The first tweet, by Andrew Ng, set off some fascinating conversations about the value of working with a software legend, juxtaposed against the software legend’s expectation that the successful applicant would be working “70-90 hours a week.”
Want to grow your career? We’re finally hiring! https://t.co/2vuRmNyiYJ Thanks also everyone who’d previously tried to volunteer. 🙂
— Andrew Ng (@AndrewYNg) September 13, 2017
This feels reminiscent of the insatiable calls for “ninjas,” “unicorns,” and “rock stars” in the tech industry during the past two years. It was not enough to have relevant job experience and skills – applicants were expected to actually possess superpowers. Take a look at the thread and you’ll spot a lot of people suggesting that this job posting creates similarly silly expectations before the job even begins. You’ll also see, however, that there are defenders of Mr. Ng’s job description. “For a chance to work with the best? Of course, you’re going to put in those hours,” is a fairly common comment. Notice, too, that the tweet thanks everyone who asked about volunteering! Imagine putting in those kinds of hours solely for the love of programming, or whatever rationale you invent.
One of my favorite parts of Slammed is what I call the “It’s not about you chapter.” Carmen and Randy tell us that, in order to actually achieve balance, one must de-center oneself from the narrative of life, work, and family. It’s a simple truth, and it’s devastating to the argument that the job advertised above is “worth it.” Truly impactful work is measured against decades and centuries, not against months or years. My importance to any scheme is miniscule when compared to the real timeframe of human endeavor.
The second tweet is a tongue-in-cheek exchange regarding the efficiency of stopping to smell the roses:
Okay listen. I stopped. And I’ve got to be honest… roses don’t smell that great.
— Rick Turoczy (@turoczy) September 14, 2017
The original tweet was, of course, a joke. Rick is one of the hardest-working people I know, but he always has time to check out a flower. He is always finding new ways to mentor, connect, and lift up other people in the Portland technology and start-up communities. He ran a start-up incubator with two handfuls of people when similarly-sized projects would approach one hundred employees. There may have been stretches of insane busyness, but I can guarantee that none of those folks worked 70-90 hours a week the whole time. The secret? Rick is a master at de-centering himself, collaborating with and relying on others, and – yes – stopping to smell the roses. If Rick knew the smartest programmer alive, I doubt he’d tell that person to apply for that job with Coursera.
We’re all confronted by expectations like this at times. It is our reactions to those expectations that determine our capacity for well-being. Go ahead – stop and smell the roses.