Part-Time Profiles in Tech: Ernie Park (001)

A new weekly series highlighting people who work part-time

I'm excited to launch the "Part-Time Profiles in Tech" series! Every Tuesday, we'll send out a profile of someone who has done part-time work in the tech industry. Hear and learn from the real stories of real people who have made part-time work for them.

Interested in being featured or know someone who would be a good fit? Fill out this form to let us know. The only requirement is that you’ve worked part-time in tech in some capacity! Whether you’ve been doing it for one month or a decade, technical/non-technical, employed or self-employed, I’d like to showcase it all!

This first week’s profile is… me 😅 !

001 - Ernie Park

Ernie Park is the founder of Part-Time Tech, this blog and podcast! His mission is to unlock part-time work in the tech industry. 

Ernie also works on side projects like Previously, Ernie was a software engineer and manager at Brex and HubSpot. He also founded a YC-backed company called MicroEval for a hot minute. You can say hello to him on Twitter (@eipark) and LinkedIn

What’s your experience with part-time work?

I was a full-time software engineer and engineering manager for about 10 years. In 2021, I was a remote engineering manager and burned out. The job was fine and I was good about setting boundaries with my hours, but as an extrovert, being remote and on Zoom all day wasn't working for me. It was the first time I felt this way in my entire career.

As I quit my full-time job at Brex, my manager offered me an hourly contract role as a developer advocate for the team I was already managing as that role had not been hired for yet. I helped maintain API documentation and infrastructure and provided the team additional capacity without having to go and hire someone separate. It was perfect as it allowed me to work as little or as much as I want and still collect some income.

A few months later, a former co-worker asked if I wanted to help be an interim, fractional, head of engineering for a startup called Arcade. I did this for about six months and it was a great fit for my skills and averaged about 10 hours/week. For the company, it helped them get some engineering leadership during a transitionary period as I helped tee up their operations and future leadership for their next round of growth.

Following these two gigs, it was obvious that part-time and flexible work fit my current lifestyle and situation far better than full-time work. I started this newsletter as a result with the post “The Future of Work isn’t just Remote, it’s Part-Time” because I knew I wasn’t unique and others would resonate with my experience.

Why is working part-time important to you?

  1. The biggest reason is flexibility to spend more time on my family, volunteering, and hobbies and hobbies. I’m about to have my second child and I don’t have to worry about the length of my leave, or going back to work. I can just let parenting come first and work as I have energy. Part-time work has also enabled me to start my small family farm, volunteer with a great organization in CASA, and simply reduce day-to-day stress. 

  2. For a long time, I’ve wanted to build small indie businesses, but it wasn’t really possible as I was working full-time. Since I’ve started Part-Time Tech, I’ve been able to work on the newsletter as well as pursue many other small ideas that could blossom into steady businesses. It’s far more stimulating for me to work on ideas like this as my interest is piqued than one thing 40 hours/week in front of a screen.

Beyond all this, I've never really identified myself by my work. If my family's needs can be met and I can serve my community while working less, I'll take that option all day. 

How much have you been able to earn part-time?

For my hourly gig, I was able to get a pro-rated hourly rate off my cash compensation when I was working full-time. That salary was fairly high, so for a relatively small amount of hours, I made a good portion of our family’s living expenses.

As a fractional head of engineering, my compensation was roughly 1/3 my full-time salary at 1/4 of the time. 

In 2022, I earned roughly 25% of the cash compensation I made in 2021 (when working full-time), but I worked probably 15% of the time. 

This was enough to cover 2/3 of my family's living expenses for a year, with my wife's earnings covering the rest. However, if finances were tighter, I would have likely worked more hours and picked up additional consulting engagements that were presented to me.

What are the tradeoffs to working part-time vs one traditional full-time job for you?

I’m still early on my part-time journey, so the income isn’t steady. My part-time work is somewhat more entrepreneurial and dependent on wanting to take on more jobs, so it takes a bit more effort to do that networking and evaluate whether I want to do it.

Full-time is easier in the sense that you just have one job, you have to do it, and you get a paycheck every two weeks.

That being said, for me and my family, the flexibility gained is worth any downsides and right now, I’m not optimizing for a steady paycheck.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to work part-time like you?

  1. If you like your current full-time job, I’d first see if you can ramp that down to part-time. I wrote about that in “The Easiest Part-Time Job to Get”.

  2. There are many different ways to work part-time. Explore all the different options and build up a part-time portfolio that builds multiple income streams and employment options.

  3. Start networking. Message friends and connections at startups to see if they could use some part-time help. Do a lot of quick 30 min zoom coffee chats. It doesn’t have to be formal. Help them hourly with some miscellaneous tasks that fit your skillset, even if it’s for relatively low cash or pay. It’s more important to get that initial foot in the door, show you can be effective in a reduced hours role, and let that evolve into a more steady role.

  4. If you want to build your own businesses, just start now. A little bit of time consistently will build momentum. Earn your first $1 and that will hopefully snowball into building more confidence and income in the future.