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Being Geek and Being Reasonable

I was so happy to read jwz’s post when he was mis-cited by a tech article.

jwz: Watch a VC use my name to sell a con.

the offender: STARTUPS ARE HARD. SO WORK MORE, CRY LESS, AND QUIT ALL THE WHINING (yes, in all caps)

I’m on a few listservs for women in tech, and a common topic is portrayal and expectations of tech culture. But to be perfectly honest, I rarely talk about this topic outside a close circle of friends, lest I be seen as ‘someone who doesn’t work hard enough.’ (hello, imposter syndrome).

The subtext of the over-work culture seems to be everywhere to me – people at the co-working space who stay into the wee hours (never mind that they spend many daytime hours gaming, goofing off, or otherwise not working), the book Being Geek has an overwork subtext, etc. etc.

But the reality is, if you’re overworking or in a bad work culture you’re:

1) Probably making dumb mistakes

Working sleep deprived has a definite association with fucking up. It just does. So does working stressed, working with a bad attitude … It gets my goat (love that saying) when I see people who get so excited when shit hits the fan and they get to fix it … but then proceed to fuck it up for an hour while they’re saying “Oh shit! Oh shit!” rather than just … fixing it. And then doing a logical post-mortem without any blaming. Blaming is bad for goats.

2) You’re probably unhappy

At some point in Being Geek, Rands said something that suggested it was a bad sign if you value your state of mind over anything else. Except … hello? I’ve only got one mind. Even with the job market out there, there’s still jobs. They exist. So do bootstrapping and starting your own business. Did we forget that we deserve to be happy at some point?

3) You’re undervaluing yourself

Again, goat is gotten. If you signed on to work an 8-9 hour day when you signed to a company, and then proceed to work 10-15 hours a day, well lookie, you just reduced the value of your time all on your lonesome. Good work. Hope you enjoy that.

4) You’re not doing your BEST work (similar to #1)

Similar to dumb mistakes, situations where you’re working under irresponsible deadlines (bad management), fixing a fuckup (poor distribution of responsibility), and working sick and tired (bad office culture) generally mean you’re not doing your BEST. That really gets the goat. When you look at your product, are you proud? Did you do your best effort to make it all it could be? If you’re in bad conditions, the answer’s probably not … whether you admit it or not.

I’m excited to see this topic arise, because I do truly think that creating cultures that are reasonable for humans of all kinds (those with families, people who have lives …) will help with diversity AND creating better products. Something I can look forward to.

 

P.S. Maybe if Zynga does end up with a staff exodus some larger companies will start paying serious attention to work culture/balance … 

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