The Job Experience, StartupVille: Year #8

Team Dynamics


My team was nowhere near as cool as the Avengers.  But, on the plus side, we fought between ourselves less.

There is no official culture at StartupVille.  It’s just a bunch of guys — yes, guys, exclusively, as there are literally zero females — working on software, testing, debugging, sales, and support.

People are cool.  Nice, engaging, funny, well-rounded, mostly smart.  I don’t spot a single Asshole Nerd or problem worker.  There are two individuals that aren’t really pulling their weight but they’re totally domesticated and aren’t dragging the rest of the group down with them so nobody cares.  By the end of my first year, I’m pretty good friends with most people and I feel like I’ve found myself a quality place to live out my years in captivity.

I remember one day in particular where I was fairly upset about an issue with our most important customer, and one of the engineers surprised me by noticing my distress and offering to help.  (I must have been sweating bullets or twitching uncontrollably or something along those lines..)  Next thing I knew, I was talking about the problem over lunch with this guy and my manager, and we worked together on how to move forward.

The point is, people generally wanted to support one another in StartupVille’s workplace environment, which was a welcome change of atmosphere after FinancialCompany’s toxic bog.

Company Morale

If there’s any vibe, it’s one of slight depression.  Although the company is technically a startup, they’ve passed the early stages of discovery and validation, and instead have moved on to the third phase, which is ‘efficiency.’  This means that they already have a fully functional product, they have a pitch, there’s a market to sell into, and they’re trying to ramp up sales and actually drive growth.

But they’re having trouble making those sales.  The space they’re trying to sell into (configuration management) isn’t well understood by the industry and it’s difficult to convince organizations to budget for a brand new tool.  And they’ve been in this phase for a full year and a half already — most industry analysts expected growth to ramp up at a far faster rate than StartupVille was seeing.

A few key members of the original product’s engineering team had already left the company in search of The Next Great Idea, and the shift in leadership coupled with slow sales understandably bummed some people out.  As a general rule, employees at startup companies are hoping to become loaded off of their stock, somewhere down the line, but in truth, the odds are only about one in ten that they’ll make anything at all.  When it was becoming apparent that this particular company wasn’t going to pan out, a lot of dreams got dashed.

As for me, I didn’t particularly care whether StartupVille made it big or not.  This is just another benefit of being on the road to FI — you don’t need miracles to get rich.  When coworkers talked about how disappointed they were about contributing four years of their life to StartupVille without any stock payoff, I’d dutifully assume my sympathetic face and go through the social motions.

But privately, I could not care less, because when you’re on the FIRE path, your destiny is already assured due to your ridiculous savings rate. My stash continued to grow, making me a winner no matter how the company ended up doing.  Of course I rooted for their success and did what I could within reason to enable this outcome — but it wasn’t the end of the world for me if things didn’t work out the way it was for other guys at StartupVille.

Putting yourself on the FIRE path is the gift that just keeps on giving.

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7 Responses to The Job Experience, StartupVille: Year #8

  1. Tom says:

    I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve had jobs where my whole life revolved around work with little time for anything else – for extended periods of time. Years… I use to envy people with 9-5 jobs who never had to take work home with them. As you noted, work is so much more tolerable, and dare I say, even enjoyable, when you can assign it sufficient energy but with remaining stores in the battery packs for other things. Money is nice but when you don’t need much you have to question your motivation. You figured that out much earlier than I did.

    Over two years ago I turned down a contract gig that would have required a horrendous hour plus commute in both directions. Having FU money, I turned it down and two weeks later was offered a better position for more money and an apartment with less than a five minute walk to work. I know two other guys who were not as financially secure and to this day are still making that two-hour commute. Though they didn’t complain all that much, to me, at least, I could see them aging in front of me. The world will be a better place when we greatly reduce the need to sit in traffic for hours each week to earn a paycheck.

    • livingafi says:

      I really love the stories like this. Not the part where you were overworked, of course, but rather the fact that your stash allowed you to carefully consider your employment options and ultimately gave you a huge boost in life-quality in the form of not having to commute. Aside from the fact that long daily drives simply cost a lot, they’re draining and often feel like half of the work you do, on any given day. Lots of co-workers throughout the years have said their commute is the #1 thing preventing them from exercising on a more regular basis, for example, and it makes sense — that hour and a half on the road would be the perfect time to dump into a trip to the gym or even a long walk around their neighborhood. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Frankie's Girl says:

    I haven’t been a good commentator, but I just wanted to say that this series has been FASCINATING to me. I actually check in every day or so just to see if you’ve written more about your working life, so the length of the posts have been a bonus as far as I’m concerned. Awesome reading!

    • livingafi says:

      No worries, I’m still working on the next one. For what it’s worth, they take me a while to put together, mostly because of the length and image work. Not complaining at all — actually I find the process very enjoyable — but trying to offer an explanation on the number of days between posts. It’ll definitely be out in another day, two tops. There goes my regular job, getting in the way of my hobbies yet again… BTW, thanks for the comment and I’m glad you’re not bothered by the word count.

  3. Sounds like some good opportunities out east! Is the demand for engineers as hot as it is here in SF you think? The job market here seems to make people want to move every 2-3 years.


    • livingafi says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Sam. So I’m not familiar exactly with how hot things are in SF, but definitely it’s cooking along the NE corridor right now, and has been at least since 2012. For many people, it’s a good time to move and finally get that job-change-payraise that your current employer has been denying you for the past X years.

  4. Frank says:

    This is an excellent story, hell of a read

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