Tech companies are popping out of the economy like mushrooms. Nowadays, Google employs around a quarter of a million people and Amazon employs around half a million people. The amount of people working in tech has been growing exponentially, at an equivalent rate to the internet. Probably, you are working in tech yourself or you have at least some friends working in tech. Tech is the future. Some people rave about working in tech like it's a magical place to be. Others loathe it and would rather die than working for a big tech company. Yes. It is that extreme. Let me share my own experience in this blog post and provide you with the 3 main benefits and disadvantages of working in tech.
Working in tech - my experience
I’ve done a masters that sets you up for a tech career. So it was quite inevitable that I was going to work for a tech company. Hence, after graduation, I started working for a tech company in the Netherlands. This got intensified when I moved to the tech hub Dublin. In Dublin, I was immersed in a Valhalla of tech companies. I experienced working in tech fully, it fully embraced me and then spit me out again, back to my home country, where I continued my love-hate relationship with working in tech.
I have seen it all. I’m at a stage now where I understand the up- and downsides. Let me share with you the 3 main benefits and disadvantages of working in tech. These findings are based on my own experiences and working with tens of millennials who work for the greatest tech companies.
The not-so-secondary benefits
So firstly, why do so many people rave about working in tech and compare it to fairyland? Because it almost literally is fairyland. Often tech companies do whatever they can to spoil you entirely for you to be more committed to give your all and assign as much time as possible to work. Many of the reputable tech companies are known for their positive, energetic and friendly culture. Everybody is happy and wants to work hard. How do those tech companies create such a culture? That is a culture every company wants, right? That’s because they invest heavily in their employees through among others
- Unlimited Snacks
- Variety of Breakfast-, Lunch- and Dinner- options
- Health and Wellness
- No rules around etiquettes (e.g. dress code)
This in combination with a lucrative salary makes you very willing to invest your all to contribute to the vision of the company. Benefits and a culture like that make you sacrifice a lot for work. But as you understand, every upside has its downside. And also this upside has a clear, often later realised by many, downside.
All these “Gives” from employers' side look unconditional, but the opposite is true. They come with mountain-high expectations. Tech companies have a performance culture where you are expected to learn and grow fast and become a real asset to the company. Certainly, you’ll have quarterly performance reviews in which your manager will do whatever is in their capability to tweak your actions according to what will be deemed more valuable to the company. These high expectations are accompanied by a high amount of stress. That’s what the companies are aiming for. They want to pull you out of your comfort zone for you to grow as much as possible and become more valuable.
That is from a personal development perspective true, but certainly as well from a knowledge perspective. The tech industry grows fast. Very fast. Hence, it is expected that besides working hours you keep up with the latest industry trends. Basically, tech companies expect you to live and breathe the solution they are providing to the market. And as compensation, they provide you with all the things you desire in order to work productively.
Work-life balance, disrupted
However, even though these companies expect a lot from you, they give you a lot of freedom to meet these expectations according to your own terms. Often tech companies are target-driven. These targets differ obviously between departments like marketing, sales, customer success and support. Once the target is set, you get to determine how you organize your time to meet this expectation. If you want to start at 10 AM and work a little longer, go for it. It doesn’t matter how, as long as you make it happen. For instance, I love to start early. So I was often already at the office around 7 AM. This allowed me to go for a long run during lunch, take a shower, and leave early again in the afternoon. You can organize your work to your own desired life cadence.
Perhaps it sounds amazing that you can organise your time entirely yourself. However, it comes with some serious disadvantages as well. It often results in a disrupted life balance. We all know that planning can be a tough task. If you get all the freedom to organise your own time, but at the same time your employer expects quite some results from you, you end up working more. That’s why it is known that if you start working in a tech job, it comes with working long hours. And that means that you start building your entire personal life around your work. You will go for drinks with colleagues right after work, tying you to the company even more. It is quite tough to abandon a job if a part of your social identity is also attached to it.
Long story short, working in tech often results in an imbalanced personal life. And the moments that you are untied from your company, you often get reeled back in by a phone call or an incoming email. Tech never sleeps and the cultural etiquette in tech is to always be available. From personal experience, I know how always being available can disrupt your life. It required several interventions from family and friends for me to come to that realization myself. Working in tech can almost be like being a firefighter or a doctor. You simply never know when an emergency will occur and you'll have to drop everything you're doing to deal with it. But this is a choice that you can make. Do you choose to be on stand-by at all times? In your spare time? During your holidays?
Unlimited holidays - fact or myth?
Talking about holidays: That’s another disadvantage that is often used as an advantage to working in tech. What do I mean? I refer to the illusion of having unlimited holidays. It is a trend among tech companies to offer their employees with unlimited holidays. It’s a funny concept and I remember that I completely fell for it. I believed it to be amazing and it was certainly one of the reasons why I chose to work for that company. I think one month into the job, I made use of this generous employee benefit and I informed my manager about the 4 weeks of holidays that I wanted to take over the course of 9 months. Her response was hilarious.
It was very clear how she had difficulty herself to balance out boosting my productivity with maintaining my employee satisfaction. She informed me that it was not possible to already take that many days when I hadn’t proven myself in the role yet, being only one week in. So basically, she informed me that the unlimited holidays are conditional.
Tech companies like to play mind games. They set very ambitious goals that you need to achieve. It often takes more than a regular workweek to achieve those goals. At the same time, they reward you with autonomy on how to divide your time and unlimited holidays. I consider these benefits to be an illusion. That’s what happened to me. I often started working at 7 AM, had my running break in the middle, but then often worked till 7 PM and was on my phone at least till 10 PM. Is that healthy? You tell me.
It's not all bad.
It’s evident that you have to work hard in tech. But if you can manage expectations, your personal life and time well, working in tech can have major advantages. Working in tech offers you a chance to evolve and polish your skills with each task that you get to perform. Using a variety of the latest modern tools while working with ambitious, smart and creative people will enhance your work results significantly. Many ordinary jobs get you stuck in a single job description, working in the tech industry will offer you a vast amount of opportunities to grow. Besides, you get assigned responsibilities very fast because of the tech industry’s fast-moving nature. Working in tech can give your career a growth burst and it will bring you to seniority and pay level at a pace that is not possible in any other industries. Working in tech is demanding but when managed well, it can boost your career to unprecedented levels.
I have had difficulty to balance out the up- and down-sides of working in tech. For that reason, I switched back and forth quite a few times to gauge what makes me happy. I believe every person can work successfully and happily in tech. It is not that tech is only suitable for the uberambitious people. Before starting a career in tech, it is of paramount importance to understand how this world works exactly. Once you have a clear understanding, it is important to manage expectations well and have a clear view of your boundaries.
With this in mind, you can design a life working in tech that suits you and the specific tech company. This is advantageous for you but also the tech companies. They are not evil and out to exploit you. Their intention is for you to grow professionally to your full potential. But only if you know beforehand what your boundaries are, can you start this journey in a healthy fashion. If not, these companies will unintentionally cross your boundaries, resulting in unpleasant stress or even agony.
But what are your boundaries? What kind of tech career suits you? That is something that friends, family and a coach can help you with. They can ask you the right questions for you to understand what your boundaries are. And once you start a career in tech, use a coach or mentor to guide you towards achieving your personal and career goals in tech.