Let’s say you want to work in tech but you also want a civil, respectful working environment. You want to transcend professional mediocrity, but you also want family-friendly policies or sane working hours. And let’s say you yourself aren’t generally treated like an inferior simply because of who you are, but that you’d really rather not work with people who treat others that way.
But let’s be honest. Can you have all that and work at a buzzy startup or a giant agency, all the while immersing yourself in the squabbles of celebrity-style tech media? Maybe not. If you pay attention to the tech world’s steady stream of personal horror stories, public executive flameouts, and never-ending sexist stunts by startups, finding a balance may seem dishearteningly unlikely.
So, you know, you might have to choose a backwater instead: one of those boring places, like the newsrooms that break international stories with teams of hybrid journalist-developers, or the hospitals where technical decision-making saves actual lives, or the school systems that shape our children’s futures. Or you might just have to find a slower-paced startup or a smaller agency full of people who value their craft and care about each other.
Ultimately, you might have to make a terrible sacrifice to avoid the excesses of bubbly tech culture: You might have to prefer work with lasting meaning over work that confers instant prestige and a lavish starting salary. You might have to invite conference speakers—and hire leaders—who work outside the usual spotlights and slowly accomplish amazing things. You might have to choose ethically stalwart colleagues over big brand names.
You might have to have a really good life. It might be fucking amazing.
(PS: It’s not all that simple. Of course not. But if I’ve learned anything in this decade and a half in the field, it’s that nothing is more important than colleagues you can trust. Your people are out there. Believe.)
This post was originally published at the Pastry Box Project.