Work for an employer that builds something you love – Mr. Joel Kemp

This article was cross-posted from Medium.

One of the best decisions I made in 2016 was to find an employer that made something that I loved. It’s provided me with a life-changing sense of work fulfillment and I’d like to encourage you to do the same.

Seeking purpose outside of work

Back in 2016, I found myself disengaged at work and seeking purpose in open source projects and entrepreneurial side projects. It was a downward spiral of frustration and stress that culminated in me quitting my day job without anything lined up.

I had one major rule when thinking about my next employer: the company had to make a product that I used regularly. If I was going to spend the majority of my days working on something — I needed a visceral connection to it. This rule led to a shortlist of companies and I started the interviewing grind: studying hard, doing mock interviews, and lining up real (practice) interviews with other companies.

After a grueling month and a half, I landed a role at Spotify.

Dream job

I f’ing love Spotify. I was a loyal, paying user for years. Discover Weekly (and the discover emails before it) completely changed how I discovered music and the artists I listened to (German, minimal techno — represent!). You ever hear a track in your Discover Weekly playlist and make a “damn, that’s good” face and get this rush of happiness that you found a gem? That has pretty much been every Monday for me for the past several years.

I applied to Spotify in Jan of 2014, after my first startup job out of school, and got denied. Thankfully, in 2016, I was incredibly practiced and knocked it out of the park.

There are Mondays (when my Discover Weekly playlist refreshes) where I stumble onto a gem and I make that face and get that rush of happiness. Then I look up and realize that I’m at Spotify — helping to make it more successful. I get this rush of pride and energy that I’ve never felt before.

Alignment on many levels

There are companies that hire for specific skills and then there are companies that hire skilled generalists and give them immense amounts of freedom in their work. I really wanted to work at a company that valued the latter approach and Spotify definitely delivers.

Spotify’s organizational model is to have a company-wide set of goals for the year and then entrust each goal to a squad (small team). It’s really like “here’s this hard problem that is important for the company to solve, it’s yours. Make all of the decisions, own all of the technology — we trust you. There are experts surrounding you if you need guidance, but otherwise, you have free rein.” It’s autonomy at its best.

On top of autonomy, you’re given the freedom to work across the stack as you’d like. Your squad owns the tech that solves the company’s goal, so it’s up to you to debug that Docker container issue, or figure out the future architecture of your system, or anything in between. It’s an engineer’s playground.

On top of the aforementioned autonomy and mastery, everyone at Spotify loves Spotify and listens to music on it daily. Walk around the office and you’ll see folks with headphones on, heads bobbing, and the desktop app open on one of their monitors. There’s a strong sense of purpose when you and everyone you work with are deeply connected to the company/product.

And I don’t even work on the music player…

I work on the monetization team — building Spotify Ad Studio: a self-serve advertising platform for small and medium-sized businesses to get their message across to Spotify’s free users. It’s filling a really big hole that will materially affect revenue.

I don’t even like advertising. However, I believe deeply in the power of the platform we’re building and its potential to massively impact the company. If I could help keep Spotify successful for years to come, then maybe more folks could discover that feeling of happiness from finding a great, new track.

Symptoms cured

Since joining Spotify, I haven’t at all had the urge to work on side projects. I come home having put in a great day of meaningful work: exercising and developing a wide surface area of skills; solving impactful, technical problems; and reinforcing a deep belief in the work that I’m doing.

Once the wife and kid are asleep, I put on my headphones on, fire up Spotify on my phone, and keep searching for more gems.

Find an employer that builds something you love and it’ll completely change how your work feels and make for a happier life outside of work.