I grew up in what I’m going to assume are similar circumstances to yourself.
I enjoyed playing games, hanging out with friends and checking off each milestone in life as it came.
I wasn’t begging for food, but I wasn’t 16 with an Audi on my first major birthday either thanks to a rich family who “did business.”
In fact, now I despise those people.
At 20 my goals were simple
- I wanted to do well in high school so I could get into the right college.
- Then I wanted to do well in college so I could get into the right job (not career).
- Eventually, parlay that into the right graduate school.
- Be successful and have fun with romantic interests and international travel and onsite opportunities.
- Rinse and repeat, and then hopefully settle into cruise control by the age of 25.
The problem with that approach was that only once I was stable and settled, riding along the highway called life that I got the faintest idea of where I wanted my life to go.
I didn’t know what to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to do something.
I mean once you have the time to enjoy the drive rather than finish the race…you tend to look around.
Unfortunately, a lot of people get off the highway at 25 or 30 years old… right when the ocean was about to come into view.
I Hate the Tech Industry
Why would you hate software engineering or hate coding or development?
Does a race car driver hate physics and mechanical engineering or an astronaut hate medical school, Ph.D. papers and studying astrophysics?
A lot of wall street bankers hate spreadsheets and pointless powerpoints, but we all need to swipe our visa’s and transfer money between accounts.
You might hate your current role in tech, the same way the foreman and team who haul cement probably hate construction but the architect loves it.
In which case, for a lot of people who hate their tech job or hate computers and code…you ironically speaking of finance…hate wanting to pay your dues.
You also aren’t patient enough to see where those dues take you. Why do most software engineers hate their jobs? Because they call them jobs in the first place.
Do you want a job or a career bro? Because a job is something you do but a career is something you make.
Even if you’re in a dead-end job with a horrible boss who is taking advantage of the current labor market…you’re being blessed to innovate and learn how to side hustle to find your way out of it.
We have to learn the ABC’s and multiplication tables so we’re equipped to make creative things later with those same boring skills…and all that boring BS you deal with in tech is eventually something you need to crawl in the mud through.
Somebody has to test that software anyways right?
For example let’s say tomorrow you embraced tech, wrote a killer app or blog or game and then had 100,000 users in a week.
Chance are you’re gonna need some staff to:
- reset passwords,
- fix bugs
- help with your accounting/refunds/whatever.
And isn’t that 22-year-old kid you hire is going to hate you the way you hate your boss?
But you’ve been through staying late at night trying to understand what happened to someone’s transaction and how it all got messed up, so you’ll do the extra leg work and make sure processes are in place because business is so predictable and you’re covered for every situation even though you built that app in your bedroom without event commenting code properly.
I’m a Comedian but I loved Corporate Life
This is not some article about follow the arts or how corporate life is so boring and stupid.
On the contrary, as I’ve said various times online, I’m a huge fan of going into the corporate machine and recognizing the pros and cons of that lifestyle.
Rather, since I get a few messages every week from jaded engineers and people who are curious why I am (or appear) to be so happy and joyful about my software industry experiences, I thought I’d jot them down here.
So if I grabbed your attention with the headline let’s get right into some explanation and tips on why you’re a twenty or thirty-something with a decent salary, great professional and social prospects and still…miserable.
My Job is Not What I Thought I’d Be Doing
Most tech jobs will have a cool-sounding job description like:
“Ability to work on cutting edge enterprise technologies. Innovation and Leadership required to interface with senior management professionals across a set of global clients.”
This makes you think you’re gonna be hacking away some revolutionary big data code while on a private jet surrounded by the attractive person of your choice like Hugh Jackman in Swordfish.
Hey I liked that movie.
In reality, you’ll spend your first year getting to know Microsoft Office and googling around to figure out the little software stuff they trust some kid out of college to do.
When I was 16 at birthday parties and the aunties would say “Oh look at Suman’s son Tarun, he is an engineer at Sony.”
I would imagine Tarun working with some NFL quarterback on motion capture for the next Madden game when he was probably writing the index pages on the PDF manual.
This is completely fine, normal and expected. Since you’ve chosen the safety net of a stable job/company (as did I), nobody is going to hand you the keys to the kingdom on day one.
It’s normal to hate your job, realize it’s not what you wanted, and even asking yourself at 25 “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?”
While you fight those weekly demons please remember one thing.
In order to put them at bay for good, get to know your area, master it, and then grow from there.
Whatever clunky piece of software or testing or developing you have to do it…push through it with a smile on your face the way you had to eat your vegetables.
Others will come to take your place and it’s up to you grow beyond it rather than get complacent, miserable and simply resent it.
You might be:
- the guy raising tickets to users have access to a system,
- testing software and filing bugs,
- or you might actually be out of your comfort zone coding away from the get-go.
Either way, it is completely normal.
These days with sites like Udemy or other India equivalents that can teach you Big Data for the price of a beer you have nothing to complain about.
You can honestly up-skill yourself instead of that biryani for lunch, walk into a company or project at your office, showcase how much you know and slowly the right opportunities will present themselves. When I was working in IT we had to wait for some manager’s manager to give us permission to take some training and even then we may have just wasted a week.
Now, you control your destiny even within your own company. If your internal resume has all these skills you self-taught, I mean…if project is open, why wouldn’t you get it?
Everybody Else Seems to Have a Better Job
One of the major reasons I worked in consulting over any other profession earlier in my career was because I cared way more about traveling, hotels, airline points and talking about those things than the actual work I was doing.
In fact, the second you leave school the rat race truly begins.
We all have that one friend at Facebook who will start sharing photos from all the cool things he or she is experiencing, the other creative friend who might get a role in some TV show or movie, and so on.
And we look at these things, on our phones, during our lunch breaks and continue to build a heavy case in our minds of how what we’re doing is so much worse.
The good news is that eventually, this will stop. The bad news is it’s not gonna happen any time soon.
The only solution I’m afraid of is to look inwards again and ask yourself…
What the Hell do I Really Want? And Why?
I’ve had so many people in various companies, both while working in India and the US tell me things like “Sir I want to be a Business Analyst” or “Sir I want to go Onshore.”
These are generally kids in their early twenties who don’t really have an interest in what they’re doing, but they’re more interested in job titles, travel experience, and financial incentives which will eventually steer them towards the things they really want to do.
Most young people don’t want to “do” anything. They just want to “do” whatever gets them to live overseas or earn money staying in hotels. And how can you blame them, who wouldn’t?
I’ve been in the same boat, and how to get that onshore role is a whole other article, but only once you’re honest with yourself about what you want will you start making moves (e.g. Turning down projects/jobs which might not get you there) that will help in getting those things.
And secondly, when I ask these kids “Why do you want to go Onshore?” or “Do you know what a business analysts does?” the answers are typically some fluffy thing about “building solutions and requirements” but not: “chasing down stakeholders to get them to give details about how the new tool should work, scheduling meetings, driving home decisions, etc..”
The majority of freshers I see at most companies come into the machine, get placed into a project and then get lost into the ether from there. Some leave after a few years to find something else.
Some get married. Others stick it out.
But NOBODY in a large company is going to come down and give you what you want if you don’t know yourself.
And ESPECIALLY if you don’t make it known.
You Code but Don’t Develop
Lastly…most engineers lose track of something in their boring day of sifting through Eclipse or whatever IDE they use.
Do you just cut carrots or are you making a salad for the president?
Coding, Engineering, Math…all of that stuff is meant to build products that people buy and use.
- Nobody would give a sh*t about big data if it didn’t let them find a YouTube video in half a second.
- Nobody would care about SEO if it didn’t help them get their advice
- Why would I care about compression unless I could download 2GB movie in 5 minutes?
If you’re in a tech job you hate, it’s probably because your working for a tech product you hate. But even a nice company like Facebook or Snapchat or whichever hot startup there is tomorrow is going to need someone to sift through lines of code and reset passwords.
In Deployment Conclusion
People who work in technology are special. We tend to be of the mindset that we could do any job, but not anybody could do our job.
It’s kind of like “I got a computer science degree buddy. Marketing, Sales, HR? That’s child’s play.”
But not respecting the pros of those fields tend to hinder our own progress.
- We don’t speak up or learn to communicate properly.
- We don’t look internally to figure out what drives us aside from being good at the jobs/software/tools that depend on us.
- We think just because we can code in Python the world owes us something.
- A good chunk of us are unhappy and always hunting for that “next thing.”
- And the majority of us (myself included) do absolutely nothing about it.
Ask yourself, if you spend even 5% of the time you spend complaining about your situation on actually trying to fix it (e.g. learning a new skill, speaking to your manager, working part-time elsewhere in a new field), would you really have anything to complain about?
This is an excerpt from Sanjay Manaktala’s book “My BETA DOES COMPUTER THINGS | Your Guide to Love Success and Rock and Roll in India’s IT Industry.” You can also listen to Sanjay on his leading podcast about creativity called the Birdy Num Num podcast, inspiring the creative minority.