Thoughts on Career, Living, and Work

I've been working at Google as a Software Engineer since June 21, 2021. At the time of writing this, it has been 743 days. That's a lot of time. I have concerns that I am not getting everything that I ought to be getting out of life, entirely through my own fault. Writing down these thoughts should help detangle my mind.


In October of 2022 I was promoted from L3 to L4 at Google. This is considered a good, but not mind-blowing timeline. There was a small immediate salary change, then a larger change later in March of 2023.

In March 2023 I am working on a high visibility, internally and externally, product. As a core contributor with all the other members of my team being my senior, I feel that this work is highly beneficial for my career at Google. However, I am unsure if continuing to do this work is beneficial for my career as a whole.

What makes something "good for your career?"

Some candidate options for what makes a opportunity good for ones career include money, learning opportunities, and networking opportunities. If we suppose we can only optimize for one in the short term, at the expense of the other two, we can generate a list of pros and cons.

Prioritize Money

Pros: Selecting for higher income is the most tangible trade for the opportunity cost of now for the flexibility that capital affords your later. Money can be used for personal fulfillment through vices, facilitating retirement, or enabling future investments.

Cons: Working at the expense of learning and networking opportunities seems to immediately imply that optimizing for money in the short term directly leads to losing money in the long term.

With this simple analysis it is immediately apparent that prioritizing money alone for something that lasts as long as a career is ineffective. You stand to lose the very thing you are optimizing on.

Prioritize Learning Opportunities

This is a favorite for "influencers" online or for anyone who want's to give uninformative platitudes to a junior or mentee.

Pros: If your value is directly tied to the sum of all you have learned, prioritizing learning means that you will quickly become an irreplaceable component of any system you participate in. Your value as an educated person can directly bring about more money and better networking opportunities.

Cons: Sacrificing both income and network is reminiscent of Good Will Hunting. You could very well be an unrecognized, isolated, and underpaid master of your craft.

This option is definitely a difficult analysis. You can certainly see concrete situations where prioritizing learning leads to successful and respected careers. [1] In the exact same way you can find yourself forgotten by your peers.

Prioritize Networking

Pros: This stands to be the highest lifetime career earning opportunity in my mind. I've seen fantastic networkers and they are like an entirely different species when it comes to getting people to support you.

Cons: This is called being a sleaze.

[1] See: John Carmack, Eliezer Yudkowsky

Subscribe to Thorne Wolfenbarger - Blog

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.