There’s this dissonance in the tech industry. Right now there’s a disproportionate abundance of money and high paying jobs for software engineers compared to how many software engineers there are. The result is that the bar for hiring people gets lower, especially as they recruit people in earlier and earlier stages in their lives, i.e. internships. So people of drastically different skill levels are placed in the same position and it feels unfair to the skilled. But this is just people being spoiled.
The real thing is that these jobs don’t feel rewarding to achieve because they’re literally given out for jack shit. Something that pays so well feels like it should be hard to get, so it feels unfulfilling to get it because there’s just mismatched supply and demand.
Okay, but what about the work itself? If it’s well-paying fulfilling stuff then it’s easy to get over this feeling and appreciate the great thing in front of you. Well, I guess I’ll find out this summer. But I suspect that a majority of the work, especially for interns and new grads is somewhat menial, at least at a lot of large tech companies. The main thing is not even that early career roles are usually given less interesting tasks within projects, it’s that projects themselves are unimpactful or just marginally improving an existing project.
So what’s the solution? Crypto! At least that’s what crypto twitter would say. I got interested in crypto about a year ago and now I’d say I’m fairly involved/well-versed in the community.
The first year of college I was riding the hype of big tech companies. On the surface level, consumer facing products sound really hype. Everyone uses these services, so it must be so cool to work say you work there! Then you realize the work you’d be doing for these services is actually bullshit. At a certain time you realize you’re just riding the hype and you should follow your interests and not brands/clout. So you switch to crypto. For a bit you’re following because you’re just genuinely interested. You continue and you see it as hope for a better more fulfilling career. You stay involved and the longer you’re there you see what people are talking about and what’s cool and hype and money is being thrown around all over the place. But this time it’s different because this is real innovation so the money is justified. Next thing you know you’re balls deep chasing another ladder of prestige but just a new set of names in a slightly different industry. If anything, this time is almost worse because there are so many toxic people that are just here for the money or hype.
This time the technical problems you could work on would be better so that’s nice. But at the same time, all this money is being thrown around, and it feels like it should be going towards what’s really driving the human condition, improving people’s lives. In reality it’s just whatever will make VCs the most money, only maybe vaguely in the direction of “value,” just because monetary returns have some relation. But on the surface, it’s being sold as improving people’s lives. a16z says they invest in this stuff because it’s a whole revolution, it’s going to change everything, but you just don’t see it. You used to see it when you were riding the hype, you were open to it, but even when you really understand what it’s doing, you just don’t think what it’s doing matters that much.
Why care about having an impact? On an individual scale, when you’re not wealthy enough to allocated significant resources purely with your wealth, the most you can hope for in terms of impact is to help contribute in some small way towards a greater goal that really has impact. So really, you don’t even really get something tangible out of it. But humans search for meaning in their lives, and we’ve been brainwashed or socialized in different ways throughout our lives that makes us find meaning in different things. With the privilege to really consider what we want to do with our time, as a career, I think at the end of the day it feels really good to know, to believe that you’re contributing towards something you believe is important/has value. I’m a computer nerd at heart, and I love technical problems and I think they’re beautiful and so much fun. There are many days that I’m working on things and I just think to myself I could just play around and solve problems in this programming model or whatever forever. But the truth is, at a certain point it turns into candy. Interesting technical problems are the sweet flavors in the sauce that make the bite taste great, but the impact is the protein and the nutrition that makes work satisfying, fulfilling. At least that’s how I see it.
I’ve worked on a lot of side projects, and they’re all fun, but I want to build something people use. Maybe when I work on something that people use my perspective will change, but I want to build stuff that people use, that actually helps people in a meaningful way. I don’t want to just build some meditation app that just sorta enhances some already wealthy person’s chaotic lifestyle that they imposed on themselves from constant pressure to reach for more. I want to build something that helps people do things they couldn’t before. That improves society’s function in some way.