There are still plenty of opportunities to wear all the hats, you say to yourself, protecting your own ego. But it's not really true, and you know it...
Charles Hart / One of the growing pains our company is going through right now is transitioning from an indie startup, to a full on corporation. This is the first time i've been a part of something like this. But I doubt it's very different from any other similar transition.
When you work at a startup you get to wear a ton of different hats. You think of new features, you talk directly to customers for support, you mock up prototypes, you write throw away code, you stock the fridge and the water cooler, you create some server api's, you develop a new animation, you configure the database, you spend a few hours testing, you publish your code to the server, you create a coding style guide, you setup your own router, buy your own computer, and probably even buy a domain, shop for furniture, and brainstorm new ways to make money. And that's only half of it. You might do all of that in a day. You've been at it for years now.
Well those days are over. Like it or not, it's time to grow up.
The expectation in a mega large company is that you might be assigned one (two if you are lucky) of those previous jobs. That's what you do now. You configure the database. You are the database guy. It's who you are now. You are no longer kick butt and take names girl. Just front-end animations girl now. How you think of yourself must change.
You are of course, no less qualified to do all the other things that you used to do, in fact because you were constantly improving, you were never better at it than the day before you were supposed to stop doing it.
Now, you might think I'm exaggerating. There are still plenty of opportunities to wear all the hats, you say to yourself, protecting your own ego. But it's not really true, and you know it. Any effort going outside your scope of work is more likely to cause problems than to help. Certainly, any effort spent outside your scope comes at the opportunity cost of doing your specific job even better.
Nobody wants to hear how you can sort of do someone elses job, without it hurting your own job too much.
As you slowly start to realize these things, you start withdrawing from the variety of work you used to do. You start by easily letting go of the things you enjoyed doing least. Yes, those go quickly. Then you let go of some of the things you enjoy but that are just too time consuming. The last to go, are the hardest. The things you really really enjoyed doing before, like making important, subjective decisions (these are the hardest to let go). Your pride holds on for a while, but eventually it's obvious that your holding out just isn't helping the corporation march ahead.
We are only part of the way through this process. Many of us still hold onto our hats with our fleeting pride. If we survive the full transformation, we will work at an entirely different job than when we started. We used to be machines, now we are needed to be machined cogs.
Other cogs start appearing. "Never seen him before." "When did she start working?" "Six months ago?" "How could I not know that?". The feeling that you really know everyone at work is lost. Sure, you might celebrate their birthday in the breakroom. But that's quite a bit different than a birthday Del Taco run at 2am during one of those epic work marathons of days gone past.
Something else also happens. Doing a variety of tasks makes you feel a particular way. In the absence of these feelings your eyes start to wander. After work hours, you are no longer working on that part of work that you know needs a little extra of your attention. Side projects start creeping into your life. They give you that thrill of doing it all. "As soon as my widget app takes off!...", you say, if only to remind yourself of phrases used in days past. Previously, you would have folded all your side work back into your day job. But now it doesn't make quite as much sense. And it's not your job. And the work won't really get the attention it needs to survive.
At first you feel guilty for your side work, your wandering eyes, your interest in friends proposals to go start an indie project. But with time, you don't know what you are feeling guilty about anymore. The corporate machine is so much more than you, and you really don't understand most of what's going on there anyway. It's doubtful that your side work really does hurt such a huge corporation.
For a brief moment, you hope everyone else doesn't have the same attitude, because then it really could be an issue. But nah, that's not very likely.
As the transmogrification continues, healthcare arrives, paychecks increase, you no longer work in a hallway next to a microwave that drops your wifi. And yet, even all this has an internal downside to your indie heart. The lofty, unrealistic prospects of "future millions", that you used to take pride in,that feeling that anything could happen is gone. It is replaced by a real career path. No doubt this is something to take pride in for what it is. In fact, you are almost ashamed that you don't feel even better about it.
Everyone in your life feels way better about this aspect of your life than you do. For them it's real money, real benefits, a "real future". Previously only your optimism and dreams existed, now there are finally tangible upsides to what you do for work.
You can't really argue with that. At least without sounding like a crazy person.