There was a time recently when I realized that I was becoming dissatisfied with my professional situation. I was entering my fifth year as a software developer at a sizable multinational multimedia firm, surrounded by many coworkers who had tenures twice, three times, and in some cases four times as long as mine. Given that, it was clear that it was a fairly safe bet as jobs go; if you wanted to stay it appeared that you were more than welcome to do so.
The schedule was mostly flexible (aside from certain extended periods of being on call), benefits were solid, the salary was dependable. Now, given the highly competitive nature of my chosen field, one may think that a sinecure like that would be a holy grail of sorts. Isn’t it nice to finally put to rest the uncertainly inherent in the often ephemeral smaller companies or startups? That sort of stability is a welcome respite from contract work especially; having to constantly sell as well as work can be tiring over time. Waking up each morning knowing that your paycheck will appear, as if by sorcery, through direct deposit at the same time each month is reassuring. It sure beats having to withhold your own taxes, too.
With all of that, I was enjoying work less and less, and It didn’t take long for me to realize that there were two chief difficulties.
First, I wasn’t in a position in which I had much opportunity to increase my human capital. That is to say, I wasn’t professionally working with technologies that a large number of employers were desperately searching for (based on google trends, anyhow). I got the impression that remaining as I was didn’t lend me to developing new skills or future-proofing my existing skillset.
Second, the work that I was doing was becoming increasingly demanding for all the wrong reasons, repetitive, and unfulfilling intellectually. Sure, it wasn’t taxing mentally, but it was time consuming and required a large amount of focus and attention. It was necessary to not only be on call, but also on glass, which meant you were at your laptop actively monitoring.
This steady job was feeling more and more like a self imposed and inescapable trap. Yes, if I stayed everything would remain safe and stable, but the longer I stayed, the less it seemed I would ever able to leave. Whether it was actually happening or not, it certainly seemed like I was steadily making myself obsolete with each passing day, while new and younger replacements would be constantly streaming in.
So I did the only thing I could do. I spent my evenings and weekends, whenever possible, teaching myself various in-demand technologies, building prototypes and portfolio pieces, and left the large comfortable company for, of all things, a start up. I have quite literally never been happier in my work since, despite the faster pace, less certainty, and far more challenging work. It is anything but easy, but it is exactly what I needed. I go to work excited, and I leave each day with a sense of accomplishment and growth that I hadn’t had in years.
All too often, I noticed, we desire a life of comfort, but we require a life of challenge. Keep yourself sharp, active, and hungry lest you grow dull, bored, and sated.
Thanks for reading.
Oh, and if you haven’t, check out the Adobe trailer! And the book.