What’s Your Definition of Success?

Reflections About 8 Years Working In the Tech Industry

Antony Henao
The Utopian Engineering Society
15 min readMar 11, 2024


Photo by Colton Duke on Unsplash
Photo by Colton Duke on Unsplash


I’ve faced many challenges in my career. They fall under a wide range of topics. These include money, impact, purpose, seeking recognition, longing for connection, career growth, and many more.

One of my intentions with this article is to give a voice to challenges I’ve personally faced. In doing so, you can probably get some insights about your challenges. You have probably faced similar challenges. We all go through the same challenges, but too many times we don’t speak about them.

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I’ve decided to start this newsletter by sharing a little bit about my story and the challenges of my career. I want to particularly focus on my definition of “success,” as I think it has been the one taking me through many ups and downs during my career.

Of course, “Success” has had many definitions over the years. But over the last year, my definition of success has changed a lot! This has pushed me to make big changes in my relationship to work and the way I approach life.

I’ve gone from “pursuing a great salary and having a great impact” to “looking for peace and clarity.” As you can see, that’s a big shift! so, without further ado, let’s dive in!

A Road Full of Ups and Downs

If you look at my career, I can say I fall under the millennial stereotype in many areas. I have experienced ups and downs and fast speed throughout my career. I’ve worked for 7 different companies in my 8 years of working in the Tech industry. That’s an average of around 1 year per company. Can I get more millennial than that? :)

I started as a Software Developer around 2015. Back then I was about to get my bachelor’s degree and I was about to start my Master’s degree.

I spent almost two years working as a Software Developer in a university research group. I was finishing my studies at the time. I remember I was not completely satisfied with the job. Traditional software development was not meant for me.

This was an existential moment in my life where I didn’t know what I wanted to do either. Should I jump to the industry? Should I stay in academia? I was feeling confused about the whole situation. I was just working and studying without any clear purpose. I was feeling a bit empty.

This emptiness and confusion propelled me to look for a new job in the Tech Industry. I wanted to stop my work in the research group and pivot to the industry. I thought I would be happier that way… Thanks to random life coincidences, I met a good friend in one of the Master’s degree courses. He introduced me to the world of Data, Machine Learning, and AI. That’s how I got my first job as a Data Analyst.

It was a lifesaver at that time. I was more excited about the world of data than traditional software development.

My First Job in the Industry

My transition from the research group to the tech industry played an important role in my career. I cut my salary by half with this transition. This had a profound impact on me, as it awakened in me a desire to make more money.

This is how my early definition of being successful became “making more money.”

This pursuit of money rapidly got mixed with the search for purpose. I just didn’t want to have a good salary, but I also wanted to pursue a worthy purpose through my work.

I remember in my first job I met one of my best friends and we got crazy about Simon Sinek and finding out our purpose — our “why.” But finding our purpose was not enough, we also wanted to find the “why” of everyone and everything! We wanted our jobs to be full of purpose and make a positive impact in the world.

As a result, we tried to become entrepreneurs and fund our own company. We would call it UtopianLab. We even had a client! But we failed in our effort. This phase allowed us to meet one of our best-shared friends. Someone who taught us a lot about Lean Start-Up and human connection. To this day the “Utopian” part of “UtopianLab” still lives within me — you can see it even in the name of this newsletter. The Utopian Engineering Society! :)

Until this point in my life, everything I was doing was to pursue “success.” I was taught that life’s purpose was to have a great salary, be recognized for doing good work, and contribute positively to society. The more money, the more recognition, the more impact, the better. Ain’t that what we all want? :)

During this phase, I experienced many challenges. The bigger ones were related to feelings of entitlement and rigidity.

I would feel entitled to many things. For instance, I thought I deserved to work on great projects and have a great salary just because I wanted to. I didn’t want to conform to anything less than my standard. I was looking to optimize for my benefit.

On the other hand, my rigidity would be expressed through my desire to control. I wanted things a certain way and I was willing to fight with anyone who would have a different opinion.

These challenges marked the first few years of my career. They influenced many of the decisions I made back then. This is how I ended up working for four different companies in two years. Every time I would face challenges in my workplace, I would quit. I would think to myself “They don’t want to change. They don’t appreciate what I’m capable of doing, so I quit.” This period followed after I quit my first job.

Four Companies, Three Cities, Two Countries, Two Years

Driven by my pursuit of money, entitlement, and desire to control, I quit my first job after 6 months. That’s how I landed in a new company where I had the opportunity to work with an amazing team. The kind of team any engineer would dream about.

The team inspired me to work on my technical skills and grow as a professional. I was an engineer looking for top-notch projects, cool projects, a great team, and a great salary. That was exactly what I found! I enjoyed all the time I worked there. This company became “my home school” when it came to talking about technical skills.

I grew a lot as an engineer during my time there, which contributed to increasing my sense of entitlement. During this time I wanted to do “big things” in the tech industry and I wouldn’t take anything less than that. I was so delusional about my skills, that I remember I applied for jobs in companies like Airbnb, which I admired the most at the time. I also applied to Spotify, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and more. I thought that was what I deserved. Of course, I was rejected by all of them. I was just a junior with a big sense of entitlement…

During this time, I was erratic in my behavior. I would get into constant discussions with my Team lead and some of the team members. I thought I was right about everything and I was willing to fight about it. The reality was that they were teaching me a lot and I was not able to recognize it.

I didn’t know they were teaching so much until I left that company. Sometimes you need to lose things to recognize their value. To this day, I feel grateful for having the opportunity to work with them. When I reflect on this time, I think this time was one of the times I enjoyed the most in my career.

After I quit this company, a chaotic and crazy period followed afterward. I would say I faced my “inner demons.” I struggled a lot with my sense of entitlement, rigidity, and desire to make money. Paradoxically enough, it was one of the periods that helped me grow the most in my career!

So far, I have been based in Medellín, the second-largest city in Colombia. I got offered a job in the capital, Bogotá. I was hesitant about taking this job, but I wanted to try something new. I was also feeling a bit empty. I had nothing to lose.

I’ve always been a fan of taking crazy turns in my life. That’s how I have learned the most. Of course, that’s how I also have gone through tough periods I have not necessarily enjoyed. But I thought this turn would be beneficial in the long term.

That’s how I decided to take this new job and relocate to Bogotá. I would think to myself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? In the worst-case scenario, I quit and go back to Medellín…Which was exactly what happened. I relocated to Bogotá and started working for a new company, I quit after one month there. Then I headed back to Medellín, unemployed. I mean…I was mentally prepared for the worst-case scenario. Although, I was not expecting that it would happen so quickly. This made me feel anxious and fearful about what would happen next.

Things went sideways in Bogotá for many reasons. The two main reasons were: they were not paying me enough and even if they had paid me enough I wouldn’t have stayed. This realization was a big realization! Thanks to this, I learned that there are certain things I value more in my life than money.

This situation shifted my perspective about money and success. I learned that health, friends, and community are more important to me than money. I didn’t want to follow this path blinded by the pursuit of money. I didn’t want to wake up at 40 and realize I was sick, alone, and without a community. Was I too pessimistic? I don’t know. This time pushed me to build and strengthen some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve ever had in my life. I feel good about it.

Once I got back to Medellín, after my quick transition through Bogotá, I started to work for a Peruvian company. But things went sideways, again…But this time, I would say it was not only my fault. The reality was that the project I was working on was chaotic as well.

So that you have a bit of context, this is what happened…

My best friend and I got hired to help speed things up on a project for this company. They have been delaying the delivery for a couple of months due to several issues they have faced along the road.

When we joined the project, things were a bit chaotic and we didn’t understand what was happening. After a few conversations, we convinced the company’s CTO to fly us to Lima, Perú. We wanted to understand better what was happening. After all, working in person may smooth things up. He looked excited about the possibility and agreed.

We scheduled our flights and decided to go to Lima over the weekend. The Friday before our flight, we spoke with the CTO and everything was fine. We schedule an in-person meeting with the CTO for next Monday. We flew to Lima and when we got to the office on Monday, we found out the CTO had been fired the same Friday when we scheduled the meeting…

No one knew what to do with us when we got there…After all, the CTO had been fired. Now, we had two weeks ahead in Lima with no clear schedule. During those two weeks we spent there, the PM of the project, the one in charge after the CTO, quit as well. From there things went downhill for us.

My narcissism and desire to control flare up under these circumstances. I created more problems than solutions. After seeing these attitudes in myself, I decided to quit, once again. That’s how I ended up the year, once again, unemployed. I quit three different jobs in six months!

Despite this being a crazy and chaotic period of my life, I should say I enjoyed it. It was full of big cathartic moments for me. I also had the opportunity to develop some self-awareness. I learned that some of my attitudes were sabotaging everyone around me, including myself.

The biggest thing that became clear to me was that my narcissism and desire to change things, from such an unhealthy place, were taking me nowhere. Dealing with my narcissistic personality was one of the key issues I faced during this time.

This time also allowed me to integrate many of the lessons that would be key for what followed afterward. I got serious about personal development. I was a total mess and I wanted to improve myself. I studied lots of things. I would listen to 2–3-hour podcasts, and read a lot of books, blogs, and so on. I became a freak about productivity so I could read and learn as much as I could. I also studied a lot about spirituality. I studied the main philosophical branches and religions — Stoicism, Hinduism, Jewish mysticism, Buddhism, non-dualism, and so on.

Other things that became clear to me during this period were:

  • All companies have the same problems. You can quit one company and go to another one and you will probably find similar problems, if not the same.
  • The challenges that you face in a company say more about you than about the company. They reflect the areas where you can improve upon.
  • You can earn a lot of money and still be unhappy. Worst enough, if money has power over you, you will never be satisfied with the amount of money you are earning. You can double your salary and after some time you’ll get used to it and it will not be enough — this is the famous Hedonic treadmill.

A Year of Healing

After all this chaotic period, I spent three months unemployed until I found a new job. I started to work for a new company after going through all the turbulence those two years brought up.

Working for this new company was quite an interesting experience for me. It was tough, but it healed many aspects of my personality. It’s like when you have a dirty T-shirt that’s hard to clean. You need to scrub all the stains hard to make them go away. In this case, the dirty t-shirt that was hard to clean was my narcissistic personality. Of course, I won’t say I completely got rid of it. But, oh god… This company taught me a lot about humbleness and doing good work in this world.

This company was full of good people with good intentions. The founders and my direct bosses were very humble and kind. They taught me with concrete actions that good intentions, humbleness, and deep listening can go a long way!

Every time I would interact with them, they were always very humble. They were willing to listen to my complaints. Their actions contrasted with my narcissistic personality at that moment. We had a lot of, what I would call, fruitful frictions, frictions that you don’t necessarily enjoy but the ones that make you grow.

It’s hard to put into words the huge impact this company had on me. But I can tell you, the Antony who joined that company was a different one than the one who left. At least, internally, I could feel I had changed and healed some part of my personality.

I was grateful for my time there. After so many frictions and a little bit more than a year, I decided not to stay longer. That, along with my desire to be a “top performer,” “do great things,” and “make a positive impact in the world,” made me find a new company. A new company where I would do “the job of my life…

The Job of My Life

I think it’s arrogant and inaccurate to say that a job is “the job of my life.” But I still can’t find a better way to capture what my last job was about. So, I decided to name this section something that came up in conversation with one of my previous bosses. We were discussing whether I should quit or not. He told me: “You are doing the job of your life! You could even write a book years from now based on this experience….” I think he will never know, but he gave me a catchy name for a blog post section :)

So, this is how that job went…

I got hired as a Data Engineer, but I quickly transitioned to a leadership position. I stayed in this new job for two years. Everything I have learned in previous years was necessary for stepping up to this new challenge. I think it also prepared me for what I was about to learn…

During those two years, I was given a great amount of autonomy. I had an amazing, supportive team. We created things I’ve only imagined in my dreams.

I helped scale the company from 60 to 200 people. I led the implementation of an organizational structure that supported the 200 people. I also led the creation of the second version of the company’s career path. Additionally, I created a Data Engineering Training Program, which would train over 30 Data Engineers in the future. I coached and mentored over 20 data engineers, and led an engineering department of 70 people.

During my last couple of months there, I received an award called “The Most Impactful Person.” During this time, I burned out twice, got sick, experienced lots of anxiety and stress, and quit my job. After this, I took a four-month break.

Pretty crazy, huh? What was more important about this job was not the things I did, but the challenges I faced that led to new insights… I realized that even when I created the impact I longed for and dreamed about for years, something was off. Don’t get me wrong. While I did many things I still feel proud of, I was feeling unsatisfied, unhappy, and drained.

Once again, my definition of success had to be revisited in light of these new events. I was being “successful,” based on my early-career definitions. Yet something was not working. Yes, I was earning a great salary. I worked for a great company and considered my job purposeful. They recognized me for doing good work. But, I was feeling unsatisfied by all the anxiety, stress, and health issues I was facing. That’s how my work-life framework cracked in pieces once again. But this time the crack was deeper… More importantly, I was not the only one suffering through this process, but other people as well.

I’m still processing and learning what I went through. So, to be honest, I cannot tell you too many things about my learnings. I’m still processing them. I can tell you that this has been one of the most beautiful and challenging seasons of my life.

I faced many difficult situations. They pushed me to deepen my personal development and spiritual practice. If it wasn’t for these challenges, I wouldn’t have gone through certain paths. Sometimes you need to be challenged so you can grow. One of those paths implied taking a psilocybin macrodose — for therapy purposes. Which led me to uncover things about my past and traumas that I’m still processing.

If you’re interested in psilocybin and personal trauma, I recommend Dr. Gabor Mate’s documentary: The Wisdom of Trauma.

After my last job, my definition of success has changed a lot over the years! I used to believe success meant earning a great salary. I thought it meant working for a great company, doing meaningful work, and being recognized for it. I also thought success meant making a positive impact in the world. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with those things. But I’ve just learned that there’s great value in bringing balance to all those things. I’ve learned to value the importance of self-care and self-exploration.

Now, I’m focusing on questions like “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?” “Is this the life I want to live?” I want to get to know myself better and find out who I am and, from that point, let the impact come along.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Rumi.


The bottom line of this post is that you are always learning something. Even if you still don’t know what you are learning about. We can only understand our history and lessons by looking backward. There’s a great amount of value in being patient and enjoying each step.

At the beginning of my career, I would always be looking forward to the next step. I was anxious and jumpy to progress forward in my career. I wanted to be “successful.” After going through many ups and downs, I’ve learned there’s beauty and peace in enjoying each step of the journey.

I’ve also learned that true power and success lie in being able to know oneself, be at peace, and enjoy life. If we don’t know ourselves and we don’t know how to be at peace, we also cannot enjoy life. We end up creating more suffering than the one we are trying to relieve.

I also discovered that the best impact one can create in this world comes from a happy and healthy place. If you are happy and healthy, you create beautiful things. You change the world by how you show up.

Final Thoughts

So…Now you know my story. What about you? I was caught up in the narrative the more you have, the better. More money, more impact, and so on…I was told the more you have, the more successful you are.

Are you caught in this narrative too? If so, are you enjoying the ride?

Your work is the place where you spend most of your time. If you can turn your job into an introspection tool, it will help you look inside yourself. It will also help you to know yourself better. You’ll find in it a great vehicle for personal and spiritual development.

Our jobs reflect our deepest personality traits. The challenges we face are more related to our personal growth than anything else.

Before you go, I want to ask you three questions:

What does success mean to you?

What are you running after?

Is this the life you want to live?

Don’t hesitate to share your story in the comments section. I would love to read it!

With love,

Antony 🌻