much vacations, because its an opportunity to loose the little work they have to someone else
I have never seen or heard this in any of my jobs, with the exception that a lot of the folks recently from India that I've worked with seem to take it as a point of pride that they let a huge chunk of their PTO expire every year. But I think that might be cultural as none of the Indians that I work with currently who have been here for a while (5+ years) do that, they use all their vacation every year just like everyone else.
> they are never going to get [paid] the true value of their work,and that is almost the definition of being an employee
Well a business doesn't exist if it pays out 100% of profit to every employee. It's actually pretty easy to be a contract developer so if someone wants to handle all the administrative nonsense in order to squeeze out a few more thousand dollars a year they can do so. I've been underpaid and overpaid (overpaid is certainly better) but nobody's ever tricked me into earning less. Negotiation is a thing, if you can prove there is an extra $30k in value in a position/promotion, prove it. If it makes business sense to pay more for talent, start a business and do it. If it actually makes a difference, you'll have a competitive advantage.
> its all a system of serventry not too different from the medieval relation between master and servant
This is objectively false and weakens all of your other arguments (some of which are reasonable).
> its a system that they are being grinded through and discarded, and that they are condemned for life to making someone else rich, never getting a chance to [truly] [fulfill] their dreams and ambitions
If anyone ever told you that the purpose of employment is for you to "truly fulfill your dreams and ambitions" they're an idiot, a liar, or both.
>Why would there be? Nobody I know is signing employment contracts or working in Civil Service positions.
Probably not true in the US, but in Europe many a 35yo has grown up under the general assumption "get a good degree, get a job at a good company, and you are set for life", simply because it was their parents' experience.
In some countries, even in the private sector, getting fired was made very hard by local laws, until recent years.
It's at "almost", it is the definition of being an employee. Marx was right about that.
Employee-owned companies ftw.
1. Working hours. I know people in Europe that have 35 or 37h per week guaranteed. 40 hours is normal in the US and most of the time you work much longer. 1 hour lunch break is obligatory. It is too long, I can not eat for one hour if I bring my own lunch. It is too short to go the the gym too.
2. Travel. Sometimes I had to travel a lot. You board the plane Friday evening, you are back home Saturday at 5pm and Monday you start again at 8:30 pm
3. Commuting. It is difficult to live close to work. Basically 1 hour commute each way is guaranteed. And while this is no time on my companies clock, it is on mine.
So you easily get 60 hours a week.
Depending where you live, you pay 30-50% taxes, 20% sales tax in Europe etc.
If you move abroad and work from your laptop, the whole game can change. Working hours, commute, taxes, purchasing power...
cant you make them into bullet points for readability?