Career thoughts

I’m finishing up my sabbatical. Every 7 years Intel gives ALL fulltime employees an additional 8 weeks of paid vacation. My blog has covered some of the stuff I’ve done during this time, my second sabbatical. The first one was spent in Africa and in Germany.One of the things that I had wanted to do during my time off was look alternative employment. Why? I like my job with Intel; the blessings of working there are many:
  1. I like the stuff I work on.
  2. I like the people I work with.
  3. I like the managers above me
    1. I like them all as people
    2. The two immediately above me have been a joy to work for; they are good managers. The two above them, I sometimes question the wisdom of some of the things they do or don’t do. Pretty standard stuff though.
    3. There are only three people in all 15 years that I would now decline to work for. For one of these it’s because he’s just an incompetent ass. The other two, well, just bad blood. Pretty good for 15 years.
  4. Intel is the reason I spent 2.5 years in Israel, one of the best times of my life/career
    1. Intel Isreal has been my favorite place to work. Israeli problem solving and focus is exhilirating to be a part of
    2. Intel paid for me to learn Hebrew though when the average Israeli learns that I speak the language, the most common question is: Why?
    3. I made many special friendships, including relationships with two wonderful women.
    4. Observing Israeli culture gave me a much deeper appreciation for the value of family
    5. Travel to Israel means free visits to my mom in Germany; flights to Tel Aviv often pass through there.
  5. Intel is the reason I live in Portland. Portland is the most recent of 6 places I’ve lived (Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Boston, Santa Clara, Haifa, and Portland) and I predict it will be my last. I love it here and the life I have.
So why would I want to leave the company that has done so much for me? Well, unlike my outlook in my 20s, I feel that there is more to life than work. I have hobbies, friendships, and family prospects that demand more of my time. As long as I’m constrained to forever working 40+ hours/week and 48 weeks/year, I will be time limited. I’m blessed enough that I earn enough of a salary that I could cut back. I just don’t have the time. So I’m looking for is a way to cut back on my work hours without retiring. Again, I LIKE what I do. I LOVE programming computers. I’m good at it and it’s very rewarding. I don’t want to stop; just cut back. Intel will never be willing or able to provide this for me.
  1. A guy that was already considered the old guy when I starting working for Intel back in 1993 convinced management to allow him to reduce to 4 days/week for a while. Eventually he was forced to switch back to the “normal” work-week
  2. Someone I know in Isreal was working a reduced schedule to enable her to spend more time with her son. She was pressured to return to a normal work-week.
  3. Even the flexibility to work remotely was revoked for several people after they’d successfully done so for many years.
For all the good things that Intel is, progressive and understanding of employee life is not really one of them. But what company is? Intel’s not in the business of making life flexible and fullfilling to it’s employees. It’s in the business of designing and producing semiconductors, mostly microprocessors. Similarly, other companies are in the business of making money. Spending time and resources on employee happiness is only warranted (rightly) if it positively impacts the bottom line. There are rare companies like Google that make employee happiness a competitive advantage, but the attitudes required to pull that off are not really compatible with the traits required to successfully lead a company or organization. So I can’t really fault Intel. Intel is not evil or immoral. The managers are good people doing the best they know how. If it’s important enough to me, I have to make it happen on my own. But if other companies are no better, how can I make it happen? The answer I have to that is to gain the skillset that will enable me to do one of two things:
  1. be valuable to enough companies out there that one of them can be convinced to give me the work flexibility I’m looking for. Just play the numbers. More companies -> more likelyhood of finding one that is willing to do things a little differently
  2. be able to go out on my own as a contract employee/consultant.
The group I’m currently scheduled to join on my return from sabbatical is a step in that direction. I’ll be working on something somewhat different that has more applicability outside Intel. I’m also looking at other options. My managers know this. They know why. They would love to help me. But long term, they acknowledge that I’ll need to go somewhere else.

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