1M+ TC, 99 percentile earnings in tech, how to get there

New jwz_hzs
Apr 14 73 Comments

Compared to medicine, 99 percentile earnings in tech (~450k) seems to be lesser than p99 in finance, management and medicine (1M+) (source: 80000 hours website)

Since I'm an SWE atm with 200k at FAANG in Europe, and have low utility for an additional 200k of income (60% savings currently, earning to give), I only see a point in optimizing for the next order of magnitude of income 1M+ .

I also have above-average interpersonal skills for a SWE, have delivered speeches to 2000-member audiences, founded a failed startup. What's the best way forward for me to reach 1M+ comp in 7-8yrs?

- Move to finance? Trading, etc.? Don't want to do sell-side stuff though. I see some high bonus compensations mentioned in trading.
- Move to Product within internet tech and work up to Director/VP - drive vision, get results, keep people happy etc.?
- Side business such as real estate or blogs, talks, etc. (starting up after quitting is too risky, high downside, low prob of success)
- Move to management in non-tech firm (don't wanna do consulting though)

Investing on the side with a conservative ~10 CAGR will only get me there in ~15years, which is a timeframe I'd like to beat.

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TOP 73 Comments
  • Facebook
    ⛺️⛺️

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    Google
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    If you get to Director or IC7/8+ at FAANG (US) you should see TC in the 800+ range.
    Apr 14 11
    • Amazon OlAl28
      Was gonna say this exact same thing. Sure 800 if you want to do nothing but work 24/7 with constant pressure to perform
      Apr 14
    • Facebook
      kxang

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      Google, Amazon, Intuit, Uber
      kxangmore
      Honestly, I was MUCH MUCH happier as an IC4. Starting at 7 (and even before) the expectation became to shed blood and tear for the company/work.
      Apr 14
    • Amazon OlAl28
      Yeah, I plan to leave wherever I'm at around the time that starts happening. Not sure to what yet though, but I have a few years to figure that out still.
      Apr 14
    • Facebook pew pew
      Kxang: if you shed blood at your level, you either been overpromoted or haven’t adapted to your level yet.

      I rarely work over 40hr and get EE.

      But yeah to OP - senior eng in faang will yield you as much and more.
      Apr 14
    • Facebook
      kxang

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      kxangmore
      @pew pew: more of a self-drive to overdeliver than anything else.
      Apr 14
    • Facebook
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      @kxang: sure, but that doesn't make @pew pew wrong.
      Apr 14
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      How many years to such senior positions if I'm just 25 and L4/SDE2, assuming I change jobs after every (vesting-period+1yr)
      Apr 15
    • Facebook pew pew
      You are less likely to get to senior eng by hopping every 4 years. Not impossible but less likely. Staying long time lets you get to know business really well, form the vision, build necessary reputation and relationships to keep growing.

      You also seem to think that you can be immensely successful in ANYTHING you do (finance, eng, management, law, VC, building businesses etc), which I doubt tbh. Being a great manager requires totally different skill sets and predisposition than being a great engineer. Or a trader.

      You are 25. You should know by now what skills you have and what are you good at. Pick a profession already and start focusing on excelling there. You can get to 1M in any of the mentioned fields if you are REALLY good at it.
      Apr 15
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      Seems rational that not hopping and master business domain is better for LTV, but I've heard many folks on Blind think hopping = better TC - or is that in the short-term?
      Apr 15
    • Facebook pew pew
      Most blinders will never make it to faang or to e7/l7 (which is only 2%) or make 1M. Optimizing for maxing out within their level bracket is different from optimizing for getting to level+3 (in your case).
      Apr 15
  • New / Eng Mr PIP
    First time seeing someone bragging about founding a FAILED startup😂
    Apr 14 5
    • Amazon OlAl28
      Cause he's got more balls than you?
      Apr 14
    • Microsoft Cheech🔥
      What amazon said
      Apr 14
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      Yeah, best thing I did. If money/risk wasn't a factor, I'd be back at it. Failures are great as long as you fail early (i.e. no long timeouts).

      Also, worth noting that failed startups bear risk for the startup industry as a whole, and failures often correlate to success of the industry. Since there is no deterministic way to predict the success of products, you could think of multiple startups as performing a state-space exploration of the problem-solution space - driven by the irrational expectations of individual success of founders. So failed startups are like hypothesis-testing experiments for the ones that haven't failed yet. Maybe a bit like the benefits of chaos testing dist systems, although that analogy isn't a perfect fit.

      If you can look past his belligerence for a while, read NN Taleb's 'Antifragility by Layers' in Antifragile for a non-rigorous discussion. He ends that discussion thanking failed risk-takers for the resilience they add to the system as a whole despite the 'ingratitude of the masses'. This idea also checks out in terms of the mathematical intuition we have about adapted stochastic processes.
      Apr 15
    • New / Eng Mr PIP
      I was co-founder of a failed startup also. Lost 2 years of my life and all my savings. Learned a lot for sure, but I don't go bragging about it. It's like bragging about losing soccer game. "But at least I had balls to play!" Anyone can start a business, it's not an achievement. Building successful business is achievement.
      Apr 15
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      a) 'Having balls to play' wasn't my point, it was someone else's comment - similar to how I didn't 'brag' about a failed startup, but just 'mentioned' it.

      b) I think you're losing my point here. I've played a sport professionally when I was younger, and sports culture encourages failures more than any other: they have another name for it - 'practice'. Your attitude towards failure is a good indicator for how much you will grow in the future.

      c) You may not be doing justice to your experience if you're not talking about your failure. I mention this in many of my interviews, and some companies valued it highly - esp. certain managers. However, you should be able to talk about what you learned from it, what you would have done differently, with examples. Even what you actually did is quite relevant, since it shows you how you worked with no structure, in a cross-functional environment, and your attitude towards users/customers. Google, for e.g., didn't care, but others did.

      d) As I mentioned in my comment, failed entrepreneurs subsidize risk for those who succeed, and I think we should be appreciate that better.

      e) It does indicate your tolerance for risk - and outside tech, folks who've grown a classical business will often talk about their failures with you too.
      Apr 16
  • Zillow Group c##
    🍿
    Apr 14 1
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      Lol, I fell asleep after posting this
      Apr 15
  • Amazon FgYv82
    Finance makes a million when the market is hot and go broke on decline. Medicine makes a million when people have money to actually pay medical bills or actually have insurance and also have medium 6 figure student loan debt. It's all relative. If you want money you have to own something. True ownership is where you can build that sort of wealth in my opinion
    Apr 14 2
    • Avant / Product Fu11_Tilt
      OP wants high earnings with 0 risk lol. There's only a couple ways to get to that level:

      - Become world class at something (e.g. surgery)
      - Invent something and patent it
      - Turn around or scale a business as a leader to a large multiple of it's prior performance, so you warrant that salary. You don't get paid to cash in on something that is already successful
      - Become an investor and raise your own fund (HF, PE, VC)
      - Already rich and leverage your privilege for even more returns

      People who get paid 1M+ probably don't have to worry much about how they can convince someone else will pay them that salary. They have the vision, luck, or some special ability that sets them apart
      Apr 14
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      Nice answer, and comment.

      Reply to answer: I'm not sure if you implied otherwise, but tech isn't recession proof either, since a lot of TC value derives from easy availability of capital. I agree with your ownership insight, and that's something I'm exploring - trying to minimize risk around that.

      Reply to comment: obviously, no such thing as 0 risk. Even your US savings account balance would only be FDIC insured up to a small amount.

      Re: becoming world class, does that apply to tech? The value of our skills are much less concrete and there's no direct-to- consumer market for it, as with surgery. The lack of measurable value also means that sales BS can take you a long way. Cmiiw.

      Scaling a smaller business to a large multiple as a leader seems like a good idea - how do I spot such opportunities? Networking only?

      Own fund seems good too, but I'd like to evaluate the results of my own investments before managing money for others for now.
      Apr 15
  • Uber yuierr
    Wrong data. A vp level executive in a medium sized nontech company have no way of making 1mil
    Apr 14 4
    • Zillow Group c##
      Has Uber TC gone to shit with the IPO or something?
      Apr 14
    • Zynga CuriousABC
      Uber is very much a tech company - unlike Zillow lol
      Apr 14
    • Capital One EXwk33
      $1M is achievable in finance and consulting at those levels
      Apr 14
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      You're right - I guess I mean any management position that pays 1M+, whether that's VP at FAANG or CEO at 50-member company. For smaller companies my experience is that most of them come from years/decades of loyal service to that company.
      Apr 15
  • Visa mr_python
    I see that OP has a serious question which no one is trying to sincerely answer. Instead of trying to laugh at him about "founding a failed startup" realize that he has had the motivation and guts to try. He is also very committed to his goal.
    Apr 14 2
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      The lack of sincerity on average is actually a good thing for those who are, if you believe in Graham-style value investing :D Things that are undervalued lead to more opportunities for profitable investment, while fairly valued things not so much. I think there was some Rothschild that said 'the time to buy is when there is blood on the streets'.

      It may probably be much worse for my own goals if all the folks on Blind had the same drive and were competing for the same ends. :P
      Apr 15
    • Visa mr_python
      Very well said 😄
      Apr 15
  • Facebook FfEV64
    Found a successful startup.
    Apr 14 0
  • Amazon OlAl28
    We're like the same person. I'm thinking management in non tech firm (CTO) is going to be my best bet tbh, but definitely interested in what people have to say here. Have a few side businesses, but it's very hard to scale them while working full time and not taking on funding.
    Apr 14 6
    • Amazon tYhgX
      What side businesses do you have? I’m looking for someone to work on a startup with. I really am done with being a #salaryman
      Apr 14
    • Amazon OlAl28
      I do consulting for blockchain startups and teach a course on udemy.
      Apr 14
    • Amazon OlAl28
      I know there is a market for other ideas I have as well but again, not worth the risk at this moment in my career
      Apr 14
    • Airbnb abshdirb
      Out of random curiosity, how much do/can you make from udemy?
      Apr 14
    • Amazon OlAl28
      Around $500/month for this particular course. But this is what I mean about scaling. I could technically create my own site and offer more than just this course, but I don't have the time to put that kind of effort behind it.
      Apr 14
    • Oracle ZweU65
      teaching on udemy is roughly on par with having an etsy page in terms of "side businesses"
      May 3
  • Jet.com / Other
    gtfoorgtfo

    Jet.com Other

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    Starbucks
    gtfoorgtfomore
    EZ
    Find a company with EBITDA per employee is >2mil and join as a senior manager
    Apr 14 0
  • Avant / Product Fu11_Tilt
    Marry rich. Or get to 500k TC then marry someone else earning 500k
    Apr 14 0
  • Google / Eng Bergey Sin
    If you're trying to maximize the likelihood of $1M / yr worked, startup is likely your best bet. If you're trying to maximize your expected income, FAANG is almost certainly your best bet.
    Apr 14 9
    • Facebook
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      Making money at a startup isn't going to happen unless you are a founder, and even then it's incredibly unlikely.

      It's a well known horrible idea w.r.t. TC for employees, compared to large employers.
      Apr 14
    • Google / Eng Bergey Sin
      Agreed that it's not a good idea, but that's because 'maximizing the likelihood of $1M' is a ill-defined goal. It's like asking "how can I maximize the likelihood that I'll become a millionaire next week?" Answer: spend every $ you own on lottery tickets.
      Apr 14
    • New / Product
      VeniceLA88

      New Product

      BIO
      Mostly startups. Interested in exploring new opportunities in Los Angeles.
      VeniceLA88more
      I have several colleagues that have made million-dollar exits from very small startups. To be fair most of them were either cofounder/CTO or similar....
      Apr 14
    • Google / Eng Bergey Sin
      Also, "several million" is a very broad bucket that encompasses anything from a cofounder owning 25% of a $1M exit after 5 years of work (worse than FAANG) to somebody netting a $10M payday.
      Apr 14
    • New / Product
      VeniceLA88

      New Product

      BIO
      Mostly startups. Interested in exploring new opportunities in Los Angeles.
      VeniceLA88more
      Not disagreeing - the last one probably made off with a solid $8-10M in his pocket after everything. Again luck though is likely a major factor
      Apr 14
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      @Google I'm sorry, I don't understand why maximizing the likelihood of $1M in next 5-15yrs is ill-defined - could you elaborate? Strictly speaking, I'm talking about wealth (which is better defined IMO), and income is just one factor, but that distinction wasn't relevant for this question.
      Apr 15
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      I agree that FAANG is a good bet for maximizing expected income, but likelihood of $1M is more relevant for my eventual goals (less about personal expenses, more things like, say, founding a school or angel investing in startups with impact on causes I care about). Startup is definitely a better bet for $10M/yr or more, but for $1M/yr I feel like there are higher likelihood options given the same amount of effort as a start-up.
      Apr 15
    • Google / Eng Bergey Sin
      By "ill-defined", I meant that your stated goal is almost certainly different from your real utility function. Put differently, the strategies that maximize your odds of achieving your stated goal will almost certainly leave you worse off. The reason is diminishing marginal value of money for virtually all real life human beings.
      Apr 15
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      That's a good point.
      Apr 15
  • New / Eng
    bumerang

    New Eng

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    bumerangmore
    Oh, please disclose your location (city, not country) to make sure we understand the context.
    Apr 14 2
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      Anonymity concerns - outside of London etc., European cities are quite small, so its easier to identify people
      Apr 15
    • New / Eng
      bumerang

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      bumerangmore
      Jack, is it you?
      Apr 21
  • Amazon JSnowflake
    Move to the Bay Area. Move to manager for faster progression. Get promoted to L7 as a manager. Then hop to another FAANG or a nearly-IPO decacorn for an L8 role. There you have it, $1M TC. If you relocate here at senior level making maybe 350k, you can do this in 5-6 years if you are good. If you aren't there yet, then may take more like 8-9 years. Engineering leadership is the fastest path for you based on your description. Moving to a non tech firm won't get to 1M faster.
    Apr 14 2
    • New jwz_hzs
      OP
      Immigration to the US is a pain atm, isn't it? Besides, not very keen about the generally volatile social environment (relative to parts of Europe), based on my last visit.

      Engineering leadership seems like a good route, given that there's better mobility to other management as backup and possibly more networking opportunities from there if required too. I think it's going to take me 8-9 years even if I do well and not 5-6, which is okay tbh
      Apr 15
    • Two Sigma not nice
      Another benefit of this approach is even if you fall short (e.g. only get to L6 instead of L8) you made good money along the way. If you go the startup route and fail you end up with little to show.
      Apr 15
  • Indeed / Eng Fallapple
    You are obviously smarter and more driven than most of the commenters so I'm not sure you'll get much useful info here. You know the way inside yourself.
    Apr 14 1
    • Visa mr_python
      Once the OP settles down on a approach, I'd love to know about it 😉
      Apr 14
  • Apple vCeS26
    Start up would be logical trajectory.
    Apr 14 0
  • Amazon / Eng IVY55
    Is moving to product as OP mentioned a viable option to achieve this? Is it more common pathway to VP/Director/CEO? Asking because by asking around it seems PMs earn less than Devs at the same level. I am considering this path myself so would love some more insight.
    Apr 14 3
    • Airbnb abshdirb
      Product is better to get to exec level. Additionally the thought that they make less is a myth on average, but swe outliers have a higher max
      Apr 14
    • Amazon / Eng IVY55
      Thanks for the insight. Maybe the situation at Amazon is different than other companies. I also see a lot of MBA grad PMs and also those with 10+ yrs exp stuck at L6 here which seemed concerning to me. Is this the case elsewhere?
      Apr 14
    • Airbnb abshdirb
      It happens. MBA to PM is a popular track right now, which creates little differentiation among candidates.

      Either way, though, your best path to exec (from PM) is to time a jump from FANG to a unicorn and then build it up. Trying to remain in FANG and differentiate yourself is possible but has a low probability of success. There are only so many spots. Better to be a little risky.
      Apr 14
  • New / Product
    VeniceLA88

    New Product

    BIO
    Mostly startups. Interested in exploring new opportunities in Los Angeles.
    VeniceLA88more
    Invest in other startups.
    Apr 14 2
    • Visa mr_python
      That typically has high barrier to entry. Also, unless you have experience doing it and deep pockets you can lose all of your savings. Remember that 3 out of 4 startups fail. There is a huge difference in other persons startup and yours.
      Apr 14
    • Amazon OlAl28
      Also a lot of insider information involved in this imo
      Apr 14
  • New / Eng oNSA74
    If you’re looking for wealth go own land.
    Apr 15 1
    • American Express D.BCooper
      Yep. My friends dad bought land in San Diego 40 years ago. Net worth about 15m now.

      Owning and creating is how you build wealth. A CIO is just a shareholder pawn.

      My uncle owns a 11 houses he rents. He is 55 and lived very below his means, still works as an engineer but has **** you money in terms of passive income. Freedom is leaving your job and living the same.

      If you wake up and go to work, you'ee not rich.
      Apr 15
  • Visa mr_python
    I find myself in similar situation and motivation as OP. I didn't start a startup though. I have made a few very successful real estate investments (120% returns in 3 years) but I don't think it's sustainable especially for next few years.
    Apr 14 1
    • Amazon / Eng IVY55
      Were those fix and flips? Doesn’t sound like buy and hold. Where did you invest if you don’t mind sharing?
      Apr 14
  • Visa mr_python
    I considered various options but I think a successful startup is the only way to achieve this in a reasonable time. 15 years is too long.
    Apr 14 0
  • New focus27
    How many years of experience you have?
    Apr 14 0