A 50/50 split

by Michael Alderete on 7/6/2002

Thinking about the difference between the public and private sectors, I realized that my professional life is roughly split between the two. I was in my first job, at UC Berkeley, for more than five years, and I’ve only recently hit the point where my professional life after UCB is longer than the time I spent there.

After graduating college I worked in an IT group on the same campus where I went to school, for five and a half years, in three different roles, progressing as my skills grew. I finally left because I needed more of a challenge, and more importantly, I felt the need to be compensated for my skills and accomplishments, something that can be very hard to achieve in a government job.

After Berkeley I worked at Be for three years, at Cymerc for 14 months, and now I’ve been with Persistence for another 14 months. Add in a couple months consulting and contracting, and I’ve now worked in the private sector about five and a half years also, and in three different roles.

From a professional development standpoint, there can be no doubt the private sector has been better for me. The simplest measurement is compensation. In the 5.5 years I worked at Cal my salary increased about 10%. That’s overall, not per year! In spite of excellent performance reviews, university policies put significant constraints on salary increases.

Since leaving Berkeley my compensation has more than doubled. Indeed, I now make more money per year than my first manager’s manager made when she retired from 30+ years of working from the university. Which in a lot of ways is crazy!

But in other ways is not. When I worked at Cal, I worked 40 hours a week. I was in at 8:30am, and out the door at 5:30pm. I lived only a few blocks from campus, so by 6pm my evening was totally mine. Throw in completely open weekends, and my free time was probably more than double what it is today.

I look back on that in wonder. As in “I wonder what I did with all that spare time?” God knows I’d love to have that kind of free time again, especially now that I could share it with Rochelle.

So I frequently fantasize that at some point I’ll make the journey back to the public sector. Someday, maybe, but not soon. There’s more to the private sector than money, I do love the challenges and variety, the unpredictability (which has a downside in uncertainty), and many other things about my current and past (and future) jobs.

Time will tell.

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