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What I don't understand is why people don't use the time they have in the low cost-of-living area to develop the skills (via the Internet) that would make them attractive to employers in big cities? That was my approach - I lived at home with my parents after graduation, basically did nothing but program (both for work and after work), and after 3 years Google came knocking and paid for my move out to Silicon Valley. This is fairly common among tech companies, or even any sort of wealthy corporation - if they want someone remote and the person is willing to relocate, they'll pay for the move.

I have several friends here with similar stories - they're from even more economically depressed areas (Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Cleveland, etc.), but spent their free time coding, and then Google came calling.

Honest question here - what's going through peoples' heads when they decide that reading Breitbart or watching TV is a better use of their time than developing the skills that will make them desirable to those evil corporations that are making all the money?




I believe you have a survivor's bias here – I have kind of the same track, I developed my initial skills while living with parents, being single and without having too much social interactions, so I was able to dedicate incredible amount of time to all this stuff.

But this is not always the case. Very often when you realize that you need to change something, you already work, and you have some obligations, so you have to keep up your work no matter what, and you might have not that much of energy in the evenings. Also, relationships can take a lot of energy from you as well, or you might just (surprise!) have another hobby, and you don't want to sacrifice it.

So, that's all can be broken as "not enough motivated", but seriously, does everybody want to change their life to become a top programmer? And this is even without mentioning that not everybody can develop skills (and create good-enough self branding to present it) to be able to be hired by Google, or other big corps, which will pay for your relocation.

The last point I want to say that it is very hard to develop yourself without understanding how -- a lot of people don't read HN, they think that people working in Google, FB, etc are some semigods, and people around them seem to agree about that -- it is like another bubble, where nobody knows how to actually get into this SV one.


You may be right - I think about what I'd need to do to switch careers now, at 36, and it's a lot harder than when I was 19. Luckily I have a bit of a cushion, which was built up over those years as a computer programmer, so I wouldn't go homeless or anything while retraining. Many other people are not so lucky.

I wonder what sort of education would be necessary to bring that opportunity to everyone, though. I was lucky first of all in that my high school really stressed learning to think for yourself and make your own choices, and second that I got an education in basic economics (supply & demand, compound interest, savings, and prices) from my dad at an early age. Most people don't get that. Maybe personal finance and a basic introduction to how the economy functions should be a required course in public education, though it's probably not in the interests of the people who set the curriculum to have a population that can think for themselves and look out for their own interests.


Let's say everybody got the necessary education to follow your path. Can Silicon Valley absorb the 27 million unemployed or underemployed workers in the US?


I think this idea (not just you, it's been expressed by many on this thread) that it must be Silicon Valley or Google specifically that absorbs the 27 million unemployed or underemployed workers shows a remarkable lack of imagination.

What's likely to happen isn't that Google hires 27 million people. It's that Google hires 10,000 people, who learn the details of the new methods of production required in the information age. Some of those will quit (even though Google doesn't want them to) and found new businesses. Some of them will even leave Silicon Valley and go back to their hometowns or other cheaper areas, and bring the knowledge & culture back with them. They'll then hire other people, who will learn the skills & culture needed to thrive in the information age, and so on, until it's disseminated widely throughout society.

Instead of everyone moving to California, California will move to everyone.

My bewilderment is mostly at this avoidance of economic rationality. To me, the market is sending a very clear signal that certain ways of doing things - those that involve computers, and replacing human labor with them - are more efficient than the old ways of doing things, and that's why people who adopt them make lots of money. The logical thing to do is to adopt them too. Lots of people are not doing that, and assume that there must be something mystical or corrupt about how Silicon Valley makes its money.


I get your bewilderment, I'm just wondering if it's not a red herring in a discussion over the problems of the overall US society. I'm not convinced that even if the market for programmers (even accounting for more local companies and such) was flooded until the average wage dropped 50%, that it would make a significant dent in that number, which is likely to grow.


It doesn't really need to. That tremendous increase in supply would push wages to minimum wage. When devs are making minimum wage, they won't be in the bubble anymore.


Depends, of course, how fast demand grows.


If it grows like that, that simply means the answer to the parent's question is yes.


If any industry would like to absorb the 27 million underemployed or unemployed, then they could if they were willing to invest in training them... versus offloading to upstream providers like schools. Of course, you could instate a hybrid approach between company training and traditional schooling as well. And it'd be a smart idea!

My question has always been: why aren't companies doing this?

We're talking multi-year (1-3 years) investment in training. Why not?

Seems crazy, but it's not so crazy if companies would:

1. Provide clear training milestones of accomplishment (tied to compensation advancement)

2. Support trainee with necessary personnel and materials

3. Backload compensation

Think about it, the company starts you out at say $8/hr. Then for each progressive level you ratchet up to $10, $12, $15, $18, $22, $26, etc. This ratcheting can happen as quickly as the trainee progresses -- no set time limits.

The beauty is that this provides ample motivation; it's easy for a candidate to see how they can achieve success. It also reduces the company's risk, should either side determine the relationship isn't a good fit; the company will have minimized their financial outlay.

I understand that most startups can't do this (unless it's an explicit part of their plan), but I don't understand why larger cash-rich corporations don't do this. It seems like there's massive untapped potential out there.

Don't we believe Google would be able to take a sufficiently motivated individual and turn them into a world-class engineer after 3 years, at the most, of focused training? I think the odds in favor are far greater than 50-50. I mean, who would turn down a job at Google starting at $8/hr with the chance to rocket up to $50/hr (ignoring wage depression as supply increases).

So why hasn't Google tested this? How much do they spend on trying to find the "best" instead of creating them... that's a question I wish I had the answer to.


Work remote and live in a cheap area maybe.


Basic Civics, Finance & Economy should definitely be required courses in HS. When I talk to older people they generally tell me they had these classes, and are surprised they're no longer commonly taught. It's almost as if, by design?

IMO a lot of people were misled by marketing i.e "get a college degree, everything will be fine". The advance of technology (amongst other things) has majorly disrupted that model. I'm not an economist but the rest of the world has gotten more competitive as well, beyond just manufacturing. The U.S public K-12 education system is a major long-term liability IMO.

To your point about teaching yourself skills and getting hired - good on you that you did this but it's extremely difficult - the average person couldn't do this. That's even assuming that they saw out of their bubble and became aware that this was an option, which isn't as obvious as it might seem.

Also, not everyone has the ability nor desire to be a programmer - which is one of the few jobs I observed where if you have the skills, you have A LOT of leverage.


"That was my approach - I lived at home with my parents after graduation"

There's your answer: not everyone can, or wants, to do that. People have families, kids, second jobs already (to pay the bills they need to pay right now, or else bad consequences), maybe don't get on with their parents that well, or have absent parents, and are generally time poor.

Google doesn't come calling for everyone: not everyone has the aptitude, not everyone is smart enough no matter how hard they work. That might suck, but it's unfortunately true.

Or at least so I'd thought: the fact that you were apparently smart enough to get a job at Google yet still managed to overlook these fundamentals may have sown a few seeds of doubt in my mind.


Working on skills when young, or in off hours after a job, is a way to get better and land a job outside of whatever you're currently doing. Not saying it's easy by any means, though - and in some cases is quite near impossible if you must work two jobs just to keep the lights on.

I hope remote working spreads the well-paying jobs around more, so people in low-opportunity places no longer are limited to those few opportunities. They can bring in money from other places to their local community and help economic activity, even f it's simply having enough money to eat out more, go to the community theater, etc.


A lot of survivor bias among you and your friend group I would think. I did code in all my free time back in Georgia but I had no CS degree and I had never held a programming job. There were a lot of things that I didn't know I didn't know, as I soon learned when I showed up in SF.

I have a lot of friends and contacts back in the Atlanta area that are doing just what you described . . . and they will continue doing just what you described . . . and it will not lead to a job at Google or any West Coast tech company. Reading HN and messing around with your GitHub is one thing, but there are a ton of people who are talented but have no idea what employers out here are actually looking for, or how to focus on those skills or showcase them if they already have them. That's just within programmers, which is one of the best markets right now. If you are a skilled lathe operator what are you going to do, learn to code?

I'd like to think everyone could learn to code because it would mean I wouldn't have to consider the economic sorting going on, that I benefit from, and how a great many people are stuck on the other side of it. If everyone could learn how to code I not only can pat myself on the back for doing so and bettering my life, but I can also avoid having to empathize so much with people who never will and are in worsening economic straits because of it.

What other skills can you develop via the internet that make you appealing to employers in big cities?


> What other skills can you develop via the internet that make you appealing to employers in big cities?

Sales, digital marketing, community management, UX, and data science are some examples. Known "influencers" in online forums, for example, often get hired for digital marketing, because they have real-world on-the-ground experience that big corporations that lack (for an infamous example, see Saydrah on Reddit). If you can get a video to go viral on YouTube, you're often qualified for many marketing jobs; I had an English-major friend get a job at a startup (albeit a terrible one) for a rant he made on YouTube that went viral. Independent researchers who can come up with an interesting & rigorous blog post based on publicly-available data often get data science job offers. Redesign a major product and convince a significant number of people that your version is better (this is non-trivial) and oftentimes you'll get a job as a UX designer or PM for that product.


If you are a skilled lathe operator, but the only jobs near where you want to / need to live are coding jobs... yes, learn to program.

Just like if you were a blacksmith but nobody was riding horses much anymore, it's time to learn a new craft. It's not easy, but it's necessary.

Having programs to help with that is something that, I think, government can help out with some, especially if government policies are moving the jobs away from lathe operators/blacksmithers.


A fundamental understanding that not everyone can get positions at those companies because those companies will always take the top 30% (or whatever) of people with skills they desire.

If everyone decides to take your approach companies will simply become more selective, not employ more people than they need too, no matter how good they are.


Not just the top X%, but the top X% living within commuting distance.

There may be some interest in relocating specific highly desirable individuals, but they will already be industry insiders.

Industry outsiders will not get relocation benefits.

The problem is that jobs have been offshored to increase profits.

You really have to think about this to understand it. The Harvard Business Economy has made it impossible for most people with average skills and abilities to find work that pays a living wage that makes essentials - not luxuries, but essentials like housing, food, and transport - reliably affordable.

Developers have top X% skills and see a very skewed economy where their services are relatively in demand.

Most people see a very different economy, which has left them behind with no prospects and no safety net.

Historically, this rarely ends well.


> There may be some interest in relocating specific highly desirable individuals, but they will already be industry insiders.

That is not in any way my experience. For most companies willing to do relocation (including almost any good tech company), the interview bar is the same regardless of your current location. If they decide to hire you, they'll pay for your relation—especially since it's a blip compared to your total comp as a developer.


That has been my experience too. There's a discontinuity along national borders, since green cards are a huge pain the in the regulatory ass, but when I've been interviewing for major tech companies nobody has mentioned within-US relocation expenses. They're too small to bother with, a few thousand bucks at most. Basically peanuts.

(Full disclosure: I went to college in a place so boring that you had to go by the cows and the horses to get to class. I got hired to an unrealistically amazing job via Skype. There was no in-between. It was a big surprise.)


> I don't understand is why people don't use the time they have in the low cost-of-living area to develop the skills (via the Internet)

I have thought about this question for a long time and I have observed people for a long time and I can sum it up with this phrase "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

I have heard so many people (with or without jobs) that they cannot learn new skills now and then I shout in my mind that if you are not willing to learn new skills why should an employer hire you, of course I cannot say that to their face because I have to be polite.


Google employs ~70k people (https://www.statista.com/statistics/273744/number-of-full-ti...)

That puts you as 70k in 300M ~= the top 0.025% of people.

Can tens of millions make their future plans "become smart and capable enough to be in the top 0.025% within 3 years"?


That assumes an ordered ranking of people and of employers, a premise I reject.

Google is one of several thousand employers that are both hiring and pay reasonably well. Most of the other ones will also fly you out and pay for relocation if they want you. At the same time I was interviewing with Google, there was even a 3-person startup that was willing to fly me out to SF to interview, except that I didn't really care about their business. If you don't get into Google, there's still Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Stripe, AirBnB, Square, Twitter, Netflix, Tesla, Lyft, Dropbox, Cisco, Intel, Juniper, NVidia, EBay, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Ericsson, JP Morgan Chase, and many other companies. Most of those are perfectly acceptable employers; they may not have the prestige of Google, but you can make a good living and possibly even end up wealthier than at Google.


I don't think the parent assumes an "ordered ranking of people and of employers" as much as it assumes a limited supply of open positions that meet the criteria you're giving (i.e., employers that will pay to fly you out for interviews and pay your relocation expenses if they hire you). The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives June 2017 numbers for employment in the "Information" category as 76,300 in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area and 102,400 in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area (and another ~4000 if you throw in Napa, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz). Even if we assume that all of those positions meet your criteria, and assume that there's a huge number of unfilled positions--say, 25% more than the filled ones--we're at around 250,000 total. And in practice, the first assumption there is, well, suspect. (There are technical writers, helpdesk support people, and entry level programmers at companies that won't pay relocation at that level.)

Bottom line: only a small fraction of people can get jobs in the tech industry, because even at its tremendous growth rate it's only creating enough jobs for a small fraction of the population. Increasing the pool of qualified applicants doesn't change that, it just makes the competition for the existing jobs harder.


> Google is one of several thousand employers that are both hiring and pay reasonably well.

I lived in Dallas for almost fifteen years. The vast majority of those companies ignored me even when I applied. Many of those same companies are now starting to beat my door down because I changed my location to New York. This industry seems to have a serious problem with geographic myopia.

Just from your list, Facebook ignored me until I moved to New York, Intel ignored me, nVidia ignored me, IBM ignored me, Microsoft basically ignored me. The only companies that approached me or responded to my applications were Google and Amazon, and only Amazon has been persistent.


Same here despite listing that I was willing to relocate on my own dime. Then I relocated took a job at Apple and every big name wanted to interview me. Got job offers at two other big tech names while I was in CA. until I worked in the valley I apparently wasn't smart enough despite 20 plus years experience outside CA. there is a bias. it is real and speaks badly of the valley.


Did you indicate a willingness to relocate in your application? I was in Boston when I applied to Google etc, but had on my website, my resume, and my cover letter (when applicable) "Looking to move to Silicon Valley."


I mean I work at Google now, but when I was applying to move out west, my experience almost exactly mirrored GP's. Only Amazon responded to my resume. There is an awful lot of luck involved at landing a high paying job still.




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