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Tech company career ladders (rachelbythebay.com)
345 points by tim_sw 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 181 comments

"inhumane quasi-slavery visa situation that we do to our friends who happen to be born somewhere else" - thank you so much for this rant.

I've spent the last 3 years in Taiwan sitting tight and waiting until I have enough work experience to qualify for the Skilled Migrant Category visa for New Zealand (Canada and Australia are also options, with similar requirements). Now I have those 3 years, I'm trying to get a job at one of the 75 tech companies on the Accredited Employers list who can actually give me a visa. Then, if all goes well, I can get be a Permanent Resident after 2 years. And only then can I think about getting married, learning to drive, settling down. It's been a long road to get to where I am now, aged 28, and I really hope some company will notice my plight and be willing to take me through the last step of finding a country to call home.

Is there a reason you need to be sponsored by a company?

Australia has a skilled independent points-based visa which gives you the permanent right to live and work. I've actually just been granted mine about a week ago.

I take it that New Zealand doesn't have an equivalent?

I've written up a little log of what I had to do, which you might find helpful: https://recklessclicking.com/notes/australian-immigration.ht...

Your log is very helpful, thank you! I've done a lot of research and made a lot of life choices to plan this. MEng in Electronic Systems Engineering from a UK university satisfies the education requirement from a Washington Accord country. 3 years continuous relevant work experience was the hardest because I like travelling and moving around, but I stayed here long enough I have that now. Maybe I don't have enough money to do the skilled independent visa, but if I could borrow the capital, I think I have the points.

Congratulations on your what you have achieved so far and good luck in the future! Not a lot of people know the amount of research, effort, discipline, money, sacrifice and luck go into immigration.

Hopefully your points are not just over the threshold - if they are, beware of losing your "youth points" and going below the minimum accepted points when you turn 32 or 35 (or whatever the limit is for the countries you're targeting). The years go by so fast!

These countries seem so easy compared to US where it can take 20+ years for a residency if you're from India, and you need to live on annual visa renewals until that time

You don't have a country to call home?

"Home" is a place I can settle, start a family, go back to and live in.

I grew up near Geneva. My parents bought a house in France because it was cheaper. My dad crossed the border every day to work at CERN and take me to international school.

I can't be Swiss, because my parents weren't resident. I can't be French, because I wasn't born there. The nearest French hospital is 2 hours away through the mountains and CERN paid for Swiss health insurance. I'm British by descent because my parents are from there. Future children born outside the UK cannot be British from me, because I wasn't born in the UK. If I stayed in Geneva and met a wife there in the same situation (very common with UN kids), and kept living with my parents, future children would be stateless.

My girlfriend is Taiwanese. If she and I had children, they would be Taiwanese from her, and would have to go to the military and learn how to kill foreigners. There's a conflict of interest - I don't want children to kill me. She had a great time in Australia on Working Holiday and wanted to go to New Zealand too, but couldn't get one of the 600 visas even though we stayed up all night and applied as soon as applications opened at 6 am.

For her to move to the UK requires her to meet income requirements of £18,600 per year, which she doesn't earn with her CAD job, and it would take 5 years. New Zealand offers PR after 2 years, and New Zealand PR is enough for children to get citizenship. (some countries e.g. Canada give citizenship at birth to everyone, but then it's possible for parents to lose their visa and be separated from kids - I want PR before I marry).

You're a British citizen, you can move to any country in the EU. If you marry your girlfriend, she can move with you, and other countries in the EU will not require her to show income to move with you. You could be there in a few months, without waiting for companies to notice you. Source: am British citizen by descent, have lived in France. Edit: and then to move to Britain from an EU country she doesn't need to show an income at all https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/residence/family-resid...

I might have this wrong, but last I checked IIRC the deal is your non-EU spouse has a right to live with you (assuming you're an EU national) in any EU country other than your own. She would also have a work permit, should she choose to work. In your own country the local immigration rules apply to your non-EU spouse.

So for a UK citizen with a Taiwanese wife it would be extremely simple (until Brexit of course) to move with her, the "third-country national," to France or Austria or wherever. Whether it's also easy to move to the UK with her, I have no idea... but it's definitely not automatically approved in all EU countries.

As another commenter mentioned, it is known as the Surinder Singh application - you have to show that you are genuine residents of the other EU country, and then your home country has to treat you as they would any other couple with the right to live in the EU - https://www.gov.uk/family-permit/surinder-singh

You can always use the Surinder Singh route to bypass the income requirements of moving your spouse to the UK. It’s a pain and the Home Office will fight you tooth and nail but it’s legal.

UK citizens should find it fairly easy to immigrate to Australia.

Sorry but I don’t understand the problem: you have British citizenship. You can reside and work anywhere in the EU. That puts you in a fairly enviable position. If you marry your wife is entitled to permanent residency (I think it’s called permanent leave to remain), which is a lot easier to get than say any US equivalent. British permanent residency is (for now) EU residency.

It’s also not quite true that your children would be stateless. This vastly depends in where they’re born. Also there are provisions for this in UK law. Lastly grandchildren of UK born citizens (which it sounds like they would be) are entitled to an ancestry visa. This gives 4 years to live and work in the UK without restriction. If they’re still there after 4 years they then get permanent residency and are entitled to apply for citizenship a year after that.

EDIT: so it’s been some years since I lived in the UK and the rules have gotten much harsher on spouse visas, namely there is an income requirement for the Briton (£18,600pa) and the spouse visa is for 30 months renewable for another 30 months so now it takes 5 years to get ILR (indefinite leave to remain). It used to be 2.

Still, it’s an option. As are other EU countries. Ireland, Sweden and even the Netherlands look like decent options. Maybe Austria too.

Marriage does entitle his wife to PR. It entitles his wife to FLR which needs to be renewed after 2.5 years before she will be granted indefinitely leave to remain (UK green card).

If you lose your job before the renewal she won’t get the visa.

You are better off moving to Canada. You will both get PR straight away and citizenship in 3 years.

Oh, and just to address this concern:

> future children would be stateless.

If you had children who were stateless by birth, they would become eligible for British citizenship. Also, if you live in the UK for three consecutive years, then any children born after that period will be able to inherit British citizenship from you.

Children born overseas (e.g. France, Taiwan) can't be British. Children born in the UK from me can be British, I think.

I was in the UK for university and a Christian volunteer group, over a period of 5 years. I emailed the Home Office to ask to "upgrade" my citizenship, but they said there's no way to do that. So I'm not sure where you got that 3 year limit from. (But maybe this changed since 2012 when I was last there).

I got this information from my research in the 90s, and it’s definitely valid today. Your own citizenship does not change, but your children will be eligible to register as a British citizen through form MN1 Section 3(2)

> To qualify under this section, the parent who is British by descent must have been born to a parent who was a British citizen otherwise than by descent (or if that person died, then they would have been a British citizen otherwise than by descent but for their death). The British citizen by descent parent must have lived in the UK (or, if the child was born on or after 21 May 2002, in a British overseas territory) for a continuous period of 3 years at any time before the child’s birth. During that period they should not have absences exceeding 270 days. The application must be made whilst the child is under 18 years of age. The 3 year residence requirement for the parent does not need to be met if the child is stateless.


What if two such parents had a child born in France? The child would be stateless, except that Britain allows stateless children born to British citizens to gain citizenship and France allows stateless children born in the country to gain citizenship. Which one would the children actually get?

I think France, because to show statelessness to the UK you need documentation from the country of birth saying the child is not eligible for citizenship there. But if France required similar documentation from the parent’s country, then I think it would be whichever you applied to First?

AFAIK if you're a British citizen you're entitled to live in Ireland, and any children born in Ireland will have Irish citizenship

And that's going to be an increasingly valuable passport in the coming years, I would think.

Sorry I don't buy this. You make this sound as if you were stateless which of course is not the case or you wouldn't be able to be in Taiwan either unless you sneaked into there and are in fact working illegally.

I'm not stateless. I have a work visa. The article explains the pressure of living on a work visa (shut up, get in line, or lose your job, visa, and country). Taiwan is not "home" because I can't start a family here. Even if I didn't care about children's military service, I can't get a Taiwanese passport without renouncing my previous citizenship and going to military service myself. Taiwanese PR doesn't give children nationality, and I would lose the PR if I leave for more than 2 years.

As a British citizen, you can already have permanent residence there. Bringing a partner over has no income requirements, either proof of being together >2 years or marriage (anywhere, marriage is usually valid across countries) [1], I’ve seen hundreds of people bring their partners over to Europe. Your children will be born in the UK and have full citizenship.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/uk-family-visa/partner-spouse

He's not stateless, he's British.

If you come into Canada using the Express Entry immigrantiom system then you land as a PR and so does your wife. No qualification period.

Also Canada recognises commonlaw marriage.

I made the switch from H1B's indentured servitude to being a permanent resident of Canada through the Express Entry system. It changed my life for good. US corporates likes H1B so much that they are lobbying to keep the shackles as it is.

Here is how I did it -> https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15452647

Yes, Canada's Express Entry is one of my top-two preferences. The problem is if I then leave for more than 2 years, I lose PR. So it's not really "Permanent". I'd have to stay for 4 years and become a citizen. But that's ok - I enjoyed my Working Holiday there, and I could see myself being there for 4 years. My girlfriend said she prefers NZ though (and NZ has tougher requirements) so I'm sticking with that for now. If anything happens to our relationship though, and we decide it's better to be apart, then I'll be on the next plane to Canada.

>The problem is if I then leave for more than 2 years, I lose PR

That's not correct. You need to be present in Canada for 2 years out of every 5. NZ is more flexible but has a 2 year qualifying period to get PR.

It's also 3 years to qualify for citizenship.

US Greencards are the worst. Leave the country for a couple of months and it can be revoked.

> If she and I had children, they would be Taiwanese from her, and would have to go to the military and learn how to kill foreigners. There's a conflict of interest - I don't want children to kill me.

Taiwan isn't the only country you mentioned that has compulsory military service. Your children would "kill you" (wtf?) if they grew up in Switzerland as well.

Yes, that's correct. That's one major reason I'm not planning to move to Switzerland, Austria, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, or Israel. The choice of other countries (EU, Canada, Australia, NZ) is more flexible, and mostly emotional based on my experience of working holiday/summer jobs in those places.

> If she and I had children, they would be Taiwanese from her, and would have to go to the military and learn how to kill foreigners.

Compulsory military service had been phasing out for years, if not fully by this year, almost certainly by the time your children would be born. Moreover, only men are conscripted, so it's a ~50% chance. Finally, there are various alternate services they could qualify for, in lieu of military service. So I'm not sure what your GF's been telling you?!

Sucks for your situation. One question though (I'm sure you've heard before)...

> For her to move to the UK requires her to meet income requirements of £18,600 per year

What about if you got married?

Marriage doesn't help! "Partnership" is recognised by immigration, and that requires living together, sharing the same address and bank account for a year.

This is because of a cultural shift in the meaning of marriage. It used to be one man and one woman, for life. Divorce, polygamy, homosexuality, and marriages of convenience changed that definition. I'm not trying to get distracted about whether those groups of people should be allowed to marry - that's a different political debate. The outcome is that marriage doesn't matter for immigration any more.

As soon as I get married, I'm going to have sex! But that might bring babies. If those kids can't have nationality, or risk their parents being separated by visa issues, I want to delay having those kids. So I want to get PR before getting married.

I’m not sure why you threw in a dig at homosexuals in your little immigration rant. That’s probably why you’re getting downvotes here. Plus it erases a lot of goodwill you might be building up.

Also btw, there is no modern state that recognizes polygamy, especially for immigration purposes!

Ps: marriages of convenience are ... classic marriages. That is what marriage used to be. A business or political arrangement. For convenience.

> As soon as I get married ... might bring babies


Ok, it sounds like you've thought things through and best of luck with it.

> As soon as I get married, I'm going to have sex!

Wait, you didn't yet ?

(Not the OP) Is that so surprising? My wife and I waited until marriage.

It's not really common amongst europeans under 50.

I'm a European under 50 :) I agree it's not common, but not unheard of.

Prompted by faith ?

God fucking damnit. With that amount of knowledge and detail, I hope you end when you are comfortable to be, and accepted as well.

This situations seem so fucking ridicolous to me. Any country would be fortunate to have someone like you.

“This amount of knowledge” appears to be a canonical example of “just enough knowledge to be dangerous”. It appears that he’s spent years arranging his life under a false understanding of the relevant laws that could have been cleared up by a question on immihelp, or ten minutes with a UK immigration lawyer.

What's wrong with Taiwan? Beautiful country, lovely people.

>> and I really hope some company will notice my plight

Do you have a website? Is your story documented anywhere? It's really powerful.

It is?

He’s spent the last three years working in tech in a first-world country while waiting for a chance to work in tech in another first-world country, where he’ll have to not-get-deported for two whole years before he can really settle down.

Maybe I’ve grown cold-hearted over the years, but “emigrating to a desirable nation for a desirable job takes several years, during which I’m stuck in another developed, desirable nation” isn’t wringing out any tears on my end.

It took about that long for my family to come over in the 80s, and they were fleeing religious persecution in a shit-hole.

I think this article unfairly paints small companies as some nirvana which is obviously not the case. I have plenty of friends at small companies who feel like their c-suite is filled with sociopaths and because the company is under the radar nobody cares how the employees of said company are treated.

I've always enjoyed working at small companies. I've worked at larger companies which have the "level" concept of employees, it's kindda funny to me now :)

In my experience at smaller companies you get treated better, you are a more significant factor to the overall success of the company and there is very little corporate crap which often has silly requirements that get justified by a mystical word of being "professional", which often actually seems to achieve the opposite of treating adults as bunch of kids that need to be managed and controlled :)

Though I know it also can go very bad for people in small companies that have mini dictators in charge.

>Though I know it also can go very bad for people in small companies that have mini dictators in charge.

By definition every company has a dictador. They might be "benevolent" and willing to delegate their power to some degree, but at the end of the day, they have the final say.

Even if the people are great, small (5-20 employee) companies often simply don't have scope for much career progression. You might have one layer of management between yourself and the company owner, so unless they start hiring or you plan on taking over the company, you can only be promoted once.

I have the same experience (worked for small companies, startups and FAANG).

At small companies you are working your ass off, and sometimes you'll get something in return - but mostly you'll just get a thankyou from some C-level or founder dude.

At FAANG I was getting a decent salary raise year after year (and a bigger bump through a promotion).

My raise at Amazon was about 4.5% (total after two years).

Of course they say it was 10% because of the way they take stock into account.

Not totally unfair, but still a kick in the pants when the bonus runs out and you see a thousand dollars a month less in your bank account.

Yeah except your promotion isn't usually a level, it's lead, manager, director, or chief. You leverage that and walk to a slightly larger company in that new role after a couple of years. Then rinse & repeat once or twice and you just shaved off years of slogging through the FAANGs.

After all of the above though, I would put 2-3 years in at a FAANG and then do whatever the heck I want.

FAANG == Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google

(First time I heard of it; had to look it up)

I feel like Netflix is only in there to make the acronym, does it really belong?

It's an odd collection, the others are tech giants yet there's no microsoft and netflix thrown in. Netflix is big but it's not Apple big.

It is a stock thing. All of those companies have well performing stocks.

Microsoft stock is up 80% in the last 2 years.

edit: and they are ahead of google in market cap again. Been going back and forth for the last little while.

The acronym I've heard is GAFAM: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft.

Judging by http://enwp.org/Largest_companies as of right now, the order should probably be AGMAF (Apple first) instead.

FAANG is usually used in the context of investments/stocks. These 5 have consistently been some of the highest growth tech stocks in the past couple of years.

AGAMF - Let's keep it dynamic and take the top 5 tech companies sorted by market cap.

Should be AMGAF right now.

This seems hard to keep accurate.

I'm sad nobody has done anything clever by changing G to A (for alphabet). E.g. AAA Companies

I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago, but with one "A" -- I guess Apple doesn't always count, maybe due to the much lower PE ratio?

Funny, it seems to have been coined in the US but I think I have seen it more in UK news sites.

<removed lame question>

We haven't installed Flash player.

I'm moving into year twenty of my career. I've done fairly long tenures at startups, culminating in a VP of Engineering role and subsequent acquisition by a Fortune 500 company. I'm now in the "big company" phase with a goal to bank $$$ via RSUs and then have a chance to go back to startups as a Founder/Co-Founder/CTO

True, but that relies on the company itself raising the level of work that it's doing to justify the title change. Coming from a small company with an inflated title just makes you look pretentious and silly.

I didn't think that needed to be said, and actually I think it's on you to make that happen at the company rather than the other way around.

Not really - If you managed a small team at a company, you've still got management experience. Bigger companies will recognize that regardless of title.

It's analog promotion, not digital, in a small company.

You gradually accumulate authority and responsibility over time. Payrises happen when you manage to convince the owner you need more money, rather than on a HR-managed pay scale. Eventually you'll get a new job title that reflects your current role.

Yeah, at the small companies I worked at, did ok but not crazy growth, the managers & above had been there for years and weren't going anywhere, so there was no place to get promoted into.

> paints small companies as some nirvana which is obviously not the case

Seconded. At least at big companies, they have defined procedures for promotions and departures (if for no other reason than to cover themselves legally). In small companies things can end up as unpredictable as middle-school politics (and about as mature).

Very true. From my experience as contractor I think bigger companies are often better and more predictable places to work. There are some small companies that are great but a lot of them don't pay well and are run by people who care only about themselves.

> From my experience as contractor

As a contractor you have essentially already taken a deal where you get paid a premium but have no expectation of career growth.

If you have no expectations of career growth at work then big companies are fantastic.

This was not about my career as contractor. It's what I saw how employees were treated. As I said some small companies are great and offer great opportunities but there are plenty that work their people to death, miss payroll, pay low salaries in exchange for a big dream that in most cases will never come true for the regular employee.

> This was not about my career as contractor.

My point is you have self selected into a group that doesn't expect career progression at work in the typical sense.

Surely that influences what you consider a "better" workplace?

> It's what I saw how employees were treated.

A big company can be "nice" and yet incredibly soul crushing.

I've had years of productive work thrown away over politics.

That's far more damaging, personally, than having to work some overtime or being under a bit more day to day stress.

I've had a year of productive work thrown away by a clueless and arrogant founder that didn't understand the product he was trying to build and the market and was blaming everyone but himself. So you can have the crazy overtime and the bad management that waste it all.

It's not really a question of big and small. Most companies are badly managed (or I am very unlucky). I found in big companies they at least know that making basic efforts to keep employees happy is profitable long-term.

> If you have no expectations of career growth at work then big companies are fantastic.

Pretty much.

You can end up in a spot where you can grow fast.

Or you can end up stagnating for years (me).

I'm still trying to figure out the whole small company scene.

I've mostly worked at large (>10k people), though not necessarily hot, tech companies with established tech ladders.

Now I'm working at a small (<500 people) SaaS company in a non-tech sector. While there are definitely some perks (including, oddly, better pay) I have some concerns directly related to the size of the company and the lack of a ladder:

First, lack of opportunity for specialization. People who reach the top of tech ladders are often genuinely capable specialists in some sub-discipline. One has to specialize to develop mastery. When done well, a tech ladder provides a useful framework within which to cultivate mastery.

The question becomes, how do you develop (transferable) mastery in an environment that isn't organized to exploit it? Partly I'm hoping that as the company grows, I can grow my skill set towards and expertise that the company will be prepared to use.

Second, when the company is small enough, it's still possible for founders/execs to interfere with even relatively mundane technical decisions. Now, I think the people I work for are quite competent, and I actually have gotten to know them (which wouldn't happen at a big company). I'm just saying that for small companies it can be hard for those at the top to let go of control and switch to a more delegated mode of decision making.

EDIT: fixed formatting

I am working at a small company (first job out of school) that is experiencing the growing pains you alluded to in your second point - management wanting to be involved in details across the entire stack, which hinders productivity.

I have no idea how to solve this problem, but the fact that you wrote about articulated it makes me think I'm not alone in my experience.

It has a name - micromanagement.

Yeah, the risk of small companies is that in order to change the scenery you have to leave. A sizable company (>250 people) in which people can move across teams is ideal, this is the main advantage of matrix management structures. Sad to hear about the leveling crap at Google et al. it is truly amazing how significantly HR policies can muck up a company by interfering with it's employees.

There's tons of articles and personal stories that shit on both small and large companies for various reasons, which leads me to believe it's not the size that matters, but the individual (or "view of the beholder").

not to mention that the difference in money can be life-changing. it is not uncommon to see a 2-3x total comp. multiple as a "level 3" at the referenced companies compared to a small one.

It shard to trust someone whose thesis is that the thing they know intimately is inferior to the thing they are unfamiliar with. The seaweed is always greener...

This was definitely my experience at 2/4 of the startups I worked at

What I also seen is people become victim of your their own success. If you over-achieve in one appraisal cycle it is very bad for you because you have increased your base-level of performance. It is like over-achieving sales target.

I have learned the hard way that one needs to spread out the achievements. For example if you have good number of ideas then don't spew out all of them in one go. Introduce them say in each quarter and people will say "Joe always seems to have an idea round the corner". Recency effect matters.

That’s not really how this works. Right after a promo you’re not due for another promo. They are dividing a fixed size promo budget pie. So they rank you lower in order to be able to rank someone else higher. There’s no other reason, because it’s impossible to accurately measure engineer’s “performance”, or to even define it in the first place.

At Microsoft, for example, in the olden days at least, managers would keep around a certain percentage of deadwood on the team to give their best people good ratings and meet their firing quota if the need arises.

> managers would keep around a certain percentage of deadwood on the team to give their best people good ratings and meet their firing quota if the need arises.

Tragic consequences of stupid rules, I'm baffled.

Inviolable rule of management: you get the behavior you reward.

This is true. Huge success leads to a raise and massive expectations, which can be extremely stressful.

It’s super easy to game this in a large company - switch teams immediately after promo.

That sounds horrific

Does anyone else feel really put off on the idea of working at a big tech corporation by articles like this? If I wanted to play the career game, I would have studyied something more business related and got a graduate job at somewhere like KPMG.

Honestly, having worked for startups for three years, joining FB was a breath of fresh air. I know my level, I know what is expected of me. When I say to my manager 'I want to get promoted' he says 'ok looks like you're on course' (or not). My compensation is no longer based on how much my manager likes me, it's based on my work and how I present it.

Startups were a mess of failed products, misguided work, and managers who showed no interest in managing, let alone investing in the growth of their reports. Good management is awesome.

Exactly this. Also you get paid real cash money. And really proper healthcare. Which is handy if you want to have kids.

I often see criticisms of bigtech as overpaying... or perhaps it is everyone else who is underpaying? Quit making the argument you should be underpaid!

Not to mention that at the big companies (FAANG) you get to work with some really awesome smart people. And work on hard problems that matter with products people actually use.

In the best case small startups are awesome. But there are many mediocre cases out there. Crazy crazy stuff. Every small startup I’ve been part of has had huge drama. Including extortion, sociopaths, bad senior hires, funding gone weird, and sheer embezzlement/misspending.

...extortion, sociopaths, bad senior hires, funding gone weird, and sheer embezzlement/misspending.

I've been contracting at a startup for a year, and seen all this happen during my tenure. We've managed to strip most of the deadwood now, but I'm unsure whether it was done in time. It'll be a pity if the company folds, because they have some quite cool tech.

Everytime I see something like this, I'm glad I chose the life of a contractor.

> My compensation is no longer based on how much my manager likes me, it's based on my work and how I present it.

"and how I present it" sounds suspiciously like 'how much my manager likes me' (or whoever you present it to). Seems more like "same thing, different name" to me than a real difference here.

It's not. For example, up until recently, you didn't need manager approval to get promoted at Google. Obviously feedback from your manager was considered, but if you could demonstrate your growth and your manager didn't like you, it was possible to be promoted anyway.

The people who made this decision we're specifically selected to not be familiar with you or your work. So it couldn't have anything to do with how anyone liked you.

But even beyond that, larger companies more commonly have codified ladders and clear rubrics or criteria for advancement and performance. This means that a manager must justify their rating against a set of objective criteria. Managerial bias can still creep in, but only on borderline cases. (And elsewhere in the workplace, but that's mostly unavoidable)

Not really. If you can't communicate what value your work had, you're going to have a worse time than people who can. The manager liking you thing is more countered by the crazy number of mashups and calibrations go through before being finalised. Yes a bad manager can still hurt you, but the effect is greatly reduced by the process of the performance review and the ease of internal mobility.

Because working as an SWE in bigtech can pay 2-3x as much?

Including signing a FB new grad can make up to ~$225k in their first year. There aren’t many industries where this is possible with a bachelors or less.

Not that it detracts from your point, but the best offers I've seen for FB new grad are 115k salary, 270k/4 RSUs, and 100k signing, giving ~280k first year.

I mentioned $225k because that's the baseline from what I understand. Rockstars can get $100k signing and more RSUs.

I'm very sad I'll never get that...

Also, most SWE in big tech aren't working crazy hours like investment banking.

They really aren't. I have friends at bulge bracket banks that easily worked 12 hours a day and sometimes weekends. At Amazon I was hard pressed to find anybody work more than 10 in the office on crunch weeks.

Software big 5 have much better pay and much better work-life balance than accounting big 5.

I worked in startups for 10 years, now I'm at my first big corporate gig.

I'd say that it's not as bad as it sounds, as dramatic stories tend to find their way up the HN ranking.

Working for big corp you have to pay the "corporate tax", which is this sort of inhuman set of corporate rules. As a free human being it feels really weird and offputting. What's really weird is the people who have been here for their entire careers and don't see that it's weird. Somebody described it like growing up in a dysfunctional family; it feels normal to you.

Anyhow, you can also keep your humanity and look at the rules as a minor annoyance that doesn't have to get you down. You can also think about it as part of getting a much larger paycheck. Some of my co-workers are ready to throw that away to work on their passion, but I quite like it.

I wish I had this information before I took a job at Google 11 years ago. I probably would have still taken the job, but I would have realized I was really signing up for two jobs:

1) The job I was hired for;

  ... but *more importantly*...
2) The job of navigating the leveling and review systems, including managing your manager.

To be fair, this second job exists at every company. Whatever the levels/review systems are called, managing your future is your job, and only your job. Your manager is your employee when it comes to setting up your future.

For those looking to compare levels between the mentioned companies, I found http://levels.fyi useful

Can anyone attest to the accuracy of this? Levels have pay ranges, right? If so, does this site portray the lower or higher end of the range?

Also, are levels pretty translatable between big corps? Does level at one company have weight when interviewing at another?

There's also crowdsourced data via a Google Form they have at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1IclsJmHUMWjZCECMKi1I...

For Google at least. Salary and Stock are low end of the range. Bonus numbers seem ridiculously high: 49k bonus for an L4, even with Superb you don't get that.

I never got a $100k bonus as a T5. I was at Superb when I left too.

Neither. As far as I can tell, levels.fyi is mostly new-hire offers. This is reflected in the mix of compensation (large bonuses are signing, not performance bonuses).

It's also based on relatively small sample sizes. As a result, you get things that are, sort of by accident, mostly within the ranges you would expect for an employee at that level (because new hires normally start lower in-band, but they have large 1-time bonuses to make things up).

So, sometimes they're low in the range. Sometimes they're high in the range. They almost never reflect the actual compensation mix an employee would receive over a sustained time period. Maybe they're better than nothing?

>Also, are levels pretty translatable between big corps? Does level at one company have weight when interviewing at another?

Depends. In my limited experience, these levels are certainly more translatable than other titles (ie. someone who is L5 at facebook is likely to be hired at L5, or at worst L4 if they perform badly in interviews at Google, whereas someone who makes it to Senior SWE at some random software company might not have been exposed to the skills and tech necessary to be considered an L4 at Google or Facebook). That said, its not like a perfectly rigid hierarchy where putting in your time at Microsoft will guarantee you a higher level job at Amazon or whatever.

I'm not qualified to comment on the comparisons, but there's a glaring mistake on the first page: software engineers at Google are "SWE", not "SDE". Given that this is the most common job code in the company, this doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in its accuracy.

And yes, for Google/FB/MS these are common knowledge and HR will set offers accordingly. Interesting to see that eg. Netflix and Palantir apparently don't have any software engineer levels though.

i hesitate to pursue a career of any kind, especially tech, because of all this. you have to have a pretty good personality and charisma in order to work well with your manager, or else you will make no progress which means you get fired. people are born with all kinds of quirks, peculiarities and qualities. while im a better programmer than most of the people who i went to college with, i have a special problem with my personality and charisma. i have absolutely zero intuition about what to say to other human beings. conversations with me are always like chewing sandpaper, unless they focus on some very narrow interests of mine. conversations that are very focused and intellectual always get a good response but i seldom meet people who want to have those even among engineers. 99 percent of the people i meet, even among "tech" people, i am rejected. i guess ill just scrape by.

>conversations with me are always like chewing sandpaper, unless they focus on some very narrow interests of mine.

Basically, that's the problem. In order to establish a repertoire, you need to have more than dense interests. It's cool to be passionate about one or two hobbies. Lots of people have none, and this makes conversation dull. However, it is vital you can maintain ordinary conversation on lay topics too -- It's strange to not be able to talk about the local flair, family or relatives, hot vacation spots, annoying ordinances, and neighborhood politics. If you can't maintain a casual conversation about some the above, you are quickly deemed "dangerous", as you failed the "same species as me" test.

This is not an indictment of you. Just plain fact.

The good news is that it's straightforward to learn. Plain osmosis works. Find some meetups which you won't find totally repulsive (say, boardgames, movies, etc) and just listen to how conversations between normals work. You can literally copy and paste these and pass the "am I human" Voight-Kampff tests with this information.

I have a slightly different advice:

> unless they focus on some very narrow interests of mine.

I think OP's problem is that "other people" are not an interest of his. If it was, he'd never run out of things to talk about with these other people.

I also think that's a main reason people find those who can't keep up a conversation disturbing. They sense that you're not interested in them, and that makes you potentially dangerous.

Spot on IMO. People think they need to be interesting for people to care about them, but really you just need to be interested.

I think the problem is that most casual conversation just isn't relevant. If we're having a conversation to have a conversation, what's the point?

I happen across a lot of conversations where people are just blabbing at each other, but don't actually listen to what the other is saying (or are clearly not interested in what each is saying), but still continue to have a conversation. I don't get that...

"If we're having a conversation to have a conversation, what's the point?"

You're actually halfway there with the question. Indeed, the point is not conversation, or at least not the literal contents of the conversation.

When I was younger, I had a hard time understanding this stuff too. I'm not 100% sure why (I'm not convinced I'm even slightly on the spectrum, but it's not out of the question entirely; it's also just possible that I was simply too different as a kid from the other kids), but one of the steps to resolving it is just to realize that yes, there is logic to almost all of what is going on, and it isn't actually that complicated of a logic either. The biggest impediment to not being able to understand these interactions is the belief that you can't understand them, or that there's some sort of virtue in not understanding them. The second-biggest impediment is the belief that these things are essentially irrational, in the older sense of "essential" as meaning something like "inseparable from the whole"; there is actually a level on which this is all shockingly rational behavior. Once you get over those ideas, and accept that the surface levels and what's actually going on in the relationship between two people is not the same thing, it doesn't really take long to figure out what's going on.

(There's... a few other ideas you'll find you may want to discard. For instance, while politically incorrect today, there are reasons to be initially distrustful of people not in "your group". If you can't believe that's true today, it was certainly true in evolutionary terms. So there are instinctual protocols for determining whether someone is "in" or "out", and there are reasons for them, and there are reasons why they involve difficult-to-forge signals like simply knowing some in-knowledge from a culture, or burning time on seemingly-inconsequential conversations. And these things operate at instinct level; it doesn't matter if you think they are wrong, out of date, or politically incorrect; they do what they do anyhow. Start putting a few of these things together and it all starts making much more sense. There's reasons why these things exist and persist.)

Unfortunately, I don't really think I got what you were intending to say with this message.

You basically said there 'is' a reason for inconsequential conversation, but then only proceeded to hint at it's existence outside the last paragraph, and that was described as a different idea I might want to discard.

As such I can only hope that I'll eventually figure it out as I get older. So far the only thing I'm finding out as I get older is that humans are indeed irrational, and that often you just have to deal with that.

a lot of time it is to signal interest and create so called social lubricant. It is not about the content of the conversation, but more about having a conversation with someone from the group.

I’m a little bit on the spectrum, but what’s helped a lot for me was to go on drinking sessions with people from widely different backgrounds (teacher, lawyer, businessman, trainers, other types of engineer, social workers).

I was lucky in that these were instigated by my more outgoing brother, but I picked up a lot of the patterns which smooth these interactions, to the extent I can have decent conversations. Helps to be able to code switch as well. You’re not necessarily going to have a deeply intellectual discussion every time, and that’s fine.

This is what is generally referred to as "soft skills" in the industry, and is given way too little importance by engineers until it is too late. Obviously technical knowledge is important, but at the end of the day shit only gets done if people are collaborating and working well with each other.

Its definitely an important quality to be able to sweet talk and create pleasant relationships with the other colleagues.

But for myself it becomes really hard to do so with people, with whom my relationship might have downgraded, which in a working environment can have a serious impact in your progression, your evaluations and how much respect other people actually give you.

On the tech side, I have also felt that most people don't want to talk about anything related to tech, or when they do it's rather vague and blank, without properly backing up there convictions.

It would be nice to be able to share experiences with other employees regarding their favorite programming languages, opinions on the new X/Y/Z language, what could be done to improve our project, and so on. But most conversations don't evolve to any of that, it's mostly making fun of each other (on a nice way), flirt, sports and gibberish.

I am currently trying to gain knowledge after work on different topics such as: Docker, Kubernetes, services exposed by Cloud Providers (Azure on my case) and how to manage/deploy them, but I don't think anyone from my team would ever be interested in talking about it, which simply makes me feel like I am on a place where I don't belong.

Have you checked out your local meetup groups? Whether you are located in the city or the suburbs, birds of a feather like to flock together.

You sound like a good fit for tech actually. Every company is different, and even within companies there is much diversity across groups. Part of why networking (and interning) is important is to find people that you can easily talk with. There is much less risk if you are accepted into the tribe before you hire on. From my perspective personal hygiene is more important than social skills, I care less about being offended than I do about getting sick.

social skills can be learned

Agreed. "how to win friends and influence people" changed my life here.

I mean, what other magical field allows otherwise difficult to get along with individuals to have a full time job? There’s tons of leeway for weird socialization in tech. While the soft skill requirement goes up year over year, it’s still not the same as many other fields. I guess night time clerk at a gas station...?

anyways all these social skills are learnable. But only if you think they are, truly believe it, and only if you try. It might be hard. But hey.

Also consider therapy. Consider it a way of learning how to operate your mind.

Change the way you think about it. Gamify conversation. Don't try to learn intuition about conversation flow, teach yourself through observation which I'm sure you are probably very good at.

Go talk to more girls

>> What's the takeaway here? Know how the company works before you take the plunge.

This is good advice, but I think it's good advice for any company you join: understand how performance is going to be measured.

This is a key question that you should ask during the interview process. Remember, they're not just interviewing you, you are interviewing them.

Yup, not having a well-defined comp structure is a red flag even for smaller companies.

I interviewed at a decent-sized company (100+ engineers) recently and when I asked about their salary bands/career ladder/review cycles they just said "oh, we're too small for all that. We'll just promote you when the time is right." Got out of that quick.

I work at small companies, not because they are perfect or things are always better and easier, but because I know the things I'm responsible for and the people I'm accountable to, and the thought of being slotted into a byzantine human management framework run by small-minded rule writers fills me with Orwellian dread and disgust.

There are a few issues which make moving backwards incredibly difficult. Notably, its almost impossible to negotiate a reduction in pay without being accused of constructive dismissal. When a ladder is put in place its usually tied to comp, so that the engineering organization can have some semblance of a predictable budget.

I really respect Rachel and all her writing. Our industry needs something more widely accepted as a best practice which is transparent to existing employees as well as new people getting into the field.

  Within a job ladder, you then have levels. They tend to map onto
  years of experience, *whether you have a degree or not*, 
  what kind of degree it is, how well you do in your interviews,
  how much money you ask for or hint about, and possibly how
  well you did as an intern.
I don't work at a big corp. Has anyone seen career growth stall directly because they lack a (bachelor's) degree (in CS)? This article doesn't directly state that, but I'm tangentially curious.

No, but I have seen people's career stall because they worked on the wrong project.

As my manager put it at the time "Nobody gets promoted for reducing the size of a tire fire by 50%".

You have to be really strategic about what you work on, and for who. It's not about the technical contributions, it's about finding and retaining a sponsor higher in the organization. You help them torpedo competing initiatives and increase the headcount they manage (headcount is points), and they help you navigate the political climate to get onto the project du jour.

I worked at an old school BigCo for 3 years and we shipped not a single product from a team of ~300 people if you count peripherally involved people. The only thing that saved us was that we managed and maintained a small software tool used directly by the CTO of the conglomerate, which we could wave as a ward against interference.

Some of those 300 got promotions, some got transferred (far away from their home and family, into different divisions that they had no experience with, aka exile), and some got laid off, even though as far as I could tell none of us had any ability to affect the end result (priorities changed too quickly to make any headway). For the record, I quit.

Mean time between reorganizations, management shakeups, and goal shifts was ~2.5 months.

> I have seen people's career stall because they worked on the wrong project.

... and then they wonder why there's so much turnover in our industry. "Due to circumstances completely outside your control, you have no future at this company." "Hm - well, maybe I have a future at this other company then." "What ever happened to loyalty?!"

I think this is depressingly true. As a pure technical person, there is a limit where your technical skills will take you in many companies.

I've been stuck as "the guy who quietly fixes the problems no one else can figure out" for years, while being passed over for promotion because I'm not sufficiently externally visible in that role.

In my experience a degree is worthless as soon as you are hired. From then on you will only be judged based on performance. I don't even know what degrees (if any) most of my coworkers have.

Of course there can always be problems with skills or performance due to not having a relevant degree.

Not having a degree can also create issues with certain visas.

But I think with many years of experience this requirement can be replaced. But that's not "right after you get hired"

I have a friend who has dealt with this multiple times.

She left high school early to go straight into college, so officially she never graduated from high school. That's an automatic rejection from many companies, even for "white collar" positions. It doesn't matter that she's studied at some prestigious places, has a post-graduate degree, etc., because there's an unchangeable, un-bypass-able filter at the start of the process which rejects anyone who doesn't have a high-school diploma.

This is odd because I’ve typically seen the question phrased as “What is the highest degree of education you’ve received?” if not totally resume based. What kind of places have this kind of process?

Can't she fix that by getting her GED?

Or simply answer that she has graduated from high school?

I'm not one for dishonesty in general, but if you have a post-graduate degree from an accredited college, ticking the box on an application form that you also have graduated high-school is damn near not a lie, IMO.

I did the same thing (college straight out of 10th grade, didn't bother to get a GED) and in the very rare case that a job application asks whether I graduated from high school but doesn't ask about degrees, I just say I did. If anyone were to ask about that later in the process, I'd explain that I didn't finish high school but did finish college. But no one's ever asked me.

> Has anyone seen career growth stall directly because they lack a degree

Like @paxys (sibling comment), I've not seen it be a problem once you're in, but it does affect the ease with which you get job offers, and those can be a big part of career growth.

Sometimes you land a great job, in a great company, with a great manager and you work your way up, with the right opportunities at the right times with the right rewards.

But most people find that they run into a blocker somewhere along the way. Maybe the company isn't growing fast enough to create relevant oppportunities. Maybe you get a manager who sees you as irreplaceable and doesn't want you to move up. Maybe something stuffs up and the blame falls on you and your promotions get stalled for a while.

And in all those cases (and more) it helps to have a ticket out of there. Even with 5 to 10 years of experience, some % of hiring managers / recruiters will look at where you got your degree (and in what discipline) and take that into account when deciding whether to interview you. And fewer interviews leads to fewer offers, leads to fewer choices, leads to less control over your career path.

The lack of a degree is not a total blocker - once you get into that first role and prove yourself you've got good chances - but it will have some impact and could make it harder to meet your goals.

I have, in that for applying to jobs via job boards and postings, the algorithms eliminate you if you don't meet the minimum requirements. So, if you apply to a job requiring a degree in CS but don't have one, you often get deprioritized or flat out rejected.

If you get in without a CS degree, you often can get looked down upon as "not technical" or "more business than technical" unless you prove your chops coding.

Of course, one has to ask - how many people today have a CS education before they even reach college? It's possible that somebody already has CS education from high school and chooses to study something else to broaden their horizons.

Unfortunately, that can be a costly mistake when applying to jobs requiring a CS degree. But it can pay huge dividends in one's diversity and understanding of the world.

Places that really pay attention somewhat ignore your degree or education and focus on your skills and/or experience, IMHO.

I joined a startup directly from college and only worked at small (3-4 people) companies for the first 3 years of my career. Going from that to a ~250 people organization, when I joined, I figured "Software Engineer" was a good role, but it turned out everyone was surprised that I wasn't a "Senior Software Engineer".

Even though I basically designed and coded the entire data layer of the platform, maintain and administer the entire pipeline (including the production databases), am on call any time anything goes wrong, my title was only very recently changed to "Senior Software Engineer" - and it was independent from any increase in salary, which didn't happen. The title change was also "promised" to me for a few months after appraisal - presumably to retain me.

It's all weird but strangely, it had started to grate on me the last year that despite all the critical work I did, the salary and position did not reflect it at all. Still doesn't.

To be honest, the fact that the title doesn't reflect all the work you do matters to me not at all. I'm happy to change that later.

If the pay doesn't reflect all the responsibility you have though, that's a serious issue.

> Know how the company works before you take the plunge. Ask how much influence the manager has on your progress.

Is this even knowable in most companies?

I'm quite sure that regardless of the official system, charismatic and ambitious managers who deliver results will have much more influence than the rest... and perfectly competent managers may have less influence than the system assumes just because they're not pushing.

So while there's probably a lot of variance between companies, I am very skeptical you could get actionable info on that in the interview process.

If anyone's wondering SDE2/L5 at Amazon is the first 'career' role on the engineering ladder.

Is that true? I would have guessed it was 3 based on the expected level of responsibility of the respective roles. As an engineer I felt like L5 was a position that meant I could trust the coworker to be effective, but I would be wary of joining a team that had no L6s.

I can corroborate. Career level just means you won't get fired if you stop advancing. There are plenty of people who still pursue L6 though out of pride though. It's extremely difficult for an experienced SDE to get hired on at L6 level too, so most have to work up to it.

L3 at other companies is an L4 at Amazon (I believe only contractors or part-time employees can be < 4). L5 also has a much wider surface area and the gap from L5 to L6 is quite big.

Correct. All corporate roles are L4 or above at Amazon, even outside tech.

It's a dumb policy, but it's true.

I was on a team with no one above SDE-I. That was bad.

> If you're a citizen or have the appropriate paperwork, this is no big deal.

To a certain extent. However, too many job changes, over too short of a period, looks really bad on a resume. It is possible to job hop yourself into unemployable territory, citizen or not.

> Some companies will dangle money at you as an alternative to going on the PIP.

Can someone tell me a little about this? Is this a situation where a company pays you to quit without firing you?

It's called a severance package. The company isn't giving you money to quit - you're working at-will and they can terminate your employment at any time for any reason. The amount is usually equivalent to a few months worth of paychecks.

What they pay you for is you signing away your ability to sue for wrongful termination. Because they can't really fire you for any reason.

It's also because companies want the managers and co-workers to know the company did right by the terminated employee. Laying someone off isn't fun. Seeing your co-workers get laid off isn't fun either. Severance keeps the process more humane.

Sometime s coming in at a lower level will help you stay longer at that company.


In my view a PIP is all (and only) about management expectations. A person that is being railroaded by incompetent management can outlast them by staying positive.

The parent comment is removed, but on the thought of a personal improvement plan (pip), they are often paperwork to protect the company when they terminate you.

This is not always the case, and if you can turn it around, that is fantastic. It really helps to have a manager who can help guide you. A coworker of mine was place on a PIP and, honestly, was expected to be managed out by just about everyone. However! He rose up with guidance from manager and became a _very_ productive team member. To the point now that I am very glad he is on my team and I think a big part of our latest project's success came from him. He grew a lot and is on a great path in our org now.

Similar story here. Most PIPs do end in termination or voluntary resignation, but I have seen some engineers completely turn around and blossom under the focus and structure (and frankly, scrutiny) that a PIP provides.

Sometimes people just don't know how to work or how to accomplish what's expected of them and outward observation of lack of productivity can miss the underlying cause that might be correctable.

(It's still the least common outcome, of course, but it's not as rare as I first assumed.)

Are PIPs public knowledge at your BigCo of choice?

Sounds like your (peripheral) experience has been positive, so not criticizing, just curious. I’ve always treated PIPs as something only to be discussed between manager and struggling employee.

One of the most painful things for me in administering PIPs is not the “you are on thin ice, here’s a bunch more structure and documentation” part, but rather, the requirement to keep the main focus of my management energy a secret from the rest of the team.

I can’t exactly say, “Yeah, [strong team member], I know it would have been way better if I’d done a prep meeting with that hard-to-deal-with team yesterday rather than throwing you in the deep water, but I was too busy making [failing team member]’s life miserable by hyping up the scrutiny and guidance so they stop breaking the team’s morale with their shoddy work.”

PIPs take a lot of time and effort for managers and the unfortunate recipient of them, so it’s kind of a hard thing to conceal.

> Are PIPs public knowledge at your BigCo of choice?

We try to have them not be. I'm an exec and have 5 tribes reporting into me for years, so I've had the opportunity/obligation to discuss, strategize, and track the outcome of a couple dozen PIPs in my org over the last decade.

Leaders spending extra time and attention on team members who are struggling is no secret and doesn't need to be. (It's not like the rest of the team doesn't have any idea who is struggling.) It's only the "PIP-p bit" that is formally secret.

I had initially thought of a PIP as a ceremonial formality to be processed along the path to a lawsuit-free termination. Having seen them play out over the years, I now think that's an overly skeptical viewpoint.

Is there a common performance shortfall that initiates PIPs or does it vary widely?

Great question; I can’t think of a single, general theme as they are all over the map. Attendance, competence, intelligence, collaboration, work ethic/drive, judgment, inability to follow process, you name it.

Of the success cases, I think a common/typical unifying thread was lack of good, nearby leadership (team/squad lead or even a “buddy/onboarding mentor”) intersecting with someone who wasn’t already competent, curious, and self-motivated. I view those successes as (at least partially) leadership failures that we corrected alongside the employee. This framing is both generally accurate, but importantly, also removes the “stain” for future reviews and promotions. We truly do “put it behind us.” Anything less would be terrifically unfair. We have ex-PIPers get promoted, go on to lead teams/projects, etc.

Through all of this, if your manager isn't supporting you, you're probably doomed. Unless they do something that's obviously going to get the company in legal trouble, HR won't care. Remember, HR is there to keep the company out of hot water, and they are never there for you.

This is very true in my experience and probably worth underscoring. How many of you feel like your boss isn't supporting you? Whenever that happens, watch out.

There's a flipside, though. It's not as scary to change jobs as it seems. And you'll probably be much happier.

In my current company for 2 years I was reporting to a director who didn't care at all. No promotions, no raises, nothing. Then a new manager came in between me and the director and suddenly promotion, raises and more interesting work. Having an unsupportive manager is almost for sure career death and a strong reason for leaving.

On the dark side, the real advice is to join teams where none of the engineers are supporting the manager. Ensure the manager is not a literal demon; just sidelined by engineers "who know best", and then do better. With only a trivial amount of work to meet arbitrary management deadlines, you'll be a hero or saint. "Exceeds Expectations" and promotions will rain down on you.

"I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you"

That's a pretty complex system. It may be easier to find a supportive manager :-)

This seems brilliantly Machiavellian, but impossible to screen for.

So true. Definitely.

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