I joined the company when I was 26 years old (before joining Intel, I already had a 3-years of engineering experience working for another semiconductor company Micron Technology).
During my career, I have contributed towards the execution, design, and architecture of many computer related technologies and features. I also have over 20 published industry patents covering various computer and technology inventions. I was the winner of Intel Achievement Award which is the most prestigious award an Intel employee can get. In summary, I was quite successful and well respected.
In addition, money was not an issue either. I was at a Senior Staff grade level and was paid handsomely, both in salary and with stocks and bonuses. At the time I left my career, I left behind stock grants that were worth well into six figures. Stock grants are stocks that a company would give to its most valuable employees as a future retention bonus. These stocks would vest over multiple years to ensure the employee stays with the company.
All in all, my career was going very well and I was on my way to the top of the technical ladder, but something started to happen as I turned 40. I started to feel unhappy and dissatisfied with the work mainly due to the ever-increasing bureaucracy and politics across teams. I just wanted to get things done, but there were just too many hurdles (mostly non-technical). I started to feel that I was wasting my time, energy, and talent by having to deal with bureaucracy and over burdening process reviews with endless power point presentations. I literally saw my life slipping away.
Stress was also a major contributing factor in my leaving. Being a lead architect for a feature, there was a lot of responsibility on my shoulders in leading multiple engineering teams while answering to senior management and major customers. I was not sleeping well at night and would get up in the middle of the night worrying about the project or some work related issue. At times, I would find myself pulling work laptop out and working in the wee hours of the night. The company never sleeps as we have engineering teams all over the world and the work never stops.
I was not stressed because I was afraid of losing my job, I was stressed because I didn't want to let my team and management down. If I made a mistake in the architecture of a feature, it would have a ripple effect down the engineering execution and later could impact customer enabling. It was a lot to worry about.
In a high-tech career, you are encouraged to take more risks and push yourself to newer heights every year. Just getting work done and being successful isn't enough, you have to push yourself to take bigger and bolder risks and deliver more than you did last year. It would reflect in your yearly evaluation and how you are compared and ranked against your peers. With technology moving at faster and faster rate each year, it was becoming very difficult to keep up and still deliver more. I was getting tired of the rat race.
All the stress from years of working at a fast and high-pressure environment was starting to show its signs. I started to have migraines, mostly triggered by work related stress, which would increase in intensity and frequency. At first, I didn't pay much attention, but then I started to get worried as the frequency of these migraines started to increase. I also had a few episodes of mild chest pain. Talking to a doctor only revealed that I am at high risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. In doctor's own words, until now I have been simply dodging the adverse due to my young age but it's starting to catch up with me.
Talking to a doctor was a wake-up call for me. I knew someone at work, same age as mine, who recently had a heart attack due to stress. I didn't want to wait for things to get worse, I needed to get out fast and escape before it's too late. There is no way I am going to let my job kill me.
Fortunately, for me I was always frugal and good with money management. I also married someone who is very frugal and doesn't believe in accumulation of material things. We both worked hard for years and saved and invested aggressively while living way below our means. I taught myself how to invest in stocks by learning about finance and stock valuation techniques. I made it a regular habit to read financial reports and articles on investing. I also taught myself basic finance and accounting so I can make smart decisions with my investments. I have been investing seriously for over 7 years with a goal to become financially independent and free.
My wife and I achieved financial independence little over two years ago when we paid off our house. We never had any consumer debt of any kind, and always paid for things with cash including our two old cars. Never cared or tried to copy how our friends or neighbors were spending their money on luxury items or expensive vacations. There is lot of show-off money around us in the form of expensive cars and bigger and nicer homes. We stayed grounded to our principle of living below our means through all these years and continued to invest our savings into our goal of becoming financially independent.
When the company decided to do a major layoff this year which impacted many long-term employees, including some very smart and talented engineers, I found the catalyst I needed to retire early. I knew that I didn't want to work for the company anymore. Handed my one-month notice to my manager.
I will miss my colleagues including my manager for whom I have high regards. I wish them all the success and hope one day they can also retire early and do whatever they like.
As for me, I have no desire to go back to my old job or work for another high tech company. I will continue to make myself better at investing and will try to educate others on personal finance and benefits of financial independence through my blog. I will focus on my health and well-being. I also plan to volunteer my time, and contribute to my community as much as possible and live a purposeful life.
Mr. All Things Money