Measuring Success

I recently returned from the annual Emerging Technology Summit (ETS) in San Francisco. This was my first in-person professional event since the pandemic began, and it was really nice to spend time with people who are able to articulate thoughtful challenges to my bubble of perception. “It’s so weird to be wearing pants and shoes” is not the typical topic of a conference conversation, but is the reality of 2022. 😉

There’s been a lot of movement in the technology sector since my last ETS in 2019. Subsequently, the industry labels people as either “winners or losers” based on investments received, valuation reached, and the overall distribution of wealth into stocks (and later, stock buybacks). Organizations that amass a larger quantity of wealth are considered successful. The rest are not. And I get it – as an investor you’re there to realize growth in your investments. You’re going to want to pick “winners” that grow their annual revenue in such a way that the stock price goes up. We all play this game, I think.

But I used to have a similar view for my own self. Income was akin to a high score in a video game – the bigger the number, the greater the success. I was “goal oriented” in my wealth – a term often used to describe people who only look up at those doing better. “If they can do it, why can’t I?” is the typical mantra.

It wasn’t until leaving the startup world that I redefined my own definition of success. While I do have bills to pay and life goals to achieve, being in a technology centric role nearly guarantees being paid well enough to make ends meet (and more). Yes, you can make 300K, 400K, 500K, or more 😲 per year in total compensation (TC) and then brag about it in the sewers of Blind, but why? How successful are you if the tradeoff is a total disregard for everything else that life has to offer?

I’d argue that this is just another form of comparison culture, and comparisons are the killer of joy.

My goals (and how I measure success) can be distilled down into these five bullet points:

  • Be an effective leader and mentor to my peers.
  • Be an effective technologist.
  • Write carefully and with purpose.
  • Live a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
  • Spend quality time with family and friends.

I’m much more interested in the networks I form and in being a rising tide to raise all boats. And I’m interested in working with people who feel the same, although that’s difficult with technologists seeking insanely high salaries with only a handful of years of experience. This behavior will only lead to roles in margin-hungry work cultures that dehumanize the people as some sort of cog in the machine.

Being in a growth oriented organization doesn’t mean focusing on only the money. Quite the opposite, I’d argue – an organization’s margin growth requires a heavier investment into the growth of the people involved. The alternative is a stagnation of the business as the revolving door of people spins round and round in search of a few more bucks. After all, happier people result in better outcomes, and it’s much more than just using work / life balance as the be-all-end-all metric.

Keep this in mind as a form of balance.