In defence of the long tech tenure.
In 2006 Justin Timberlake was returning sexy to its original location, James Blunt was being creepy to someone on the tube, and the Devil spent up big on Prada. Also I joined Campaign Monitor for the next decade. In 2016 (Adele saying “Hello” a lot and eventually finding Dory) I joined Help Scout and have worked there remotely ever since.
Two jobs. 16 years. In software companies. I’m like a piece of built-in office furniture compared to most people, and when I tell them they tend to have one of three reactions:
I understand the incredulity. Prior to these two jobs I hadn’t stayed anywhere more than 3 years either.
Factors that lead to a longer tenure
So why do I stay? Here’s my list of desirable company traits:
- A company that actively demonstrates values close to mine. For example, thinking that customer service is important, and backing up that belief with the investment of money and time. But also treatment of people in general among other items.
- Opportunities to learn and to try new things. I may have had the same title for years, but I haven’t always been doing the same work. I value the variety.
- Good leadership. If you have managers and leaders who are trustworthy, engaged and pleasant to work for, life is better. And work takes up a lot of life hours.
- Values humanity. A workplace which acknowledges people as people, and does not treat staff like disappointingly inefficient robots. Somewhere that allows for illness, holidays, mental health days, flexible hours, and that judges the work output instead of the process.
- Trust and autonomy. A company that trusts their staff to do the work and is accepting of mistakes. One that encourages autonomy.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. A company that not only “supports” diversity but that actively works to increase it. An ongoing learning process for me as it is for most companies.
Of course a long tenure is about me too. Specifically:
- Self-awareness. The more experience I have the better I understand what I care about, what I’m good at, and what I don’t want to do. I am pickier now because I know what matters to me.
- Life stage. My risk tolerance is lower in this young-children-and-mortgage phase of my life.
- Fear of change and risk. My comfort zone tends to be roughly the size of a snuggy. Unlike AURORA and Idina Menzel, I’m not prone to jumping into the unknown.
No job will hit 100% on every measure, every time. But to even find a company that scores well is not easy and takes a significant amount of time and effort. Of course, it’s not like staying where you are comes without costs either.
Costs of a long tenure
Being in the same company for years can mean missing out on bigger salary jumps, and a slower journey “up the ladder”. If that’s what you’re into. It might mean missed opportunities to learn new skills or to work with an incredible person elsewhere.
The critical factor, for me, is choice. I am not trapped in my job.
One reason I write articles and give conference talks is to keep a degree of visibility, so that if I did need to move it would be easier. When you feel stuck every small workplace indignity is twice as painful. When you’re staying by choice, and you know what really matters, then you can let the little things slide.
I don’t judge people who want to job hop every 18 months, but it’s not for me. Or at least, not for now. I’m happy being a reliable, well made piece of office furniture. Maybe a credenza. I think I know what they are.