The best career advice I’ve ever gotten came from JP Maheu, who at the time was the CEO of Razorfish. We sat down to do my performance review and he gave me this gem:
“Figure out what it is that makes you really enjoy your work, and then make sure you get to do it.”
Many people, as they advance in their careers, move away from doing the thing that got them into the field. Designers stop designing, and start managing people. Developers stop coding, and start managing resources and budgets. One day, you look up from your computer monitor and ask yourself “Is this really what I want to be doing?”
For me, that moment happened when I realized that my whole job was resource management spreadsheets, staffing calls, hiring, and putting out fires. I got into this business because I wanted to design products, not manage operations.
I know I’m not alone in struggling to balance “making” with “managing.” I’ve talked with dozens of people who question how they can find the right split, particularly as their seniority grows and they’re asked to take on more responsibility. Some people alternate between the two, focusing for months or years on project and people management, and then make a deliberate choice to spend time designing or building. Others control their daily calendar to ensure a mix of the two.
What’s clear from everyone I’ve talked to is that striking your right balance won’t happen on its own. The demands of work will always pull you away from doing the activities that give you the most joy. You’re the only one who will make sure you get to do the things you really love. So be intentional about building those into your work life—each day, each month, each quarter, each year.
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