The Fuck Does This Make Money?: “I do less than I used to, and am better for it.”
The Fuck Does This Make Money?” is a Q+A about Money and Feelings. This Q+A is with Andre Leroy Sotolongo.
The Fuck Does This Make Money?” is a Q+A about Money and Feelings.
This Q+A is with Andre Leroy Sotolongo.
Who are you/what do you do?
My name is Andre Leroy Sotolongo. I'm half Cuban, quarter Japanese, quarter Swedish/Irish. Half my family is in Colorado and the other in Nebraska. I grew up in Colorado myself, went to upstate New York for college, and then to Oregon for adult work/life where I am now.
I do less than I used to and am better for it I think.
Browse Twitter, Reddit, and other sites. Play a tad too much Dark Souls and whatever other flavor of the month my friends want to play. I used to do a lot of different things for Intel: server motherboard schematics, FPGA programming, silicon architecture, document management, debugging and programming in house tools, some soldering for fun, etc. All around electrical engineer. Now I'm trying to do this on a smaller scale for half-baked project ideas I've accumulated over past couple years. Profressionally, I am pursuing an apprenticeship as an electrician. It seems like the best application of what I've done so far in my life that will be enough to pay the bills and give me greater job satisfaction than I had before.
How do your values guide how you make money?
Hard question. I don't really associate my values with money; but I've thought more about it over the past year. In the past, I had vague goals and aspirations. I was mostly chasing challeges and looking to apply what I had learned in college. To some extent I was working to redeem myself beyond my perceived inadequacies. I finally reached a place where I felt like was plateauing in what I knew and could accomplish.
When I tried thinking about my work and potential over the next 1, 5, and 10 years, I didn't feel up to the work or that it would be something I felt was needed/right. I wanted something more hands on, with a more direct path between what I do and how it helps; and that's the value that I'm trying to guide how I make money in the future.
I don't know if I will always have this mindset, there are aspects of what I said that I don't like. It feels arrogant/holier-than-thou to think about the need for a specific job/career as though others will share my experience/attitude. It's also difficult for me to accept walking away from something I did for so long and not think that I'm giving up where I should have persevered. I don't advocate for regret but I find it difficult to keep my mind from it.
The fuck do you make money?
Well, for the past 4 months, I don't \(x.x)/. I'm living off savings I've built up over the last 4 years of work. I started planning a switch in careers last year and I think I have enough to survive the rest of the year and I shouldn't need that long.
My goal is to enter an apprenticeship as an electrician. I applied with union/non-union groups and I already have a potential opening with a non-union company I’m starting temporary work with next week while I wait to find out my ranking with the union. If I’m ranked high enough in the union list, I’ll definitely choose them; otherwise, well I need to make money so my temporary work will become my new apprenticeship/future job. I would also like to make money doing side projects once I get more practice and experience making my ideas into reality and sharing them online.
What do you spend it on?
Rent, food, and my cats. Back when there wasn't a whole thing going on and I was less frugal about my money, I spent a decent amount on travel for family, friends, and experiences.
How do you spend your time?
Gaming, internet, reading, Judo/soccer, watching shows with my partner, spending more time thinking about projects than doing them, and occasionally sleeping.
Tell me about your class background without telling me your class background
My parents worked hard so I never had to worry about money. I lottery'ed into an option (read charter) junior/senior high-school that ranks in the top 10% academically in the state/country and graduated as valedictorian. I finished a Masters and a Bachelors in 4 and a half years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with fairly nice financial aid though I do still have ~20k in student loans left.
Tell me about a decision you've made about how you make money you're NOT proud of.
Not asking for more money when I was hired. I was just grateful to have secured a job that I didn't bother haggling. I should have valued myself more. If you work for a big corporation, you should ask for more money, they can afford it.
Tell me about a choice around how you make money that you know was the right decision, but you still feel weird about.
Choosing to quit my job. I gave 6 weeks notice and they tried to convince me to take a paid month off and reconsider at the end. It's definitely nice to have a company offer something like that and obviously it would have been nice to have that extra money but I didn't feel comfortable with the larger message of inaction from the company until your employee is leaving; I feel like there were plenty of opportunities to address the situation earlier. I was even eligible for a month sabatical after working there for 4 years and knew others who had taken their sabatical and quit afterwards, but I didn't want to be paid to do nothing, even if it's earned from the past work.
It's hard letting go of those past feelings; what I could have done and what I wanted to happen. Some amount of guilt that I should have stayed and pushed harder for the change I wanted from them. However, I have felt more free these past few months, not just from not having work obligations but from feeling like I had agency in the direction of my life.
What's something you were surprised by when you first started making money this way
How much opportunity is unlocked by having disposable income and/or access to transportation. I visited friends in New York my first year after college and flew into NYC, drove to Albany and back, and then to Syracuse all in a weekend. In August of 2019, I was able to travel to Vegas for Evo and DefCon, followed by a DARPA conference in Michigan. It was some of the most enjoyable and interesting learning experiences of my life so far. I love the spirit of a bunch of like-minded people gathering to share information and show off the fruits of their labor with each other.
Tell me a story about money that makes you feel afraid or anxious (not mandatory).
The most anxious I've been about money is where I am now. I have an Excel document I started last year that has all my bank statements and transactions so I could estimate my expenses and see if becoming an apprentice electrician would even pay the bills. Since I won't know until the end of this month where I fall in the rankings and don't know how long I might be on that list before I actually become an apprentice, I am afraid of running out of money. I have nebulous fallback options of pulling out of my IRA, hopefully/potentially picking up another job, or relying on my family/partner for help. None of these would make me feel good though, so I tend not to dwell on them.
Tell me a story about money that makes you feel hopeful.
Back in 2017, I frequented the cyberpunk subreddit a lot. It's not an especially active place, mostly aesthetic posts of rainy neon citys or overly teched humans. One person posted about getting an electroretinogram and how it made them feel cyberpunk because of how they looked hooked up to the machine. They had a degenerative eye condition and posted a fundraiser for an electronic eyewear that would help them see better and feel like they had "cybernetic" eyes. It was successfully funded and someone even drew cyberpunk-ish fanart from the pictures they posted wearing the devices.
I know the concept of online crowdfunded healthcare is held as an example of one of modern (American) society's many failings and I agree that it's not ideal. That said, I find these smaller community funding efforts very hopeful in what it represents and allows for many others. People are finding empowerment through these online connections, even through nebulous aesthetic groups. Someone can pursue the outcome they want and anonymous people who would otherwise not interact can find that person, empathize with their situation or goals, and extend a hand; and with enough hands, you might just have the help you need to do/be something greater.
What's something you do for free, that you will never do for money? Why?
Share information and help out. I don't get as many opportunities to do this as I would like. My parents loved sending me out to shovel our neighbor's driveways when I was younger and while I did not enjoy the extra work, it was satisfying helping people, however small the gesture. I also feel like information isn't shared enough and anything you may know, someone else may not and it's worth sharing anything you have. There are constantly humans coming online, growing up knowing nothing but what is presented to them and they can only interpret their world through the context they have gained so far.
Anything I didn't ask that you want to share?
Productivity and progress. A lot of my favorite people that I follow online make me sad when I see them share the common state of mind that they aren't making progress on things or struggle with how much of their life is work or how they feel about the work they do. I empathize with them greatly and wish I could do something but I don't think there's any perfect arrangement of bytes that I can send from my computer to them that would alleviate their pain or lift their spirits. It's something that I've struggled with my partner when I want to help and they only want to vent. I'm too solution oriented. I haven't shared much of myself online and am working on doing it more because I think it's good for people to express their humanity, the ups and the downs.