There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Dinner

Recently I was contacted by a recruiter for a prominent West Coast startup. As I was scanning over the “about our company” blurb provided by the recruiter, my eyes stopped on the phrase “…free lunch and dinner“. I knew at that moment it was probably not a company I wanted to work for.

I’m sure they intended it as a perk. “We feed our employees, just like Google!”. But what “free dinner” says to me is “our employees are expected to work straight through dinner”. Which might sound fine if you’re fresh out of college and looking for experience. But to me and, I suspect, to a growing number of the developers I know, it sounds like a recipe for burnout.

I’m not willing to trade in my family life for a quick buck. And I’m not sure that the teams which have decided to make that trade-off are doing themselves any favors. Unless your plan is to be bought out quickly and leave someone else to pick up the pieces, a sustainable development pace will win every time.

Which brings me to We Are Titans, my new employer. I’ve known Evan Light, c-owner of WAT, for a few years now. We originally met and became friends at RubyFringe, where we were both powerfully moved by Damian Katz‘ talk about pursuing his dreams while also supporting a family. More than any other developer I know, Evan and I see eye-to-eye about the importance of making work one of the pillars supporting the realization of your higher goals, instead of of a competing interest. As a result, WAT gets the importance of family and community in fundamental ways: for instance, by not expecting talent to pick up and move to the other side of the country for the sake of their work.

This afternoon I was sitting in my back yard, cradling my newborn daughter in one arm while talking on the phone to Evan about company t-shirts. I asked for one for each member of the family – all six of us. In some companies this would be a loyalty stunt. But I wanted the shirts for a different reason. I wanted them because at WAT, for the first time, I feel like my whole family has a place at the table.