Motivations and Money

Written on 25 May, 2015

Apparently it's been over a year since I added anything on here, which is mainly terrifying because it feels like 3 months at most. I've held off on a lot of practical posts thinking they'd be useful to save for Bopp, but now it's come to the point I'm actively working on Bopp, the writing hand feels a little rusty. So this is me dusting off the cobwebs.

Fashionably late, the origins of this post were mainly a reaction to #talkpay, a trending Twitter topic from a few weeks ago where people were encouraged to share their job and earnings.

There’s been a lot of conversation around whether this is a good or bad thing. I agree shouting into the wilderness (well, the tech bubble wilderness) perhaps isn’t the ideal environment for genuine insight into whether you’re making a fair buck, but it’s got people talking at least, and that can only be a good thing.

There’s varying reasons why people don’t agree. “People” often being well paid white men who are totally naive to the regularity of gender, age, and racial discrimination in all industries, and especially tech. What some people see as a boastful statement of wealth can be legitimately useful information for young freelancers or a lone woman in a dev team.

Out of those reasons, the most exasperating point which appears over and over again is how it’s “not about the money”. That you should ignore all external factors, industry standards, and simply ask for more if you think “that’s what you deserve”. That we should all work towards making enough to live comfortably in a nice location with the people we love and thus, inner contentment is reached. Along with some other zen bullshit.

I get that money shouldn’t be a constant focus with your job. I also definitely know you need to love what you do to produce truly great work. But I accept that:

  1. It does’t happen 24/7. Sometimes, this shit simply feels like a chore.
  2. It isn’t mutually exclusive with the desire to make more money. Both can co-exist just fine.

There’s also various reasoning for why people wish to make money. It’s foolish to assume the intentions are consistently negative and greedy.

I’ve always had half an eye on stumbling upon some half decent product idea in the earlier years of my career and making a successful business out of it. I’ve also always planned to sell if that business ever became valuable enough to make a fair wedge of £ from an exit. But any kind of substantial cash injection for my bank account would go straight in to giving my parents a (slightly) early retirement, after working 7 day weeks and 12 hour days for nearly 20 years in the later part of their careers (aka planning for an early retirement), only to be dealt with the roughest of hands with the financial crisis of 2008 for their business. While they suffered bad luck, I grasped good luck by accidentally falling into a lucrative industry at the right time, and would love to help them in one way that I potentially can.

Does chasing money seem so ill-intentioned then?

In the meantime, slightly less substantial pay bumps via a rate increase will most likely fund more working travels and basic time off. A more selfish prize, but maybe slightly more sensical than investing in the latest shiny thing. To summarise, my moral compass has no issue with taking more money off my clients (as my skillset improves) to instigate more time abroad, or selling a company with the idea of helping my family out.

Everyone has their own story and motivation for making money. I’m not naive to plenty of people having the wrong intentions, but it’s damaging to assume that’s always the case.

If we can get over the mantra that focus on money and earnings is a bad thing, it’ll go a long way to making that side of the industry far more transparent, which can only be a good thing for making tech a fairer place. A hashtag on Twitter may not be the finessed solution, but I’m really hoping it’s a step towards transparent salaries, open freelance rates, and general debate around money in podcasts, blogs, and actual human discussion.

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