Three Criteria

As I approach my last few days as a cyber professional, I find myself thinking about a set of criteria for jobs that I developed years ago and that I’ve applied pretty consistently throughout my career. I’m wondering if these criteria still apply in a professional world where visibility and networking seem to be the only things that matter. I’m reflecting on whether or not my decision to retire from tech aligns with my criteria.

Self-portrait 2020

The criteria (1 point scored for each) are:

  1. Will this job help me to acquire skills that I could not otherwise obtain?
  2. Will this job enhance my prestige and/or visibility within my discipline?
  3. Will this job contribute, measurably, to my happiness or well-being?

With only one exception, I never took a job that scored less than 2, and no job I held, that dropped to 1 or 0, retained me for more than a year beyond that inflection point. But here’s where it gets interesting… My employer, MITRE, was once described by a trusted colleague as a place where one, “…can walk across the complex and get another job if you don’t like the one you’re doing.” And this is really true. The possibilities are endless. So why am I leaving MITRE and cyber? Why now?

I think it has more to do with me and less to do with the criteria–no big surprise there. Yes, criterion (1) is still valid, but the skills available to me are not the skills I want any longer. I find I no longer care about prestige and visibility (criterion 2), but I’m hopeful that this transition will bring about outsized measures of happiness (criterion 3). So I guess the criteria still apply, after a fashion, but now I seem to be down to two. Is this just age? Exhaustion? Rebellion? The pandemic? ;- )

13 comments

  • Mark Crouter

    Prestige and visibility are never ends in themselves, only a means to other opportunities–those that would allow you to continue to (1) learn and grow and (3) contribute to your well-being. So I would replace (2) with: Will this job allow me to fully use my talents, including those I’m still developing?

  • Bill

    Well said Mark. Though I wonder if, just as one can outgrow one’s criteria for jobs, one can outgrow one’s talents?

    I was a very good MITRE project leader, but eventually even fully utilizing the talent(s) I had didn’t seem like it was enough. The best characterization I have for this feeling would be captured by the following: “Will this job help me become who I want to be?”

  • Marion Michaud

    Bill, I agree with Mark. You have always brought integrity and professionalism to every role. I do think it allowed you to gain new skills, I hope it brought more happiness; I hadn’t thought about the visibility.

  • Bill

    Thanks for stopping by Marion and for the thoughtful comment and kind words.

    I think eventually we all outgrow the need for visibility and prestige. Eventually, we get to a point where we think more about what we’ve accomplished…or hope to accomplish. That’s sort of where I am now. I think I’ve accomplished all that I feel I need to in cyber–sort of what I meant by “outgrowing one’s talents”. :- )

    Now I need to go and accomplish in some other areas.

  • Amgad Fayad

    There is more to criterion 3 than meets the eye. It is also about the impact on the well-being of others and the satisfaction that it brings.

    • Bill

      Amgad, I once had that job: A position in an early stage startup doing some really, Really important work in web privacy. Unfortunately the thrill/satisfaction of working on problems that would improve privacy for millions didn’t offset the misery of the day to day responsibilities and infighting among the founders. Of course, I didn’t have to leave that position, we ran out of money. :- ) (Taught me another valuable lesson about harmony and vision, that job did…)

  • James D McManus

    Criterion 3, as expanded, is all.
    1 and 2 contribute to 3.
    If they no longer contribute sufficiently,
    it is time to replace them… but only if there is more needed to fulfill 3.

    Fulfill Criterion 3.

    “Exhaustion? Rebellion? The pandemic?”

    Maturity? Accomplishment? Satisfaction? Adventure?

    Perhaps all 7 in various measure.

    • Bill

      James… Agreed! But I am thinking a lot about the criterion I captured above:

      Does the job help me to become who I want to be?

      I’m hoping that’s where I’m going now.

  • Michael Endrizzi

    4) More time for multi-player Star Trek games

  • Rob Young

    Best of luck in the next phase, Bill. It’s been a long time.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t find MITRE living up to it’s billing of allowing one to “walk across” and made the call to leave.

    Doing what works for your heart is, perhaps, more important than doing what works for your head.

    Rob

  • Don Faatz

    Bill – thanks for sharing these …. they are ‘food for thought.’ I have a related but different set of three criteria:

    1) Will I enjoy doing this work?
    2) Will I be working with people I trust, respect, and enjoy working with?
    3) Will the results of the work be useful to me and others?

    I’ve done my share of work that satisfied none of these. However, the most memorable and fulfilling work has satisfied all three. I will think about how to incorporate the ideas in your criteria into mine ….

  • Megan McCarthy

    I would argue your #3 criteria should trump them all. If you aren’t happy, then you are not in the right place. I absolutely loved working with you. You were a great leader. Smart, kind, and someone we trusted, which in turn gave us happiness in our own roles. You will be truly missed and I look forward to what happiness the future holds for you! You best keep in touch 😉

  • Rich Piccola

    MITRE (and perhaps paid work in general) is technically satisfying and often feels like I am making a difference. But as I look ahead, like you, I’m looking to feed my soul. Things like volunteer work, gaining skill at piano, traveling. But those aren’t paying the bills, so until my girls graduate from college, I’m staying put.

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