Honesty, integrity, and responsibility should be the core values of all practicing engineers. And we should practice them outside of work as well.
By a show of hands, how many of you jumped ship from a stable engineering company to a startup in the late '90s? I bet if you didn't, you at least thought about it or had a few offers. I never jumped ship myself, but straddled two boats at once, trying to make a quick million on a tight budget of night and weekend hours.
I guess I always knew the air would come out of the bubble at some point. And I sure as heck knew it wouldn't be good to be on top if that happened. So my partners and I kept our day jobs and focused on long-term issues in our business planning. How would we profit from our ideas in ways other than a quick sale of the company or an IPO? We figured we'd identified a product and a market for it, so needed only to develop the code and keep expenses lower than revenues while we increased sales.
Still, we crossed our fingers and hoped as much as the next guy that we would time our business just right and make a bundle somehow. We certainly weren't going to turn down a multimillion dollar purchase offer-and were so confident our company was worth it that we turned down a bona fide small, private funding source and free help from an experienced CEO because it would've valued the company far less initially.
In the end, unfortunately, the bursting of the bubble took not only the really bad ideas but also many good ones (including ours) down with it. By the time we had filed our patent application, developed our prototype, and written our business plan, all of the funding sources for search engine enhancements had dried up. I suspect several of the venture capital firms and search engine companies we talked to would've jumped at the chance to be involved with our idea just a few months earlier. But the game was up. And two years later-long after we wrote off our personal investments in the company-the capital we needed to quit our jobs and work toward profitability still isn't available. So I have a new plan.
My new plan is to get rich slow. To play the part of the tortoise rather than the hare. Engineering is a good, stable profession, and one that generally pays well-especially if you have a specialty as in demand as real-time embedded systems design. It's really not a bad life, if you can get it.
So rather than try to outwit or outplay, I'll just try to outlast-and I'll save everything I can along the way. Besides, it's a lot easier to stick to your core values and make the world a better place little by little when you're not busy making an end run. To see how extremely disjointed the two paths can become, witness any of the recent corporate scandals.
Honesty, integrity, and responsibility should be the core values of all practicing engineers. And we should practice them outside of work as well. There's more to life than engineering and money, as fun as both are. So I'm stopping to smell the roses now more, too. It sure is nice to have my nights and weekends back! And that's worth a lot to me.