High salaries, comfortable offices and “reaching for the stars”. Long hours, crazy pace and recovery “sabbaticals”. Are you sure that you want to work for a hitech company?
Larry Derfner of the Jerusalem Post has put together an exposé titled Inside the hi-tech bubble. He paints a bleak picture of what is now considered to be Israel's #1 export but the stories could easily have come from employees in Silicon Valley or elsewhere.
Here are some choice quotes from interviewees in the article:
“Israelis who work for large companies say that being relocated to America is an opportunity for relaxation”
“I got no management training, which is typical in hi-tech. They throw you in the water and if you swim, great, and if you drown, well, that's too bad. G-d forbid they should give you swimming lessons.”
“I understood from the beginning that if you're good, you advance, and if you don't advance, it's a signal that you're not good enough.”
“Everybody wants everything yesterday – bosses, customers, everybody's working at hyperspeed. I never felt I had the time to do the job as well as I wanted – I was always up against a new crisis”
“The job got into every corner of my life. I felt I was working all the time, that when I was home I was still at work. My children were being raised by babysitters.”
“No one tells you to stay at the office until eight at night, every night, but if you go home at five more than once or twice, it shows up in your year-end review.”
After my release from the Israeli Army in 1999, I started my hitech career working as a programmer for Amazon.com during the Internet Bubble, splitting my time between Paris, France and Seattle. I quickly took on a “firefighter” role running from virtual fire to virtual fire and putting them out.
I advanced when others didn't, became a manager with no management training, and worked the longest hours. A few times I even put on tefillin in my cubicle at daybreak and then left in a company-paid taxi early the next morning.
As long as I loved that job, putting in all that effort felt effortless. It was challenging and fun and there were amazingly-talented people working there.
After almost 2 years there, I resigned and moved back to Israel. I was no Amazon failure – they got a terrific return on their investment – but if some of the above quotes ring true, it's because I tolerated that situation at that time.
There will always be companies, especially small startups, that will continue many of the terrible practices mentioned above. However, as more and more talented employees push back for “work-life balance”, the industry will have no choice but to evolve to accommodate them.
The smart companies that really care about their employees will always do everything they can to keep you happy. But you need to tell them what you want, and the job interview process is the best place to do it. Life is too short to spend years wasting away at a bad company.
Is it better in America? I think that's just typical grass-is-greener envy. If anything, the changes will happen sooner in Israel where people get married and have kids younger than in other Western countries.
You don't need to be afraid to work in hitech, but more than in other industries you do need to keep things in perspective. Like with any job, know your priorities going in, check yourself every few months and you'll be fine.
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