I want to feel cool

Hope this isn't too creepy...

I hope it’s not too creepy I found these pictures of you on your blog…

Dear Ren Lu,

As a fellow millennial and young professional, I found a lot of common sentiments in your NYT Magazine article about the youth-centric start-up culture. Although I’m not in the tech start-up industry (advertising is my gig), I think it speaks to our generation’s mindset as a whole (us being over-educated, altruistically driven digital natives).

It’s seems to be a trademark of being a millennial that we’d prefer to work for a cool company rather than a more established, dare I say traditional, one. We want to feel like the work matters and helps people in their everyday lives. We want to have a strong bond with our co-workers and to buy into a mantra of higher achievement. Basically we don’t want work to feel like work (at least  not all the time).

I definitely put pressure on myself (and feel the social pressure) to work somewhere with “name brand” social value. Fresh from South-by-Southwest Interactive this weekend, I got the itch be able to say “I work for so-and-so” and the person know what it is. Because it’s not just about paying the bills anymore, at least not for those of us lucky enough to have options. Maybe we should just suck it up be happy for a roof over our heads? Naw.

Well thanks and take care.

PS: Have you been to SXSW before? I feel like it embodies everything I hear about the tech start-up culture; basically a work hard, play harder mentality.

PPS: Here’s a pretty song from Austin for you!

Balmorhea – Shore

RESPONSE:

Hi,

I really wanted to respond to each of your emails individually – you took time out of your busy days to write me, and I wanted to show my appreciation – but the volume of correspondence I’ve received in the last couple days makes that simply untenable. I thought that this group email would be the next best thing. 
 
I have read each and every one of your messages – the complimentary ones, the critical ones – and thank you! The errors and misunderstandings you pointed out have been duly noted, the well wishes accounted for. It has been especially heart-warming to hear from engineers both young and old and outside of the tech industry.
 
There are a couple common points I wanted to mention. Firstly, I am currently in grad school with at least another couple semesters to go, so it’s impossible for me to commit to any sort of post-graduation plan at the moment. I’m still trying to figure out my comparative advantage, which is probably not a straight coding job – there are also several research areas – computer vision, bioinformatics – that I would be interested in exploring further. But I will definitely keep in mind all the wonderful opportunities you have emailed me about when it comes time to decide.
 
Secondly, some people have asked me how I pitched the Times. I literally looked up the Times masthead, guessed the email addresses, and lathered, rinsed, and repeated. I wasn’t an English major in college, so I didn’t really have any publishing connections; in that sense, it was supremely encouraging that somebody did still see/accept my idea basically blind, and I think that’s a credit to the newspaper. 
 
Thirdly, I wanted to address probably the biggest criticism of the article – which that it was written from a perspective of privilege, that it was itself self-indulgent and self-involved. Somebody this morning said I “name-dropped liked a young Vanderbilt” (quite a clever apercu, actually!). And my answer is, absolutely. I completely recognize that the young-old divide in Silicon Valley is not that important when compared to people without healthcare or banks foreclosing on homes. This “perspective of privilege” was something I had discussed with my editor – money in Silicon Valley goes around in cycles – and I am aware of how extraordinarily lucky I am to be in it.
 
That being said, I’m writing a magazine article, not running for president. The article was meant to be a tight description of one sector of American business and this is the reality of the valley. Some of it I like, some of it (the intense clubbiness, for instance), I dislike. But those who discount technology entirely on the basis of disliking the culture that produces it are setting themselves up to be winnowed out. 
 
I will probably post any future writing here; you’ve been bcc’ed, so your email addresses are confidential. If you don’t want to be on this list, feel free to shoot me a note and I’ll remove you.
 
Thanks again for reading!
Ren
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