I still enjoy programming, but there's a lot of "Keeping up with the Tech Jones's" with constant new flash in the pan API's or frameworks and not a ton of just "get shit done", and BA's/managers with minimal technical experience making decisions on what you have to do is the rule, not the exception, and it seems a little pointless after awhile.
Like I could be replaced by someone else and the work would still get done, so what value am I really adding to this? At least in video games I had creative input on the look, feel, and design of the game. In corporate dev I've had almost zero input, except sometimes in how the data is structured (which doesn't excite me anywhere near as much).
Care to share more on this ? If I want to, where do I start making board game prototypes ? An email would do good, I don't see your contact info on your profile. All the best.
As a child, I loved computers. I taught myself 6502 and x86 assembly languages, as well as some other languages. When I got to the university and actually understood how digital circuits worked, I was so fascinated. When I finally landed in Silicon Valley, I felt like I was in a dream. I was good at what I did and I met awesome people who were good at what they did. Actually, the greatest pleasure was meeting and working with people who were much smarter than I was.
Eventually, the thrill wore off. I’d seen so many bugs and new projects that they started all feel the same, kind of like my personal version of the film Goundhog Day. I didn’t love it anymore. And then later, I didn’t even like it anymore.
At one point, I calculated my net worth at a few million dollars and realized that I could just quit my job and live off the investment interest. So I just did it. I’ve been retired for four years now.
I travel a lot, which was something I couldn’t do much when I had a job that only gave me three weeks of vacation. I can also travel in a different way: taking the time in a new place to see un-touristy things, meet locals and study the language a bit. I read a lot of books, none of which are about computers. I haven’t been back to the United States in over a year.
Thanks to my frugal habits and the runup in the stock market, my net worth is higher. My “burn” rate is under 2%, which means that I can do this indefinitely. I don’t miss Silicon Valley and will never live there again. In fact, I probably won’t ever live in the United States again. And I don’t miss my cubicle one bit.
What I did is unusual. But the thing I don’t understand is why it is unusual: most of the professionals I worked with could have made the same choices and had the same result. I guess they found more enjoyment in the cycle of work and consumption than I did. And like most people who lived in the Valley, I knew and had friendships with people who were far richer than I was: whose net worth was $10M or $30M or more, who could retire today and have a very comfortable life anywhere in the world. But they continued to work. I can only guess that they found more enjoyment in work than I did.
Also, if you have any observations or advise for developers who are NOT based in the US, i'd love to hear that.
You don’t say much about your background or where you are, so it’s hard to answer your question. I think there’s really two parts to your question: “1. How do I become a great software engineer?” and “2. How do I emigrate to a country with higher salaries for engineers?”
To me, these are pretty basic questions. To be a great software engineer, teach yourself to solve difficult problems and then go do it. Always push the limit of your ability. Learn multiple languages. If you’re a system software person, go tinker with databases. If you’re a compiler guy, go tinker with neural networks. If you’re a C programmer, go learn Scheme or Haskell. Read books on lots of topics: microprocessor design, good software engineering practices, design patterns, etc. In your job, be indispensable. Be the guy who can solve any bug or solve any problem, even if it spans multiple areas of knowledge. Be indispensable.
Don’t be the guy who holes himself up as a guru in a little obscure walled-off technical area and hides his knowledge as a form of power or job security. There is no job security. Even if you’re good, your company could go through a rough spot and lay you off. The only job security is to be known in a network of other people as a great engineer, and then if you don’t have work it’s no problem to find another job.
If you go interviewing for any serious jobs, you’re going to get coding questions. Whether they are a great way of assessing a candidate is a topic of debate on HN, but that doesn’t matter. You’re going to get them. People have put together anthologies of these questions: be sure you can solve them. If you practice and are good at it, you will be able to solve similar problems that you haven’t seen before.
If you’re in an “emerging economy” with low salaries for engineers, then figure out how to get to a different country. The demand for software engineers worldwide is huge right now, and so if you can figure out a way to legally work in a richer country and you have any talent at all, you can find a job. Visa programs put a high value on university degrees in technical fields, so if you don’t have one it’s likely you’ll need to get one.
The United States has the best paying jobs for software engineers right now, but it is very hard to emigrate to right now because the H1-B visa category is oversubscribed. The best way to get in now is to go work for a big company that has a presence in both the USA and abroad (like, say, Google) and then after a year you can transfer to the USA on an L1 if your employer allows it.
I’m no expert on moving to Europe, but I know that various countries have “blue card” programs for skilled technical people to move to Europe on. Anecdotally, I believe the best-paying jobs are in northern Europe, especially in Germany. But the pay will be less than in the USA. I transferred one engineer from Silicon Valley to Germany (his request) and I had to give him a 25% salary cut and he got a lot less equity compensation going forward.
The good news is that there is a huge demand for skilled programmers everywhere. I’m so glad that my childhood passion was computers and not medieval French poetry, in which case I’d be serving lattes at a coffee shop and be living in fear that a robot is going to take my minimum-wage job.
I feel like becoming a great engineer is almost orthogonal to getting paid the big bucks. It feels like job hopping, salary negotiation, and most importantly, the opportunity to do great work, all require some deliberate and strategic planning - and that these are the things that actually impact salary levels much, much more than one's raw engineering skills. I could of course be wrong, but would love to hear your thoughts on this.
I studied EE in school, and focussed on statistical signal processing for my Masters. My bachelor was from an okay school in India, and my master was from the top-ranked Asian Uni (National University of Singapore). Most of my professional experience consists of the 6 years that i spent as a research engineer in a research lab, working on various robotics / signal processing / ML type projects. I now work as a Data Scientist for a finance firm in Singapore. I have had no formal CS education, and am a completely self taught programmer. I do enjoy the academic side of CS, and have taught myself many topics in algorithms & data structures, design patterns, computer architecture, etc.
I think nothing in Europe beats London. Of course, the rents are insane, but if you don't have a family and are willing to live in a shitty place (maybe with flatmates) with a commute, it doesn't affect you as much.
The biggest problem with that is that a lot of companies don't like to contract out management, so you're options may be somewhat limited (and if you choose full-time employment instead, you go straight into the maw of 40% taxation).
False. You have to be very senior, but you do not need to 'typically' be a manager. There was a spreadsheet a few months ago on HN showing that with RSUs, most of the top tech companies pay above this for their higher level (non manager) engineers.
>It's less than $300k, but contracting taxes in UK are about 20%
Wow, contracting taxes are higher in the US, maybe it is a comparable if you can make 150k+ doing consulting work in the UK!
The justification in Europe is that governments want to encourage entrepreneurship (and contracting counts as entrepreneurship), hence lower taxes. I wonder what's the logic behind the US situation.
Hmm. You're not wrong, but I do wish location wasn't so critical for this kind of thing.
I've deliberately traded income potential for QoL, ability to buy a house, predictable hours, and job stability. But the prospect of using consultancy to move towards a part-time year with ability to work on my own projects is tempting me on the horizon.
I love hiking. But sometimes you end up on a freaking grueling hike. It's hot, the weather's going south, you're above the treeline, and so on.
Ever stop and wonder why you're doing it? Why not just turn around? Heck, going downhill is a lot easier.
Sometimes when you get emotionally wrapped up in the middle of doing something tough, it becomes extremely important to stay with it, simply because it's tough. The pain and misery of the thing becomes its own reward.
Out of curiosity, when making a total comp of $300k in Silicon Valley, what kind of take home pay (after taxes) can you expect - including pension contributions?
The mandatory pension scheme in the United States, which is called Social Security, tops out at about $5K. (It's not a major tax for high earners.) I also paid $6K in Medicare tax. (I think my employer paid a matching amount for both of these, but I'm not 100% sure.)
So my take home that year was about $260, so I paid about 33% overall in taxes.
Both Federal and California tax rates have increased since I left, so I might have paid a little more if I had an identical income this year.
Only time will tell whether this is a sabbatical or a career change.
But ... I get rejected for every job I ask : I don't have diplomas. The bread I see on average are at best and as good as mine, my alcohol is cheaper than market and tasting better, my reparations are clean... but I don't have diplomas and the conforming education...
So I am looking back at coding, and I still hope I will find whatever is not a modern job intoxicated with all the current hype in IT or financial or web agency or startup spirit.
Wish me luck, it is tough but I am still going and as long as I can I will try.