I've had 4 professional jobs. Two of them (Apple & Lifesize) lasted more than a decade each. Both were many jobs within a job. Both allowed me to do some of my best work so far.
No one cares more about your career than you. Even if you love what you are doing, you should always be asking yourself ... why am I still here?
Three quick stories.
The first is from Apple. I just watched Aaron Sorkin's movie on Steve Jobs so it seems timely. BTW, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie even though the majority was fiction. The following account is second hand, but I believe it to be true. When Jobs returned to Apple many things were taken away, people's jobs, products, sabbaticals & the CEO signing your years of employment award. The one you get with 5 years, 10 years of service. You still got the letter, it just was not signed by Steve. Well, one fellow got his 20 year award and Steve frequented the cafeteria often. So he thought it clever to walk up to him and ask him to sign his service award. Jobs said sure, signed it and looked at the number of years the guy had been at Apple and said something to the effect, "Wow, 20 years. Isn't it time you started to think about doing something different?".
Ouch, brutal. Why are you still here?
The second & third stories are from Lifesize. I interview a lot of people. In fact, is there a more important activity than getting great people into your company? Over the last year, without exception, the interviewee asks me a question that shocks me: "Why are you still here?". Do they know something I don't? The question is easy to answer because I even gave a presentation on this exact topic which leads to story number three.
Earlier this year, I put together 5 different presentations to give at different events. One was called, "Once you get on a good wave, stay on the board1", Another was "Why are you really still here?", Another was on vision, Another was on future products. The last was on recent technical updates to our insanely great cloud service. At one of our town hall meetings, I was an emergency fill in since the scheduled speaker called in sick. No big deal. I let the people crowdsource what they wanted me to talk about from the list of 5 above. Guess which one they picked? Almost unanimously? That's right, why are you still here!
I find it a really odd question, but I always answer it the same way.
- Success for an engineer is the opportunity to do it again & boy did we do that.
- Room, Team, Express, 200's & 220's, Icons, ...
- Camera, Focus, 10x, Camera S, ...
- Phone, Phone2, Micpod, ...
- Infrastructure, software Infrastructure
- Connections, Lifesize Cloud
- Success for an engineer is the challenge. The difficulty factor matters. Learning new tools and skills matters. Working with smart people matters. Avoiding assholes matters.
- Lifesize is a multi-disciplinary in nature. Video, audio, communication protocols, system software, UX, cameras, frontend, backend, hardware, industrial design, verification, sqa, dev ops, big data, ... . Truly full stack.
- To use Alan Kay's quote, "If you want to predict the future, then invent it". We did.
I also provided an alternative view of the purpose behind what you do. This was from Simon Sinek's book, Start with Why. You may have heard this story of two stonemasons.
- Stonemason #1 was asked, "Do you like your job?". He replies, "I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But it’s a job. It pays the bills.”
- A few yards away stonemason #2 was asked, "Do you like your job?". He replies, “I love my job. I’m building a cathedral. Sure, I’ve been working on this wall for as long as I can remember and yes, the work is sometimes monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But I’m building a cathedral.”
Those are some of the reasons I stay at jobs. In a couple weeks I'll post why I left.
Why are you still here? Go build a cathedral.