Stability in tech isn’t a thing

Stability in tech abstract image

After working in tech for over a decade one thing has remained constant. Change. Change brings progress, grief, exhaustion, excitement, and every emotion you can think of.

Sure, technology moves fast, but when you work in a field where companies IPO, get acquired or shut down regularly, you can’t expect stability.

Even the companies that aren’t VC-funded make significant changes. For instance, a darling bootstrapped and profitable indy product company, Wildbit, was just sold. This was shocking as Wildbit was known in the space for their people first approach to building great companies. At the same time it wasn’t surprising as opportunties come up in tech that are often hard to pass up. I once heard someone say “treat everything like it is forever, but realize it’s not.” This feels like valid way to approaching working in tech.

Jonas Downey a Design Director at Twitter who has been in some challenging work environments inspired this post with this thought:

Don’t confuse job security with stability

Stability: “Not changing or fluctuating” doesn’t sound like anything in tech. Job security isn’t a sure thing in tech. You may have a job that isn’t going anywhere but that job may look very different a year from now. So when you experience a big shift in your ‘secure job’ (and you will), you have two choices: Navigate the change, or leave. Of course, both options have their place, but you may have to learn how to navigate change to stay anywhere longer than a couple of months.

Many of us say “we love change,” but that’s a lie we tell ourselves when navigating challenging situations. Change is hard. We don’t like lay-offs, we don’t love when a new VP joins and reorgs the company, we don’t like the thrash of doubling our tripling team size in a year, we don’t like it when we find ourselves with less autonomy, and we don’t like it when the way things worked last quarter don’t map to today. Even the good change is hard.

How do you navigate change as an employee?

Navigating change is hard work, but there are things you can do to make it possible.

Accept the change

The first step towards being able to move forward when circumstances shift at work is accepting the change. If you cannot do this, or if it is unsafe to do so, then it’s time to look for a new role.

Accepting that a situation has changed can help you deal with it appropriately. However, trying to rewind and take things back to the way they used to be is often a losing battle. Your organization of 300 people can’t function in the same way as it did when it was 40 people. And you can’t simply fire all those people you hired because you miss the good old days. (Believe me, I get it, I have been here, it is hard).

Make a plan

Change happens to all of us. Unfortunately, many decisions and situations are out of our control. When significant shifts occur in the workplace, you feel like you have no control. But often, there are things you can do.

  • Take an inventory of what you can still impact and change.
  • Can you structure your days in specific ways?
  • Can you start working in different ways that make things easier, even if it isn’t your preference? 
  • What meetings can you say no to?
  • Can you ask your manager precisely what you need to be successful?
  • Can you optimize new processes?
  • Can you give feedback?

Understand why you are at a company

Finding a purpose for each job you hold is essential to help you identify if it is the best place for you.

  • Do you have clear career goals? Is this job helping you get there?
  • Do you care deeply about the product you are building?
  • Do you care deeply about the type of work you are doing?
  • Do you enjoy the people you are working with?

Talk with someone who has navigated shifts in your workplace

In every org that I’ve been a part of, tenured people have stuck around through many stages in that startup’s journey. So if you are interested in becoming resilient, try following in the footsteps of someone you know and respect who has done just that. Ask them how they did it.

Note: This one comes with a massive caveat. I can’t ignore the fact that privilege plays a big role in being able to navigate a shifting work environment. I am all aware that I being a white male, have many privileges that make navigating work shifts easier. 

What are you scapegoating?

I am as guilty as any of us when it comes to placing the blame on something circumstantial. I was having a hard time at work last year, but after tracking my workplace happiness, I discovered there were decisions I made in my workday that added to my frustration. Instead of doing the work of dealing with my own faults, I placed the blame on ‘things at work.’ Things didn’t change until I did.

Startups are hard

Working in startups is hard. One week can be the best job in the world. The following week can be a job you want to run from as fast as possible. I am still learning how to navigate startup life. But I have also learned that I often need space to let things settle before making a big decision. In many situations, my frustrations have worked themselves out with time.

I hope this post helps you. There isn’t any judgment in leaving a job. There are many times when it is the best decision. But I have seen many resign from one company and find themselves just as frustrated with the next. It may be time to leave, but it also may be best to stay.