From the outside it might appear like you came back to the office after a nice weekend break and quickly knocked out whatever task it was that was on your mind. But it's not that simple and after unloading that task, even though it's Monday you could be feeling like you need a break because you actually just worked through the weekend on it.
Because of this, I feel like engineers are already massively overworked and/or underpaid when you consider their salary based on a 40hour workweek when the real mental effort can be pushing 60-80 hours a week. Things like unlimited/discretionary PTO, flex hours, and management that understands the balance of overtime and undertime keeps things fair. Establishing a 30-hour workweek just seems like going hard in the other direction.
I'm not the highest paid person I know, of course. My low six-figure income can't compete with $300k+ salaries that many surgeons get. I couldn't afford the $1.2M Mediterranean mansion that my dentist lives in. And I'll never get the sort of pay package that big law firm partners can command.
But I'm not performing life-altering surgery. I didn't even have to go to medical school, let alone complete a residency.
I didn't have to start up my own dental practice. And I'm not in my hypothetical dental practice every Saturday morning at 8AM taking care of patients who couldn't make it during the week or couldn't afford to take off work.
I never had to go to law school. I didn't have to pass a single licensing exam. I took out no loans to get to where I am. And I was never worked 80+ hours a week as a young associate.
I worked less than these people to get to where I am, and I continue to work less than them. My work is easier than theirs too. It's less stressful. Even if a problem does consume me for days, including outside of work, it's just not that big of a deal. I started making this income when these other folks were doing nothing but accruing debt. My lifetime earnings won't be all that different from theirs because I got such a tremendous head start.
If I look at friends who are not in any of the above three professions, not a single person comes to mind who makes as much money as I do. Many make half as much as I do but have much more stressful jobs, fewer perks, etc.
And yet apparently I'm underpaid. I don't buy it.
The stressful period for most doctors is getting into medical school, getting through medical school, and getting into and through internships and residencies. That is roughly 10 years or so, and during that time it is absolutely at the pace and pressure I see in software development..but once they finish, for most of them, it is pretty smooth sailing. Those at the top of the game are a different story, but that's true anywhere.
The real difference is that doctors have a powerful lobby that artificially limits their numbers, essentially providing a benefit similar to unionization. You can't massively up the numbers of doctors being trained in the U.S., and you can't import massive numbers of foreign workers to increase supply. No matter how many capable people there are, the numbers will remain artificially constrained.
Software development doesn't have this protection. The only lobby in software development is regularly pushing for massive increases in supply through various channels. Doctors' salaries have continued to rise year after year..not so sure software development salaries will fare as well in the coming years..especially after we convince software devs they are already overpaid ;)
- Many doctors earn 100k or 3-400k depending on their field.
- Many small business owners earn <100k or make a killing, depending on their field, goals, and success/luck.
- 9 out of 10 startups outright fail or aren't successful enough to compensate founders & employees for the opportunity cost.
The log-normal also applies somewhat for lawyers. The partners of big firms make millions annually.
As long as we're getting into nuance, I should add that the two-peak distribution is most clear for lawyer starting salary, not long-time professional. You either go top firm or not.
There are strong network effects in many digital markets. In these cases, given enough time, it leads to a monopolist employer in that market. Even in cases where there are a few firms competing (e.g. Google and Apple), they have incentive to form a cartel through 'agreements' on hiring practices (and there have been documented instances of this). The natural way for software developers to avoid being exploited, in either scenario, is to form a labour monopsony...
Well, the real nuance is that the AMA is not so much a union as a guild. It's not _legal_ to perform medical services without an AMA-blessed licence to practice.
If one could concoct a scheme by which it would be illegal to perform "unlicenced" software engineering work, I suppose there would be the same effect.
You'd need a common sense of injustice. It's a lot easier to do this for, say, graduate students who really are underpaid.
--When I got my first job as a software engineer, my dad, who's a civil engineer PE said, "I thought you were going to be an engineer, but it sounds like you're just a computer programmer." :-)
Interview for medical job: Normal
Coders?: Often humiliating
And no we aren't all coding in Cobol or Fortran 4.
I do agree though that it would be difficult for most of us to get new jobs in another company as developers because of the age-ist behaviour of many of our younger colleagues.
I guess your 22 year old founder of a trendy Bay Area startup would have a problem hiring a 60 year old but that's both silly and illegal. I'm not sure trendy Bay Area startups attract the 60+ crowd anyway.
Anecdotally, three very different examples:
my mother (71) stopped coding in 1969
Guido van Rossum (60) is still coding
Darryl Havens (61) is Distinguished Engineer at Amazon - not per se a coding role, but definitely an engineering role
Personally, I feel like I sold my teenage years as a price for my edge in tech. I'm not always sure it was worth it.
Yes, this. That's how I got here, too. And have the same ruminations from time to time.
Short of becoming a professional sportsman, which was never on the table for me, I don't see anything that I could have now if I had acted differently.
It's all about ratios, of course. If the owners/management of a company are grossly overpaid in comparison to the workers who produce - especially if physical overhead is nearly eliminated - then yes, developers are indeed underpaid. And I would posit this is true in many areas of software development. Perhaps not your situation, but overall? I buy it.
I have not had the sense at my own jobs that the upper management was overcompensated. I can't prove this of course as I didn't and don't have access to the company's financial statements and bank accounts, but the norm has seemed to be to reinvest profits in the company in order to remain competitive. It's worth pointing out that I've only (so far) worked at companies that have been self-sustained, not requiring any VC funding. My impression is that many bootstrapped software companies are not actually making that much money; revenue figures in the $10M-$20M range are not uncommon. This money is easily spent on a staff of 50+, office space, etc.
Now let's assume it was a $10 million a year business. That means it's now making $11.5 million dollars a year because a software engineer optimized the loading time. That engineer probably makes $100k or so, and he might get a 10% raise since he did such a good job. The remaining $1.49 million gets distributed amongst execs and investors.
Hardly seems fair, when most executives have no idea what's going on, and provide zero value add for that case.
If you think most executives have no idea what is going on and add zero value then I am guessing you haven't spent much time around executives. The whole reason your typical developer got their job and is able to keep it in the first place is because executives figured out how to run the business well enough to grow and continue to hire developers and then allocate them to projects where they can increase revenue. If you think it's easy I recommend you give it a try sometimes.
However, from my empirical observation of many executives, there are two broad groups.
The ones you described, those that are worth their salt and have carved out their position through helping the business.
Then there is a large group of executives who exist mainly because similar companies have similar structures and they have expectations of roles for say CFO , COO. Then there are roles required by the industry or market: Head of Compliance, Head of Risk, Head of Auditing.
Those executives have not earned their place, they are appointments by pattern matching corporate structures
The issue in this example is ownership. Executives add value and they are granted large ownership stakes in the business. Workers are not. You use the example of the executive who figures out how to grow the business to prove that he is entitled to appropriate some of the other employees' added value -- since otherwise that value wouldn't exist in the first place. But our developer can't take his yearly salary out of the 15% increased revenue he enabled back in 2012, on top of compensation for whatever value he creates this year.
In any event, the example is very contrived. $10M in sales is as arbitrary as 20% profit margins. Margins could be any amount less or a great deal more. Revenues could be sky high or non-existent. You might expect to find a developer making $100k regardless.
Compensation is set by the market: what is the next person who can do this same job willing to be paid?
If we go out into the market to find all the people that can decrease page loading time by 50% and have them bid against each other, we will probably end up paying the lowest bidder who is capable of the job about the median salary of the profession.
And another point on >the remaining $1.49 million gets distributed amongst execs and investors. People who own equity in the company have legal claim on the cash flows of the business. They balance free cash flows with reinvested capital (assets,, SGA) to sustain free cash flows into the future.
Of course, our market is far from rational, etc, etc.
FWIW, I don't think that software developers are overpaid, at all. It's a difficult career, requiring years of intense study to do well. Sure, maybe not as much as Doctors, at least not formally, but a lot of that has to do with the structure of medical education in the United States (in particular, the requirement to complete an undergrad degree prior to admission to medical school). The job of a surgeon is certainly more difficult than the average software developer, but compared to a SRE at Google, say, who is working with real, "living" distributed systems that interact in complex ways, I would say they are comparable. If anything, I'd expect, in a rational market, for the SRE to be paid more, because their services are providing for millions or billions of customers, while the surgeon is only providing for one at a time (and maybe a few thousand over their carrer).
If I introduce a bug it will hurt revenue in some way, possibly affecting the company's operations. If most doctors mishandle a patient it could have significant, immediate effect on that person's life.
I deal with the responsibility weighing on me, but they've had to get used to dealing with a much heavier responsibility.
Think of Amazon, Walmart, or any firm with significant COGS [cost of goods sold]. It's clear that they can't hire employees inline with marginal revenue.
And what if the companies were to bid on the employee? That would likely drive wages higher and compensate for the natural information asymmetry in the tech labor market.
Additionally, I don't really agree with this underlying notion that you're entitled to 100% of the extra revenue generated by the speed increase. Imagine how bizarre it would be if you actually applied this thinking consistently over the lifetime of the company to every employee. This approach spectacularly and disproportionately over-rewards people who join the company later, as it becomes increasingly easy to create large increases in revenue because on absolute terms a 1% increase keeps getting bigger and bigger. This would lead to a complete inversion of risk, where it would be more profitable to never take risk and only take stable jobs at long-running companies that have already developed a large market share. I'm not convinced this is a sensible distribution of income to employees.
A lot of it also goes to essential business expenses: HR, legal, the AWS bill, the new feature that's currently losing money but will pay off in the long term.
And the person who made the $1.5mm code fix didn't do it on their own. They wouldn't have been able to improve the code if somebody else hadn't already written the first version. And neither of them would have been able to get their code into production if somebody hadn't set up the build and release process for the company. And they never would have been in the position to make the $1.5mm fix if their manager hadn't identified the need for an additional engineer on the team and recruited them. And the company wouldn't exist if the founder hadn't had the idea in the first place. And the company would have blown up last year if the lawyers hadn't made sure the company was protected from a frivolous lawsuit. Et cetera, et cetera.
(As text is a poor medium to communicate tone, I'm positing that it's not nearly as easy as it seems, therefore nor are the profits for the successful as undeserved as they seem.)
The founder controls the legal business entity and contributes capital assets and real or intellectual property. The financier purchases ownership directly. This is why they "deserve" to appropriate the value created by the company in perpetuity.
The founder may have done a lot of hard work in creating that intellectual property (including brand) in the first place, but it is the legal ownership of it that he trades for ownership in the company, not his hard work. In other instances it's possible to simply purchase IP or brand outright in the formation of a business. The commonality in these cases is legal ownership and the trade of capital assets, not hard work, whether their job is one I could not do personally, etc.
The argument about the "risk-tasking investors" rightfully owning the work of the "risk-free employees" is an appeal to fairness (the investors could lose their investment while the employees still gain their salaries), so by the way it does seem that you are interested in that.
Early efforts in organizing the company and navigating difficult waters are work and those employees should be compensated with ownership. I don't think that subsequent work by subsequent employees should not be compensated in this same way. Mark Zuckerberg and half a dozen friends created a company valued at $98M by Accel in 2005 and enjoyed ownership of that. Today he and 15,000 others create a company valued at $360 billion, of which he enjoys 25% ownership while the combined ownership of the rest is miniscule.
Founders and early employees contribute work and are hopefully rewarded for that work with ownership stakes in the company. Rightly so. But as the company grows, and to the degree that it necessarily hires additional employees, the proportion of ownership held by these early employees becomes undeserved (in the simple above sense of the word). Their large ownership positions remain, even as it becomes clearer and clearer that the value of the company is created by its hundreds/tens of thousands of employees.
So if you start a business and make a profit (a hard thing to do!), that is not undeserved. But if business grows and eventually the value is created by 15,000 people all together, you don't deserve 25% of it.
There's a genuine argument that the investors and risk-takers "created" a portion of the wealth by virtue of bankrolling and hiring those 15K employees and paying them a risk-free salary.
I'm not especially interested in whether or not it's cosmically fair when deciding whether or not it's deserved. Warren Buffett "deserves" every bit of Berkshire Hathaway that he owns; Bill Gates every bit of Microsoft, Mark Z every bit of Facebook, etc. (Again, all in my opinion. I'm sure there are others who disagree, but even among them probably differ on how [or whether] to correct the "undeserved" ownership.)
Also, why shouldn't the investors get their cut? They were forking over their money to pay you before a line of your code ever hit production; going by your math, developers should be paid on contigency of the code they write getting into production, and penalised if there's a regression.
You're overvaluing the engineer in your argument; they were only one piece that enabled that extra value.
That money covered the bonuses of just 2 executives, I think I might have got a 2 or 3% raise myself that year...
But many many software engineers do. Many of us go to uni and study a traditional degree and therefore, have a lot of loans etc as well as spend 3 to 4 years in University.
Also, learning for a software engineer is pretty much forever since the moment you stop learning is your downfall in software development.
I know people many people who learnt to code in their own time for ~6 months and landed a decent first job. Over the next couple of years they learnt a lot more and now have great jobs earning within 20% of what a doctor usually earns however they don't have the debt and saved a few years of their lives as well.
Not saying everyone can do this and become a software developer but it is very possible. I don't have a degree, I had to leave school at 16 (I am now 32) and worked in a shop to get by. I self-taught and now I earn a few £ under £100k making software. I have a super comfy life. I have zero debt (well a mortgage but no other debt), a nice house, family, a fair amount in savings, etc. Honestly I couldn't ask for more especially considering the rather small investment I put into getting this lifestyle.
If anything there is an argument that labor in the overall economy is undervalued, and it is destabilizing the long term strength of the economy.
A side note: when you said "I didn't have to pass a single licensing exam" I immediately thought of the way our profession tends to have that kind of exam every time we interview each other. A big part of interview for a software developer is based on the exam-type material; this is very different from the way other professionals, even engineers, have their interviews. (Does not contradict your message, just a note.)
For less used software this might not seem like a big deal, but targeted software can have a larger indicidual impact even if it's only making 50+ people redundant.
Hardly ever you'll find anybody saying that earns too much or works too little. Be humble and enjoy.
"Maybe I feel differently about this because I'm not in a major tech hub"
Read: "I can afford to live in a comfortable place and not a closet, so let me generalize such that no dev can afford to live in historically relevant software hubs either."
Next, lest this selfish hot take get too tonedeaf, time to write off our 6 figure privilege! Since this is a recent accomplishment, let's ditch any sort of humility toward the the talented software minds who came before who made the efficiencies of our day jobs possible. Instead, we'll roll with some terrible analogies to completely non-sequitur professional industries!
• I'm not performing life-altering surgery, because emotional hyperbolic appeals will distract from the fact I base my insight into the most valuable industry in the world on 7 paragraphs of anecdotes. Forget that the fundamentals of medicine and the practice thereof bear almost no relation to that of computer science and software development.
• Wheee! I love talking about dentists with mansions. I got my teeth cleaned last Saturday, and I've never had to be on call for any sort of systems admin role. Speaking of things I've never had to do, thank god I come from an ever increasing minority of people who can afford to live a comfortable lifestyle without taking on student loan debt early in life.
• I don't need a graduate degree to get precious time in a lab with equipment I absolutely must have to do my job. Unclear if I've ever met anyone who's tried to further themselves with a IT licensure, but since those aren't in vogue any more, I'll just make dreamy comparisons to one of the most antiquated, regulated industries out there. I've worked less, but people I know are stuck in debt forever working 80+ hour weeks in BigLaw!
Despite the option of a meaningful career alternative to the above, developers shouldn't try to build on their gains. Let's just foreclose even the notion that there are people working out there who are underpaid because they don't have coworker peers, or they are just the "IT guy", or are a woman or minority, or because some doctor, dentist, or lawyer has an idea.
"My lifetime earnings won't be that different because I got such a tremendous head start"
...so why should I try to build others up?
In these kind of discussions, I often point out how software is pretty unique in that due to supply/demand, there's no labor unions or collective bargaining. But maybe it's a good thing, because I'd never want you speaking for me when it comes to how much any of us are being paid.
There are very few technical teams inside that seem to come even close to that, so I'm extremely doubtful that managers are going to be sufficiently disciplined to keep their staff down to 30 hours, nor employees sufficiently empowered either. It's so hard to see this as anything other than a way to pay people less for comparable work.
I've found that this is a much less stressful and more productive way to approach most things in life.
> Some of the 60 hr/week employees are gunning for promotions and probably don't care about work life balance. Why should everyone have to compete with that?
That seems totally reasonable. It's similar to the way tech companies have a concept of a "terminal level" where it's considered fine to spend your whole career with no pressure or expectations to earn further promotions.
And who else besides Jeff Dean, enjoys such a distinguished role?
Amazon states that SDE-II is fine actually. I think that's just their way of keeping the bar for senior higher.
Why would you go against a theory that all evidence pointed toward? I think what you meant is that despite what it looks like at first glance, there could be reasons why this is a good idea. You should present evidence for those arguments, maybe based on personal experience
I'd love a 30 work week (if I wasn't trying to fast track towards retirement): those 10 hours (or more if working 4 days and not having to commute one weekday) would be entirely mine.
It's not that most people can't take their mind off of work, it's that they often have to meet various unrealistic deadlines, or else. It's not their own choice, insofar as they want to keep their job.
Though as others have suggested, a 3 month vacation every year might be an even better approach to a 75% work schedule.
Luckily I've never experienced an atmosphere like that.
Everyone has 4/5/6 weeks of leave, and is expected to take them. Planning around people on leave is a normal part of management.
In any case, what you describe seems like a pretty big limitation to me. If your employer isn't asking you, or pressuring you, to do more work, then they really shouldn't be held responsible when you do. I wouldn't paint my neighbor's house without having been asked to and then be upset with them for not asking me to (and therefore not paying me to) paint their house. That's nonsensical, but it's also an analogy with limited applicability.
The project never fully leaves your mind and often I'll go home and mull over the reasons why things might not be working or how to start another task. No "actual" work gets done, but I'm still working; just as you described.
I figured I would make the post for the second group.
Do you think carpenters never think about work after hours?
However, in many engineering and scientific fields, that constant stream of thought is frequently productive due to the nature of the work being based in problem solving - and solving problems while physically checked out happens a lot.
That's not to say other positions don't do productive work outside the office, I'm only emphasizing that with engineering and science the phenomena of productive offline time is more frequent.
There are a lot of ways to look at wages and job titles in order to justify both higher and lower wages, but at the end of the day pay scale is determined by the market.
Software developers/engineers generally make more money than a lot of other careers. It's hard work. It's stressful. It takes a good deal of training/education. And it takes a particular kind of mind in order to both manage doing it long term and do it will long term.
They don't get paid well for any of those reasons. They get paid well because the industry is relatively young, tasks related to software are deemed important, and there is a constant shortage of people who do it well.
Not all people get paid exceedingly well. There are sub-industries that pay very poorly for essentially the same level of work. If you look at a senior software engineer at Netflix and compare salary to a senior software engineer at Infosys working a project in small town Tenessee, you'll find one person who is in the top 1% of earners globally, and one who doesn't hope to save a down payment on a house anytime soon. Same job title, very similar work, enormous discrepancy in pay.
If you look at the Bay Area specifically, salaries are high, but cost of living is also high. While there are many jobs available, at the higher salary levels companies are not just looking for good software people, they are looking for good software people with experience in very specific areas - shrinking the available pool of potential workers significantly and increasing the amount of training and education that's required to attain one of those positions.
Apologies. I've gone off on a long tangent here mostly directed at the general discussion in this thread and not to your points.
The median home price in Nashville (one of the more desirable areas in the South) is $205K, while in San Fran, it's over a million. Using the old-standard of 3-4X gross income for a property, the developer in TN can afford a really nice house.
Also, Carpenters are physical workers. Their work is fundamentally physical, it'll be like saying that the Carpenter was always making the table or whatever product he is working even while he is not at that location. That doesn't even make sense, its actually impossible.
This is a false analogy, because on the whole, carpenters aren't paid to think. A better analogy would be if the carpenter kept on building the house (or whatever) even after leaving work - an impossible feat, which just shows the unique challenges of knowledge work.
I'm not saying two hours per day (or an extra weekday or whatever) is entirely trivial, just that one has to be very fastidious and organised to take advantage of it. Even so, the economics of human task-switching and overhead, particularly in high cognitive load professions like software, are such that the marginal utility of two extra hours is going to be low. Life is not a spreadsheet, where one gets home at 3 PM and $ENJOYMENT or $NECESSARY_ERRANDS immediately commence. I'd probably just catch a breather for a few hours, if lucky, or catch up on the traffic from other life stressors gnawing at me.
Is that worth making 25% less? I don't know about that. I suspect most people would just negotiate a "75%" salary that still makes them reasonably happy.
I did a 4 * 10 job one summer when I was a teen. It was REALLY nice to have Friday as "recovery" day before the real weekend started.
I'm not sure how my family would tolerate me being gone 4 * 10, though.
From the vantage point of that mode of existence, an extra day doesn't do anything for me. Nothing I'd take a pay cut for, for sure. I can take a random Wednesday off anyway if I feel like it. On the other hand, I am working at least some time every day, and some days a lot.
I guess if I think back to when I was W-2 employed my butt had to be in some cube farm at 9 AM every day, a Friday off might seem more valuable.
Or in a simpler sense: You need someone to perform weekly maid service? $X please. You want a foundation dug and poured for your new satellite office? $Y please. Hourly wages in many cases are just inviting abuse and drain employee productivity and motivation.
Of course a flat fee would be rather difficult to implement in direct customer service sectors. Hiring a cashier to process a certain number of customer check-outs or a certain amount of purchases for a flat fee would be problematic, because there's no way of knowing how long that would take (so the employee can't schedule the rest of their life) and the employer wouldn't want the employee to have much control over what time of day they work.
Frankly though, if you love what you do you always take your work home with you (mentally anyway). So at the end of the day, there is no on/off switch for engineers (along with other types of careers) so although engineers are some of the highest paid you want them to be paid higher?
I am not saying I would disagree but also not saying I think I am under paid by any stretch of the imagination.
Were I only getting 75% of the pay of a full time worker, you can be sure I'd never put in a single additional hour.
I could say that a drop in my hours to 40 / week would be nice, but I'm the one who chooses to work longer hours. There's no expectation of longer hours where I am. I'm also usually not productive 8 hours in a row every day, sometimes significantly less than that. It ends up being very much a give / take scenario.
Oh my gosh, exactly this! When I am working on a theoretical maths problem, there is just no end to the work! On the train home, when I'm eating, when I'm taking a shower, it goes on and on (it's especially bad for maths because it's pure mental gymnastics - not even pen & paper needed unless you have specific calculations). I have to make a conscious effort to stop that - but then I have to clear many 'temporary variables' in my mind (losing time and effort) and the problem remains unsolved for the time being. Plus I cannot work on any other intellectual pursuits in the meantime because my mind is exhausted. It drives me nuts.
I'd like to see proper hour counting, like a check in and check out. Where any hour above 30h comes at an extra cost to Amazon, like double pay. So that they would be incentivised to actually tell me to stop working and send me home.
I know some people might say, that's up to you, just don't let yourself work extra, but at a company like Amazon, you can actually lose your job or at least not be promoted from delivering less then the other employees. You're ranked against your peers, so deciding to work only 30h would hurt you in the long run if the others started putting in 35h, 40h, 45h, etc.
Now, the idea of a clock that tells me to go home seems super appealing.
I wonder if the group that does this will be viewed as lesser, e.g. work on less interesting projects, be less likely to be promoted, than the "40" hour employees.
To me this seems like a purely PR driven move after the lambasting their culture has taken lately.
There's a tendency for people to think that HR software and other internal tools are less important than public products, but if the company is allocating employees properly, that doesn't really make sense.
The engineers working on this HR software all passed the same technical interviews that everybody else did. Amazon could have easily allocated them to some flashy consumer product, but management decided that it's important to have a team working on HR software. So either somebody made a horrible miscalculation when they decided to build the HR software, or this work is equally valuable to all the other work happening.
No, they didn't. They likely were interviewed by the hiring manager. Which, a hiring manager of an internal tools team, does not face the public scrutiny of engineering detail required by a front facing mass consumer product. Therefore internal tools teams do not require as rigid software engineering rules as mass consumer products.
> Amazon could have easily allocated them to some flashy consumer product, but management decided that it's important to have a team working on HR software.
No, they couldn't. Internal HR tools usually means CRUD applications. Why would you put a SQL developer on a deep learning optimization team?
Don't try to defend Amazon here. They have messed up with the way they treat employees. 30 hour weeks doesn't change that.
A major problem in HR or payroll software or something similar might cause some massive headaches for your employees, but it won't be as noticeable outside the company as a major outage or problem affecting customer data.
Amazon experiments. It's not about bold PR moves to make waves and attract attention. It's about trying everything, even ideas that might sound bad, and seeing if they actually work. This? This is the same idea. Try it out on something less important (HR software, sure, why not) and see what happens.
In the worst case, a bit of internal software is late. That's a low-cost risk to see if you can find a way to reduce developer costs efficiently.
As jaded as I sound, I do think there's a place for workplace flexibility. What would really tell me the executives are committed to it: Calculate their actual FTE's - average work week hours divided by 40 - and make sure there are at least that many physical FTE's.
A few of my folks were angry about this and claimed to be working 50-60 hour weeks. My response was "there's a easy solution to this problem". They cut out the excessive OT, which was mostly unneeded, and not too much changed.
Let's be honest - most working professionals (especially in Software) earn more money than they need. I think it's much better to have more time - time with you family, time to be outdoors, time to be healthy - than it is to have more money
Amazon is a sweatshop. The expectation is salaried employees put in ungodly hours.
All this is doing is giving people more freedom to burn themselves out at home, while further blurring the lines between work and life and throwing in a 25% pay cut as the cherry on top.
It's like the opposite of Google campus life, but with the same goal.
I wouldn't agree with this broad generalization. I work in Alexa and the work environment on my team is pretty awesome. Lots of freedom to try new things, good work life balance, and generally a high level of respect for engineers. I turned down Google to come here and I have no regrets (though not to imply that Google isn't equally awesome).
There's zero buffer to slack off, a less productive day is followed by a longer one.
I like working at Amazon. I like the challenge, the projects, the people I work with are fun and smart, but it is not a place where you can easily balance your life for a long period of time. I've never met someone past the 5 year mark that does not define his life as an Amazon employee first, everything second.
You can try to keep yourself at 40h, but eventually it will hurt you, it'll show in your review, it'll hold back your promotion, and if you're unlucky enough to have a management switch at a time where the team is expected to perform, you might even lose your job. I've seen it happen.
Now, maybe in some teams things are different, but in my 2 years, it's been my impression that this is the culture here. You either like it, as I do, I enjoy the rush and the busyness, makes my days fly by. Or you don't and you leave.
I'd be curious to know though, and be honest, you've really ever only worked 40h weeks? You havnt logged in on a weekend or an evening, stayed longer on an Thursday, checked your mails when off work? Not ever? Ignoring on call time offcourse.
I work 40 hours per week on average. For the 20 years I have been in the industry.
I solved some problems in the shower, but I also slack away on my desk sometimes.
So my basic response to that is "it depends". I have previously been in a different team at Amazon and that team definitely had much less room for slack. If you didn't push yourself hard, you probably couldn't get promoted there. But then again, they also had issues with attrition.
The culture in teams can vary quite a bit at Amazon. I think it mostly comes down to the leadership. More than any other "big company" I've seen, Amazon emphasizes ownership. As a VP (and even as a manager, though to a much lesser extent), you get nearly full freedom to define your team's culture and set the direction of your product. So yeah, I don't think every team has a great culture within Amazon; a lot of it depends on the culture defined by your leadership team.
In regards to your last point:
> "I'd be curious to know though, and be honest, you've really ever only worked 40h weeks? You havnt logged in on a weekend or an evening, stayed longer on an Thursday, checked your mails when off work? Not ever? Ignoring on call time offcourse."
Most weeks I probably put in a bit more than 40 hours. Maybe closer to 45 or 50 hours. That's the average. Have I put in more occasionally? Of course. Do I sometimes check emails on a weekends or evenings? Yep, of course. But there have also been times when I've come to work at noon or left by 2pm if I needed to do something else. And, 90% of the time, I don't respond to emails outside of work hours. That doesn't feel very much like a "sweatshop" to me.
I've worked at other companies besides Amazon and I have plenty of friends who work at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple. My friends at Microsoft will often put in 50 to 60 hours during a live site outage or near a product release. I have friends at Google who check their email on evenings and weekends. One of my best friends is at Facebook and does the same. I know less about Apple, but I've heard their culture is pretty intense. So, in that sense, I don't feel my team's work culture is any worse.
Overall, I like my team and I think that credit goes upwards through my management chain. Good managers make a huge difference. Perhaps Amazon needs to do a better job in ensuring teams are more consistent in creating a good culture across the company.
When startups ask a lot of their employees its showered in praise. When Elon Musk demands 100 work weeks, people are in awe of how great he is. When Nest does the same people squint because Google bought them.
I know a lot of Googlers, most put in ~50-60 hour weeks but get free lunch so its ok I guess? Same with Apple.
Also I know a lot of Googlers as well (hard not to living in Mountain View), and they work roughly 40 hour weeks in general. It is night and day between Amazon and Google based on the stories that are coming out from current & former employees. I've heard issues about Apple as well, but nothing on the level of the stories coming out of Amazon.
I don't think it's very relevant to what this thread was about, programmer working conditions.
I now work at a much better place where I feel more valued and my work life balance is simply amazing in comparison.
I am not US based and I've always wondered about this. In virtually every other western country, it doesn't matter if you're "salaried" or not - your employer is legally prohibited from not paying overtime. If your employment contract says you work 9-5, then anything outside those hours must be compensated, often at a higher rate (1.2x-1.5x is not uncommon in many European countries).
In the context of the US labor law, does being "salaried" functionally equal "being required to work unlimited overtime"?
To be exempt you have to be paid on a salary basis, you have to make over a certain wage (which, until a few months ago, was a comically low $23,600/yr), and have certain job duties.
These job duties that are required are defined in the FLSA. There's executive employees, administrative employees, professional employees, computer employees, and outside sales employees. The text is here: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title29...
In general, most salaried employees do not regularly work unpaid overtime in the US. For example, the one time I ever worked overtime in my software engineering career it was paid overtime (paid at my normal salary). I had a friend who was an (I think?) accountant and she had to work on her vacation otherwise she'd fall behind. Some workplaces are abusive and the law allows it for some classes of employees but it's not the norm outside of the bay area software industry.
Here's a list of exemptions:
While I would not like such workplace, it sort of makes sense. It's similar to what Elon Musk said once - if you work more then everyone else, over time it becomes noticeable. Perhaps Musk shops reward you better?
Simply only showing up in the office 30 hours a week would be enough to put your team on the bottom end of the stack.
Amazon is organized such that the politics are vicious and anything that can be used to put another team down (And thus elevate your team in the stack) will be used.
Managers like Bezos are proud of creating this toxic cult like culture because they rationalize it and are not interested in hearing about how they are screwing up.
A real example of this is Bezos claiming after the NYT article that if anyone saw abuse they should email him directly... and now the ex-amazon alumni group has grown by several people who did exactly that and were fired.
My boss was committing felonies on the PacMed grounds on a regular basis, drove %80 of his team to leave, and he still got promoted.
Because he was good at politics and BS (and terrible at actually getting product done, easily wasting %25 of our time with nonsense because he didn't understand how the system worked but wanted to "manage" (which really meant micro-manage.))
Felonies, I'm not kidding.
That doesn't seem like a good deal to me. I don't want a 25% pay cut for 25% fewer mandatory hours of work. As other commenters have pointed out, unless this comes along with a reduction in responsibilities and/or increase in staff, the same amount of work still needs to be done. And most exempt employees already work more than 40 hours a week.
Add to this the fact that the Washington Post is owned by Bezos, and this just seems like a clear PR stunt to me, and a lame one at that.
If you're supposed to still accomplish the same amount of stuff in 75% the time then that's just clearly not going to work. Can't fit 10 pounds of shit in a five-pound bag.
But anyway, yes, I'm sure it's either a PR stunt or bound to fail or both.
This is a telling statement. Why are we still stuck on a minimum of 40 hours being 'full-time'? After over a century of productivity increases, and with ever-increasing automation, we could soon be at the point where a 15-hour work week is the equivalent of an old 'full-time' work week. Now is a good time to start nudging down expectations.
The pay cut is wrong, however. The fact that people are producing much more now in 30 hours than they used to produce in 40 argues against that. If a company is profiting from the benefits of that productivity, but can't afford to pay the employees for their work, then it needs to change something else.
Agreed. As technology advances, we have a much less need for labor. Yet we are not yet at the stage of "Star Trek abundance", so people still need to work for a living. A cultural shift to a shorter standard work week will be essential, I feel, to avoid having catastrophic waves of unemployment.
I'm not sure about the pay cut being wrong however. That may be necessary to some extent, society-wide. But if nearly everything is becoming automated and dirt cheap, one's standard of living need not necessarily decrease. It may dramatically increase, even if the dollar amount of your paycheck doesn't change (or even if it goes down).
Regardless, there are weeks people will have to pull extra hours to complete work, such as during product launch week.
If this were a program made up of full-time employees, I would be interested to see the number of overtime hours this team will accumulate. Otherwise, I don't see what's so interesting about this experiment.
BTW, I work extra hours because sometimes I just want to work extra hours. Sometimes, I just want to pull extra hours to get the most boring stuff out of the way.
Instead of a 30-hour pilot, make Friday a half-day for everyone.
Now not burning gas and time and nerves stuck in traffic every day and being able to have lunch with my family is a nice bonus. But if that is considered "taking it" easy, a potential employee wouldn't benefit from that either, that would be time and resources just wasted (I guess car mechanics and gas stations would benefit from that at some point).
As well-educated adults it makes me cringe how we constrict ourselves mentally to being productive employees only in a specific geographical location.
When working in companies with a global reach, the workday has 24 hours.
For some of us its "working" from home :P
Some employers seem to have different views, though.
If you don't have measurable inputs and outputs (i.e. Tickets, service requests, widgets, cases, etc), you typically lose productivity. Not necessarily because of the employee, but also because of managers who don't function well with out of sight people.
Personally, I think in many cases you'd get better outcomes out of sending people home at noon on Fridays than having them telework.
Of course if you're not giving employees anything to do, you'll get reduced productivity. That's also true if you force them to sit in a chair in the office and do nothing. If you can't come up with anything for them to do (slow season, sales pipeline stalled) maybe let them pitch ideas for things they'd like to work on and give the ok on some.
Either way, if they have something to do and you keep in touch with them on how things are going, things should keep moving even without specific granular measurements. But why not use tickets or tasks or something to make it visible?
> also because of managers who don't function well with out of sight people
Those people probably shouldn't be managers, at least not working with remote workers. Communication is critical. A remote team should feel like they're communicating at least as much as an in-office team, if not more.
Neither are people being highly productive without "adult supervision."
In all seriousness, I find your comment incredibly insulting. I gave an opinion based off of experience, that doesn't mean that I'm some sort of child that needs to be supervised.
> the specific type of person who ends up working where you work
I typically prefer to keep my comments here civil, but seriously? Fuck you.
It also doesn't mean you're an expert. Next time you give your opinion, try not being insulting, and help us understand why you have that opinion. You gave one sentence that painted everyone working from home as lazy, and stated it as a fact.
I work from home when I need to be more productive. The office has too many coworkers with ad hoc questions that apparently aren't important enough to ask online.
Stop and think about that for a second. Many of us here are 100% remote. How are we to interpret your general statement, except as insulting?
A little self-awareness would be far more helpful to you than lashing out in anger.
This may be true, but it's frustrating when that just gets assumed.
Assuming that's comparable to a true remote work policy is silly.
So, with forewarning, I'm not the only person like this, and if a manager or executive wants to make this kind of decision and expect productivity to not suffer, they're being... stupid.
Looking at a slide deck listening to people talk can be done everywhere.
Also, you sound disgruntled, why don't you do the same if you feel your team allows it?
The arrangement I'd be most excited by is a team with forced three month sabbaticals yearly (or honestly even 6 month sabbaticals). Of-course with the normal amount of vacation time added as well.
The way it would work is: Say a team is supposed to have 8 people. Hire 25% more people and schedule sabbaticals such that there is always ~8 people working. Additionally, you could ensure that there is never a time where two developers go more than 2 months without working together.
Benefits: Increases the supply in the job market; Reduces income disparity; Improves employee work-life balance.
(My personal ideal is ~8 days on (12-16h/day), 6 days off, and then a month or two off twice a year.)
I mostly used the extra time for friends and family, and to write books.
I would do it myself but I don't have the extra day to write books :) and I'm a terrible writer.
Actually, I did a bit research and it seems the symbol you used is not even a mathematical one. It stands for "care of" and "signifies an intermediary who is responsible for transferring a piece of mail between the postal system and the final addressee."
So you can, I guess, disregard my question.
The only type of companies I could see getting away with this would be pure software companies or agencies. Otherwise, I can't see it fitting many models or personal finances.
I think that's true of every tech successful company. There's always more +EV work to be done than people to do it, and recruiting quality people is never easy.
It seems short-sighted to suggest that the existence of this problem necessitates working long hours. There are lots of factors to consider:
* It's possible that somebody working 30 hours is actually more productive than somebody working 40 hours, so productivity goes up under the new policy without hiring anybody new.
* It's possible that many more people could enter the workforce if a 30 hour week with a flexible schedule was possible. This working style could be appealing to students, retired people, stay-at-home parents, artists, etc.
* Maybe it's actually okay for productivity to go down. If the company is able to remain stable while getting slightly less done and having much happier employees, perhaps that's a net gain to society.
There are teams where all horror stories you hear are common occurrences(although less so in recent years) and others where it's an absolute pleasure.
I think most people would rather have the extra money, for various reasons. If I owed a couple hundred grand on a mortgage or was saving to send my kids to college, I might think the same but as it is I have no house and no kids and relatively low living expenses, so I can afford to be a little bit self-indulgent and take a 3-day weekend every week.
But what's the justification for a more-than-pro-rata loss of stock grants?
Or you really did mean it was impossible, in which case... math checks out.