Keys to the Kingdom

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When I was in high school my best buddy worked for some restaurant not too far from school. He had a cousin that worked in the same industry but at a different restaurant. Oddly enough they both had the same dilemma -- the bosses of both companies wanted them to quit school in order to work full time. I didn't have this dilemma because I worked during the summer, saved money like a squirrel, and did odd jobs during the schoolyear to avoid it.

In the end my friend made the better decision and stayed in school. His cousin wasn't so lucky. The main difference in the outcomes came from the proximity of better counsel, in this case mine. I drilled my buddy on the realities of trying to succeed in life without at least a high school diploma. I hardly ever met that cousin of his -- he was always working -- and without anyone telling him different he elected to listen to the boss.

Now for the relevant LIMSExpert spin -- both of those young men were being tempted by what I call 'The Keys to the Kingdom' approach. The bosses wanted what every small business owner wants -- competent, responsible, trustworthy, stable employees that they do not have to constantly watch. But instead of honestly promising them a genuine share of the business in the future their way was to hobble them, lessening their opportunities.

All Stars

It is really funny how you see the same stories play out over and over again. There are all-stars out there in the LIMS space (particularly working at smaller LIMS vendors) -- people with a wealth of skills and knowledge that subtly believe they'll one day inherit the 'Keys to the Kingdom.' They believe that hard work is enough to guarantee advancement in these organizations; that one day they will benefit from the profits of that company. And yes, in some cases it is true -- advancement will come from within, people will say 'so and so worked her way up from the mail room' or something equivalent. But why would you put all of your eggs in their basket? Why would you take actions that hinder your freedom in exchange for a few bucks right now?

Years ago this was essentially the winning argument that kept my friend from following his boss' lousy advice: 'If this guy really respects your contribution then he'll want you to finish high school since that will mean you'll be twice as good when you take over.' It was a hard argument to combat. The same holds true whether you are working for a LIMS vendor or for some science-based company. For you the issue is not the type of education you can get from school, but rather it is the kind that you can obtain by working on free and open source (FOSS) products and new businesses. When you spend time building up a client base using FOSS you not only learn things you could not normally in the course of a regular workday but it gives you the freedom to leave the 9-5 job to pursue your real dreams.

Don't Be a Crook

Now, I'm not advocating taking intellectual property (IP) from a current employer and running off with it to start a business. That would be unethical and in some cases illegal. But what you do in your free time that has nothing to do with your daily work should be your business and of no concern whatsoever to your employer. What they need is for you to show up healthy and on-time every day. That should be the extent of their concern. When they start to tell you not to participate in FOSS or DIY projects after-hours they are overreaching and you should tell them to shove it.


Your future may eventually depend on things you learn and help develop collaboratively with like-minded people around the world. You should not limit that in any way due to your employer's vision and goals. They might argue that what you are doing shows a 'lack of dedication,' but go ahead and reuse that argument I gave my friend: 'If I participate in FOSS initiatives it will make me a better, stronger, more well-rounded individual when you elect to advance me in the organization.'

Go Back

Citation: Keys to the Kingdom. (2015). Retrieved Wed May 23 11:05:02 2018, from;iid=readMore;go=1425653475