“the best $1.80 I ever spent”

If your not sure what the title quote is from Check out Young Guns 2.  As for this post however keep reading to see if I ever get to a point.  Currently it is 3:37am in the morning.  Again I can’t sleep.  Not sure if I rested to much today after a week of almost not sleep, drank a bit to much caffeine or if I am just currently unable to calm down during this career transition.  No matter what the cause I did what I normally do when I realize I wont sleep before I have to get dressed and head into work  (in this case a my old office, my current clients office and the new office by the end of the day) I took a shower shaved and put on some coffee.  I don’t know about you, but I do some of my best thinking in the shower or when driving on long trips alone.  It was durring the above mentioned shower that this post and the thoughts it contain popped into my racing mind.  Enjoy it could be a fun read.

Most of the feedback I have received concerning my new job and career path has been overwhelmingly positive.  But some has not.  Quite bluntly a few feel I have whored myself out for money.  So let me tell you what I told them…Yes as a matter of fact I did.  I did it for the money.

Now with that out of the way let me explain.  If you have taken the time to bore yourself with my resume you will find that I am no stranger to changing jobs.  As on physc eval i took  (was required for all employees at a past job) stated I have rather high tolerance for change.  But regardless of those things that does not mean I have not been hoping to land someplace and stay for 30 years and retire.  But alas that is not the world I live in.  I would venture to say that is not the world that pretty much anyone lives in these days.  So what does this have to do with me taking a job for the cash?  Well my fine reader it is like this.

When I was first coming out of college I bounced through 3 jobs pretty quickly each time going for a bigger paycheck and each time jumping from one fire right into a bigger fire.  Now that is not to say that I did not do well in those situations but it was not conducive to a healthly lifestyle.  So when I switched to consulting for VARs about six years ago I said screw it and took a lateral move in pay so I could do something fun that fit me.  Two and a half years after that I took another lateral to join the team that I knew would be fun and fit who I was.  I was over chasing cash.  Fast forward to today and you say I thought he was done chasing cash….so why did he say he did it for the money?

That part is a bit more complex but in my mind more important to those of you starting or in the middle of your career path.  Since day one I have understood that I am trading my time, skill and opinions for money that enables me to feed my family and do cool stuff like buy guns or ride motorcycles.  But for me this realization has always pointed to a major flaw in how I am trading my talents and time for money.  I have always been a crazy worker.  I just love what I do.  When I worked helpdesk I would stay till my next shift helping the network team solve a problem.  When I am at clients and they have a non-network issue I take my time not theirs or my companies to help them solve it.  The problem lies in the fact that no employer I have ever had understands fully what value that brings to them.  Instead they have seen me and others as commodities that can be replaced with a nod and a wink.  Well they have been wrong.  “the best $1.80 I ever spent” from my past employers perspective should have been a $1.80 per hour after my normal 40 hours, or a $1.80 of each $1000 I brought to the table or saved us through good design.  How about $1.80 per time I took a call on my time to make them money that I never saw a dime of?  As I laid out in hard numbers to the owner of the first consulting company I worked for, by the time I finished what was then a 70 to 80 hour week for him I was making less than someone at McDonalds yet he was making $60 an hour in profit (I did the numbers minus my salary, insurance and incidentals) .  But alas it fell on deaf ears and I moved on.

So lets wrap back around to why I did it for the money.  This time around it was simple.  Continuing to work for a VAR and start focusing on Pre-Sales and architecture was going to be tons of fun.  But financially it had a hard cap.  Base was X and bonus if I met goals was Y, and I even asked the question ok so what happens when I am directly responsible for bringing in more than half of my branches revenue in a year?  The answer….Base is X and bonus would be Y.  So moving on the my new job when I look at it I am going to be doing things I have never done at this level.

  • Manage my own team.  Sure I have managed people but to have my own team to build in the right IT image is awesome both in responsibility and opportunity.
  • Build a ground up enterprise class network serving medical patients around the world through Video Interpreting.
  • Help grow a business that is not based around hardware and pure IT service sales.  Dave Ramsey likes to say a good salesperson can sell anything.  Well I am getting ready to find out if that is true.  I was good at selling tech because I knew it inside and out and I was passionate about it.

So the point I am making is there are really great opportunities here.  So when the scales line up and are equal what becomes the balancing factor…well for me cold hard cash.

So lets recap…  Old opportunity was Base of X bonus of Y.  So I have to factor that against my new oppertunity  Base of XX bonus of ? and a share of every new dollar of business we can generate.  So let me think about it…Yes I think I will take a larger base the opportunity for a bonus if I do my job well and oh wait, an in writing profit share that grows uncapped based on how much we can grow the biz.  So for once trading my time for money actually makes sense.

I think the take away here for folks is not to undervalue what yourself.  I have had a very successful career so far.  But at each turn I have rushed things, assumed others were smarter and better than me (even though they were hiring me to do things they could not) and neglected to be clear on the front what I bring to the table.  Your resume will never get you more than a 10 to 30 percent bump in a new job.  Being able to sit in a room with the CEO, CFO and COO of a company in transition and tell them not only how you are going to fix their network but how you are going to grow their buissiness as a whole just may bring you more opportunity than you ever could have imagined.

So yes I did it for the money.  And “the best $1.80 I ever spent” was for the parking meter down town Columbus, Ohio when I parked to interview for my new job that I start full time next Tuesday December 14.  Take risks, reap the rewards or die wondering what could have been.

About Josh O'Brien

Josh is the CTO of Language Access Network in Columbus, Ohio. Over his career he as had extensive experience in networking environments. These experiences have led him to design and implement hundreds of customer networks as a consultant. Currently Josh focuses growing nationwide medical networks and providing cutting edge video services to the medical community.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with your reasoning. Everyone does this job for money. Those who don’t are lying. If you happen to like what you do, then even better, but none of us do this for free. Anyone who has been in this line of work for more than a couple of years knows that you have to take care of yourself. No company is going to do it for you. You have to manage your own career. If you are good at what you do, there are times in which you have to leave a job because you have outgrown it. There are also times in which you have to leave a job because you are not valued according to your contribution.

    There are a whole lot of people out there who are just happy to have a job and don’t want to rock the boat. Staying somewhere for any number of years is comfortable for them. That’s not to say that you can’t stay at company XYZ for 30 or 40 years. You can. It’s just that finding companies that are worth staying at for that long is a hard task. The British Special Air Service, who are undoubtedly one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever seen, have a motto that simply says: “Who Dares Wins”. I’m a firm believer that when opportunity knocks, you better answer. It may not knock again. Of course, experience will tell you when to actually answer the door as not all opportunities are good ones. Sometimes answering the door is taking a risk. However, playing it safe never got anyone anywhere other than a safe place. Great careers are not found in safety.

    I love the Young Guns reference by the way! Emilio Estevez rocked in that role as Billy the Kid! Enjoy your new job and ignore those who criticize you for looking out for yourself. Remember that history never remembers the critics. It only remembers those who actually accomplished something. Go out there and build something really cool and tell us all about it!