David Heinemeier Hansson

May 15, 2023

Sitting on the bench

There are many reasons to pick working for a bigger company in tech. The benefits, the pay, and, at least until recently, the job security. In many ways, it's hard to argue with the cold logic of taking a seat on a star destroyer, if you can land one. But odds are you'll be sitting on the bench if you do.

That is, your talents won't get to play center stage in a way that really matters. If you weren't there, there'd probably just be someone else to fill the slot, and it'd rarely make a big difference either way. That's part of the resilience of a big ship, it's built to withstand whatever the weather, so much of the crew is redundant by design.

That just isn't so in a small boat. If you're not rowing, everyone will notice. You can't just rest and vest. You gotta play. That's the appeal. You gotta play.

That can be intellectually exhausting, but it's also the kind of flexing of your talents that make them grow rapidly. It's the fact that others, and the boat as a whole, count on you being there that rewards you with meaning.

Would you rather be on the bench in the big leagues or playing every game with an underdog team moving up?

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.