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Not everyone's a star

by Douglas E. Welch

July 7, 2000

© 2000, Douglas E. Welch

Today it seems that everyone who works in the high-tech world is striving towards the big IPO; the big score; the big payoff. As you sit in your cubicle watching the news come across your screen you may start to wonder why you haven’t gotten your piece of the pie. In reality, though, most people would prefer a long and productive career over the stress and strife of a high-tech star.

Who’s who?

It is a simple fact that it requires a certain personality type to face the rigors of being a high-tech superstar. Even if you have tremendous talent you must also have the ability to deal with both massive failure and massive success. In most cases, you will have to abandon the work you truly enjoy doing in order to drive the success of a company as a whole. You won’t find a lot of time to program if you are constantly on the phone with the press. Even with all that, the big payoff may never come. The rewards are great, but sometimes, the costs are greater.

Long ago I realized that my interests lie in computer training and support and these have never been considered very "sexy" areas of the high-tech industry. Moreover, I prefer working with computer users than touting IPOs to the press. I am more content knowing that I have directly effected the lives of a few people instead of potentially effecting the lives of millions. My role carries less of a burden in stress and allows me to make a career doing what I like.

Too many chiefs

There is an old saying about "too many chiefs and not enough Indians." In some cases that's what we are seeing in high-tech industry today. All the attention and money is going to a few high-tech superstars while the rest of us strive to do actual, productive work. In fact, without the support you offer to companies throughout the world, these superstars could never accomplish their grand designs. It is important to remember that you are the people that make so much of the high-tech world possible. It is better to let the stars take care of themselves and direct your own career instead. If we were all stars who would be left to write the code, build the web sites and networks and make sure that everyone else can get the information they need, when they need it.

Keep on workin...

More importantly, as a high-tech worker, you will have a long and productive career that can include many rewards in both money and quality of life. One example from another industry is that of the "character" actor in television and films. These actors are the people we see again and again in a variety of different roles. We might not know their names, but we easily recognize them when we see them at the grocery store or dry cleaners. They are not "stars", but they provide a good, often great life for themselves and their families. They live in nice houses, drive nice cars and do great work on a daily basis. Our television shows and movies would be much diminished without their talents.

Many of you fill the roll of character actor in your companies. You are not the star of the show, but you contribute talent and hard work that helps others do their work. Despite what the press and others might say, there is nothing wrong with doing good work even if it doesn’t make you a star.

The next time you start reading Time or Newsweek’s profile of the latest tech superstar don’t measure yourself against them. You can take any good advice they might offer, but look for signs of their daily life and the work they do. Each one of you can be a high-tech star if you wish. Hard work is the only real requirement. In some cases, though, you will find that working in your own, albeit small, area of influence can actually bring you larger rewards with less stress on both your work and personal life.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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