When I was in college, I toured a company I was considering doing an internship with.
"After ten years, we give all our employees three months of paid vacation!"
I was starstruck. Really?! Working the retail and customer service jobs I was used to, the idea of making a six figure salary and then getting three paid months off felt so generous and unreal.
In the presentation, they showed us quotes from employees who'd taken that long vacation they always wanted. Who spent time with their families just enjoying life. I made a mental note-- I have to work for this company.
"I have family and close friends in Chicago, Baltimore, and Texas. And I get two weeks off every year. How can I see them?! Why only two weeks?"
This came up over dinner last night, while talking about a big tech corporation this person was still employed at. My college self would've yelled, "You ungrateful person, you should be thankful to make the salary you do!"
And part of that is still true. We should still be thankful.
These days I work an average of a few days a week and make enough money so that taking three months off if I want and having enough money to make it feel "paid" seems totally possible. There's still work involved-- I have to do a lot of talking to people, seeing what work is out there, etc. I have to negotiate my own contracts, do my own accounting. But it's really not that much, and so many people need programmers these days that it feels totally safe. And there you go-- there's that life that I once thought I had to work ten years to get.
Not everyone can do these things. Your way of improving life could be different. The point is there's lots of work out there for programmers. We don't always need to tolerate so much stress precisely because we are privileged. In fact, maybe we have a moral responsibility not to because of that.
We laughed as we thought about how absurd it'd be if a client decided to suddenly stack rank us, or force us to work overtime in an open office. We'd just pick another contract!
The other day I listened to a story of stressed out tech worker drama. I understood the level of stress everyone was under. But I couldn't help but get upset and think there were people in their community who would never dream it possible to make the kind of money they did, and thinking of how little these specific people gave back or thought about others.
If they had just spent a little time away from thinking about stress and into thinking about how they could help others, what would our world be like? Mentoring, donating, giving back. Would we have so many problems with socially unaware tech companies damaging communities?
Because we have a degree of power, it's crucial that we strive for helping others have a better life.
Life is a lot better than it was back when I was in college.
I'm thankful for that every day, and have been even while at stressful jobs.
Why does this mean so many stop thinking of how to use this privilege to be happier and help others?
Why do so many accept the status quo, accept "the way things are"? Get so afraid of taking risks? Don't challenge what they're given? They consider themselves fantastic engineers, and yet don't apply that brainpower here.
Can you think of some ways to improve life? For yourself? For your community?
I can. Then, why not?