Why Millennials Are Leaving Six-Figure Tech Jobs

To most workers in the US, the
perks given to those who work in tech are astounding! $2,000 to
spend on a vacation anywhere in the world. $2,500 per year for
student loans. $4,000 in baby cash for new parents. That on
top of lavish offices decked out with in-house massage parlors,
gyms and cafeterias serving free, restaurant-quality-food. During the pandemic, in-office,
perks were replaced by money to furnish home offices, mental
health days, and the freedom to work from home forever. In an
industry fraught with competition for the brightest
minds, perks have become a way to not only attract but also
retain top talent. The benefits and perks package
alone, I would say, probably was at least 40 or 50k. This on top of salaries that are
multiple times higher than those of other industries. In 2019, the average tech salary
in the US was $146,000. That's almost three times the median
salary of public school workers, who made up the largest industry
of workers in the country in 2021.

But even those swanky office
spaces, six-figure salaries and unlimited time off are not
enough to keep some millennials from leaving their tech jobs. I expected kind of this perfect
work environment, but it was ultimately still a big company
with a lot of those same corporate problems that you get
in a large company. Hi there. Can you hear me? CNBC spoke to several people who
left their lucrative tech jobs to ask them one question. Why? Free team-building trips to
Hawaii and private concerts aside, the tech industry can be
stressful. I'm curious, was there a moment
for you when you started noticing that they'd like some
of the the perks kind of start losing their luster? A lot of these companies have
unlimited paid time off. Sounds amazing, right? What happens in
practice is a lot of people take less than you would otherwise.
They serve dinner every day.

But they serve it really late. So if
you want the dinner, you got to stay at the office. So it's
things like that, where it's really, it's a good perk, right?
But there's something about it that makes you work more. Aaron Jack landed a coveted job
at Uber as a software engineer in 2018, after going through an
intensive coding boot camp in San Francisco, I guess I'd never considered
that you can even get into something like Uber or Google. I
thought those were kind of like reserved for, you know, really
elite individuals. Jack says that Uber was the best
job he ever had. But being a part of an industry that thrives
on efficiency and innovation meant the pace could be
unrelenting, It started out really great.
Because I was new.

I was just learning everything, right? But
the longer I actually stayed, the more yeah, the
responsibilities kept kind of increasing on me because I
became a critical member of my team. I felt kind of stuck
because you get motivated to finish and you're like, 'oh, I'm
stressed to meet this deadline.' But then you're almost on a
treadmill where you finish and then you just get a new project.

Anna Arsentieva worked as a
software engineer before leaving in December of 2020. I got my things there. About to
head out from the building. I've been here for the last eight
years. I'm about to set the alarm and leave for the day, and
not for the day but actually leave this time. The company where she worked
didn't offer the same perks as the big tech giants, but it did
offer a good work-life balance. Still, she felt a similar type
of pressure. What led to the burn out, it was
not the amount of hours I was putting in, but the fact that I
will have a project, I will get everything I can to make it
successful, as soon as that project ends, immediately a new
one starts.

Jack and Arsentieva are not
alone. A 2018 survey by Blind, an anonymous workplace chat app,
found that over 50% of the close to 11,500 tech workers surveyed
answered 'yes,' when asked if they currently suffered from job
burnout. Compare that to a 2019 survey of 15,000 physicians,
only 42% of whom said that they felt burnt out. And the pandemic only seems to
have made things worse. So many of my clients found
themselves working all the time. Rolling out of bed in the
morning, working. Thinking, 'well, I have nowhere to go this
evening so I might as well just keep working.' Waking up on a
Saturday, 'I have nothing to do, well, I might as well just keep
going.' There is this understanding of
you're being paid well, there's all these perks, there's, you
know, stock options.

We're giving you a lot, and in
exchange, you know, we're really requiring you to work those
extra hours. A 2020 survey by bBind showed
that 68% of tech workers felt more burnt out while working
from home than while working from the office. The survey
included over 3000 employees working at companies like
Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google. Beyond the day to day pressure,
some said stagnation played a role in their decision to leave
their tech jobs. I was looking at the trajectory
of the job over time, and I didn't really see the growth
opportunities I wanted.

In fact, a 2020 survey of more
than 4000 tech workers found that following salary, the
opportunity to learn new skills was the second largest motivator
to accept a new job offer. The same survey found that 58% of
tech workers would leave their current job for another one, if
presented new challenges and problems to solve. Jack imagined
his life 10 years into the future. You're still in the same office.
You're at the same desk. Have the same chair, same commute.
So the details change, but your life is kind of the same. Arsentieva agrees that the
desire to keep learning and growing played a part in her
decision to leave. In 2019, at the end of the year,
I was talking with my manager that I want to do something
else, I want to learn something else. And it just happened that
my interests were not aligned with the interests or the needs
that the company had at the time, Arsentieva persevered out of a
sense of loyalty. Her company had hired her with almost no
experience after she immigrated to the U.S. from Europe. But she
volunteered to leave when the company downsized due to the
pandemic and spent the next six months studying web development.

Claire Shapiro joined Google
straight out of college and quickly began pulling in a
six-figure salary. But after years in a number of different
roles, she felt stuck in the tech bubble. I heard from so many other
people that had other diverse experiences outside of Google,
you know, that you can't really fully appreciate Google, or you
can't really understand without having this kind of other
context. It did feel like well, wow, if I don't leave now, I
could stay here for the rest of my life. In 2018, Shapiro took a 50% pay
cut and moved to Belgium for a new position as a design
consultant for the Board of Innovation. I thought, you know, I think the
work that I am doing is not energizing me to the fullest.
And I think I could probably find that potentially outside of
Google. And I did. The tech industry is built on
entrepreneurs. So it's no surprise that many of those who
leave their tech jobs do so to start their own endeavors.

That
was the case with Morgan DeBaun. I wanted to be an entrepreneur
full-time. I wanted to move fast and not get too attached to
having, you know, a nice six-figure income at such a
young age. Like Shapiro, DeBaun started
working at Intuit right after college and quickly moved
through the ranks. But working as a product manager, she
noticed a blind spot in the products that she was helping to
develop, When we're looking at good
target users as a product manager, which was my first
role, you create these user personas, right? And so you
describe the person, you describe the target person, what
is what do they look like? What do they eat? Where do they shop?
What problems are they solving? What technology do they use?
Because you really want to have empathy for the customer.

And at
the time, it felt like every customer's identity was all the
same. It was these white people, middle class, and I'm like,
'wait, hold on, this can't, this can't be good.' And there's
clearly a disconnect here. DeBaun says that she liked her
job, but thought that she could make a bigger impact by founding
her own company. I don't think that there's any
tech company that's ever going to put the black audience and
the black community and the black customer base as their
core demographic that they're solving for. In 2014, she launched Blavity, a
media company geared towards black millennials. Is there anything that tech
could have done to keep you specifically in tech? I don't know that there's
anything that could have kept me working at a big tech company.
As a young black woman, I just, I didn't want to fight so many
fights for the rest of my life.

I think that I've made a lot
more progress outside of a corporate entity, and been able
to push a lot more tech companies to be more diverse,
and empower black people to be in the technology industry and
be more equipped to be able to influence these product
decisions. Definitely more than I could have been as being a
group director or VP at one of these tech companies. Jack and Shapiro have also
struck out on their own. I actually spent the better part
of, you know, six months developing my own kind of better
coding boot camp. Freemote, the freelance developer boot camp,
that solved a lot of the problems of the boot camp I went
to. Although Shapiro still works on
some projects with the Board of Innovation, she has also found
her calling as a freelance product and business design
consultant.

Right now I'm making less than I
made at Google, but that's partially by design. I really am
prioritizing not as much the salary side and more of the
work-life balance and having experience side of it. In an industry as competitive as
tech, top talent is crucial. And those who leave are doggedly
pursued to return. Google does an excellent job of
maintaining connection with people that leave.

I had a
dedicated recruiter that I could call at any time that checked in
with me once a year. Asked me how my job was going and asked
me what I was doing, you know, I get recruited still to come
back into a big tech company. And I always just like, it makes
me happy. Because I'm like, 'yes, keep trying to get me back
into the system.' But I'm busy! If you didn't have this grand
vision, do you think that you would have left tech? No, I don't think that I would
have left tech if I didn't have a vision or didn't have an
internal purpose that was driving me. And going back is certainly
tempting. For me, I don't think that I
would go back unless the sort of structure and the roles that I
would want to have kind of came into Google. So who knows. If
Google and I meet again, I won't be mad about it.

After a six month hiatus,
Arsentieva got another tech job. This time as a software
engineering manager at a company that helps match customers with
car and health insurance. Do you feel like you are less
burnt out from this job? Honestly, no. I want to give the
best I can. So I put a lot of hours. But it's never asked of
me. Actually, in reality. My manager told me I should stop
working so many hours and take it easy because they want me for
the long run, not for me to get burned out again.

But stress and its impact on
mental and physical well being isn't unique to the tech
industry. A 2021 survey of 1500 workers from different industry
sectors found that 52% of the respondents are experiencing
burnout. Still, the restrictions of the
past year have given a lot of young tech workers the time to
think. I think it's really hard to make
this transition into a role where there aren't the perks and
the money is very different. But I think now people are, now that
they've been away from it for a year that it's an easier
transition.

For those in tech wondering if
they should quit their jobs, Jack says it might be worth the
risk. If you're someone in tech, then
you have skills that are just intrinsically valuable. You can
always get back and do it again..

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