What don't people tell you about working at a top tech company? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Natalie Afonina, former Intern at Google, Product Manager at Uber's Advanced Technology Group, on Quora:

What don't people tell you about working at a top tech company?

They don't tell you how comfortable you'll get.

The first year or two you're still open to leaving, starting that thing with your friend if the pieces fall into place and living on ramen in a basement, trying out a new career choice, accepting that random job offer from inbound on LinkedIn to move to Norway and develop AI algorithms for fish farms (true story), being bold and taking risks. Generally your risk profile is one where you're willing to accept more risk, both monetary, job-wise and socially.

Then come years 3 and 4, and the company starts feeding you equity and bonuses and promos to keep you around. They know exactly what they're doing, they're smart people after all. They give you just enough that it becomes that much harder to leave.

Then come what I term 'the later years', year 4 and onwards once your initial equity has vested. This is where you get very large sums of money and equity. The sums get big, like I said before, they know what they're doing. They know your initial equity has vested and you're that many percentage points more likely to leave now than you had been a year before. The large companies have this down to a science. They know (through data they've collected and methods they've A/B tested, of course) how much compensation will get you to stay, based on your peers and your profile.

It also emotionally feels great to 'get rewarded for a job well done'. But let's be honest, you're not getting these compensation numbers because you saved the company millions and millions of dollars or all of a sudden turned into a genius coding wizard, you're getting these rewards because you've stuck around till now and they don't want to lose you, so they sweeten the deal. Just enough to make you really pause.

It's like the Godfather, except in this case, the old man is your large company; they start making you offers you can't refuse. Minus the whole horse-head-in-bed thing.

There is another side effect of companies doling out generous equity and pay packages to you. You become expensive. The more money and stock the company pumps into you, the more you're getting priced out of the market. A startup wouldn't be able to compete for you (solely on a money level) and even some other midsize to large companies will balk at your price tag if you ask them to match your offer. And come on, I know you're good, but you're not that good. Your current company is only paying you that much to keep you and your institutional knowledge around and to keep you out of the hands of competitors (like I said, big companies know what they're doing).

Yes the comfort of the perks is good too, but the money soon becomes hard to disentangle from other considerations when making decisions. Whereas before there were ideals, 'mission' to consider and 'work happiness', now you have to tie in a significant amount of money. Look, and that's not bad. If you can retire ten years earlier while staying at the same company and not jumping, then isn't that a fair trade if what you want most in life is to sail the world and live off your investments? I'm not here to judge. You do you.

Your priorities will shift from when you just started to the later years. We idolize the people that quit their cushy jobs and start that side project they always dreamed of, but the opposite, wanting comfort and security are equally as valid. I would even argue that life comes in stages and in some, you're more open to risk and don't care about the money, in others, monetary security and upside is the variable you're optimizing for in your life's function.

Tl;dr: keep your personal priorities updated, know what is going on behind the scenes in the pay committees' discussions when you get that new equity grant, and don't let your ego get in the way.

Oh and one more thing: it's okay to take the money. Staying at the same company for many years is in no way a reflection on your character. If it makes sense for your priorities and life path, you do you.

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Published on: Oct 29, 2018