Potemkin Life

Pour One Out

Pour one out for the engineer of the failed startup.

I'm not talking about the series C startup engineer, who's biggest problems are recovering from a snack coma, choosing between which interest group event they will attend tonight, and No Code Friday not coming soon enough.

I'm not talking about the series B startup engineer, who due to the pressure of their 18-month runway, (and the fact that they really dogged it last sprint because of multiple hangovers) feels obligated to stay late a couple of times this week.

I'm not even talking about the series A engineer, who undoubtedly has ground hard, fought tooth and nail to get their company to the next level.

I'm talking about the in-at-ground level, working-for-pennies-on-the-dollar, one-in-a-hundred chance of success, dev-ops-frontend-backend-designer-product, doer-of-all, and master-of-none. The engineer who has built multiple products from the ground up out of nothing but her (and her one teammate's) blood, sweat, and tears. The engineer who traded three years at FAANG on their resume for three years at an irrelevant, no-name-recognition failure. Who traded a house in the Bay Area for a cramped, dingy, dark apartment that despite its shortcomings is still depleting their savings. The engineer whose most productive years of their life culminated in pain, loss, and disappointment, rather than laying the foundation of a career that will allow them to coast to retirement as soon as they have children.

Though the engineer of the failed startup didn't build the company you work for, it wouldn't exist without her. For every Magellan successfully navigating uncharted territories, there are thousands of sailors with just as much courage, tenacity, and grit at the bottom of the ocean.

So the next time you are sipping 16-year old Japanese whiskey selected from the curated array of brown liquors on your manager's desk, drinking to your successes achieved solely because of your hard work and merit, remember to pour one out for the engineer of the failed startup.