One day I was sitting in an office with one of my mentors talking about what I want to aspire to become in the future. I talked with her about how someday I wanted to start a company, build my own products, and have an impact on the world.
In that conversation, my mentor gave me a piece of advice that sticks with me to this day.
Build wealth in your career.
As she explained it to me, you are going to reach a point in your career where the money you make is going to become less important and other factors will become increasingly important. You will begin to value a collection of other things over the numbers in your paycheck.
Early in our careers, we might focus on the salary we make almost exclusively. We likely give less importance to things like time off, career advancement, networking and learning opportunities.
This isn’t right or wrong and in fact, it varies from person to person. The reality is that money is always going to be a factor because it makes the world go around.
But as she accurately predicted, at least for me, the money became but one factor in a larger collection for my career and the decisions that impact it.
I recently decided to leave my consulting work to go off and build my own company. In just a little over a month, I managed to launch my third project this year, parler.io. It is a service to streamline your written content into audio content that can be shared to and embedded on other platforms.
What many don’t know is that during the process of building my latest project, I was also looking for the next step in my career.
Wait, you were working on exactly what you said you wanted to be doing so why look for another job again? The answer to this question lies within what wealth means to me in my career.
The definition of wealth evolves
Early in my career, I was very focused on the technical aspects of development. Learning every programming language I could get my hands on. Understanding the intricacies of cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. I was entrenched in the technical aspects because those were those things that interested me.
That combined with the focus on salary made up my entire definition of wealth. In essence, those were the two factors I considered the most important for my career at the time. The ability to learn a lot of technical things and make decent money doing it.
But the definition of wealth evolves as our careers evolve.
When I recently left my job to go out and build Parler I did so with a full picture of what wealth meant to me at that point. Money was not a factor and in fact, the only factor was answering the question, what would it be like to work on my own ideas fulltime?
Our careers are not static, they evolve. Therefore, what we want from a career or an opportunity is going to evolve as well. Thinking back to my mentor, what stuck with me about her advice was that our careers are iterative just as much as the code we develop.
We need to be continuously building wealth in our careers by continuously iterating on them. This means being intuned with what we want out of our careers at a point in time and be able to pivot when that changes.
My factors and their evolution
Branching off to build parler.io was necessary for me. I need to know what it would be like to dedicate my time exclusively to an idea of my own. This was another layer of wealth in my career.
Why? Because I learned a multitude of things in just two months that I likely wouldn’t have learned otherwise. I took an idea from a thought to validating it with potential users, building the lightest weight MVP possible, and then launching the alpha release of it to be iterated on.
The number of things I learned at each one of those steps could constitute a blog post in its own right. But the point here is that the only factor for my career at that point was answering a burning question I had.
Once I knew the answer to that question, my factors for wealth evolved again. It was time to build to the next level of the skyscraper that is my career.
- Early in my career it was all about technical skills and being paid reasonably.
- This later evolved into advanced architecture skills specifically around AWS and of course a salary to go with it.
- Then came the urge to teach others the skills I had learned.
- Once I had accomplished 1-3, it was time to see if I could apply all those skills to somewhere totally different like consulting.
- After proving to myself that (4) was true, it was time to try out a dream of mine. Build my own project/product full time for a period of time.
In short, I had visited level five of the building and learned what I needed from that journey. Parler will continue to exist and I will absolutely continue developing it. But after focusing on it for a few months, I felt something was missing.
Moving up to level six
Building new projects is my way of learning new skills and sharing my knowledge with others. It is my passion and coding/development is just my tool for facilitating that. I love building projects that delight users and iterating on them to make them even better. Always has been and very likely always will be.
Prior to dedicating my time to Parler, I built these projects on the side while always working full time somewhere else. For me, I prefer that model at this point in my career. I actually find that having less time to focus on a project allows me to deliver it faster and iterate quickly because I don’t overthink it.
Therefore, level six for me is about going back to a full-time career and building my projects on the side. I am very excited to be joining Thorn an organization that is dedicated to building tools to defend children from sexual abuse.
When I came to the conclusion that it was time to build the next iteration of wealth in my career I thought very carefully about the factors I would consider. I ended up coming up with three factors that allowed me to objectively evaluate where I wanted to take my career next.
- Do work that impacts the world positively. This was the biggest thing I wanted from the next step in my career. Building tools that defend children in our society from such a hideous act is a purpose that fulfilled this tenfold.
- Ultimate flexibility. We live in a day and age where development can literally be done from anywhere with a WiFi connection and a laptop. Thorn has been built from day one as a 100% remote company. Bonus points, I can play fetch with my dog on coffee breaks.
- Learn and collaborate with a great team. Enjoying the people you work with and collaboratively learning together is a key to acquiring new skills in this industry. We all learn from one another and our shared experiences, so having that during your workday is critical to me.
Money is often the focus of wealth.
But wealth includes important possessions as well. When it comes to our careers it’s important to keep both in mind. Money is always going to be a factor because we all want to be paid fairly. But the latter is even more important, we need to build the important possessions in our career.
These possessions can change and evolve over time as well. Mine sure did and will likely continue to evolve with more time under my belt.
I will always be an entrepreneur and will continue to build projects that I find interesting or provide value. That will never change. But at this point, I also need the power of a company like Thorn to help me feel accomplished and well rounded in my career.
If I can leave you with one piece of advice for your career, always be evaluating it. Keep track of what you want out of your career at this point in time and if your current situation doesn’t satisfy that, make a change. Build wealth in your career and do not be afraid to let it evolve.