Here is the content of a post that I recently wrote on the Desi Back to Desh about lessons learnt from the career choices that I have made. I think there is some room for debate on lesson three and the shape of the two wage curves. Feel free to jump in anytime.
Career Lesson One – Opt for computer science
The reason why I have such a soft corner for computer science is that I don’t think it is an optional undergraduate degree. I think it is a mandatory skill set that teaches us how to think and approach problems and then gives us an opportunity to try and test our problem solving skills using real world problems.
Think of it as vocational school combined with college education. A fun discipline that has managed to marry philosophy behind the subject (mathematical thought and logic) with its implementation (program tools, techniques and software engineering), giving its followers the power and ability to change the world around them with their own limited resources.
For me personally computer science education and practice opened many doors that would have remained closed if I had come from any other undergraduate program. And if you want to be an entrepreneur there is no other discipline that gives you the power to work with your own hands and earn a comfortable living than computer science.
Career Lesson Two – Opt for explorer roles, not cash early on
While as an outsider looking in if you review the last two years as well as the two years around my reboot adventure in 2000 you would think that I am a complete and total failure, good for only building companies that fail or get sold. While to some extent that would be a true assessment you would miss out on the incredibly rich (in terms of experiences) life I have had the privilege of living and the range of options and choices I have had in front of me even in my darkest moments. While computer science had a significant role to play in open these doors for me, the other big contributor was the fact that I was lucky enough to pick an explorer role earlier in life. I traded cash for variety and as I grew older and more mature the unexpected wisdom of that choice left me dumb founded many a years later.
Career Lesson Three – Pick your wage curve carefully
There are two types of wage curves that you can experience as a professional.
If you manage to hit your full professional potential irrespective of the fact that you work for yourself for someone else, you will hit the non-traditional line that (using current wage levels) caps off your final years at 1 – 1.5 million dollars a year in compensation by the time you cross 55. On the blue line every year you work past 50 more or less doubles your net worth. The conventional wage curve is an also ran curve that maxes out at the US$ 400,000 level just before retirement years. While the blue line starts moving away as early as 35 from traditional compensation it really takes off past 45.
The only way to get on the blue line is to be an explorer. If you are in a traditional conventional non entrepreneurial role, take risks, make bets and opt for explorer positions within your organization. But if you make a safe bet in terms of hours, roles and compensation you will miss out on the gap that exists between the two profiles.
Admittedly there are some of us who while on the blue line will still earn total wages and compensation below the red line. And that is a completely different post.