Why some swe don’t care about comp?

New / Eng Kishiug
Sep 25, 2018 58 Comments

I work at a startup with these couple brilliant 10X engineers, much more talented than me and with more experience than me. Yet, I know they make 30% less than me and 25X less equity (!) despite having joined in the same time span.

They say they don’t care about comp, they care about doing cool stuff and say that they get paid enough to afford the quality of life they want.

Why is that these people exist just in the software engineering field and not in other highly skilled professions, such as law, medicine or accounting?

They drive down the average compensation in the market for everybody, and give to employers the idea that software engineers are gullible individuals who can be tricked in the offer process in exchange for immaterial “perks” and bs.

Mind you, I am not talking about non-profit work, in which case I’m totally in support of. These are companies that are very very much for profit.

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TOP 58 Comments
  • Because it’s not the money that brings happiness. Once you pass a certain income, relative to your lifestyle and needs, the money is much less a factor. Maybe he likes being a shining star to dim witted interns.
    Sep 25, 2018 14
    • New / Eng Kishiug
      OP
      Did you read what I wrote about the retirement and excel? Could you comment specifically on what you don’t think it’s true in that comment, as opposed to making blank statements about being rich vs poor?
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng Trenbolone
      @KUwQ28: Since we are making baseless statements; The average blinder is much happier than people in lower income jobs.

      While people may complain on here; at least they are getting paid well for it. The average american complains just as much AND makes way less.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • New / Eng RhpJ71
      OP: I see that you are fighting every counter argument. Your question was about people -- not a logical analysis or a fact. People think and feel in very different forms. There is no right way. Why does that bother you?
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng Trenbolone
      @RhpJ71: here’s the thing; people PRETEND that they are happy making a mediocre salary but nobody really is. But what’s easier: making a huge amount of sacrifices to eventually make more money? Or simply lay back and do your 9-to-5 job making 60 grand a year and be done with it?

      The fact is that poor people say money doesn’t buy happiness because they’ve never had it and rich people say it so they won’t look like assholes. It’s a comical world we live in
      Sep 29, 2018
    • New / Eng RhpJ71
      You are going at this again. I feel sorry for you that you have such a narrow view. Just ACCEPT people the way they are. To assert that people don't know what makes them happy is super conceited of your own judgements.

      Happiness is a state of mind. I agree that one needs money to be comfortable and comfort brings happiness. But why do you think Elon sleeps on the shop floor? Why does Warren Buffet fly all over the world on business trips at 70+ years of age? Why did Trump become a president to be ridiculed by everyone? Why did Steve Jobs work till he almost died? Your theory on happiness does not explain these people. Money brings happiness but it is not be all and end all.
      Sep 29, 2018
  • New / Eng RhpJ71
    There is technical focus and there is personal focus. A lot of the 10x engineers are not as much into personal life -- hence the reduced value for money.
    Sep 25, 2018 13
    • New / Eng Kishiug
      OP
      Yes, which was my entire point. But I know that gullible passionate physicians must exist as well, yet they are surely not underpaid.

      The only thing I came up with to justify this is that employers, even tech employers, must see swe as something less valuable to their business than a physician to a hospital, so they feel the right to “pull one” on the gullible ones that come in the door.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Facebook FBTopAnnon
      It’s good. Don’t be entitled. If you want more money, own it and start a business, or a consulting company. And keep 100% if the profits. Otherwise you agree to unequal hiring terms.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Apple GtCI06
      Also, outliers don’t drive change. The few data points you mention are rare and as such have little effect on how the market works. Why are you so worried?

      As if a few guys not worrying about money sold a few houses at half the price in the Bay Area. That would not create any down trend or anything, it’s large movements that create trends, and the large movement in SWE comps is that people care about money.

      Thanks for listening :)
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng
      HanDouble

      Microsoft Eng

      BIO
      Hate coding quizzes but studying hard for better future!
      HanDoublemore
      Lots of teachers become teachers because they don’t have other choices and don’t want to work hard. People give you all kinds of bull shit reasons as if they are angels but most of people are not being honest. This is similar to answering for interview questions. You tell them nice story about how you overcome workplace challenges, how you resolved issues with conflicting people and why you left your last job. You don’t say you moved to Google from Microsoft because of money. You say that because of new challenges etc which is true but not being up front about the main motivation.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Facebook FBTopAnnon
      ^ this.
      Sep 25, 2018
  • Amazon / Eng Trenbolone
    Because medicine and law is a selective profession. Only people who really want to make good money will sacrifice 8+ years of their life for the schooling to get into medicine (or 7 for law). This is all while telling people how they are doing it for passion and not the money; give me a break; nobody is that big of a masochist.

    Source: Dad is a Radiation Oncologist and all of his rich colleagues mention how they are doing it for the money and how they are happy.
    Sep 25, 2018 5
    • New / Eng Kishiug
      OP
      This is the first answer that really makes sense. And makes me question my life choices so far.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng Trenbolone
      You can always go back. A large majority of my pre-Med friends were Ex-IT. I was Pre-Med/Comp Sci double major but didn’t want to do the long schooling. Now I wish I did; you make crazy good money as a specialist
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng
      HanDouble

      Microsoft Eng

      BIO
      Hate coding quizzes but studying hard for better future!
      HanDoublemore
      How much money are we talking about roughly?
      Sep 25, 2018
    • New / Eng Kishiug
      OP
      I know specialists who make 1-2M a year working as W2 employees in their early 40s. More if they are partners in a private practice.

      I’ve dated a couple physicians before and the baseline is 300-400k fresh of residency without a lucrative specialization.

      A guy I personally know clears 2M as an anhestetiologist (pardon the spelling, I don’t make 2M so fuck it) in his early 40s working for a hospital.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng
      HanDouble

      Microsoft Eng

      BIO
      Hate coding quizzes but studying hard for better future!
      HanDoublemore
      Alright, I should persuade my kids to go to medical school. I am way too old to pursue it now.
      Sep 25, 2018
  • Wayfair addA30
    What does “25x less” mean? Did you mean 1/25 of your equity?
    Sep 25, 2018 3
    • New / Eng Kishiug
      OP
      Yes. I mean I have 200,000 stock options (valued at $500k) and they have 8,000 options (valued at $25k).

      This shit is incredibly common in startups for people who don’t know or have no interest in negotiating. And I’m specifically disturbed about the people who have no interest. I’ve been at 2 startups and they are always there, even if they are very talented folks which could command stellar packages.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Wayfair addA30
      You sure they didn’t split or dilute or something between their awards and your award? Happens a lot with new funding rounds. They may have been awarded 8,000 options that split into 800,000 options after their award due to another round. They might just not know that their 8,000 award is actually 800,000 now.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • New / Eng Kishiug
      OP
      No. We joined roughly at the same time. And I looked at the fully diluted cap table as part of my due diligence before joining the company.

      And without talking about equity, the 30% discount on the cash comp is more real than ever.

      Also, a couple other folks (the ones who didn’t know how to negotiate, not the ones who just work for the glory, which I’m disturbed by) left the company and in their parting 1-1 with me as peers they told me they left because they “found out” their equity package was ridiculously low compared to the others. The company then tried to give them a new equity grant to bring them closer to the good comp, but at that point they were burned out and left.

      And these are great performers, and the same thing happened at the last startup I was at. It somehow happens a lot in startups, and it involves also very senior engineers! Go figure
      Sep 25, 2018
  • Microsoft / Eng FreshPrinc
    Because for some people having the most paper money stocks isn't the most important thing in their lives. Negotiating isn't easy or natural to some people.

    Besides if they are as good as you say the money will come one way or another. Just because you made more this time doesn't mean you won't get stuck in leetcode hell some day when their passion lands them a VP job.
    Sep 25, 2018 2
    • New / Eng Kishiug
      OP
      Fair point, but it’s not going to happen in their cases.

      I’m 32, this guy I’m talking about is like 48 (did the math looking at his graduation date on resume), before joining the startup spent 15 (yes, 15) years in a small company doing swe work, without ever getting a promotion (his LinkedIn shows a single 15yr slot of “member of technical staff”). And this is all while this guy being absolutely brilliant, he always comes up with the most elegant solutions and architectures, he’s definitely a technical mentor for me, despite me making much more than him.

      Seriously, VP?

      Plus, I very much enjoy my craft, and spend considerable amount of my free time reading up on tech content and books (going through CLRS as we speak for the 5th time in my career, even if I’m not looking to actively interview, I just like the topics), so the fact that I value compensation doesn’t have anything to do with my (lack of) passion.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng FreshPrinc
      Good for you, you are the one yourself that stated the other guy was better than you. I'm just using your own words.

      I'm sure this guy is still making more than 95% of the US population, let alone the world. If that's good enough for him, so be it.

      Take responsibility for your own damn life is the moral of the story. It sounds like you're going out and working hard to earn more; good for you. But sitting here whining that this guy is dragging down the average is some childish, petty nonsense that you need to get over.
      Sep 25, 2018
  • Google / Eng
    prodaccess

    Google Eng

    BIO
    Top Contributor or GTFO
    prodaccessmore
    They spent all their Experience Points in Dexterity and Strength and none in Wisdom or Charisma.
    Sep 25, 2018 0
  • Amazon / Eng Trenbolone
    Being a top engineer is WAY harder than being a doctor or a lawyer. Not every doctor has someone’s life in their hands; it isn’t all neurosurgery.

    Example:

    -Diagnostic Radiologists can 100% work from home; you receive X-Ray, MRI, CT, and PET scans. Put your findings down and ship back to the doctor. Average salary $500k a year.

    -Ophthalmology: No call. Easy LASIK where machine does all the work. Assistants help do most of labor. Most cases either vision problems due to Diabetes or Hypertension (Glaucoma). 30-35 hours a week and $700k a year.
    Sep 26, 2018 2
    • Wayfair addA30
      You're a fucking idiot lol
      Sep 26, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng
      HanDouble

      Microsoft Eng

      BIO
      Hate coding quizzes but studying hard for better future!
      HanDoublemore
      How is he an idiot? Most of people in tech are from middle class or below middle class therefore do not have access to that kind of real data. Immigrants have no idea about what it is like outside of tech in US. Even my dentist friend can retire after only working for 15 years and he has sympathy towards engineers for making only $250k. Specialist doctors or orthodontists make more than him as well. There are many professions and people who make much more money while having great social life. Engineers have a collection of people who stay in small bubble forever thus they can’t see beyond their very small circle.
      Sep 26, 2018
  • Netflix
    Ribosome

    Netflix

    PRE
    Uber
    Ribosomemore
    Some folks just don’t care about comp that much. I personally know someone who’s easily one of the most brilliant engineer I ever worked with - and he’s all about working on things he’s enthusiastic about and never cared about $$$
    Sep 25, 2018 8
    • Microsoft / Eng
      HanDouble

      Microsoft Eng

      BIO
      Hate coding quizzes but studying hard for better future!
      HanDoublemore
      Law school is only 3 years. Lots of engineers do masters (2 years) or PhD (5-7 years). Engineering professors make 2x of social science professors. However, doctors make 3x of engineering professors when they become a professor at the same school. Just search the public data from one of state universities.

      Doctors makes way more money overall even after a few years of volunteering at underprivileged countries. Doctors in rural area make the same money as big cities unlike tech jobs.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng FreshPrinc
      Doctors go through med school, internship, and residency. It's an enormous amount of time and money. And after taking out all those loans and losing 10 years of their earning potential, they make about the same as you do. Probably with a bachelor's. And they work twice the hours, with WAY more stress.

      Sure there's a few private practice owners that make loads, but they're the vast minority.
      Sep 25, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng
      HanDouble

      Microsoft Eng

      BIO
      Hate coding quizzes but studying hard for better future!
      HanDoublemore
      You are assuming all tech workers work at Google or Facebook right out of college. Only a very small portion can have a job in such a company at young age who happened to graduate at the right time. Doctors who are at top like it usually are usually paid millions at a big practice or they own a private practice which can generate many millions. Every doctor is basically like a manager or small business owner.

      Also doctors dont work many hours. You are confused with residents. Tech workers work longer hours than doctors actually. Lower paid primary care physicians don’t even work for 5 days. Surgeons dont perform surgery every day. People often mix surgeons’s stress with primary care doctors salary and residents long hours of work. That is like mixing engineers’ salary at college with Amazon engineers stress and start up engineers work hours.

      Doctors who went through residency are specialists and they tend to make more than Google seniors. If they work less than 400k, it is possible they are doing it only for three days or don’t have good resume or just right out of college. Assistant professor in medical school made 300k in my state college even 10 years ago and doctors salary has increased crazily over the last 8 years. Besides, engineers don’t last long. Basically we are working in a pyramid where there will be small percentage of winners who can stay at the company with good salary after 20 years of employment.

      Doctors are life time job. Whereas, in tech you should start worrying about how to study leetcode unless you are in managerial track. Unless tech can grow like this forever (impossible), there will be only small number of people who survive as a manager and rest will move to lower paying companies such as walmart or government.
      Sep 26, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng FreshPrinc
      I know a lot of doctors, in different fields (family medicine, ER surgery, anesthesiology, etc). All of them work more hours of me, none of them are as filthy rich as you claim. You have an incredibly skewed view of medicine, and there’s no purpose in continuing this back and forth.
      Sep 26, 2018
    • Microsoft / Eng
      HanDouble

      Microsoft Eng

      BIO
      Hate coding quizzes but studying hard for better future!
      HanDoublemore
      So my view on medicine is skewed and yours is not? Just like you claim, I have many cousins and families working in medicine. Perhaps, my circle includes more successful doctors but your circle might be limited to hard working people.

      Microsoft is considered as having best work life balance and you assert they work longer than tech workers based on comparison to yours? I am also not claiming doctors are filthy rich. Average surgeons’ salary in public data includes people who are in their 60s who perform only two days a week. Even then the number is over Microsoft level 66 engineers. Lower paying jobs like pediatrician still makes more than level 64 despite most are women and many of them only work for 2-3 days. How long would tech salary last? Not for long once overseas dev centers mature more. Tech salary before 2010 was nothing to brag about. Even people working at Microsoft are selected few.
      Sep 26, 2018
  • Chase / Eng mEyG62
    In my experience, people who say not to care about the money are making significantly more than me.
    Sep 25, 2018 0
  • FutureAdvisor / Eng wAvH13
    I think we should teach all engineers how to negotiate and how much it can compound over time, similar to what many women are now taught. I’ve seen too many case of smart engineers not negotiating at all and taking very low offers compared to their peers.
    I recently received a very low ball offer from a startup valued at a billion, and I gotta wonder how many engineers took that offer without negotiating.
    Sep 25, 2018 0
  • Oracle qkxnrdl
    They don't want to leetcode
    Sep 26, 2018 0