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It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, much less anything from the heart. Recently, though, I’ve been wrestling with things and writing feels like a way to get it all out there.

Let’s be Honest

I have an amazing life. My wife is wonderful, my kids are cute and healthy, my family is supportive and caring. I’ve experienced fantastic things in my life and I have excellent relationships with friends from childhood to adulthood. I transitioned from finance into tech and (thanks to COVID) my work life is extremely flexible.

All that said, within my career, in my view, I’ve underachieved. I’ve been a good, but not great, employee at every job I’ve had. With the exception of a few three month blocks here and there, I’m constantly looking outside the workplace for career satisfaction. I’ve built numerous side projects and always seem to be angling for the escape.

This has held me back from “career progress”. At the companies where I’ve worked, including my current job at Palantir, I’ve nestled into a (much too) comfortable individual contributor role. Show up each day, knock out a few tasks, call it a day. I don’t lead any teams, manage anyone, or make important decisions.

Looking Back

I moved to San Francisco in 2012 because I wanted to build things. I had visited the year before on a 5 day break from the enthralling (ha!) world of finance, and met a couple guys working at Google and Facebook that were building the applications I used. I couldn’t believe it. At that moment I made up my mind to spend my career building.

After a few months of tinkering, I finally started working in tech as a data analyst. It wasn’t the job I wanted but it was my foot in the door and led to better jobs at more respectable companies. Around the time of that first job, I met my wife. Her ease and happiness changed my life. Most of all, I began to see our future together from very early on. During one conversation while hiking up Mt. Tam she mentioned her hopes for post-PhD - moving to London or Switzerland to be closer to her family in Turkey. It set the course of my life.

Four and a half years after moving to California, I headed to the UK to go back to school and learn software. After that year, I joined Entrepreneur First to finally get going on my original plan - leading a company. Unfortunately, when we started facing hard questions about the future of our idea, my co-founder and I saw things differently. We had to stop, we both knew it.

At the time, living in London off my credit cards, with a long distance girlfriend living in Istanbul, I needed stability. Our relationship needed stability. I was fortunate to have a friend from my college days working at Palantir in London, applied, and started working there in 2018.

I knew I’d have another chance to start a company, but for now, I had other aspects of life to settle into and Palantir was full of smart people. Perhaps someone I’d work with in the future.

Family Man

In late 2018, my wife left her job in Turkey and decided to come to London. She didn’t have a job, didn’t know where her career would go, but wanted to make things work. So I proposed.

We got married in 2019 and exactly one year later, in August 2020 during the height of the pandemic, our first son was born. At this point, everyone was working from home. My wife and I had already retreated to the suburbs and our life in the burbs was (and is) fantastic. It’s green, clean, and spacious. We don’t have access to all the restaurants and shows, but we don’t really have time for them anyways. Three years later, our second son was born. We’re a happy little family of four living an hour outside of London. If the weather didn’t suck and the food weren’t English, it would sound like the perfect life.

The Struggle

Since my first son was born, our whole family has had breakfast and dinner together nearly every day. When I read that, I’m not sure how to feel. I’m proud of it, happy that my kids have parents who are so present. At the same time, I feel like I don’t work hard enough. I don’t do enough. It holds me back from taking on more at my job, whether I want to admit it or not.

I love the flexibility to go for a run during the day, bring my kids to the doctor when they need it, and regularly have fun with them. But there’s a cost. Anything you say “yes” to is a “no” to something else. Deep down, I want to say yes to my kids, not my job, but the cost is starting to grow.

I love living outside London, but again, it’s not for free. It may be spacious and less crowded, but that crowdedness is where a big city gets its value. Serendipity happens at the office, not on Zoom. Acquaintances rarely pop into the suburbs for a couple nights. I’ve seen my social circle expand to friends from daycare and school, but few (if any) share my career interests or aspirations.

The hardest thing to admit, despite the points above, my career has faltered because of my lack of focus. I don’t put my head down, ignore the outside world, and continue with my work. Instead, there’s constantly another shiny object that I reach toward. A new project or position, a different angle or new path to take. Whether in London or not, with kids or not, I’ve always been attracted to the next shiny thing.

Looking Ahead

I want to start a company. It’s not the money or some nonsense about saving the world. I want to leverage every bit of myself. I’m not a great programmer, yet that’s where I’m expected to put nearly all of my time. I don’t explore sales, product development, people management, or any of the other skills I want to build. Beyond those personal pieces, my upside is limited. That’s mostly fine, and it’s the price for having stability and security, but it doesn’t get my heart racing to wake up at 4am and get to work. To ignore Twitter and actually get to work. I make a salary, it’s comfortable, and it’s eating at my motivation.

I need to build relationships. It’s amazing how much a single conversation can change your day, your week, even your life. I sit in my own head and try to think my way out of problems.

I need to be consistent. It starts with my job but it’s more than that. There are technologies and industries I find interesting. Reevaluating my path every third day and deciding on a new industry has led me in circles. This email’s being written in 2024, but it could have easily been from 2020 or 2016.

Write More, Talk Less

I’m not sure who’s reading this. I don’t plan to publish it very widely, except on HackerNews where hopefully some kind souls can empathize and provide some much needed advice and/or encouragement.

Instead of pushing it aggressively, I’m going to write more regularly as I make progress. As I work to create a career I’m proud of.


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