This week I went to University of Oregon to talk at the Computer Science department about working in the the industry, and how I managed to have a career in technology, but still have a life. As I put together slides to keep me on point during the hour presentation I thought about the message I wanted to deliver to all these kids in college. I think this is a message that applies to everyone and worth a short post.

Here is my message: Know yourself, and work in a job that caters to your strengths.

This knowledge will make you happier. For example I know that I am not a big company person. I have many friends who after college went to investment banks or management consulting companies. Many have achieved lots of success both career wise and certainly monetarily. But I am not in the slightest bit jealous—I’d hate to be in a position where I had to play corporate politics. That is just not me. It makes me unhappy just to think about it. But some of my friends love their jobs and can’t understand why I live in Eugene and work for such a small company.

There are people who will always judge or criticize a decision—especially of it is a little off the beaten track. But at the end of the day, the only way you can truly be happy with your career, and achieve any sort of work/life balance (for every person that balance is different) is to work somewhere thats works for you. Don’t try and be the corporate schmoozer if just the idea of that makes your skin crawl. Don’t try and be an entrepreneur if the risk of not having a constant salary gives you hives. Don’t work for a small company if you are great at the corporate politics game and enjoy schmoozing.

Anyone with a serious career will always struggle with the work/life balance. No one will every achieve “doing it all.” But if you are happy, satisfied, and motivated with your career, it will be easier to be a happier person overall. If you are interested in reading more, David, at Small Business Trends has a great post on the work/life balance struggle we all face.

AvatarSabrina Parsons

Sabrina has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software since 2007.