4 min read

The techie's dilemma

Freedom isn't free. Are you willing to pay the price?
The techie's dilemma
Freedom isn't free. Are you willing to pay the price?

Show Notes

0:05
Hello everyone, and welcome to The Imposters Club. I'm your host Teddy Kim. And today I have some great news. I have finally managed to get all of the show notes from past episodes out on the interwebs. If you're interested in reading the show notes, you can just mosey on over to imposters club.io. There's also a forum for submitting podcast topic suggestions. I'd love to hear from you. So don't be shy. The website uses a platform called Mighty Networks, I decided to go with Mighty Networks because over time, I would like to evolve the imposters club into a real community separate and apart from Facebook, nothing against Facebook, but it's Facebook. Any who, impostersclub.io. Check it out.

0:54
Okay, today I want to talk about the techie's dilemma. What the EFF is the techie's dilemma? Allow me to explain. Bear with me. Imagine that you are a dishwasher at a restaurant. Being a dishwasher is hard. In any restaurant, the dishwashers work the hardest and get paid the least. Naturally, after a couple of years of getting blasted with scalding water and spattered with half-eaten food, you might get it into your head to start your own restaurant. Your line of reasoning goes something like this. I am a peon in this restaurant. No one listens to my ideas. My managers are incompetent. My co-workers treat me like a second-class citizen. The hours are brutal, and the working conditions are appalling. I could run a restaurant better than this.

1:47
Yeah, dare to dream, right. But then reality sets in, you probably could run a restaurant and you might even do it well. But there's something standing in your way: capital or the lack of it to be precise. You see, you really can't get a restaurant off the ground without a huge amount of capital. Where I live in Minneapolis, a typical commercial lease is around $30 per square foot. This means for a 5000 square foot restaurant, your first-year lease expenses will be around $150,000. And we haven't even talked about permits, licenses, insurance, bookkeeping, point of sale, software, supplies, signage, payroll, and all of the other expenses that go into a restaurant. When all is said and done, you could easily be looking at a million-dollar investment. In order to get your idea off the ground. You're gonna need backers, but who's gonna back you, you're a dishwasher, remember?

2:48
Now, let's flip the scenario. You're not a dishwasher in a restaurant. You are a programmer in a tech company. Here's a sample of your inner dialogue. I'm a peon in this tech company. No one listens to my ideas. My managers are incompetent. My co-workers treat me like a second-class citizen. The hours are brutal, and the working conditions are appalling. I could run a tech company better than this.

3:19
As a matter of fact, you don't need a lot of capital to start a business in tech. It's not like a restaurant or a coal mine or a brewery, all of which require a big upfront investment. In those industries, the barrier to entry is high enough to repel dreamers. Only brutal pragmatists survive in those industries. Not so with tech. With nothing more than an idea, you can start a legitimate business in tech and scale it to a mass market. Napster, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, these businesses were started by dreamers in dorm rooms and garages.

3:57
If you're scrappy and smart, the internet enables economies of scale that are unthinkable outside of tech. And that brings us to the techie's dilemma. Unlike the disgruntled dishwasher, a disgruntled techie has options. The question is, are the options any good? What really happens when you start your own venture? Well, pretty soon most normal people realize that, in order to build tech of any significance, you need a team. Anyone who has worked on a side hustle can appreciate this as a basic truth. Unfortunately, you don't get great teams for free. Hiring, recruiting, and training are all very difficult and expensive. And once you have a team, well, then you have to manage them, every day, forever.

4:54
Unfortunately, to build tech, you need techies, and you know what that means? You're going to end up with a few eeyores and malcontents. So you start dealing with people problems instead of tech problems. Slowly, a creeping realization sets in: all of the institutional nonsense that you are trying to escape...it's just following you around. It's like the stink cloud that follows pigpen around. You can't run from it. You don't get to leave it when you go home every night. You're your own boss now, remember. You can't escape the stink cloud because you own it. Yeah, you changed the scenery, but your inner dialogue seems strangely familiar.

5:41
I am a pawn in this tech company. No one listens to my ideas. My employees are incompetent. My investors treat me like a second-class citizen. The hours are brutal, and the working conditions are appalling. Why can't I run a tech company better than this? Yeah, and therein lies the techie's dilemma. Freedom isn't free. I know that sounds kind of bleak, but I think there is an alternative approach. If you are willing to do some self-work. Imagine this: instead of expecting your employer to make you happy, what if you took responsibility for your own happiness? Instead of expecting your employer to protect your ego, why not strive to be exemplary? Instead of being passive-aggressive, what if you planned to leave...but only after making your company better than you found it? What's in it for you? Good question. How about this? If you can learn how to make your own party, you can finally get rid of the pigpen stink cloud that mysteriously follows you around from job to job and boss to boss. It feels like freedom to me. Yeah, you will have to do some self-work and self-work is hard. It's so much easier to accept the default settings. But remember, freedom isn't free. The question is are you willing to pay the price?


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