In English, we say, “what do you do?”
In Spanish, it is “a qué te dedicas?” literally translates to, “to what do you dedicate yourself?”
Work is dedication. To be working is an honourable endeavour.
It also brings us money, and everything that money can actually buy us - financial security, a roof over our heads, food, transportation, education (hence more opportunities), chocolate to lift up your mood, etc.
How many of us exchange our time for money, day in and day out?
How many of us dedicate ourselves and the majority of our waking hours/days to work that we don’t believe in, or even worse, that goes against our values?
I worked in the ad tech industry for about 10 years until 2022, when I finally pulled the plug and decided to leave.
What I was doing 8+ hours a day went against my values.
With my work and dedication to the job, I was helping the companies that I do not support, grow and thrive.
You may ask, ¨Did you ask to be off those projects with companies you don't support?” Yes, I did. On many different occasions.
Well, not initially. When I was young, 20-something and inexperienced, and was living alone in a foreign country, I was scared to speak up to my employers. I was scared to lose my job, because that meant I would lose my home, my visa, my life, my friends and my life I have built there, if I did not find another job fast enough.
That had actually happened. I had lost my job, relationship, and apartment all in the same week, and I remember having to quickly resort to applying to other ad tech companies, because that was the only thing I knew how to do, and my CV demonstrated the same. I felt that I had no time or money to explore other options that might have aligned more with my values. Going back to the same industry was the quickest and easiest way to secure my financial needs. To be frank, I don’t know if I even knew my values back then.
As I got more experienced and was financially secure, I started asking to have my job more in line with my values. Even then, it was met with “but this meat client is your smallest client, you won't even have to talk to them more than once a week” or “yes but, it still means someone else on your team would have to work on that fast food chain project and you would still have to support the client when your colleagues are on vacation. You need to be a team player”
So I was left with having to help these companies convince people to eat what made them sick, buy what they didn’t need, and consume endlessly. I felt like I was contributing to what is not right in this world.
I was part of the problem, not the solution.
What’s worse, what’s praised in our capitalist society is not your courage to stand up for what you believe in, but it is your compliance to do whatever it takes to help the company succeed (aka make more money). That often comes with a cost - your mental, emotional, physical health, your relationships, and in my case, burnout and also the inability to be, express, or practice who I was, at the workplace. Also it made me sad that the wonderful people around me, my colleagues, were often so thrilled about having delivered more advertisements more frequently to more consumers on products that shouldn’t be advertised in the first place in my opinion (for example, fast foods among many others).
Ad tech industry is a very fast paced industry. They are very proud of it too. Job postings almost always ask that you be comfortable with the pace. And people like me apply and tell them at the interview, “I THRIVE in the fast-paced culture!”
In their book “The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture”, Gabor and Daniel Maté argue that “this normalized fast paced working culture is far from what is natural, what is nurturing, and what is healthy for ourselves and our society”. From my personal experience, I couldn’t agree more.
People in the ad tech industry work very hard. They are intelligent too! These companies hire the brightest, hardest working people. They are also very well compensated, which makes it even harder to consider or explore other areas of interest for their careers.
It saddened me to witness so often the disconnection between what they were doing, and the impact that it was having on the world, on our families and friends. For me, I have always been a very sensitive person, and it made it that much harder for me to work for these companies, as I could not un-see the connection between what I was helping selling by advertising them, and what these products and services were doing to the people, to our and next generations, to our families, friends, and loved ones.
I could not bear the idea (and the truth) that I was NOT making this world a better place, but actually, if I were to tell it bluntly, I was contributing to making it worse. That was what I was dedicating myself and the majority of my working (waking) hours to. And I care so much about making it a better place for every living being on this planet. The discrepancy between my values and my actual life were too evident, too big, too painful.
I was wasting my life and resources away.
I cried many times after work.
I felt stuck.
I had a choice to make. It was either to -
Choice 1: Keep the 6-figure job that gave me financial security, great benefits for me and my spouse including massages, but also keep quiet and live a life disconnected to my soul. Oh, and also get more depressed, more burnt out, more resentful, and angrier.
Choice 2: Keep my values and integrity, which would be complemented by being financially poorer with less things/experiences I would be able to afford or have access to, such as health insurance (for an undefined time frame). But hey, I would potentially be happier, and for sure be more relaxed, more at peace, and overall a nicer person to be around!
In the past, I had made the decision to stay at the job out of fear of losing my financial security. This time, I wanted to make a decision that is not fear-based, but love-based. When you decide with love, you are guided by a power that is bigger than you. When that happens, things start to fall into places. By making a love-based decision, in a way you demonstrate that you are surrendering to the universe with humbleness, accepting that you cannot control everything.
Long story short, I did leave after a lot of exit-preparation, to dedicate myself to helping others get their work aligned with their values, through coaching.
Was it easy? No.
Did I cry again? Yes.
Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Does that mean everyone should be quitting their job? Absolutely not.
Some people might need to keep their jobs with no other options or enough savings. Others might really enjoy what they do, and could do just well with some adjustments at their current job.
In my coaching sessions, I don’t suggest that my clients quit their jobs like I did. It is neither my intention, nor my place. I support clients through their own journey, whatever successful results mean to them. Depending on where they are with their life, who they are, and what they feel most comfortable with, they can explore their own options available to them.
Among many, some options can look like the following.
Building a side-project, a side hustle, to dedicate some of their time to their own passion.
Finding a way to align their values with their work at the current job without quitting. Maybe it means asking to take on different responsibilities, drawing boundaries, improving communication skills, or applying to a new position internally.
Working on an exit strategy with a defined timeline so that they would feel prepared when it is finally time to leave and venture out elsewhere.
If you feel stuck, or are looking for more alignment in your work, coaching can support you with:
Brainstorming and coming up with new ideas.
Getting clarity of your issues and direction forward.
Discovering blind-spots or options that you haven’t thought about before.
Shifting perspectives or changing narratives.
Being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Your learning, growth, and self-discovery: professionally and personally.
Exploring possibilities and opportunities that you may have overlooked, or have thought about but were not confident in carrying out.
Setting practical goals and staying accountable so that you progress towards the future you desire.
Discovering blockages and obstacles that might have been pulling you down, so that you can deal with them more effectively and with more confidence.
Basically partnering up to get you from point A (current situation) to point B (desired place).
I will be launching a 3 month program starting in January 2024. It will be offered at a discounted price in return for your feedback, so I can also learn from it to help more clients like you more effectively. If you are interested, don’t hesitate to reach out, because the number of spots are limited!
In sum, the value-alignment, or the lack thereof, was the reason I left ad tech.
Will I ever go back? Well, never say never. But if I were to go back, it would have to be under different conditions, where I would only be serving clients whose businesses are in line with my values, or serving employees and managers within the company with their professional (and personal) growth, development and alignment.