Give vs Take

Something that’s been on my mind recently is the concept of giving vs taking. Especially being from the East Coast, coming to California and being inundated with tech culture, with all of its positives and negatives, was really overwhelming, and for some reason tech culture really makes me think more about what is wrong, and what is right.

But I’m not trying to complain about the West Coast atmosphere; I came here for this, for the frenetic charged environments built off of late nights and Red Bull and dimly lit computer screens, for the hyper competitive nature that so many people have of constantly trying to do better than those who came before them. It really pushes me to succeed. How can it not, when you’re reading the latest tweet about the cool things someone just did, and inside you feel a twinge, just for a moment, of “I could do that too”. And if I said that everything I’ve tried to accomplish is truly free from these lingering thoughts, that absolutely everything I want to pursue is tied to my own passions and my own love for what I do, I’d be lying.

The first thing I did when I first got here was go to a tech talk. UC Berkeley hosts a ton of these a year, when a company comes and visits the school, bringing their director of something or the other (and recruiters, but I didn’t know that yet).

It was loud, it was crowded. I’d estimate that there were at least 1000 people there, for a room of capacity 300 at best. This was one of my first events at UC Berkeley; I was prepared to be amazed by the technical challenges that the company faced, and how they managed to get around them; I was prepared to be incredibly impressed by their founding journey, and how they found their niche in the market and ran with it.

I was…really surprised when the VP gave a cursory overview of the company and what it did, and talked for about 30 minutes about current challenges the company faced, while students in the back mingled, talked to other students, got company swag, and took the free food. When he was done talking, the room absolutely exploded; students ran off hurriedly to give their resumes to the recruiter first before a huge line formed, students charged to get to the food before it all disappeared, and the room generally devolved into a maelstrom of noise and chaos.

And for the confused East Coast freshman that I was, I just stood there internally like “What…. is going on?”

I think that was my first experience with taking. I went to a few other talks after this, and I came to realize that most companies really could not care less about teaching the current generation about what they did, and inspiring them to do better. But they sure did care about taking all of Berkeley’s tech talent for themselves before anyone else did. And as students, we gladly participated in it as well(including myself), because we’re self serving too. Because we also want to say “I interned at ____ this summer. Where’d you intern?”.

It all feels wrong to me for some reason; that taking is such an inherent part of everything here. That students, me included, want to take these company names and slap them on our resumes just so we can say we did. (For the students who are legitimately super interested in companies just because, and couldn’t care less about the “brand name”, I envy you; I wish I could do that).

I’ve become so much more cognizant of the fact that like it or not, taking is a big part of professional life in general. Moving away from the topic of tech companies, just in normal interactions I get so (irrationally?) frustrated when I see people trying to take. For me, I define taking as this:

Making your own life easier at the expense of other people’s time.

Wanna learn some concepts quick? Why not just ask an acquaintance who you know is already an expert at whatever topic it is, instead of spending extra hours learning it yourself? Maybe it bothers me because I feel like you have no right to other people’s time, that, well, whichever random person you were planning to ask definitely has much better things to do than to educate someone they hardly know. That instead of asking our real friends to help us, we turn to anyone else when they aren’t enough. When you’re friends with someone, you’ll help them and they’ll help you. You’ll give, and you’ll take. Isn’t there some sort of beauty in that? In the feeling of you two joining forces to conquer your own inner inadequacies, together? But when you’re just asking, and asking, and asking, and never giving back, you serve no one but yourself. You’re using people for your own benefit, unabashedly. That just feels so so wrong to me.

So the next time you go to the most professional person you know, and ask them to teach you Excel cause you don’t know it, or you go to the person with the most connections you know, and ask them to give you email addresses and refer you so you can “build your own personal network”,

I hate when a _____ text you like, “what’s up, fam, oh you good?”
You say, “I’m good” then great, next day they ask you for somethin’

How many?

Kanye West