Tom Preston-Werner, one of the founders of GitHub , wrote an enlightening article about his decision to turn down 300K bonus from Microsoft in order to work on the GitHub project one year ago . A beautifully written article. I love it absolutely.
For the benefits of those who are put off by the length of the article, let me offer here a summary. Tom and Chris decided to hack an online service providing Git repository hosting and collaboration tools about a year ago. At that time Tom was still working full time on Powerset , so GitHub was just his part time project. Powerset was acquired by Microsoft for 100 Million last year, and Tom was offered with a salary plus a 300K signing bonus. It was, by any measure, a great offering.
Choosing between a startup opportunity and a lucrative and yet safe employment is always difficult for anyone, Tom included. But finally he decided to pursue his dream, because at the end of the day, he
could no less turn down the chance to work for myself on something I truly love, no matter how safe the alternative might be. When I’m old and dying, I plan to look back on my life and say “wow, that was an adventure,” not “wow, I sure felt safe.”
Work for fun, and hope that what you will hit big some day. Forgoing a secure employment in the search of achieving financial independence. Isn't that what entrepreneurs' are for?
I must say that such a story resonates with a majority of software developers. We are, on average, smarter than the population, and we have a higher level of independence. We are not robot, waiting for instructions to turn us on. We are always adventurous, and we want to strike on our own.
And when we are twenty something, we really don't have much to lose, we have the skills, the time, and attitude and the appetite for risk, why not make the Try of the life time? If we fail-- and most of us will-- it won't be the end of the world. But if we do make it, imagine the rewards.
This is why a lot of young developers I know ( myself included) are willing to invest time and energy in personal projects. We want to learn the next new thing, we want to know what the world is thinking and we want to be able to improve the tools we have, the world around us even by just a little. Of course, we hope for the day of big pay-off to arrive. We are not contend with a daily 9-5 job, fully knowing that the moment one stops learning, that's the moment one starts to slip into oblivion. In front of us there are many, many people who turn their personal projects into a successful business. They are our role model, they are the examples that we can learn from.
Of course, a lot of people who are no less ambitious and smarts failed. But really, that shouldn't be an excuse for us to sit back and do nothing. Call us naive, call us any name you want. But it was the naive who revolutionized the world.
Life is great, when you have dream!