Full-Stack Dystopia: What the Future of Work Should Not Be

A while ago, Chris Messina has posted the “Full stack employee” piece on Medium. A full-stack employee is supposed to be someone who can do everything but is especially knowledgeable in one of his disciplines. Since I've been big on hiring and remote culture, let me take a couple of points of Chris and get a couple of my own thoughts in.

Full stack employees have an insatiable appetite for new ideas, best practices, and ways to be more productive and happy.

This is what I called a hacker mindset before and I believe it is a good thing. For a while, we've been looking for people like that for Lifetramp. From my experience though, finding them is relatively hard, and finding ones that also believe in your idea is almost impossible, which makes the whole idea really hard to scale.

This is where Chris's post stops making sense. Let me quote something from a bit further down in the article:

And since much of their work involves slicing through thick ambiguity — they’re given to radical clarity in certain lifestyle choices, from adopting monolithic, monochromatic wardrobes to functional culinary choices:

Non-ironically mentioning wearing monochromatic warderobe a'la Steve Jobs (hint: That turtleneck is choking you) and Soylent in one sentence is where it all goes wrong. If you're so busy you don't have time or will to enjoy a normal dinner or dress in the morning, you've probably gone off rails.

the boundaries between work and non-work blur, creating an implicit expectation that there’s never a time too late for a Slack chat or Google Hangout.

If you're allowing this to happen in your life, you've clearly failed. You've got sold on the dystopian version of remote work, being always-on and being expected to always be working. You're the Microsoft ad guy, checking your Slack instead of spending quality time with your kids or significant other. You need to snap out of this. Go read up on how the guys at Basecamp do it.

First thing that I learned the hard way about remote work is setting boundaries. Create overlap time and set meetings so the team can work with you, but make sure you don't lose out on life. It's easy to just fall into the always-on mode and eventually get burned out. Been there, done that. 2/10, not recommended.

What instead?

Well, the easiest (and the most unpopular way between 30-somethings from Silicon Valley) would be to stick to the 9-to-5. It was created for a reason. While it seems very rigid, it makes a lot of sense for a lot of people, especially if you have a family and kids. You clock off at 5pm and you go home. You don't answer your emails, you leave your mobile on your desk.

If you're one of those crazy entrepreneurship-driven (noticed how this is turning into a dirty word recently?) millenials and you want much more control over your life, schedule. Set expectations clearly or face imminent burnout. Work when you feel like it, but make sure you're not taking on more than you can handle. Have set meetings with your team to catch up to make sure nobody comes along with a 3am Hangout expecting you to be there. There's only so long you can go on Soylent and monochromatic wardrobe choices before you just want to punch someone in the face and go have a burger and a beer. Or just do whatever makes you happy — optimize for yourself, not others.

Ending with a Steve Jobs Stanford's graduation speech, that the 30-something year old unicorns of Silicon Valley overuse all the time, “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” If you're thinking about going remote to be that “full stack” person available around the clock, doing the work of the entire team, don't.

Mariusz Ciesla

Designer that codes. Director of Something, Somewhere, Eventually. Definitely not a stack of bunnies in a trench coat.

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