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Farewell, App Academy. Hello, Airbnb – Part 2 (haseebq.com)
108 points by bumbledraven on April 23, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 66 comments

I hope revealing salaries doesn't get him in trouble at AirBnb. I know I would be a bit annoyed if he revealed all of this before joining if I were an employer.

Conflating base salary and RSU packages, especially pre-IPO RSUs, is a mistake. In my 20 years in Silicon Valley I've learned you simply can't put too much faith in stock. Stock is great, but it goes up and down. The only thing that is real is base salary, even bonus isn't guaranteed. Stock or options are nice, but they are icing on the cake, if you get a chance to cash out, so combining them with base salary is generally a mistake.

> "I hope revealing salaries doesn't get him in trouble at AirBnb. I know I would be a bit annoyed if he revealed all of this before joining if I were an employer."

I hope it doesn't get him in trouble, too. It would be both illegal and a gross ethical violation on Airbnb's part. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gives all employees the right organize and "engage in concerted activities", including the right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with each other.

Obama also signed an executive order last year reinforcing these rights. If you have a problem with employees sharing compensation information, you shouldn't be an employer in the US (or anywhere, really).


The trouble is probably a social one, not legal. Every engineer there is comparing themselves to a guy with a year of experience and thinking that they shouldn't be paid less. All at once.

Either AirBnB ends up making 230k the minimum salary for everyone or people will take this guy's advice and start negotiating, getting counter offer from other places and possibly just leave. Management ended up paying a lot more than 230k for this guy so they are probably not happy.

On the flipside, more talent would probably apply to AirBnB knowing that a guy like him can land 230k. Not to mention he's indirectly marketing for AirBnB by explaining why he was attracted to the company and chose them over Google (often seen as the holy grail of software engineering). I highly doubt that management is pissed.

More transparency is overall a positive thing. Underpaid people should know that they're being underpaid, and engineers notoriously suck at negotiation.

In the short-term, this is good for AirBnB now that it's clear that AirBnB pays extremely well. The floor is actually $250k--almost certainly everyone will look at their own resume and feel they have more experience than this new guy. I doubt the company can pay every SWE this rate as the minimum--otherwise, they would've publicly advertised this before.

I just don't think AirBnB can pay higher than Google in the long-term--are they really making $1M in revenue and quarter million per employee?

Social backlash is understandable. Employers aren't allowed to punish people for revealing their salaries though.

I see your point, but I think it would useful for every engineer to learn the whole life story of that guy, before comparison.

Are salaries trade secrets on US?

Here usually we talk openly about them.

America is full of fools on this point. We don't talk about salary because, in the back of our minds, it's a determiniate of our value. This is not true in most philosophical systems, but it's true in our post-modern materialism.

The end result of our self-censor is a weak labor market. We don't know what we're worth. Americans, aside from our verbrato, tend to underestimate our worth. There are people working for 80k with 8 years of experience in advanced fields like Big Data that don't realize that they bring their companies 200k+ worth of value. They don't realize that their peers with less skills and marketability are making the same 80k. This makes management's life better: thicker margins.

When an individual attempts to move past this barrier, especially consciously, anti-union sentiment pops up. People start to get defensive. Others get lustful. A reasonable dialogue turns into a battle of the Joneses. Labor fights Labor.

> Americans, aside from our verbrato

"Bravado". I wouldn't correct you except that it took me a good five minutes to think of the correct word :-)

I'm constantly amazed at how Americans are so afraid to offend their employer by demanding things. They are not your family! I actually want these relationships to be more adversarial.

"Here" is not very specific, so I'm not sure how to interpret that. :) I wouldn't say it's a trade secret, but for whatever reason, talking openly about salaries in the US does carry a stigma of unprofessionalism. I don't attribute that to any single cause- I think the attitude comes from a combination of good and bad influences. I don't know if it's a net positive or negative- I suspect it's a wash.

People also don't talk about salaries in social situations (IME). That's much more understandable, I think- it's just a lose-lose situation. If you make more than whoever you're talking to, it's awkward. If you make less than whoever you're talking to, it's awkward (for different reasons). It's usually not a topic that people would want to talk about outside of a professional context because either one person is going to feel bad, or the other person is going to feel like a jerk, or both. Or they're both sociopaths, in which case, whatever floats their boats.

Here in Europe, usually the people that don't talk about salaries do so, because they are constrained to reveal the values or don't want to constrain others in the room.

But usually among friends, people are generally comfortable mentioning them.

Having failed multiple interviews with Google and other companies mentioned in this post, it really drives home the huge difference between Haseeb's work ethic and mine. If I had put forth 10% of the effort he has expended this year to preparing then I'd have aced the interviews. But I didn't. Instead I spend most of my free time doing frivolous things that aren't satisfying.

What percentage of HN posters have applied to Google? And how many received offers? I think it's amazing that he outclasses so many of us after being in our industry for a year. Good for him.

Context and disclaimer: I run an intense and successful bootcamp focused on preparing for Tech interviews. A 100+ people from all over the world have prepped with us since we started a year and a half ago. http://interviewkickstart.com.

We've since learnt a lot about what makes successful engineers. While nearly everyone who goes thru us (and is actively looking) gets placed somewhere nice, the people who crack some of the hardest interviews generally fall into ONE or MORE of the following categories:

1. They are just bright from the get go. A high IQ.

Haseeb, from the little I've read about him, seems to fall into this category. They can get by with normal amount of practice viz. brush-up.

2. They are extremely prepped.

A crude measure of prep, is how many algorithmic problems you've practiced. Some of these people have crossed 300+ problems. Written code for each. And repeated it. It takes several months to a year to do this with diligence and focus.

3. They have been coding for a long time. Almost precocious-ly.

They have written so much code, that a lot of constructs are now muscle memory. All they need to do in an interview, is to intuit the solution. After that, they impress the heck with their coding fluency.

4. They are competitive programmers for some time

They don't have to be toppers or winning competitions. e.g. Yellow on Topcoder is sufficient.

5. They went to a particularly strong and competitive CS program

Some programs in the country prepare you for such interviews. Rare, and difficult to get into, but they do.

6. They got a soft interview-panel.

Interviews are heavily dependent on who interviews you. Especially at large companies, there is a wide variance in grading standard, experience in interviewing and beliefs, and hence there is a wide variation in talent, despite centralized hiring committees.

You need a bit of luck anyway, but sometimes you get an entire panel that you happen to gel with. A little bit of preparation and getting such a panel puts you over the magic line.

Yeah the takeaway is that you have to prep. As bad as that is, it is a solvable well contained problem.

One thing that struck me as odd while reading this, and the preceding article, was that he seemed offended at being offered junior roles despite only having a year of experience. A talented junior developer is still a junior developer.

> A talented junior developer is still a junior developer.

Read his biography - the entire reason he has been able to achieve everything he has in life is because he doesn't have such a close-minded and pessimistic attitude. Rather than just letting the conventions of society dictate what he gets and does, he instinctively finds ways to work around them. While everyone else is busy checking the boxes expected of them, he's already moved on to the next level.

On your advice I read the about page on his website (I assume this is the biography you mentioned). I also checked out App Academy on LinkedIn and Angel List. Angel List even had the job posting for his old position. I still believe he's a junior developer. He didn't magically cram more than a year of development into that year. If anything he did less development. Out of his one year of experience some was spent as an instructor, not a developer, and many of his duties as Director of Product were management and not software development. In fact, he mentioned that as one of the reasons he wanted to leave that role.

Some lessons are learned by doing things and dealing with the results. He hasn't been doing this long enough to see the long term consequences of any decisions he made while developing software at App Academy because those consequences haven't happened yet. Also, App Academy is a small company with about 10-20 people. Lots of things that aren't important with 10 people become very important on software projects with 100 people.

None of what I said means he isn't intelligent or talented. It doesn't mean he didn't do good work while at App Academy or that he won't do good work at AirBnB. It just means he's inexperienced. That's not a bad thing but it isn't something you can change overnight.

I think you're underrating the significance of the rate at which one is able to learn and acquire knowledge. I'd argue that this is actually more important than experience within a large organization with plenty of mentorship.

This guy was able to accomplish a ton in a year, acquiring the technical chops to get offers at top companies like Google. If he can do that in one year, imagine where he'll be in another year.

> close-minded and pessimistic attitude

I would call it healthy skepticism.

Then you won't be getting a 250K offer from Airbnb with 1 year of experience any time soon.

130K + something that at some point may be sold for a currently unknown value.

Yeah I also thought the ~115k bonuses he was getting was completely reasonable for someone who has been coding.

You and I were both wrong. He's evidently worth 2x that.

I was surprised by the notion that airbnb is considered a top tier engineering company. Excuse my ignorance as an outsider, but what interesting engineering problems are they solving?

From the outside, I see a listing service that processes transactions and plots things on a third part mapping service. There isn't a complex dynamic market based auction system or anything like that. Can someone with more knowledge shed some light on what airbnb does that puts it on par with the work from Google (e.g. spanner, F5, borg, their SDN stuff, etc)?

I guess recommendation, machine learning, infrastructure (multiple servers over earth), fraud detection. From the outside they also have messaging, an automatic pricing feature, and I remember them announcing that they want to offer extra services, like a day trip.

They are solving a lot of the infrastructure problems that come with microservices. They also do that with a stack that has much less JVM in it than Twitter and Netflix, which makes working there much more appealing for some people.

Their comp is obviously top. I was impressed at how large AirBnB's offer is in every aspect--its base was already higher than the total comp of many of his other (initial) offers.

Avg one bedroom apartment in SF is 50% of the take home pay on 120k.

For people who are currently looking, they should be thankful for this post. This guy really was a master negotiator and provides lots of hard numbers. The key is to get some initial leverage (at least one offer from anywhere) and then keep cranking. If you can get a Google offer, then you can really squeeze out every last drop.

I think him publicly posting this will cause a lot of resentment at his company. I wouldn't be surprised if there are PhD's with multiple years of experience at AirBnB making less in total comp than this guy.

I wonder if you could possibly lie about offers being received.. I mean I kinda doubt these recruiters all talk to each other or do they?

The author repeatedly mentions $XXX RSUs.

It's been a while since I've worked for a pre-IPO company. Is it common for companies to give RSUs a dollar value instead of a number of shares and "heck if I know the valuation"? And how are RSUs different from straight ISOs?

Typically they also tell you the Fair Market Value of the shares and you just multiply by the number of shares offered. They aren't options and you just get them whenever the company goes public. But they are completely illiquid before then.


Quoting them in dollars is probably not too wrong if you believe the company's valuation won't change much (which is probably true for these unicorns). Even groupon's valuation didn't drop more than one order of magnitude.

>They aren't options and you just get them whenever the company goes public. But they are completely illiquid before then.

Many companies now have a buyback mechanism where the employer will buy back your RSUs at a pre-determined price (often the price per share in the last priced round).

Although the vesting schedule is the same as if it were options, the contracts often have a clause where technically the RSUs have not vested, in order to avoid capital gains taxes on a (fairly) illiquid asset.

Yeah, he will pay taxes on the vested illiquid RSUs on top of his 130k.

they have a value because the IRS requires the company to value the shares at fair market value and you pay tax on that value as regular income at the end of the year

The two blog posts were interesting reads, especially with the raw numbers given.

In addition, it also shows how blind most companies are to talent - they're not interested in discovering the diamonds in the rough unless a company like Google does it for them.

Right. Companies are extremely risk-averse because they can afford to be. The talent shortage in tech is totally overblown.

I may be misreading. With only a year of instruction and no coding background previously, he was able to get a position at Google? Is this the norm?

As a hiring manager, I would be concerned that a candidate with such short exposure to the field and no real projects under their belt would just be too green to carry their weight.

Sounds like he knows how to invert binary trees [1]. So the rest will come later...

[1] - https://twitter.com/mxcl/status/608682016205344768?lang=en

> With only a year of instruction and no coding background previously, he was able to get a position at Google? Is this the norm?

That depends on your definition of "norm". The average person could probably spend their entire life preparing for a Google interview and never get an offer. Others could enter any field of their choosing and reach a very high level of competency in just a matter of months. Seems like the OP falls in the latter category.

No matter how academically bright someone is, practical coding experience is still highly desirable.

It has nothing to do with academics - some people can pick up practical skills much more quickly than others.

In life, you don't get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate for.

Nice job. Thanks for the transparency.

... well, maybe I should ask for a raise.

Usually helps if you have another offer in hand.

Absolutely this. I worked hard for 5 years. I was a trusted member of my company. I spoke with IBM sales as a tech peer. I was dramatically underpaid. I asked for a raise, to which I was told the market couldn't bear me.

I was pushed into a project that had me crying to and from work. The stress was immense, but I thought I had little choice since my health insurance and house hold income provided everything for my family. I shopped around for a new job.

I found one that would work, but didn't have health coverage for 90 days. At this point I had an offer in hand. I told my management, at the time, unless I got another 20k a year, I'm walking to the other job. I got the raise.

Leverage is not bad. The company that you work for is probably only marginally committed to your well-being. They are totally committed to their margins. If you like your organization, but need more, leverage is your friend.

Wow, that dude has a pretty crazy life story - his about page was a fun read! Became a millionaire playing poker, got caught up in a huge scandal, sounds like a movie.

Thankfully do to Trump I'm far more skeptical of stories like these. So I would not so readily believe what he is saying.

He's the real deal. I remember watching the scandal on 2+2 unfold a few years ago.

Does anyone know what computer science problems hes referring to for interviews? Does anyone have a resource i can look at?

I would also be interested in some more detail, especially: "On the phone interview, I received a pretty challenging problem—I remember thinking when I got it that I was going to mess it up. But somehow I solved it with ease, and all of my outputs were correct."

It's kind of hard to get a handle on what this means; on one hand the poster is quite obviously remarkably intelligent (ref: bio etc), on the other hand he has very little CS experience. The reader is left to imagine a problem that is just within their own reach to solve, while it might have been a very basic algorithm question...

There's InterviewBit[1] that helps you prepare. You don't have to sign-up to read problem descriptions.

[1] https://www.interviewbit.com/all-problem-list/

Excellent post! Really enjoyed reading about your experience on the job market. My brother is going to be interviewing with Google soon, so I will make sure to share this with him.

This was an excellent read. I would be interested in hearing more about his specific skill set and also more info about the technical interviews he went through.

Seeing those salaries as a dev in Tokyo is mind boggling. Time to start looking at remote work options even I think..

Never look at salaries in a vacuum; remember what he says about what a 105k salary would "translate to" 57k in Texas. I don't know if remote working will change the game, eventually, but since companies today outsource jobs to "cheaper" cities to pay lower salaries, I find it hard to imagine that they'd be willing offer the same strong salaries to remote workers, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to cut costs.

Thanks for posting this it is very helpful. It's clear you need to prep and leverage.

Fucking hell. I wish video games paid that well. God damn.

What are taxes on non-liquid RSUs like?

Taxed as income based off of the fair market value of the RSUs as determined by a independent auditor's assessment (It's called a 409A Valuation).

In practice most companies will allow you to surrender non-liquid RSUs to pay the tax withholding so you don't have a massive tax bill from a non-liquid asset.

Congrats on peacocking. It's absolutely horrifying.

Were I in the same situation as OP with multiple offers, I definitely would've botched the negotiation part. I wish there was a version of hackerrank for negotiations.

Stall, redirect, wait. At some point the recruiter becomes your advocate.

Or if just one offer ask for more than you want and would settle for. They won't rescind the offer and be willing to walk away.

It's also easier to get more options and RSUs because it's funny money not yet vested and not yet liquid.

If you've gone to a development school you should rate your experience here: https://schools.techendo.com/

App Academy is the most selective dev training program in the world. We've developed this course to give you inside knowledge about the boot camp .A Farewell speech or farewell address is a speech given by an individual leaving a position or place. They are often used by public figures such as politicians.Custom essay writing service(http://www.essayguardian.com/) is the better service that helps students in their academic fields.

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