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I quit my job as a Netflix engineer making $450,000 a year and I have zero regrets. Here’s why it was the best decision for me.

  • Michael Lin joined Netflix in 2017 as a senior software engineer. At first, he enjoyed his role.
  • After two years, Lin wanted to transfer to a product manager position but was unsuccessful.
  • He lost motivation for the $450,000-a-year engineering role and eventually left Netflix in May 2021.

I started working at Netflix as a senior software engineer in 2017 after leaving my job at Amazon. I was happy to get a promotion and return home to the Bay Area. 

At the time, I thought I would stay with Netflix forever. I made $450,000 a year, got free food daily, and had unlimited paid time off. It was the Big Tech dream. 

When I left almost four years later in May 2021, everyone thought I was crazy. 

My parents were the first to object. For them, my quitting was throwing away their hard work of immigrating to the US.

My mentor was the second to object. He said I shouldn’t quit without another job lined up because I’d miss out on leveraging my high salary when negotiating my pay at the next job. Their comments made me pause for all of three days before I spoke with my manager about leaving. 

Eight months later, I’m confident it was the right decision.

When I started working at Netflix, I loved it 

Working at Netflix was like getting paid to work on case studies you learn about in MBA programs. They made the memos for every product decision available for all employees to read, and I learned so much every day. 

Over the next two years, the shine began to wear off. The projects and meetings blended together, and they felt like small variations of each other after a while. The engineering work began to feel like copy and paste.

Then COVID-19 happened. The office shut down, and all my favorite parts of work — the socializing, the coworkers, the perks — disappeared.

The only thing left was the work itself, and I didn’t enjoy the work anymore.

I wanted to have a bigger effect. For me, deciding how to allocate engineering resources was more relevant to my career goals than the engineering work itself, and I wanted to transition into product management to lead these efforts.

As a result, I spent two years networking within Netflix and applying for every product-manager role I could find. 

None of my attempts panned out, and I was still doing the same job.

The issue was that Netflix didn’t have any processes in place to support horizontal role changes like this. I’ve never seen an engineer successfully transition to product management at the company. 

Toward the end of my job search for the product-manager role, I lost motivation and focus

Now that transitioning into the PM role was out of the question, my high salary felt like an increasingly bad deal. When I started at Netflix, I was making money and continuously learning new things. Now, I was just making money, with no career progression.

My team’s goals also started to diverge from my career goals. 

The team focused on an engineering migration, where we had to move from one online system to another, while my interests veered toward entrepreneurship. The work I was doing didn’t help me learn the business skills I needed.

It started to feel like I was repeating the same career mistake I’d made at Amazon — staying in a job that wasn’t a great fit longer than I should have. 

My motivation waned, and my performance waned with it. 

I became less engaged in meetings, minimized doing work not relevant to product management, and dragged my feet on communication. My only motivation at the end was trying to not get fired.

Unfortunately, my manager started to notice. In a heated performance review in April 2021, he said I needed to be more engaged in the team’s engineering migration and be more communicative. In his words, I had to improve in these areas “if I wished to remain on the team.”

COVID-19 changed my outlook on work

I was working at a prestigious company making a good living for myself. It’s hard to give up a salary — something tangible — for intangible things like your youth and your time. But I couldn’t shake the knowledge that many people had lost their lives during the pandemic. 

I was putting off my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, and COVID-19 was a constant reminder that I might not be here tomorrow to pursue them.  

I was scared that my tombstone would read: “Here lies Michael. He spent his life doing work he never wanted to do. Rest in peace.”

The longer I stayed at Netflix, the greater the chance the tombstone would be my reality. 

My time at Netflix was coming to an end

I spent two weeks after the performance review thinking about my next steps and decided to have a candid talk with my manager. In a one-on-one meeting with him, I proposed that we discuss a “preemptive severance package.”

I told him: “My performance is declining because my motivation is declining. My motivation isn’t improving because the team’s goals diverge further from my career goals. What if we discussed a preemptive severance package out of Netflix now rather than drag this on? That way Netflix saves money, the team finds a better fit sooner, and I can go do what I want. A win-win for everyone.”

After he discussed this with human resources, I had a final meeting where Netflix agreed to preemptively terminate me, and I received my severance package.

Life after Netflix

I thought my life would be over after leaving Netflix. I was worried that I’d have no social life, as it had previously revolved around work. 

But the opposite happened. I’ve met more people through starting my own business — other entrepreneurs, writers, and creators.

I now feel a deep calmness inside me, an unshakable belief that everything will be OK, even if any future success is not guaranteed right now.

It’s been eight months since I quit my job at Netflix, and I’ve decided to commit fully to working for myself. Although I’m just starting and don’t have any dependable streams of income yet, I’m going to trust the process that if I do work that energizes me, good things will happen.

Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.

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A recent survey shows that the younger generation puts happiness first.

A recent study by Randstad shows that Gen Z and millennials would rather quit their jobs than be unhappy at work.

The survey, completed by 35,000 individuals in 34 markets, showed that employees’ attitudes towards work are seeing a significant change. 56% of employees aged from 18 to 24 answered that they would rather quit a job than work for a company that stops them from enjoying their lives. Gen Z (aged 18 to 24) and millennials (aged 25 to 34) ranked lifestyle and happiness to be the top priority, followed by the company’s values. 43% of respondents answered that they wouldn’t choose an employer with different social and environmental values, while 41% responded that they wouldn’t choose a workplace where diversity and inclusion are not promoted.

Other priorities to Gen Z and millennials include incentives and benefits, flexibility in work location and hours, and whether the company offers room for professional and self-development. 88% of survey participants answered that they would participate in learning or development programs if they were available to employees.

Randstad’s global CEO Sander van ‘t Noordende said in a statement: “Our findings should serve as a wake-up call for employers. There’s a clear power shift underway as people rethink priorities.” He continued: “Young people want to bring their whole selves to work, which is reflected in their determination not to compromise their personal values when choosing an employer. Businesses need to rethink their approach to attracting and retaining staff, or face serious competition.”

You can see the full study here.

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Gen Z Millennials Rather Be Unemployed Than Unhappy at Work

More than half of employees (56%) age 18 to 24, a demographic classified as Gen Z, say they would quit a job that prevented them from enjoying their lives, a new survey suggests. Forty percent of this demographic said they would “rather be unemployed than unhappy working in a job they didn’t like,” according to the 2022 Randstad Workmonitor report. The survey polled 35,000 employees across 34 markets and showed dramatically changing attitudes in the workplace — potentially sparked by the pandemic — as exemplified by The Great Resignation.

The younger generations aren’t just paying lip-service to work/life balance and personal fulfilment, either. Forty percent of Gen Z and millennial respondents said they had quit a job because it didn’t fit with their personal life, compared to 33% of those polled, overall.

The study also outlined the top five work priorities for employees, with an emphasis on what will help employers attract and retain Gen Z and millennial workers (classified as those aged 18 to 24 and 25 to 34, respectively).

  • Lifestyle and Happiness: No.1 on the list, employees seek a “fulfilling work experience,” or a company attitude that helps them fit their work around their personal life. Three-quarters of Gen Z respondents said work is important to their lives, while only 68% of older respondents said the same.
  • Aligning Values: Among all demographics, 43% of respondents said they wouldn’t join a company if the organization’s social and environmental values didn’t align with their own. Similarly, 41% said they wouldn’t work for a company that didn’t promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Employee Empowerment: While job training and personal development are important, employees are still seeking the right monetary incentives and benefits. Within the past year, according to the survey, only 22% of employees said they received better benefits such as more time off, better healthcare, or access to more robust retirement benefits. Meanwhile, 33% said they received either a raise, training, or workplace development offerings.
  • Job Flexibility: According to the survey, nearly 75% of employees said a flexible work location is important, while 83% said flexible hours to support their lives is crucial. However, only about one-quarter of employers currently offer both remote work and flex-time.
  • Self-improvement and Professional Development: Just as employees want work to fit in with their values and their lifestyles, they also expect their workplace to complement and support their development goals. Eighty-eight percent of respondents across age groups said they would like to participate in learning and development programs if their organizations offered them. Sixty percent said they’d like workshops or education on how to earn more money. Half said they wanted tips on how to achieve a better work / life balance, and 40% wanted to learn how to advance in their career, the study showed. Only 25% of employees polled, however, said they were offered training and development opportunities in their workplace.

The study highlights many of the gaps between what today’s workers want and what employers deliver. To combat the effects of The Great Resignation, employers need to focus on more than just competitive wages and employee benefits, but deliver what will really make a difference to today’s younger generations and up-and-coming workers.

About the Author
Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.