I was one of the ‘lucky ones’ who landed an internship at a reputable tech company in university, enjoyed it, did relatively well and converted to full-time post-graduation. To so many, it was the ‘dream job’ – the insanely high-paying six-figure job, the reputation of a big tech company, and all the prestige that came along with being employed in one.
What people didn’t know was the reality of corporate. How especially so in tech companies, you’re often thrown into the deep seas, left to swim out of the ocean alone.
Starting Fresh at a Six-Figure Job
Fresh out of university, being employed at a tech company does not come with hand-holding, guidance and structured mentorship you think an entry-level role would. I had to figure out for myself everything from A to Z. Because of the nature of the industry, even my in-line manager didn’t have the answers. We were hired to come up with them. In fact, when I was first interviewed for the role, I was promised a mentor who would be there to guide me. Excited to meet him, I came into office on #dayone, only to find out that he was no longer with the company.
“A high-flyer superior actually recommended me to fabricate results. Beyond being shocked, I went to investigate his past, notable achievements in the company, but realised I couldn’t find anything concrete.”
In my first year, I was struggling to meet my KPIs for the quarter, and a high-flyer superior actually recommended me to fabricate results. Beyond being shocked, I went to investigate his past, notable achievements in the company, but realised I couldn’t find anything concrete. I brought this up to higher authorities and they did not take me seriously. “He would never do such a thing,” they said. I was instead reprimanded and told that it wasn’t a problem – all that within my first four months of employment.
“Everything is good, right?”
I would start bawling my eyes out every time my friends asked me about work, and I wouldn’t be able to stop. It’s so far from the truth of what people perceive working in tech to be, which was so unsettling and painful to resolve within. I asked myself a lot – I’m supposed to be happy, right? I’m taking home loads of money, I’m in a company people would die to be in – just exactly why is this not working out for me? Am I the problem?
Within the first six months of my employment, I started to understand the reality of corporate culture. If you wanted to do well and climb the corporate ladder, you’d have to know how to tell stories, play the game and know the right people.
Eventually, I wasn’t sure if this was the game I really wanted to play, even if I could.
Drowning in A Six-Figure Job
I had to do something about it. I hired a personal fitness instructor to try to work on my health and indeed got fitter. I thought, perhaps with good physical health comes good mental health too. But nothing changed – when I woke up in the morning, I just didn’t want to work. I didn’t want to reply anybody, and didn’t even have the energy to reply my friends. Even when I was overseas on vacation, I dreaded the reality of having to come back to Singapore.
I then signed myself up for many courses, because I really felt like I needed something more. That I needed help. I shared that I ticked all the checkboxes for success – great pay, even better company, fit and had friends. But I still felt like shit all the time. I just didn’t know why. My body have started adapting to cope with these emotions, I’m clenched up all the time, and I’m constantly in fight or flight. If it was the job I hate, I didn’t know what I hated so much when on paper – it’s simply to die for.
It took me a few sessions, trying a mixed array of different courses, webinars, coping techniques, coaching and life lessons before I understood all that there is. When we grow up in this era, we learn so much about material success – what society has constructed it to be that we’ve completely neglected emotional and spiritual success. The latter two are as important, if not more important than wealth ever will be. And sometimes you have to go through the full cycle to see the reality of all there is. To see that not everyone shares the same experience, that what you experience might not be the puzzle piece fit you’re looking for but someone else’s. What your being deems successful, might be drastically different from what society perceives it all to be, and it’s okay.
Quitting My Six-Figure Job At 28
I left my job early this year, I just knew this wasn’t for me. It did take a few more months for me to come to complete terms with it – largely because of the identity you carve for yourself in your career, especially if you’re in a prestigious tech company. It’s not just leaving the company, it’s also leaving your prestige, your reputation – your whole identity that all your peers, colleagues, friends and family members have known you to be behind. From tech-girl-who-has-it-all to a nobody.
But once I got out of the environment, I started to feel excitement in life again. After three painstakingly long years in tech, I realised that I really wanted to help others like me, who have gone through what I have and felt tired, helpless and alone. I wanted to help others going through the same pain. I had friends at other tech companies such as G***** as well, who later confided in me that they went through the exact same experience. The pain of it all – feeling worse when people ask you why you want to quit. You don’t realise that it’s perhaps not for you, you put it all aside and allow for society to pressure into doing it just because it looks successful.
And I’m here to tell you it’s not just you. And you’re not alone. Your sanity and happiness is something that money can never buy. This is why I’m always open if young tech hires are looking to speak to anyone – I’ll gladly be the logical voice to your emotions. I hope that in showing up for the world the same way I hoped people had shown up for me, I can create a safe space for anyone struggling in their career.
It’s scary, but you can do the same. You don’t have to quit, but I hope you remember that material success isn’t all there is to life. You definitely need money to put food on the table, but the truth is that at the end of the day, it’s how you feel that matters. For all working executives, I hope you’re doing your best and your happiest at work. For the ones who aren’t, it’s never too late to start asking why. Reach out should you ever need it.
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