Reading 02

I’ve always admired people who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives because at that point, it’s just a matter of connecting the dots by figuring out what the steps are to get from point A to point B and then doing it, which I know is easier said than done, but at least there’s a process to follow there. I’ve always felt like I was more of a wanderer. I don’t really know what I want to do, and I prefer having limited options because making decisions stresses me out. I’ve always viewed this lack of a destination as a weakness and thought maybe it was the result of a lack of passion or motivation (it’s not really because I’m curious about too many things and can’t pick one). I’ve even wondered if I’m in the wrong major because I don’t feel like I actively chose computer science; I feel like I just sort of stumbled into it and stuck around. I don’t seek out articles on the latest technology being developed, and I don’t get the same amount of satisfaction and joy from writing code for a side project as I do spending a day on a service project. Upon further reflection, however, I’ve come to realize that my relationship with technology isn’t necessarily bad. It’s just different from what I consider the mainstream, stereotypical one. I see technology as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. I’m more concerned about the why, and I believe the what and the how will follow.

All of that being said, I don’t know where my career is headed or what’s in store for me. As a senior, I should probably be taking the job search more seriously than I have been, and there’s a lot of pressure to decide what I want to do with my life and secure a job before I graduate in May. What I have to continue to remind myself throughout this process is that I’m not committed to my first job for the rest of my life. It’s perfectly acceptable to go through career changes and try different things. As Vivian Giang expresses in You Should Plan On Switching Jobs Every Three Years For The Rest Of Your Life, it might actually be a good thing to change jobs frequently. While I don’t see myself going to that extreme, I would be surprised if I stuck to the same job for the rest of my life. Knowing myself, I will probably change jobs a few times in the early stages of my career and settle into one that I like, remaining with that company until retirement. Keep in mind that this is all complete conjecture, of course, and I’m still growing and changing, but as of right now, this is my best guess. Giang writes that if you don’t change jobs enough, you actually lose stability. I don’t think I agree with that statement, or at the very least, I wouldn’t want to have a career in a field for which that statement is true. There are some companies that are big enough that you can change roles and projects to learn new skills and challenge yourself while still remaining an employee of that company.

Although I would ideally eventually like to stay with a company for a long time before I retire, I think that’s a personal choice that I will make, and it should not necessarily be expected of me or required by law. I would probably choose a company that values loyalty, but I don’t expect all companies to do so. I think that should be up to the companies themselves. I don’t think people should be punished for wanting to leave one company and go to another, which is why broad non-competes don’t sit well with me. I understand that trade secrets need to be protected, but just as locks should only be placed around the lines of code that absolutely require them, non-competes and NDAs should only cover what is concretely identifiable and unique to the company. From the articles that I read, I get the impression that that’s not happening. For example, Jerry’s experience in How Companies Kill Their Employees’ Job Searches was that a non-compete prevented him from using knowledge he had prior to working for that company, which doesn’t seem ethical to me. Companies should have a right to protect what is theirs, but skills and knowledge that employees bring to the company should still belong to the employee after they leave. Even some of the skills that an employee learns on the job with a company should be considered property of the employee and not the company because work experience is highly valued in the market, so it wouldn’t make sense if all you had to offer your next company was what you had to offer your previous company before you began working for them. I know it is not as straightforward as this and there is a gray area when it comes to intangible and abstract advantages, but as a general rule of thumb, I think only trade secrets should be contractually protected and employees should be able to use skills, experiences, and approaches to problem-solving they’ve learned through previous jobs at their next jobs. Furthermore, it seems unethical to prevent someone from working for a competitor if they can do so without leaking information about what their previous employer is doing. Employees and employers should act ethically about what they provide and ask of each other, and those who don’t will likely gain a bad reputation and in the case of an individual acting unethically, companies should be unwilling to hire such a person, and in the case of a company asking its employers to spill secrets on their competitors, consumers should stop supporting them and employees quit so that they go out of business. I realize that I’m saying “should” instead of “will” because this is what ought to happen if everybody respected one another, and maybe it’s a naive perspective of the situation, but it’s the way I make sense of things, and I’m still against these ridiculous non-competes that go too far and protect the companies at the expense of the workers.