I recently left my job as a software developer at Zynga and now I work at Stackmob. I had been at Zynga for two years, had a bunch of stock in the company, was paid well for a single 25 year old dude, and I knew in my gut for the last 6 months of that job that I had to get out.
After I left, I took a bit of time off to chill and reflect a bit, and I spent some time trying to answer 2 questions:
- Why didn’t I leave immediately after I got the “gut” feeling?
- Why did I end up leaving when I did?
The first one is easy. The golden handcuffs were on the whole time I worked there. When I talked to people about possibly leaving, I frequently got the response “stay at Zynga and cash out.” So I took the advice and stayed a while at Zynga.
The second one is tougher. I eventually got out of the cuffs. I switched teams and projects a few times inside Zynga, looking for something I was happy with. I obviously didn’t find it, but the process was super valuable for me. I reflected a lot, and learned more about myself more during that time than ever.
Eventually I halted everything and reflected on my life in a quarter-life-crisis type moment.
I came up with a ranking of my top 5 priorities for my ideal job/life (like I said, QLC FTW):
- learning (anything, but preferably internet technology things)
- writing code
- working with smart, nice people
- playing soccer
- making money
Really, the top 3 are tied for first place, but the rankings are as accurate as I could get them after a weekend of thought. I love code, and probably always will, but this reflection period was the first time I realized that there were other things that make a difference in my happiness: personal and professional development (see #1), relationships (#3), and balance (#4). Those terms make them sound lame, and things that I wouldn’t want to do, but they actually are important.
And then there’s #5. Money is on there because without it, numbers 1-4 are impossible. Many people have told me that money is most important (props to the people who didn’t - you know who you are), and almost everything I read and see in the world measures success based on money and power. I only ranked money in my top 5 because I don’t want to live on the street. At this point in my life, other things make me happy, and that was really important for me to realize.
Zynga was giving me a lot of money, and the promise of more money later, but I wasn’t getting the other stuff at work, so I had to leave.
Conveniently, it was easy to see what I should do next: either be a professional soccer player and write code for a hobby or be a professional coder and play soccer for a hobby. The first one was and is much less likely than the second, and I suspect I’ll be happier as a professional coder (or maybe that’s what people say when they can’t be professional athletes), so I looked for a new job as a software engineer, and kept soccer as a hobby.
I’m happy with where I ended up, and I’m glad I went through this 6+ month learning process. Of course, there are certainly many people besides me for whom working at Zynga is great, but in my 2 weeks so far at Stackmob, I’ve been happy. I’ve been learning, excited for what my peers and I are working on, and I’ve enjoyed working with everyone at the company. And I’m still getting paid to write code. And I still play soccer on thursdays, fridays and sundays.
I feel like I should say this
Everything I wrote here is completely my own narrative and opinion. I wrote it because I felt like it, nobody asked me to.