How to stay relevant while working in defense?

Raytheon / Eng FRiM60
Apr 14 14 Comments

I work as a software developer for Raytheon in the DC/MD/VA area. Comp is OK, WLB is great, and I like the work I'm doing. However, comp increases are primarily limited by YOE (as opposed to performance), and while I'm happy now with my abilities, I won't deny that I'm concerned about stagnation -- not in coding ability, but in the use and understanding of new technology. My work centers around embedded technology / system-level OS interaction, and the main language we use is C (also some Python); my team has pretty good design practices, but our CI/CD pipeline is not great and I don't feel that I'd be able to effect meaningful change from my position as a contracted employee. How can I stay relevant in the "normal" SW industry (not defense)? What are some good embedded or similar SW companies to consider for the future? I've started practicing LC in my spare time in case I decide to jump ship.

If I decide to leave defense, my best chances seems to be:

If I want to stick with embedded/OS design (my current skill set):
MSFT
Apple
Qualcomm
HFT?

If I want to work on shiny/new technology and maximize TC:
FAANG / Unicorn (?)

Glad to hear any thoughts from folks who have been in similar situations.

YOE: 4.5 (2 software, 2.5 analysis/IT)
TC: ~160k

Edit:
YOE and TC (base + bonus) included as a courtesy since that is the standard practice here. I have not inflated any comp numbers. While I appreciate the discussion around my compensation, I'm primarily interested in answers to my questions. Thanks all

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TOP 14 Comments
  • VMware / Eng
    vLol

    VMware Eng

    PRE
    Wayfair
    vLolmore
    160k with 2 YoE at Raytheon? Doesn't SWE start at like 70k?
    Apr 14 5
    • Salesforce MrBigg
      He is using the Blind TC multiplier.
      Apr 14
    • Snapchat dour28
      What is tc multiplier
      Apr 14
    • VMware / Eng
      vLol

      VMware Eng

      PRE
      Wayfair
      vLolmore
      Inflating your own TC on Blind.

      According to Glassdoor, ICs hit 160k at Senior Principal Engineer, that's like 6 levels above new grad.
      Apr 14
    • Raytheon / Eng FRiM60
      OP
      Without getting into too many personal details, I worked non-software jobs for 2.5 years after graduating college with a CS degree and only began as a legitimate software developer in 2017. Feel free to think of me as having 4 YOE if you prefer
      Apr 14
    • VMware / Eng
      vLol

      VMware Eng

      PRE
      Wayfair
      vLolmore
      Pretty cool that you weren't new-grad'd even as a CS new grad. Props.
      Apr 14
  • Intel Who.Dis
    Avoid the defense industry. Best advice from my dad who spent 30+ years in that industry
    Apr 15 2
    • BlackRock xis
      Anyone who spent 30 years in any industry will see the good and bad of it. What’s bad about defense ?
      Apr 15
    • Intel Who.Dis
      1) Old technology. The military wants “known good” technologies. They are aversive to DDR4, Bluetooth, new interfaces/programs integrated into the project. New chips need years or a decade to prove stability before it would be used in something like aviation.
      2) Extreme growth and collapse cycles. Multi million dollar contracts are great when they are winning bids. They hire a TON and run out of cubicles regularly. When you lose a bid, you now have a very big gap between revenue generation and engineering work to be done. Layoff cycles can cut a workforce by over 50% you’re at a tertiary contractor (not Boeing, Lockheed). The cube farm can be cleaned out and reminiscent of a ghost town.
      3) A slow paced and slow learning environment. Government contracts need lots of documentation and analysis to get a project out the door. There are lots of extra reviews and paperwork to be done. An engineer will spend a lot of time sorting through words rather than doing engineering work in their domain. On top of that, scrutiny is intense enough that copy-paste is the preferred method because it leads to faster acceptance.
      Apr 15
  • Lockheed Martin / Eng iRqP73
    He’s most likely using his 401k matching, bonus, health benefits, etc. There is no one with 2 YoE making $160k in DoD contracting companies. That’s in the ballpark of a “staff engineer” or “associate manager”. (6-9 YoE)
    Apr 14 2
    • Raytheon / Eng FRiM60
      OP
      Total comp package with benefits as you describe is closer to 200k. I updated the OP with more details
      Apr 14
    • Lockheed Martin / Eng iRqP73
      Copy that / I apologize, the TC is irrelevant to your question, so I agree, we should focus on that :-)

      As someone who’s been at Lockheed Martin for 10 years, I’d say the answer really depends. We work on some incredibly complex systems as DoD contractors, but we struggle to adopt new technologies and that hurts our career prospects when/if we decide to leave the industry. If you enjoy working on DoD projects and have a special interest in supporting the various warfighter missions, then you’re in the right place and can spend the rest of your career between the big DoD contracting companies, with a very comfortable living. I know some of the TCs that get stated on Blind are astronomically high, but $160k is more than enough to be happy in life.
      Apr 14
  • GTFO of defense. Knew many people who got out and their careers skyrocketed or blew up like a SpaceX rocket. Don't crash like a Boeing 737 MAX autopilot.
    Apr 16 0
  • Amazon 63784747
    I’d say don’t worry about new cutting edge shit. There are places in FAANG that require expertise in OS/Embedded systems and coding. For senior positions the expectation is high. They’d rather hire someone with deep skill in one area instead of someone who knows lots of new technologies and frameworks but not expert at any single technology.

    Knowing many things might be necessary only for engineers who build XFN apps/products.
    Apr 14 0

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