I started a boutique hotel company when I was 26 and, after 24 years as CEO, sold it at the bottom of the Great Recession, not knowing what was next.
That’s when Airbnb came calling. In early 2013 cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky approached me after reading my book Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow. He and his two Millennial cofounders wanted me to help turn their growing tech startup into an international giant, as their Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy. Sounded good.
But I was an “old-school” hotel guy and had never used Airbnb. I didn’t even have the Uber app on my phone. I was 52 years old, I’d never worked in a tech company, I didn’t code, I was twice the age of the average Airbnb employee, and, after running my own company for well over two decades, I’d be reporting to a smart guy 21 years my junior. I was a little intimidated. But I took the job.
In my case, I have four vocations: I’m a corporate strategist at a Fortune 500 company, US Navy Reserve officer, author of several books, and record producer. The two questions that people ask me most frequently are “How much do you sleep?” and “How do you find time to do it all?” (my answers: “plenty” and “I make the time”). Yet these “process” questions don’t get to the heart of my reasons and motivations. Instead, a more revealing query would be, “Why do you have multiple careers?”
Read more on Why you should have (at least) two careers
Today was a tough day: one of those days when you’re trying to achieve your todo list items, but it just seems that the world is against you. Then I had an epiphany.
As many of you know, I’m a software developer. I always thought that my job was to produce lines of code, to design software systems, to review pull requests, and so on.
So I consider every day that I’m unable to write at least a line of code a wasted day.
“So what is preventing you from doing your job?” I hear you asking.
“Did you wrote this part of the system last year? Can you help me? I have to extend it…”
“Can you help me with this git command?”
“I just wanted your opinion…how would you solve this problem, given these constraints?”
So, today, when I was sitting at my desk for the first time at 4 pm, 8 hours later I entered the office, I was furious to see Slack notifying me yet another “Can you help me with..” message.
But then, it happened.
I realized that, despite the fact that I haven’t produced a single line of code, I enabled more than ten people to continue their work.
I helped all those stuck people to overcome a simple issue that was preventing them from keeping on working.
So, instead of being bothered, I decided to be proud. Instead of being shallow, I decided to give every person the time he needs to understand deeply what he’s asking me.
And I like to think that, as I’m growing as a person, my professional side is also changing, growing and adapting. Taking me to my next challenge.
So, the next time that someone asks you for help, think that they’re helping you grow.
Your career is your responsibility. It is not your employer’s responsibility to make sure you are marketable. It is not your employer’s responsibility to train you, or to send you to conferences, or to buy you books. These things are your responsibility. Woe to the software developer who entrusts his career to his employer.
The Clean Coder