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Why I love my job

October 2, 2015

In the midst of explaining my recent job chaos to a friend, she asked me what it was about my job that I liked so much.

It took a job that I really hated in order for me to really understand what was important to me in a job.  I always secretly figured that as a positive, motivated, hardworking and talented person, I could figure out how to enjoy almost any job.  Boy, was I wrong about that! Here is what I posted 2013 after accepting a job I ended up hating:

I like solving interesting problems with smart people.  I like working with customers.  I prefer face-to-face interaction.  I like variety in my work.  I enjoy big picture thinking over details, but I can get lost in an analysis once I dig in.  I like to continually learn new things.  I wanted to combine technical with the business side.  I need a fast pace.

My criteria when searching for that job were not wrong, just incomplete.  More critically, the most important one that I expected to be met generally wasn’t: solving interesting problems with smart people.  (The bulk of the time, I was working on a stupid problem with an adequate person.)

Anyway, here is what I love most about this job.  Here is what makes a job a great job.

People

This is the most important.  In general, they are simply my kind of people – scientists and engineers.  They make rational arguments for things, they are funny in these clever and smart ways, and lots of them are a little crazy – but still good natured.  Having spent most of my career and education around these sorts, it is an extremely comfortable environment for me.

Everyone is ridiculously smart, many with PhDs.  I’ve pretty much always worked jobs with highly intelligent people, but this is a whole new level of genius. My colleagues’ brilliance combined with their ability to communicate their ideas astounds me on a regular basis.

But it goes beyond that.

I feel I can simply take everyone at face value, which is absolutely refreshing. People have personalties and they are individuals. I don’t feel they are presenting images. There isn’t grandstanding or self-promotion (this was SO grating in my consulting job). There are just simply nice, sometimes quirky, people who are really good at what they do.

The Work

My day to day tasks vary, and but they are mostly interesting.

The biggest thing is that the projects are crazy interesting with goals that are personally meaningful to me.  I don’t know how to say more than that without saying everything, but connecting my work to a meaningful goal matters so much more than I imagined.  I believe in what I’m doing.  I don’t feel like I’m simply trying to make (or save) money for a business, I feel like I’m contributing some small part of something to the world.

I also have learned a lot, and am learning a lot every day, and feel like there is always more to learn.

Culture

It is an extremely informal culture, and very independent, and very respectful.

It is very flat.  There is almost no top-down management. Staffing basically works like this: If you can convince someone to work on your project, then they work your project.  This has pros and cons, but it allows me to get my hands in a few things and lets me have ownership of my job at an unprecedented level.

It is male dominated, but I’ve met zero people at my workplace who have made me wonder if they would treat me differently if I was a guy.  Maybe I’ve stumbled into some weird progressive utopia, but gender has been a non-issue, and I’m moderately sensitive to this.

The job just fits in a way that even my LA job didn’t, and I can’t quite put my finger on why.  Part of that is that I’m more open about my life and more mature, and in general more comfortable with who I am and what I contribute.  But part of it really is the culture itself.  It is wonderful for someone with my personality type.

Work-Life Balance

This is a bit of a case of “choose your own adventure.”  It is reasonable in general, but you have to manage it yourself.  Job roles and responsibilities are flexible enough that no one is going to define exactly what you have to do and what your box is.  People will ask if you have time for something, and you can say yes or you can say no.  Also, I have seen babies brought to the office for a day in a pinch twice – both by men (one my manager).  The guys on my team regularly comment on kid pick-up drop-off and scheduling issues around that.

I can tell you what time the parking lot fills up, and what time it empties, and it is clear most people do not put in long hours in the office.  My e-mail is rarely active on nights & weekends.  There are exceptions to this.  There are crunch times.  There is an expectation that certain types of work gets done in people’s “free time”.  I’m doing that right now, because the problem is interesting, the people are inspiring, it helps with a back up plan, and it is short term.  But plenty of people do  not do this.  I’m really happy with this.

I honestly don’t have any complaints about my job.  I haven’t met a single person who drives me nuts (isn’t there always at least one?), I have had bad (even very terrible) days, but it is the best job I’ve had.

Is there anything that is important to you in a job that I didn’t mention?

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2015 5:07 am

    LOL!! “(The bulk of the time, I was working on a stupid problem with an adequate person.)”

    This sounds like me. For me, it’s a stupid problem with a less than adequate person…

    I agree completely.

    • October 3, 2015 7:46 am

      Haha. Adequate is generous in my opinion, but I guess we got the job done, so he must have been adequate.

      But you seem to really enjoy your job, so it must be rewarding for you to still be able to solve the problem!

  2. October 3, 2015 7:48 pm

    I feel like I should quit academia and work at your company!

    • October 4, 2015 3:51 pm

      yes, do it!

      I’m possibly in honeymoon phase – i bet there was a time when academia was the cat’s pajamas for you? I still think academia looks pretty great for at least a subset of the people in it.

      Actually the job security is probably a downside of my job. It isn’t terrible, but certainly less than academia and less than a huge company. And there really isn’t a lot of “growth” if you want to be an executive type or anything with external prestiage kind of status. But growth in terms of things you do and learn is more important to me, and that is certainly there.

      • October 4, 2015 6:59 pm

        I still like my job! But you make your job sound pretty awesome. Plus the location is great. If only we had a couple million in the bank so we could buy a house without having to worry about job security to keep from foreclosure..

        • October 4, 2015 7:48 pm

          Ah good. Academics seem to either love it or be frustrated with aspects of it. Glad you fall towards the love side. It looks like a pretty sweet gig from the outside, aside from the years of training to get there. (Although most who do it probably quite enjoyed most aspects of grad school – just not for me).

          Yesssssss. How many problems would be solved for us all if we only had a couple million in the bank?

          We could swing life on one job, but at least one of us needs job security. While this particular job is not super duper secure, I hope that I at least have “skills security” and could find something else without too much trouble. I hope. Recessions can make that hard.

          • October 4, 2015 7:50 pm

            I think DH probably would have skills security if we moved out there. But it’s hard with the two of us. If only we liked the East coast more, we’d be set.

        • October 5, 2015 9:50 pm

          Yes, but who likes the east coast? I just don’t get the appeal!

          To be fair, skills security really only applies to me if I consider a longish commute. :/ otherwise it is possible, just not a slam dunk

  3. October 4, 2015 9:14 pm

    That’s great that you don’t have any complaints about your job! Mine is…boring to be honest. We solve interesting problems, but really slowly. I surprisingly miss the high stress of my last job. I really thrived on it, except when I had sexist managers/coworkers (which was sadly often). This will be great to get through grad school though and decide if I want to try PhD or find another industry job. Maybe one closer to where we live instead of this long commute I have now… My current group has a ton of engineers, so it’s okay that there are some people I really don’t like… I do have more personal space than I did at my last job though, which is nice.

    • October 5, 2015 7:20 am

      I agree that fast pace can be very engaging, while a moderate pace gets you free time to do other interesting things. That’s a good point about big teams having people you don’t like just due to the odds.

      I (unrealistically) say that I will only consider jobs within a few miles of our house now after being spoiled. But in reality, I obviously would look farther.

      • October 5, 2015 8:28 am

        I unrealistically said that before taking this job. I applied to tons of jobs with better commutes and this is one of two I ended up with an offer from! And comparing the two, I think this was possibly a better fit, but the commute really sucks.

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