Working in tech can make you an asshole.
I work in tech. I have been an asshole many times throughout my life. Working in tech can make you think you’re superhuman.
Really, it’s just privilege. It’s hard for me to admit but working in tech is an opportunity many people may not get. Why?
It the world of tech you need either an education or a strong network to join the secret club (often both). The hiring process is challenging too. The people who do the hiring in tech screen you out through the smart utilization of tech.
There is so much entitlement, ego and privilege in tech. I’ve learned that by working in tech and being part of the problem. Why is all of this a problem?
Tech company egos prevent genius innovation from changing the world.
One year I had an aggressive sales target. It was the early days of cloud technology. A company that is part of the FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) could affect my sales pipeline.
I went on LinkedIn and looked up the account manager who shared the same target client as me. I attempted to reach out to him via LinkedIn. Then email. Then phone. Then via his boss. Then via a mutual friend.
He refused to take my call. Secretly: I was scum.
My company was not as much of a stunning brand name as his company. His company made unicorn tech companies look like skeletons from the year 2000 Tech Stocks Bubble.
I didn’t give up. I let time pass and blank space fill the air. Then I reached out to him again via phone. This time I caught him off guard.
“Hello, who is this?”
“It’s Tim. We share the same customer and they suggested we chat.”
“I don’t have time to chat with you. I’m in San Fran. I’m busy. Then I fly to *insert exotic location and stunning tech conference* for a week. Goodbye.”
My tech partnership dreams ended. I rang his boss who was a mentor of mine. I shared the story, hoping he could change the situation — he couldn’t. He could empathize with what had occurred, though.
He knew the tech company ego all to well and decided not to adopt it. He was a rare sort of human. He gave up his ego many years ago and traded in his luxury cars. I’m not sure how, but he had escaped the tech ego lifestyle and found inner-peace, meaning, and an obsession for meditation.
I ended the conversation with him and went back to the account manager’s LinkedIn page. There, on the cover image of his profile, was a line of Audi R8 Supercars. One of those high-priced cars was his. I was so far from owning an Audi R8 that it wasn’t funny. Not only could I not afford one, but the idea of owning a car like that to support my ego made me vomit.
About six months passed. I was on a call with his company. Someone else from his team had reached out to me and started a partnership conversation. They said at the end of the call “we’ll be bringing the account manager to the next call.”
Through some sort of divine intervention (or karma) he was going to be forced to be on a call with me. Our companies would end up doing business together and we would end up having to work together.
It was a powerful demonstration of why it’s good to get over yourself if you work in tech. You never know who you’re talking to when you treat someone badly or think you’re too good for someone based on a logo, LinkedIn profile, country of birth, or surname.
“New FAANG hires often have a big ego,” says Amazon employee Curtis Einsmann. I couldn’t agree more. This ego prevents tech workers from seeing opportunities and building the necessary relationships to solve real problems.
You can’t work in a high-profile tech company and only do business with other high-profile tech companies. At some point you’ll have to get off your high-horse and do business with normal businesses who don’t have ping pong tables and serve free lunches from the best chefs in the world.
Some of the coolest businesses are ones you have never heard of. Some of the most life-changing people you will ever meet in tech come from many diverse backgrounds.
You can win the job interview lottery and make it to a tech company, but that doesn’t mean you won the lottery of life.
There are miserable people who work in tech companies too. There are failures, has-beens, and liars who make it into tech companies.
Tech company employees are not perfect.
Tech companies are just like any other company; they are run by people who make mistakes or get too greedy or abuse their power over others.
Here’s what happens when you get over yourself and how brilliant your tech company employer is.
There Is Opportunity Everywhere If You Remove Your Bias
You can see from my story that there is opportunity everywhere. If you only hang around tech folk who are exactly like you then you’ll be blinded by all the opportunities out there.
Opportunities come from the strangest of places. A skinny dude like me that worked at a non-prestigious tech company can still have plenty of value to offer and interesting stories to tell.
Bias is acknowledged when it comes to sexuality or gender. But the class system of “works in tech” or “doesn’t work in tech” is a form of bias that is rarely spoken of.
Bias is bad for human progress.
Your Ego Reduces and the Danger Passes
An out of control tech company ego is a danger to society.
Before you know it, if you grow this kind of ego, you’ll be riding your electric scooter down the street and shouting at strangers for walking too slow.
Then you’ll come home in your tech company ego bubble and start shouting at strangers on Twitter in an echo chamber of your own awesomeness and thinking that everyone else is what’s wrong with the world.
Really, you have all the answers do you — or an algorithm that can predict humanity’s plight?
Ego is the enemy, says Ryan Holiday. And that applies to tech company employees who aren’t immune from this disease.
Noticing Your Privilege Changes How You See the World
Working in a brand name tech company is a huge privilege. When you forget your privilege, you disconnect from humanity.
Having a job is a privilege. Living in rich western countries like America is a privilege. Getting all the tech company perks is a privilege. Working from home in your underwear with a Mac laptop is a privilege.
There are people that would kill to have even 5% of your life. They’d sell a body part just to have the opportunity to get on a Zoom call and talk about tech company office life.
I’ve been blinded by privilege. I’m only just learning now what privilege means and the hidden advantages it brings. When you notice your privilege you might decide to use it to help those who don’t have it. That’s the miracle opportunity that comes with spotting the privilege in your life.
As Quick as You Can Get a Job in a Tech Company, You Can Have It Taken Away by a Random Event
The current global recession is reminding all of us just how fragile a job can be. You might have the six-figure tech company job right now. But you may not have it in six months.
Therefore, it pays to remember how quickly everything you have can be taken away. When you realize this you might become slightly more humble. That humility will help you through unemployment if the career devil finds you in an excel spreadsheet and marks your paycheck for termination — causing your tech company employee ID to become extinct.
Many people would kill to even have a job right now. Marinate on that idea for a while and see just how lucky you are — again — to have a job in a tech company, and pizza and beer on a Friday.
Technology Doesn’t Make You Jesus
Your tech company life isn’t part of a gospel.
You weren’t blessed with holy water and put into a tech company because of your outstanding, life-changing, parting of the seas philosophy.
Like me, you’re just a human being living on earth, breathing air, contemplating climate change and wondering what happens when you die.
It pays to remember who you really are when you join a tech company. Don’t lose yourself in a tech company.
Find yourself in what lies beyond a job at a tech company.