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I think jazzyk was hinting that - with enough pay, people will do what they can to make themselves qualified. There's also the option of choosing the best people they get and start training them internally to make them qualified.



I get what youre saying logicially and in general I don't disagree with you, but I want to pose a new way of thinking about this that may be unique to times previous and see what people think, because its a forming idea in my head, and I'm not sure its somethign I've settled on yet in general

With software engineering specifically, given the amount of people who have access to the internet, lets say like unemployed young men in theirs 20s working in the food industry or something, working part time and play video games for 40 hrs a week. If you have access to an xbox, then you have access to free online courses to learn machine learning, intro to programming, the entire internet where you can openly asked the internet questions and try to figure out a skill thats valuable and in software specifically, have multiple free venues of learning it.

But theres a lot of people who don't do that and don't take advantage of it, but also protest wages in silicon valley. There are people who work at coffee shops 20 hrs a week by choice, and go hiking by choice and had access to the same resources everyone else did, and came even alot from middle class to upper class homes, but don't want to learn high demand skills, and in fact protest them.

in this case, I'd say the pay is not only high enough, but it's so high they dislike the fact that not doing the work to get those high paying jobs is decreasing the quality of their life relative to everyone else around them.

obviously outliers exist, but what is it about software development, that, atleast for the population who can afford internet, and video game consoles, makes it so elite people arent motivated to learn.

I think some people don't want to learn or put in the effort, but also don't want to experience the reduction in quality of life as a result of other people putting in the effort.I think those same people protest more as the wages are increased, as they misinterpret the market signals for need as abusive to their lifestyle in which they choose to not go learn high demand skills.

Could this be valid in some cases?


Great comment. I would speculate that it's cognitive style that predicts that.

If you take the neurotypical to autistic spectrum, someone on the NT side will find that work that takes advantages of the NT cognitive style adds to their quality of life, and work that doesn't detracts from it. The same goes for people further on the aspie/autistic side.

Someone with an NT cognitive style might love working in finance or politics or sales but hate working in STEM. The opposite it true for those with an aspie/autistic style.

The last few decades of not the last century since the industrial revolution has seen the rise of well/paying in-demand jobs that appeal those with a cognitive style more on the aspie/autist end of the spectrum. I think a lot of those on the NT end of the spectrum who have typically been in a position of earning power for most of human history are starting to resent the fact that systems are being engineered that automate and devalue skills That those with an NT cognitive style excel at.

It also doesn't help that that the supply of thosewith an NT cognitive style greatly outnumber those with a more aspie/autistic style for reasons of millennia of sexual selection for NT traits.

I think it's quite natural to resent high earners doing a job that you either cannot do or would not enjoy doing.


I've personally experienced working with a junior dev who changed careers into development, had a desire to learn but just couldn't grasp the logical concept of development.

I've also seen self taught developers - mostly "database developers" - who had the aptitude to break problems down logically and get something working but their code was unmaintanable except by them (barely), didn't scale, and required manual intervention for failure cases.

On the other hand, I've known plenty of business analysts who spend most of their time documenting processing and working with customers who could easily move into development. They seem to have a natural aptitude when it comes to breaking problems down logically.

Some people just can't learn to code. Their mind doesn't operate that way. No one would ever say that why don't people learn how to sing or play sports because those can be high paying careers, because most people understand that not everyone has the natural talent to do so. Why does everyone think that anyone can learn how to be a developer?


> No one would ever say that why don't people learn how to sing or play sports because those can be high paying careers, because most people understand that not everyone has the natural talent to do so.

Almost anyone can learn how to play sports, or sing, or play instruments. It just takes time and determination. The ones that "make it big" also have luck on their side, but there are plenty of unknown people with equal skill.

Sure, legitimately dumb people will have trouble with knowledge work... but average intelligence is more than enough. The problem is that software is still a relatively new field and we haven't learned how to teach it yet.

I think we're still too focused on implementation details. Language is the medium for expressing ideas, incoherent or poorly developed ideas indicate someone that hasn't learned how to think about the domain yet. When mentoring students or doing code review for new hires, I've found tremendous value in focusing on questions and pointers to software/framework patterns instead of line-level errors. The little stuff matters, but those problems are often driven by higher level complexity.


That is probably right for the people who chooses to play video game all day and withdraw in general, but for working people, the risk/required-investment maybe too high. I've also heard that employers do not like self-taught developers as much. There might also be a need for a check to see if development job is actually in high demand.


The problem is, "make themselves qualified" to be good electrical engineers or even software engineers takes on the order of 10-15 years.

If tomorrow every electrical engineer salary went 10 times higher, supply would still take 10 years to improve.


Electrical Engineer true. Software Dev though? I just googledo nline 30 seconds ago and theres free courses titled

"Free online course to learn Tensorflow"

"same for Elastic Search"

"intro to VR"

"Intro to Python"

"App dev"

etc...these are all free and accessible to the same people who work at coffee shops and browse twitter and facebook.....

So would it take 10 years for these people to learn the skills?

I think the market signals are being interpreted as intentionally divisive to people who don't have the skills, instead of a need for the population of people who have the skill to increase, and thus they protest the market signals as a response instead of utilizing free and open resources on top of their already paid for internet utilties provided by these relatively highly paid workers, to make it free and easier and more accessible for other people to learn.

Sure learning these skills outside of a part time barista job could take 2-3 years, but even an entry level software position at a just a-okay tech firm who starts them out at say $50k/yr with no benefits, is still higher than working minimum wage, by a large degree.

I'm not sure everyone who is experiencing a disadvantage from the pay difference wants to increase their skill level, or learn new skills.

There are plenty of people who do and work long hours and cant, but there are also plenty of young people who do not, and choose not to and make other lifestyle decisions, which is fine with me, as long as they don't throw rocks at me because I chose to do my math homework in highschool when they chose to go out and drink every school night. Sometimes peoples life choices do have an impact, and its not always the responisibiltiy of the most successful companinies in the world to calibrate everyone elses life to the minimum starting salary of the most skilled workers on the planet.

I don't know what IS a good solution, but I feel this is an unrealistic expectation. Regardless, these companies are making an effort to do this anyways as they are in need of this skills and creating venues to take people from 0 to 1 with never having known anything about software or math.


A second anecdata point. I got laid-off from a job in embedded firmware in January. I just started a new gig this week as a web developer. Prior to that, almost every single position I interviewed for turned me down. I asked for feedback. They invariably said, "Not enough experience with our area." When this was web-dev, where I have little to no experience, this was understandable -- it was also 90% of the available jobs. When this was embedded firmware, it just boggled me.

Almost two years' experience in embedded firmware is not enough qualification to write embedded firmware? Because I wrote bare-metal firmware, and you want someone who's used your dev-board or your embedded Linux before? Come on.

Employers are currently very exacting.


I'd guess the classical problem of leadership with no technological skills. They're unable to see how embedded firmware skills transfer between specialties. Either that or the "not enough experience" was a lie and there was something else, but I've seen enough of the "management has no technical skills" to believe that was the reason.


I mean, I am inexperienced for my age due to taking time for an advanced degree. This ought to be balanced by applying for junior to intermediate positions, though.

I received similar feedback from recruiters, saying that once you've been in industry a couple of years, employers view you as specialized to exactly what you've done before. Apparently it got hard to even sell my resume for non-embedded roles.


Like most people pushing the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mantra, you're vastly underestimating the cost of education, particularly of adult re-education.

Yes, the answer is, it takes at minimum several years for a person working in the food industry to be anywhere reasonably close to being called competent in software engineering, because it requires you to change your entire way of thinking about problems.

In many cases it's flat out impossible, given that those people work full time. If your work is not in the same field, performing the mental shift to learning something in-depth in an unrelated field is extremely cognitively costly.

Another thing to keep in mind, many people working low wage jobs have families to take care of, which means even less time devoted to learning. In those cases, yes, it could probably take a decade for them to learn.

And considering how fast-paced tech is, it's likely their knowledge will be outdated by the time they would actually finish the self-learning process.

> Regardless, these companies are making an effort to do this anyways as they are in need of this skills and creating venues to take people from 0 to 1 with never having known anything about software or math.

You're right, it's a good start. But it doesn't solve the underlying issue of how costly the education process is on behalf of the learner. These companies "disrupt" by reducing transaction costs, but the cost of the good itself remains prohibitively high.


Hm, I'm a software engineer with nearly 10 years of experience but to get a job not in web development I estimate it would take at least 6 months of nights and weekends on a skill area such as machine learning, data science, distributed systems, data engineering, etc to be qualified in the eyes of employers.

It's quite difficult to demonstrate qualifications to employers, I specialize in type theory and devote my nights and weekends to that. I've been doing this for a year but still have been rejected for every single typed programming job in NYC. I admit I am mentally slow, but I am willing to put in the work.

My point is you are trivializing the effort. Often we are competing against people with better minds/bodies, better home environments, better support networks, etc. The advantages build on each other. Yeah we fucked up in high school or earlier because we just didn't know. I suppose it is fair that we will pay the price the rest of our lives. Oh well.


I'm not arguing with you on any of these points.

I'm not saying its fair. I'm saying I think the biggest tech companies now never had the intention of opressing poor people and we have as a society found ourselves, as we always seem to do in quite a complex situation where its not easy to find one person or company we can point the finger to and say "its all your fault"

In regards to you conflation that not screwing up in highschool requires having better minds bodies and home environments, I grew up on welfare, in a trailor park, was the first person in my family to graduate highschool, and I juts liked to learn, but I constantly get shot down by people who drank and threw things at teachers and ignored me that not only do I not deserve the life I worked for, but my personal choices are an explicity effort to oppress them, and my success in life is a continual punishment to them for their own choices.

You don't need to be rich to decide you want to be different than your surroundings, but yes often people assume my level of success is because I must have come from a good family, and I couldn't possibly understand the hell of growing up in a backwoods south Georgia trailor park where noone went anywhere.

I agree, once choices are made, its hard to undue them. I have friends with this story: You got drunk in highschool one night, your girlfriend decides to keep the baby. You both barely passed highschool. Life is going to be a struggle to make it work because you made some bad choices, and If I had the power to not have these people live their lives for the next 10 yrs recovering from their mistakes, I would change it in a heartbeat.

All I know is I chose to take less risky choices and maybe thats because of my personality and I'm calibrated differently or maybe not. Who knows, but I think the attitude of people blaming and demonizing successful people is destructive to the very people who are experiencing socioeconomic inequality.

I've definitely distanced myself from people who demonized me when otherwise I would have remained friends, and I offered to pay for my little brother to go to college after I graduated, he was a senior in highschool at the time but he said he "just didnt want to work as hard as me"

I tried as hard as I could to convince him otherwise because hes a smart kid, but he cares more about fitting in and fitting in at his age in his environment means not trying, and being in a garage band, and dating girls who don't do anything with their lives.

I love my little brother with all my heart, and I have the ability to financially support him todo whatever he wants to do, but he chooses not to.

When and if he comes around and ten years asking for help, and I hope he never has to because he does well on his own, I will help. Will it be easier for him by then? no.

How much control do I have over this? I don't know.

Noone knows the answer but I see our society degrading into fingerpointing and the haves and the have notes.

But from experience I've never met more supportive good hearted people than I have in college and in places of higher education, and its hard for me having been on both sides to make my hometown friends feel better about their assumptions that all my "new friends" are evil and wake up every morning with a newly devised plan about how to squeeze more pennies out of their paychecks.

I experience alot of what my exboyfriend use to call the racist thing. He noticed after 3 years of dating me, and coming from a rich upscale family in the Barkshires, that he told me he thought it was funny that he noticed his family is more subconsciously without meaning to be racist than I am. He meant that while his family was very liberal good hearted, voted for Bernie, grow gardens and spend their time teaching at disadvantaged school and being frugal with their money he said they had never lived in the ghetto like me, so when I had some choice words for some girl who was trying to beat me up, it wasnt because she was black, it was because she was trying to beat me up, and in fact I had many black friends at my school, and his town had 1 black person at his school.

His family was the kind of family who would make a minority feel out of place by trying too hard to make them not feel out of place, and I just judged people based on who they were, as people, and often being exposed to many different kinds, I find good and bad people to be rich and poor, and don't discriminate effort and character to be confound to income levels.

This was something he noticed and learned about his own family by living with me in comparison. Alot of people are at an impossible disadvantage and thats absolutely true. Alot of people are self destructive without meaning to be.

but alot of people are assholes, and jerks, and I'm not giving them a free pass because they are rich and can give me a good job anymore than I'm giving someone a free pass because they grew up in the same damn town as I did.

And its annoying to be lectured by people who grew up in constant privilege about my elitism regarding situations theyve never been in before.

I belive in equality, you know real like equality. As in, guys can be manipulative jerks but damn women can be too, and alot of women don't like me because I choose not to defend the choices of every woman on the planet because I'm a woman. I believe in equality that you can be an asshole and your income doesnt always determine that (but it can). I dont assume the character or motivations about a person based on their income level, and it's a little scary to me that in politics we are trending to that kind of subconscious assoication, and its even more disconcerting coming from recent ivy league grads working at google who grew up in rich suburbia connecticut, who think that if people in places like my hometown, had an extra $100 dollar in their weekly paycheck, the path for equality and a better life would be clear for them and everything would get better. I know its more complicated than that.

I don't think you "deserve" anything you. You dont deserve what you want or desire, you deserve what you do, and often times we all make mistakes including me. Mistakes don't bother me as much as how people respond to mistakes, and choose to use it as an opportunity for growth and I appreciate your dedication, but alot of people are not dedicated.


Fascinating read, thanks. Nice to see you perspective after deliberately, and probably at significant cost, choosing a different lifestyle than everyone around you.

(The whole concept of growing up in the ghetto and having a harder time to achieve what society finds valuable is less familiar from my perspective, living in Scandinavia where welfare makes this less pronounced).


Then the employers better get busy raising salaries now, right?

This situation has been created by the employers. They've held salaries down, they've refused to give raises at all (which is why everyone changes jobs every few years, so they can get back to "market rate" instead of their salary being stuck at whatever they were hired at + minuscule cost-of-living raises), and they've had massive layoffs constantly. It's all added together to paint engineering and tech as a highly unstable career path, with high starting pay but lousy job security and the need to move to a few tech hubs, and nowhere else, so that you can take advantage of the frenzy and do well. Other careers with high educational requirements, like medicine, are not like this. Doctors don't change employers every 18 months like Silicon Valley engineers do.


I agree with you despite the level of skill its still requires alot of continual learning and mobility. However, it takes alot longer to become a doctor than a software dev, as in more required schooling.

Here are a few other things to consider about comparing software to doctor/medicine industry

1. The rate of change of which human biology changes is alot smaller than the rate of which technology changes, and this is a pretty obvious thing to know going in to either of these industries, so complaining about the continual learning curve I don't have much sympathy for here.

2. Doctors experience their fair share of misery as well

a. Doctors are one of the professions most in shortage in the U.S. as well as almost every other country, despite this acceptance rates into med school is insanely competetive, way moreso than a large tech company, and worse, to even apply to med school requires schooling from an official college, in an environment where college tuition has increased 500% relative to inflation in the past decade.

That means the majority of people paying 500% more to get enough school to apply to med school don't even have the opportunity to pursue their profession of choice, and experience competitiveness at an entirely different level, and are left with lots of college debt and forced to find an alternate profession.

For those who do make it, its another 10 years of school, and often not even the option to choose which genre of medicine you can go into.

99% of Doctors are happy to finally be a doctor and work anywhere, and most people who wanted to be doctors never got accepted into med school.

With software engineering, while alot of devs went to college, its not required by any means, and you can realistically learn for free never go to college and be a software dev.

Additionally, if you dont get into the top whatever elite tech firms and have bragworthy employment, you can get a job as a software engiener making a min $60k at literally almost any city in the United States, and most industrialized places in the world, it just may not be the job you want, but usually there is a large healthy range of software employment between working a low end sys admin job at a healthcare firm for $90k without having to ever increase learning skills, or working for the top 5 tech firms.

Maybe a more accurate comparison is Doctors who went to ivy leagues and have paid off their debt, and their quality of life compared to the amount of work a software engineer at amazon has to do to coninually stay at cutting edge, but your kind of mildly glazing over the 15+ years of academia and hundreds of thousands of dollarsd of tuition doctors invested before they had stable lives, after inching into the acceptance of a med school where the acceptance rate is multiple times lower than those who actually interview and get turned away from top 5 tech firms.

Youre also glazing over the level of responsibility, in 99% of cases, when a software engineer makes a mistake, someones life may not be a stake. The ability for a software dev to have impact and have their work be exposed and touch and improve is higher than a doctor, but the consequences of a doctor making one mistake is almost infinitely higher than a software engineer.

In addition, you practice under a liscense, and can be sued for malpractice. If you make a mistake as a software engineer, you may get fired, but not always and will be employable elsewhere.

You cannot rebase a github push origin master a heart transplant, or a shot, or helping giving birth to new life. If you mess up, you can't ever practice medicine again.

In addition, doctors usually have to start their own practices, so they have to be their own entrepreneurs very often much like lawyers. While software engineers can do this for free with no school or liscensing and no risk of malpractice if its in the hot field of social apps for example, you can easily work for other companies your whole life.

I just don't see the comparison between the two, or the sense of entitlement you have that being an employee at Amazon offers the stable benefits a doctor has after 20 years of schooling and paying off loans and establishing an independently run office.


I'm just pointing out that it's disingenuous for employers to whine about a lack of employees, while simultaneously not giving them proper raises (they have the money, because they offer it to new hires) and not providing any kind of job security. They alone have made the profession unattractive to many, especially women.


Sadly I think you vastly over estimate what the majority of people will do. There is an energized minority of people who will change skill sets as their employment needs warrant or simply because they need a new challenge.

there are many who are just willing to grouse about their situation and not, how do you change them?


When I hang out in Oregon, I am told there are still fishermen waiting for the fish to come back or forestry workers waiting for the spotted owl to exit the endangered species list so they can go back to clear-cutting. Realistically, these anecdotal situations are so old, these workers may be "retired" in some sense now. Yet it reinforces the idea that maybe workers don't like to change from one skill set to another. And if the situation was, IBM Watson ate all the software engineering jobs but a new labor-intensive wood products industry with lots of outdoor, heavy-lifting work had sprung up in my town, I'm not sure I'd be eager to make the switch.




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