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Ask HN: Ex-FAANG developers, where are you now and why?
537 points by macca321 59 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 437 comments



Ex-Googler here. I was a SWE L4 and left after four years in frustration with the promotion process (https://mtlynch.io/why-i-quit-google/).

Since then, I:

* Moved out of my $3.3k/mo Manhattan apartment and bought a home for $200k in Western Massachusetts. Paid in cash so I no longer have to pay rent/mortgage. I feel like my time is much less "metered" now because my annual living expenses are so low, I can pursue things for fun without worrying about how much it's costing me in terms of time.

* Attempted to build a startup on top of a distributed storage cryptocurrency (https://blog.spaceduck.io/). Didn't work because the underlying platform wasn't mature enough yet, so it was more expensive and less reliable than centralized solutions.

* Attempted to build a business with a ML-powered recipe ingredient parsing service. Found out recipe apps aren't really willing to pay for it. (https://mtlynch.io/shipping-too-late/)

* Currently working on toy projects to sharpen my web development skills because I've found that part of my skillset to be a bottleneck with my previous projects.


To quote your article:

The problem, as I discovered at promotion time, was that none of this was quantifiable. I couldn’t prove that anything I did had a positive impact on Google.

If they hornswoggled me into helping them, it’s evidence of their strong leadership qualities. I was just the mindless peon whose work was so irrelevant that it could be pre-empted at a moment’s notice.

Don't take this as an ad-homimen attack because it's not. You fell into the same trap some other people do at stack ranked organizations.

These systems create evolutionary pressure and the people who thrive are those who adapt to the ranking system as much as the job. Right, wrong or indifferent the ranking system is part of the job and in the same situation the people I see getting promoted would have dedicated significant time proving anything they did produced value or they wouldn't have done it.

That's why (IMHO) it was so difficult to get anyone interested in changing our stack ranked system to anything else; because those who thrived under it were in charge of deciding whether and how to change and already knew how to succeed in the old one.


This is spot-on, and it's also true in organizations without stack ranking.

It's actually not a cynical way to view your job. If what you do doesn't make an impact for customers and/or other teams in the organization, was it really worth doing?

I've consistently seen that successful engineers focus on work that has an impact, and they are good at making it known. The first part is obviously good, but a lot of engineers disdain self-promotion. However, self-promotion is not a bad thing if you really are good at your job, because it opens up opportunities to have an even greater impact, which is good for you and for the company.


> If what you do doesn't make an impact for customers and/or other teams in the organization, was it really worth doing?

The problem is that, at review time at Google, you have to be able to "quantify" the impact. Many types of impact are quantifiable (e.g. "Made server request scale from 100 query-per-second to 1,300 qps", "reduced code size by 30%", etc.).

It's much harder to measure, say, the impact of a refactor where you made the code easier to reason about and more maintainable, so that future work can be done on it more easily.

I witnessed the same thing at Google; I worked on a project that everyone joked only existed because the person who wrote it wanted promo, and the best way to get it was to design a very complex system, and convince others to adopt it. (He did get it, and promptly switched teams.)

Some things have been made better, though. I've heard that going from L4 → L5 now involves much more influence from your manager, since they would know and, without quantifying something like a refactor, can speak to the positive impact you had in a project.


> It's much harder to measure, say, the impact of a refactor where you made the code easier to reason about and more maintainable, so that future work can be done on it more easily.

I've also seen refactors that just made life difficult for everyone else with constant non-functional changes. In the end there is a lot of fashion in programming, and while some refactors are worthwhile most are not in my experience.

The refactor is supposed to provide payoff in the future, but what normally happens is fashion changes and someone new comes by and says "this code is shit" and starts the process over. The supposed benefits never accrue.


You quantified what you said is hard to quantify.

Measure commits/authors before and after a refactor.


The problem is that metric, like any metric, is both easy to game _and_ can provide misleading information.

Measuring number of commits? Create fewer, larger commits. Measuring commit size? Pull in more third-party libraries, even where it does't make sense. Author count? Add more/less documentation and recruit or inhibit new devs depending on what your goal is.

Not to mention the number of commits/authors before and after an arbitrary point in time might conflate a successful growing project with a project in a death spiral being passed around from group to group.

It's a good idea, but in practice simple metrics like this often (but not always) devolve into prime examples of Goodhart's law.


Ok, then find another way to measure developer productivity, or reliability in production, or customer features delivered.

If you can’t find a measurable benefit to a refactoring (or anything else, really) then maybe it was not worth doing in the first place.


In science, measuring things until you find a benefit is called p-hacking. Every extra test you do that splits your data along a different dimension, is another independent opportunity for "random chance" to look like positive signal.

There is no programming project in existence with enough developers working on it, that developer-productivity data derived from a change to it would not be considered "underpowered" for the sake of proving anything.


The obsession with measuring is hilarious. There are plenty of things in life (and jobs) that aren't measurable and are worth doing. Probably all of the important things are actually unmeasurable. Think about it this way, if its so easy you can measure it, it probably isn't very important in the grand scheme of things.


No metric can escape gaming when you apply it to rational actors (Campbell's Law / Goodhart's Law). Blind devotion to metrics is just as bad as no metrics at all.


I was just yesterday discussing the opportunity cost of infrastructure changes, as a new team member was bemoaning our out of date patterns...

A high impact infra change will often inconvenience dozens of people and distract from feature work... You know, the shit people actually care about... (this is analogous to how "Twitter, but written in Golang" appeals to approximately no one.)


> find another way to measure developer productivity

And solve the halting problem while you're at it


Normalizing commits number per author is not difficult.

https://www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/lsi/sigir04-cf-norm.pdf

Goodhart’s law is not applicable to scientific management because metrics have different purpose.


Goodhart's law is entirely applicable to management (adding scientific in front doesn't actually mean anything). That is one of the prime areas of applicability. People change their behavior to increase a metric at the cost of decreasing other more important things.


> If what you do doesn't make an impact for customers and/or other teams in the organization, was it really worth doing?

If what you are doing isn't making an impact, why is it being assigned to you in the first place?

Or, to put that another way: a worker is hired to do things. Their comparative advantage is in doing; time they spend in any other role than doing is labor that would have been better allocated/delegated to someone else, to clear them up for more doing. (It's very clear when you think of high-status "workers"—for example, surgeons. Time the surgeon spends inside the OR is worth tens of thousands of dollars; time they spend outside the OR isn't worth anything. If you can hire an administrative assistant for $30/hr to take admin-work off the shoulders of the surgeon, to ensure that the surgeon spends even one more hour inside the OR per week, then the admin assistant has paid for themselves.)

A manager, meanwhile, is hired to prioritize, delegate, lubricate channels of communication, ensure their team of workers has the resources it needs to "do", and then defend the workers from anything that would take away from their "doing" time. These tasks are the manager's wheelhouse; it's where their own comparative advantage lies. Time a worker spends managing themselves is company money wasted, because a manager would have been able to get that work done far more effectively, for less effort and time input.

You don't want a doctor spending time reading charts to triage patients (i.e. assigning work to themselves.) The intake nurse does that. And you don't want the intake nurse spending time trying to diagnose someone after taking their symptoms. That's what the doctors are for. Each role has their comparative advantage. Let the roles bleed together, and overhead goes up while lives saved goes down.

Why do "old" organizations like hospitals understand comparative advantage better than FAANG? Why isn't it seen as a failure of management to prioritize effectively when everybody isn't always doing the most important thing they could be doing at that moment?


What you say is true in general, but in the specific case of Google it’s not relevant. Googlers, even down to individual rank-and-file engineers, have a lot of autonomy and self-determination. For better or worse, what they do is mostly up to them, so they’re expected to position themselves in a way to make maximum impact. Management only provides very high-level priorities and those priorities only affect what’s easier to get promoted for, not what anyone has to do.

There are a different set of disadvantages to this system, but I just wanted to point out that in Google’s case, management doesn’t assign anything, so an engineer working on something unimpactful is not seen as a management failure but a choice made by that engineer. It’s fine to do and you can keep your job forever doing work you believe in even if it’s not overtly “impactful,” but if you want to get promoted, it’s up to you to align yourself with the higher-level priorities.

Edit: That’s not to say Google never wastes highly-paid employees’ time (like your admin example), but the core difference is Google employees aren’t just hired to “do.” They’re also expected to spend a lot of time thinking, prioritizing, and organizing themselves, so that’s not wasted time.


Yeah but there are also a lot of other things that only they could be doing that don’t fit the job description. Like a software engineer having enough people skills to explain his/her solution to a problem so that someone else can take his place. Or a surgeon being able to teach a newer surgeon some of the wisdom he/she has gained on the job.

The real problem for organizations is choosing what to optimize for, and how short sighted they can afford to be to survive. Someone below mentioned that the military in a war time environment is probably something that people who subscribe to this kind of thought would think is the ideal work place. The thing is if you look at these organizations in times of crisis, they may optimize for the quickest way to win the war, when it really should be to ensure long standing peace.


Active FAANG employee here, so a bit of my take on it. Personal opinion, of course, and not any sort of official Amazon statement.

Management DOES do a lot to prioritize/delegate/lubricate channels of communication, etc. That is their primary role.

But you have more engineers than you have managers. You have more people providing a more varied set of insights into what should be prioritized, what general work needs to be done, what opportunities exist, etc.

To a certain extent, you have to be willing to let some people sometimes be working a little sub-optimally to allow the autonomy that results in making some of the crazy cool products and services these companies create. That autonomy being available is one of the big things that drew me to Amazon, and it's something I believe I've taken full advantage of to the company's benefit.

Giving people the latitude to run projects and create PoCs before getting full buy in from management allows people to be creative. But yes, if you've spent a year working on a project, you should be expected to show the results of what you've done. Some stuff is more ambitious, sure - but even when the results aren't immediately obvious, you do need to be able to explain the potential and what data backs up that potential and the ability for the project to reach it.

From my experiences over the past five years, being able to find opportunities for improvement is hugely important to the culture and the promotion process. You need to be able to identify these opportunities, and that generally means some sort of metric is available to work from, and measure against as you try to improve it. (Of course metrics and statistics can be gamed, but I'd argue it's not good to go through life assuming everyone is a bad actor). It's a skill that sometimes needs to be developed, and it's something I work with people on to help them with the process, but I think it's a very good thing in general. I've seen a lot of positive come out of it.

My two cents, anyway.


This is so right and also so different from reality that I had to read it twice for it to register.


Assignment-by-comparative-advantage comes pretty close to existing in exactly one case: a military, in war-time, after the war has gone on for a few years, when opportunities to prove one's managerial competence "for real"† have allowed for a winnowing of the incompetent hired-in-peacetime officers, and gaps in the ranks have been filled by promotions for meritorious service.

This ideal state is what people tend to be vaguely gesturing toward when they say they want "meritocracy." Even this state isn't really meritocratic, but it certainly has a management structure that knows what it wants and is actively steering every action of their subordinates to get the highest-ROI goals accomplished sooner than later; and where there is enough demand for skilled work that skilled workers are reserved to exclusively do the work they do best.

† The assumption (that seems to cash out at least somewhat) being that when two armies of equal size clash, the winner will be the one with a better leader-of-leaders, the one who has instilled a better management philosophy into their officers, such that the army as a whole ends up being run well. If there was some way to make entire departments of a company "fight", the way that two army battalions can engage in mock battle to determine their overall relative competence, capitalism might actually be able to succeed in evading the Peter Principle. Anyone have a good idea of how to do that?


Why do "old" organizations like hospitals understand comparative advantage better than FAANG? Why isn't it seen as a failure of management to prioritize effectively when everybody isn't always doing the most important thing they could be doing at that moment? reply

That's so good i want to steal it for a chapter in my book


Actually it is deeply cynical I have seen:

People aggressively going for promotion and as my team leader said "but he hasn't done any real work for 6 months".

I saw some one going for the first management level spend a million pounds of share holder money and 15 man years redeveloping a system in oracle - Because having a project worth > 1 million and with more than 10 staff was a tick box for promotion.


What is deeply cynical is the guy who discovered the corollary to "Never do work unless you can prove its value" which is "If you can disprove the value of someone else's work so much the better." He literally took notes on every employee of his peers and then trotted them out for negative feedback during the end-of-year ranking process.

The resulting brinksmanship guaranteed his employees were ranked exactly the way he wanted. Ironic but he's now the head of a recruiting agency that purports to find top candidates via "big data" techniques yet he did his very best to subvert the system. So what exactly does he think he's datamining?


>...but a lot of engineers disdain self-promotion.

Assuming you're doing good work your boss should be your strongest advocate and trying to help get you recognized and promoted.

But if you're not inclined to self-promote then it definitely hurts and lots of folks on HN say they suffer from some level of impostor syndrome. If someone thinks "Should I really be here, am I really good enough?" they may also overly discount the value of their work and think there is nothing worthy of promotion in both senses of the word.


Change can come. The factors that I saw that effected it : a purchase of a company that didn't have one and were touted as a wunderorg then the material fact of the audited effort put into the system vs. the lack of evidence that it had any positive impact. Two changes of global HR president as well. But then it went.

For now...


It's a good idea to improve your web developer skills, but I think the problem lies within your entrepreneur skills. I'd highly recommend the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship to you. It consists of 24 steps that is focused on product conceptualization, which I think you'll pretty much appreciate it.


Could you share why you think that's a problem in his approach/method?


The first time I built a business, I made the same mistake as the OP:

"Then, it struck me: what if ingredient parsing was the business? If this was a problem for me, then surely other developers struggled with it as well. Hopefully, some of them made money and would give some of said money to me if I solved their problem. Thus, the idea was born for Zestful, my ingredient-parsing service."

Before starting to write a single line of code, you need to do market research and understand the opportunity size. Building a business takes several years of personal investment and you are betting a lot of potential missed opportunity on the "ingredient business" market. This is a common mistake that, again, I have made myself, too.


100% agreed. As a coder, the comfortable thing for me is always writing code. But every unshipped line of code is a bet on what I believe users want. It's only when I have people try it that I find out it's useful.

And really, one can learn so much about what people want without having them use anything. User context interviews are hugely helpful. But my favorite thing is real-world tests even before there's a product. If most of your sales will come via people clicking on an ad and looking at a landing page, test that first! If people won't sign up, there's no point in building anything after that.

A good example comes from my cofounder at a startup we did in 2010. At the time, we had theories about an app that people would mostly discover through their Facebook feed. We used Greasemonkey to do user tests and found out that although some liked our idea, most people hated it. So we threw that out and did something else. But two other startups went on to build the same idea and fail with it. We estimate we saved $2m in learning what they learned. Ignite talk here: https://vimeo.com/24749599


Great conversation here. Sort of a mini-MBA in this thread.


This is a great argument for entering into an existing market, rather than trying to find a new one.


I'm not sure this is really true. The focus of market research can be to find markets that are currently unserved.

I suppose that this is still entering an existing market since the people who comprise the market exist already exist, but it's new in the sense that this group of people collectively have a need that isn't being met. And sometimes the goal of market research is just to find one of those unserved (or underserved) markets.


Zestful sounds like a feature of Edamam (https://developer.edamam.com/).

I think the market is not in parsing, but extracting nutrition information.


Yeah, Edamam probably does something similar to what I was doing.

The project kind of came out of me needing ingredient parsing for a different product and existing solutions being a poor match.

Edamam requires you to display their logo in your app if you use their API[0], which I found inappropriately intrusive.

There's a similar service called Spoonacular, but they don't allow you to store results for more than an hour[1], which is crazy. I wanted to build a search index that let users search by ingredient, so it made no sense for me to reprocess my entire corpus of data every hourly.

But they succeeded and I didn't, so maybe the weird API terms are what they need to survive.

[0]: https://developer.edamam.com/about/terms

[1]: https://market.mashape.com/spoonacular/recipe-food-nutrition


Once you have identified an idea or technology as the basis for your innovation-driven business. Your first goal is to assess the needs of potential customers, focusing on a target customer with the goal of achieving product–market fit—a product that matches what customers in a specific market are interested in buying, which unfortunately he failed accomplishing this step as the customers did not want to buy his product.

The single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer. The day someone pays you money for your product or service, you have a business, and not a day before. You cannot define a business as a product, because if nobody buys your product, you simply do not have a business. The marketplace is the final arbiter of success.

Now, just because you have a paying customer does not mean you have a good business. In order to have a good, sustainable business, you will need to gain enough customers paying enough money within a relatively short period of time so you do not run out of capital, but instead, become profitable. And as a startup, you have few resources, so every action you take must be hyper-efficient.

Therefore, you will not start by building a product or hiring developers or recruiting salespeople. Instead, you will take a customer-driven approach by finding an unmet need and building your business around it.


Entrepreneurship is a lot more complicated. Each startup’s failure is unique and has various mix of challenges.

Suggesting a book for someone who has failed running a startup right away is naive and glib. Also, the OP didn’t put too many details of why his startup failed. Asserting that they have poor entrepreneurial skills - how do you know if it wasn't circumstantial?


I didn't take the book suggestion to be naive/glib. It could actually be quite helpful. My brief involvement in a failed startup would have gone differently had I known more about the business side of things, and reading a good relevant book is one of the best ways to learn about something.


I strongly and passionately disagree. I’ve read many many startup books. They are all completely and utterly useless in my opinion.

If you want to know something specific say accounting, read a book about that specific area. If you want to know more about the “general” aspects of startups - listen to interviews of founders about which unique chellenges they faced.

I strongly discourage anyone starting a business to not listen to Sam Altman’s advice or anyone who gives generic “strategic” advice. These books are akin to “How to become a millionaire”. Yes, I’m talking about books such as “Lean Startup”, etc.

You get so much value from reading about specific aspects than from general startup books. Learn how each LEGO piece works and learn it well. You know, you’re going to have to rely on these specifics to actually get your business rolling. Strategic advice - you can consult your friends, discuss and determine the best course of action through your own acumen based on data that you have. That startup book on your shelf is not going to help at all.


I disagree. Many people doing startups for the first time have no experience running a business and no idea what the actual building blocks are. I think YC's library of advice are a goldmine for them, because of the simple lessons like "validate the market" or "get feedback from people who are not friends or family". It doesn't seem like they're hearing that anywhere else.


See my comment and discussion in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17189254


I’m a big fan of “just in time” learning. When I’m facing a specific challenge I look for books and articles that will educate me more about potential solutions (eg your accounting book example).

However, for many founders, myself included, there’s an aspect of “you don’t know what you don’t know” and in these cases I find the generalist books quite helpful. For these topics, it is extremely helpful to have a wide but shallow understanding of business, strategy, law, etc so if you encounter a problem you at least understand enough to know where you can dive deeper (or know you need to hire someone else). The advice in general business strategy books certainly lacks nuance. But for anyone who is not already enmeshed in the many many aspects of running a complete business themselves, they are great guides to gain a 10,000 foot view very quickly.


I agree with you ,and I also share your opinion.


People usually say that entrepreneurship should not be disciplined, but chaotic and unpredictable—and it is. But that is precisely why a framework to attack problems in a systematic manner is extremely valuable. You already have enough risk with factors that are beyond your control, so the framework provided by disciplined entrepreneurship helps you succeed by reducing your risk in factors that you can have control over.


Both of the things he mentioned didn't really solve problems.

The storage thing is already solved, people have no reason to switch from AWS. As he mentioned his product was worse, so even if it was just for the sake of competition...


Thanks for the recommendation! I'll check it out.


Great article about the promotion process and the employee dynamic at Google. It very accurately summarises much of why I quit there so quickly after coming in via an acquisition.

That conversation made me realize that I’m not Google. I provide a service to Google in exchange for money.

I was very lucky to have a friend who taught me that very early (not about Google specifically, the same applies to any company). Working as a contractor just cemented it - I was sitting next to people earning half as much as I was or less, just because I was a contractor and they were an employee. Once you can see this, it's amazing when employees get sucked into killing themselves working crazy hours because they identify so strongly with the company they work for. Companies go to great lengths to promote the idea that we're all one big family, of course, precisely because it allows them to exploit their workers more easily.

Since leaving Google, I now make a software product I sell online. I have no boss, no employees and no investors. Occasionally I miss having coworkers, but mostly it's great. Freedom is really worth a lot of money, at least for me.


Thanks for reading!

>Since leaving Google, I now make a software product I sell online. I have no boss, no employees and no investors. Occasionally I miss having coworkers, but mostly it's great. Freedom is really worth a lot of money, at least for me.

Yeah, that's the thing I miss most. Not just the social interaction, but being around smart people. Within Google, it was so easy to learn because there were experts in every field imaginable. Outside, there's so much bad information floating around, so if I'm not knowledgeable in a particular area, it's hard for me to distinguish between good advice and cargo cult techniques.


That is true, and the main thing I miss about Amazon. And the very steep learning curve, I probably learned more at Amazon than during my diploma and masters studies combined. Still, they have been a very good foundation.


> the promotion process and the employee dynamic at Google

I'm (apparently) not Google-quality but I can tell you for sure that "out here" everybody else is adopting the same tactics, and it's shifting from "not getting promoted" to "not keeping your job". And then they complain that there's a shortage of "talent".


> I was sitting next to people earning half as much as I was or less, just because I was a contractor and they were an employee.

Was this still true after all the taxes, insurance, and stability factors are considered, or was this just your hourly rate?


As a contractor in the UK, I paid less tax than an employee would. HMRC brought in IR35 to try to combat that, but at the time I was contracting (early 2000's) most contractors were still paying less tax - I'm not sure if that's stricter these days.

I was in London working in web & finance at the time, so it was a fairly distorted market. I did get bitten by the dot com crash, but even so I was only out of work for about 6 months or so and that was a pretty extreme event. Realistically in the current environment job stability in a major IT centre like London is so good that contracting is pretty safe. In a more unstable market there would be a higher element of risk, for sure.


Contractors still do a bit better than employees, though HMRC keep talking about seriously cracking down on the practice.


> Contractors still do a bit better than employees

Curious if that is actually true when comparing to tier 1 banks/hedge funds full time employee salaries+bonus+retirement+healthcare.

Assume 600 GBP/day * 22 day/month * 10 months (realistically) full time work, that's 132k/yr.

From that take out accounting, illness, insurance, healthcare, retirement, travel, possibly more.

All things considered, once you get above 100k base as employee contracting becomes less attractive. Strictly as a money move that is, there's other dimensions for sure.


600 seems low - I earned a lot more than that back in the day, and that was a long time ago. A quick search of jobserve.com for just "java" found roles quoting up to 750 on the first page, and if you're any good that'll be negotiable. And if you get into even slightly niche things (Oracle Coherence, in my case) the rates are much higher.


I don't think it's very far from the reality of your full stack app developer though.

Ie. 900+GBP/day is listed rarely and for very specific/niche things.

Then, the more niche it is the more likely it is that the downtime between contracts becomes longer I imagine.

Curious what your anecdotal experience has been, to the extent that it can be shared.


Cracking down seems like a bad idea.. you lose dynamic flexibility on both sides. What would the upside be?


Its interesting that they are not clamping down a "self" employed barristers, I wonder why that might be.

I suspect IT contractors are not seen as real professionals in the British class structure


Taxes mostly and fairness towards people who are actually employed.


In the US you pay more to freelance in taxes than you do as an employee (because the employer pays some on your behalf) but you can have other deductions as a contractor. So I think fairness is not specifically a sufficient motivator. The UK can have a tax advantage for freelancing but these freelancers lose out on employment protections. Dunno..


US contractors don't seem to get anything - they seem to think getting a 20% premium over FTE is good.

In the UK you would normally expect 3x for a short 6 month contract.


Right but UK salaries are about 2-3x lower than US (at least for software engineers).. or at least they use to be.


I make 3x what I did as in house doing the same amount of work, after all other expenses.


I'm in a similar situation wrt self-employment / consulting after many years of trad. FT roles. Now making more $, and have way, way, way more control over how I spend my time.

When you wrote

> Freedom is really worth a lot of money, at least for me.

it seemed to imply you took a paycut to gain your freedom. To a degree, I would make that trade-off too. But, your point about contractors making twice [it can easily be 3x] what FT colleagues do, made it sound like you don't need to trade money for freedom, rather enjoy both. Hope that's the case for you too! If not, know that it can be!


In my case I was mostly referring to the fact that I left a lot of acquisition money on the table at Google, but it was totally worth it. I've been lucky with what I'm doing now and it's worked out very well financially, and the freedom is priceless, especially now I have a kid.


I have the idea that google enployees are paid a ton of money when they join, so why do they care so much about being promoted?


Because until you get to L5, your job is always at risk. If you spend a long enough time at the company without getting to L5 and without a really good justification, it starts to raise red flags.

Or so I've heard.


Don't contractors typically make more than employees simply because they aren't getting benefits? Otherwise I agree.


Do you feel disconnected in Western Mass? I am not sure how remote you are but I live in a remote area now but work remotely and feel it. Hell, even in the Bay area I was remote-is since the commute was isolating. All I can say about the culture there is that you have to job hop to develop relationships that may lead to future opportunities.

*Btw your cartoon on your blog is good. If that's your original creation you might consider developing it out.


Western Mass is awesome. The environment's beautiful, housing can be cheap, and drinking water is some of the best in the country. People are generally less rules-oriented and clique-oriented than in the Boston area. The art and music scenes are much better. The "progressive activism" community is thriving, but you can also hunt with a rifle on private property. Food is cheap and there are tons of thriving local farms. If you're constipated you can roll through Springfield and get shot at just like you can in East Cambridge or Mattapan, but outside of that it's quite safe and people are super helpful.

You basically get the extremes of everything in Boston at a much lower price.

Possible downsides are long, snowy winters, and far fewer jobs.


> you're constipated you can roll through Springfield and get shot at just like you can in East Cambridge or Mattapan

You should write for the Lonely Planet :-)


One thing that helps is that Western Mass doesn't have to be remote. If you're in Savoy, yeah, you'd better like nature more than people. But the Springfield metro area has pretty cheap rent and is still 600k people with colleges and companies and a great food and music scene up in Northhampton. It's also within tolerable driving or train distance of Boston if there's something you really want to get to.

Working remote can definitely be isolating anywhere, but I think if I were going to go back to it I'd prefer a midsize city to either rural or dense urban settings. Rural settings are obvious just small, and that's made harder by being isolated while you work. But huge cities tend to feel anonymous - if you're not actively engaging and meeting people it's easy to get forgotten or even miss out on finding out about things you'd like to see and do. It may just be a function of my tastes and hobbies, but somewhere Springfield-sized makes it a bit easier to find a stable group of people outside work to spend time with.

More broadly, there's a lot to be said for college towns and non-huge cities relying on safe anchors like 'meds and eds' or corporate research. Boulder's probably too big and pricy these days, but Northampton, Rochester NY, Flagstaff, Ithaca, and the Research Triangle are all inviting. Heck, even Fargo ND was shockingly inviting last time I came through - I'd rather live there than Cleveland.


Wow, you know Savoy! I'm a native of the area. You're correct - my favorite towns are Ashfield and Williamsburg near the Northampton area. I'd make a plug for North Adams right now. Williams College is in the the next town over, and Mass Moca is driving a lot of development that has been quietly happening over the past year or so.


>a great food and music scene up in Northhampton

The food scene in Northampton is great by the standards of rural MA. There are only 2-3 restaurants there that are any good at all.


Now that you say it, I was mostly thinking "you can buy unusual foods and quality meat and produce in Northampton".

Which obviously isn't what people normally mean by "food scene", my brain just approximated the topic as "well, it's better than all those rural places without any good grocery stores".


Would you say Providence is similar?


Yeah, now that you mention it. I mostly wasn't counting capital cities because they tend to have higher rents, infrastructure and gridlock issues, and other things I think of as "big city problems". (Or they're too small or run down to be appealing.)

But Providence is actually a nice exception; lots of events, good food and activities, several colleges, but pretty cheap housing and not terribly dense or gridlocked.


I don't, but I've only been here 7 weeks so far, so it's too early to tell. I'm pretty solitary, so I'm hoping the disconnectedness works out okay.

I wish I could draw those cartoons. I work with a freelance cartoonist named Loraine Yow (https://www.lolo-ology.com/). I wrote a blog post about how the process works: https://mtlynch.io/how-to-hire-a-cartoonist/


Well you two might have something! Kind of like a new take on dilbert, phd comics, or something.


This is kind of my question also. I used to live in Springfield, Mass. And when I did there was not that much of a tech scene out there. From 97 to 2007. I was wondering if it was better now. When I left NYC I choose to come to Delaware and not Springfield because of family and the amount of tech jobs available. Between here, Philadelphia, DC and a commute back to NYC if I really wanted there are a bunch of tech jobs available. When I looked at Western Mass there were barely any.


>bought a home for $200k in Western Massachusetts. Paid in cash so I no longer have to pay rent/mortgage

Don't take this the wrong way, I'm sure you considered this, but... why put all that cash down when you almost certainly could have got a low interest mortgage and made more by putting that money in... well anything really?


Because of the federal real estate capital gains exclusion of half a mil, 20% marginal long term cap gains tax rate, and the difference between historical real estate appreciation vs SP500 returns being maybe 2% at absolute most, an average rate of increase of about 5% on a house, the average transaction cost of obtaining a mortgage is maybe 2% (stock transactions are practically free in comparison), S+P return after inflation is about 7% the median duration of owning a house being about nine years, extremely sloppy back of envelope calculation for $200K would be (200e3 * 9 * 0.07 * 0.8) - (200e3 * .02) or 96K for owning more stock with a mortgage for $200K and a 200e3 mortgage at this time would cost 9 * 12 * 946 in payments (assuming no PMI) or 102K for owning less stock with no mortgage so in the big scheme of things "not having a mortgage" saves about $6K over nine years or $55/month. (Edited, sorry I had to mess with this ten times to get it right)

You gotta look out for people who argue real estate transactions are as cheap and frictionless as stock market transactions, or insist on weird date ranges in historically bubble economies or rapidly changing demographic economies, or insist tax policy does not exist. Not everything is fundamentally an income stream and you need a plan when a simplification to that fails and you take a massive capital hit. If the error bars on the numbers are large enough, the same number can be interpreted to prove anything. Finally look out for people who confuse average/median with "everyone". All of those are HUGE effects when making financial decisions.

I'm not OP, but I have no mortgage and its worth pointing out that my personal break-even income is obviously twelve times the monthly payment lower than someone with a mortgage, and given a realistic 1/3 of income going to mortgage for most folks, obviously my runway is 1/3 longer than everyone with a mortgage. Also immensely lower stress.


I just learned so much right here, I think I might take a nap now. Thanks for the thorough reply.


Mainly it was just that I didn't want that much debt hanging over me. I could theoretically invest in other stuff, but if there's a recession that affects all of my investments, I don't ever want to have to worry about foreclosures or selling investments at a huge loss to pay my mortgage.

It was also convenient for making offers. I don't have to jump through the hoops of involving a bank in the process. And for most sellers, a cash offer is more attractive because there's no chance of the bank stalling or killing the deal.

The house I bought, I saw it the morning it came onto the market and offered cash on the spot to seal the deal. Seller might have accepted with a mortgage anyway, but I think cash was good incentive for them to proceed with me immediately instead of waiting a couple days to gauge interest from other buyers.


Not having debt can be very, very freeing. Same goes for expenses. I'm still a software developer because it pays well, not because I really want to be slinging code anymore. If I didn't have a mortgage and child care to worry about I would have a lot more freedom to switch jobs to do something I would enjoy but pays significantly less.


Sure, that's certainly valid, but it's an emotional perspective. From a financial perspective I'd rather have my money working for me.


A lot of times the emotional impact trumps the financial impact. If thats one less thing I stress about then that makes more room in my mind to make more money if I wanted to.


"Life is to be spent, not saved."


TL;DR - there are other things to optimize for than the maximum amount of money possible. It might not even be a sensible goal.

An extremely common theme heard from people with a lot of money is to get your money working for you.

Another extremely common theme is you hear from the same people is after a while they realized it just didn't make them happy like they thought it was going to.

Theoretically there is a certain maximum level of feeling good that's possible in a day. My goal these days is to optimize for that. I'm not there yet, but I can see a path to it. At some point the pursuit of money puts pressure against some of that happiness in one form or another. At least that's been my experience and observations. It's not an absolute rule but a reasonable hueristic.

If from an emotional perspective it wasn't possible to feel any better than you did, what would more money actually do for you?

IMO a lot of people need to dig much deeper on their 'why' for chasing the maximum amount of money possible. It's not 'wrong' to do so, nor am I judging anyone for doing it, I just think it's quite a one sided perspective that that should be the goal and that alone.

It's mostly about status and getting laid at an instinctive level. I realized this after already having a child, so I've technically passed on my genes and recently a vasectomy, so I can't even pass on any more genes. Yet my instincts are still the same. Chase after status, position yourself to be the fittest mate possible. We just can't turn those drives off, so once we've earned enough money and our happiness is no longer increasing as a function of getting more money at some point after that we actually hit an inflection point and things start to go the other way.

I can totally see how a roof over your head that can't be taken away from you and low AF overheads makes life feel like a breeze. That's actually worth a lot, just not in Dollars.


A mortgage (or the lack thereof) has a guaranteed rate of return. Any investment that would beat most mortgage rates doesn't.


Two years ago a CD would have beat it. Today it's not quite there, but there are very safe invenstments out there that will almost certainly beat a mortgage rate.


That would only be true for non-traditional loans (ARM etc). I don't believe you could have obtained a CD APR > 3% two years ago.


I've never had a mortgage so can't speak for OP, but I would imagine for some people the stresses of debt and recurring repayments outweigh having a bit of extra money from investing elsewhere.


It's not about the extra money, it's about the opportunity cost of not doing anything with all that cash. Mortgage rates are still relatively low, you could easily beat it with most any investment.


It seems mad that something like "ingredient parsing" could ever be a business; on the other hand, a decade ago I was sharing a house with a PhD student who was trying to do effectively the same thing with chemistry papers to extract relevant formulae. Worked well for clearly defined things like "1,1,1-trichloroethane", less well for colloquial things like "formaldehyde" or, god help you, "lead".

(Is a "lead researcher" the head of your team, a person researching the properties of the metal Pb, or a researcher made out of that heavy grey metal? This is practically an unsolved computational linguistics problem)


Lead (/leed/) researcher - most senior of your research team.

Plumbologist - a person researching lead (/led/).

Plumbous researcher - researcher made primarily from lead (/led/). Probably an AI that deeply resents the materials-based engineering flaws in its processor core and robotic reality interface.

Lead (/leed/) plumbologist - most senior of a research team investigating lead (/led/).

Plumbous plumbologist - aforementioned AI, but dedicated to self-improvement.

Lead (/leed/) plumbous plumbologist - most senior of a group of lead-constructed (/led/) AIs, investigating the mystery of why the human progenitors chose such a bad metal for building robots.


Well that clears that confusion up :)


Congratulations on buying your freedom and having the ability to work on projects that interest you.


Thanks! I much prefer this to having a job. I hope I can find a way to make it work forever.


I recommend reading The E-Myth book. It's super insightful I learnt a lot from it and thinking outside the technician box...


Thanks for the recommendation! I've heard great things about it, so it's definitely on my list.


>"Will we be able to maintain this for the next 5 years?” to, “Can this last until I’m promoted?”"

If that mentality is widespread, it explains so much about Google.


Interesting how many slots where open for each promotion round /board (in Uk terminology)

I have been in a similar situation at British telecom where the competition was even more intense.

In systems engineering (where most but not all the engineers and developers sat) you would have 16-20 promotion slots from MPG2 to 4 every 15/16 months.

Several hundred people would get through the paper sift to even get an interview - as my boss said get an interview the company was 100% sure that you where capable of performing at that level I had three successive boards and didn't get it.

MPG2 was the entry level grade BT had a super flat structure. Some people where so desperate they would join payphones to get a promotion.

More savvy ones joined the mobile side as they where known for having serious grade inflation


It's a great article. But, I'm always surprised to see people are surprised by this: "That conversation made me realize that I’m not Google. I provide a service to Google in exchange for money." And it's doubly surprising when highly educated/smart people don't understand this.

I think there's something fundamentally flawed about our education system that isn't teaching or preparing people for the real world. I think every child should grow up with a basic understand of economics and how our economy works.

here's some advice about doing an indie business: When you build your own software business: the rewards are not proportional to how much effort you put in. You may put relatively little and get a huge reward or may work day and night for years with 0 revenue.


I think that's oversimplifying it a bit. I minored in Economics so I'd like to believe I have a decent understanding of it.

The problem isn't that Google just says, "Hi, donate time to us, your corporate overlords, in exchange for nothing." Instead, they make a very reasonable argument of, "You should help your teammates and colleagues."

Imagine that you're on a team with a junior developer. Their feedback is basically worthless to promotion committees because they're low-level. If they say, "Hey, can you help me understand why my code is crashing?" the selfish answer is, "No, if I spent two hours helping you, the benefit I provide to you is not measurable or quantifiable and won't help my case for promotion." But it would also be kind of miserable for everyone if you constantly avoid helping your teammates and only do the absolute minimum required to avoid standing out as egregiously unhelpful.


"You should help your teammates and colleagues." is not, by itself, an argument. It's a moral precept.

"You should help your teammates and colleagues produce more value for the company because we hired you to produce value for the company" is an argument.

Now if the company's employee evaluation process doesn't recognize the second-order value you produced here then that's the company's problem, not yours.


>Now if the company's employee evaluation process doesn't recognize the second-order value you produced here then that's the company's problem, not yours.

I think I personally skewed too far into trying to do unmeasurable things, but I feel like it would be miserable to live on the other extreme where you only do things that are measurable and benefit your career.

Where does that thinking end? If I don't feel like finding a garbage can, should I just throw my trash on the ground as long as nobody sees me? After all, it's the city's fault that they haven't set up incentives to prevent me from littering.


The education system isn't flawed. It's working as intended. You just don't see what its design goals actually are, or you disagree with what they should be.

I would argue if you aren't able to see why the education system produces that result on purpose then you don't understand how the economy works.


> bought a home for $200k in Western Massachusetts. Paid in cash so I no longer have to pay rent/mortgage

Thanks for sharing your experience Michael in that blog post. Can I read that "$200k paid in case" as in all paid off without loans even from family/friends? If so, $200k seems like a high saving amount considering average American household are in credit card debts. In other words, Google job did pay really well with RSUs and bonuses so that you can save up to buy house in one shot?


There are literally hundreds of developers in FAANG companies putting down payments a lot more than 200k in the Bay Area. The median compensation including RSUs is over 400k. If you're in a critical org your RSUs can be an order of magnitude more than that.


Considering the salary offered by FAANG and other big tech companies, saving 200k$ is very doable. Yes some people are in credit card debts, and that proportion is higher than it should, but saving that amount of money is not unheard of. Most people just spend all they have (and a little more), which leads to not having that kind of savings.

Doing so in just 4 years may be harder (again, depends on your spending), but if you have a little nest before then I don't see what's so strange about it.


If his total comp was $300k, which is normal for a senior google dev, it's entirely possible to save $100k per year, even if the rent is $3.5k/mo.


Yeah it is except tech workers in the Bay Area working at FAANGs are nowhere close to average Americans. Senior engineer (5+ years, some leadership, even technical leadership) total comps range from $250-600k plus insane benefits a year at those companies, managers make more. Most FAANGs pay for everything you could want, your only expense paid out of your earnings could be your rent. Those are starting too, excluding refresher grants and assuming zero appreciation over 4 years in the equity.


My Google pay and rsus were definitely enough to buy a house, just not in the Bay area. A coworker who couldnt buy in santa Clara did a transfer to Ann arbor and was able to buy a massive home in the country.


That is correct, this is fairly typical compensation for the OP's level.


That was my signing bonus, nevermind pay or RSUs. It's not hard to acquire that much money.


>It's not hard to acquire that much money.

As a privileged developer, this is an extremely untrue and privileged statement. Developers like myself who don't live in SF are lucky to receive any signing bonus, and would be lucky to earn half of that as a yearly salary. Outside the US it's not possible. You are part of a very small and very fortunate group.

Source: https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2018/#salary


The original question is: "ex-FAANG developers...".

In that context, it's definitely priviledged but far from being extremely untrue.


How do you pay for your living expenses ? Do you work remotely ?


I had pretty substantial amount of savings when I quit. I expect my annual expenses for the next few years to be $15-20k, so I can either pay that with returns from my investments or drawing down from my savings.

It's not enough to live the rest of my life on, especially if I want to start a family, but I'm set for the next few years.


What about healthcare?


Private health insurance is $3k/yr here, so it's part of the $15-20k/yr.


with spending like that if a decent chunk comes from savings rather than income, you probably qualify for MassHealth.


Possibly! I don't think I'd qualify until 2020 because my 2018 income is over the limit because of my earnings at Google in the beginning of the year. My understanding is that it's based on the previous year's income, so I'd have to earn nothing in 2019.

I'm not sure if I'd apply in any case. I feel like it's questionable ethically to take public assistance when I could earn a high income if I chose to work for an employer.


this is how the rich turn the middle class against the poor, by attaching shame to public goods. healthcare should not be means tested, but if you can actually pass the test then by all means do it. you are not better than anyone else.


Nah, I think you’re being pessimistic here. I’m not OP but I’m in the boat and I turn down public assistance because it’s not what it was made for and the system is strained enough...also, I wouldn’t judge anyone else for taking it.


yes it is me, the pessimist, encouraging you to accept free healthcare. not you, the ideologue, who so deeply believes in your place above the poors that you self-impose austerity.


He specifically said he doesn't judge anyone or attach shame to accepting free health care. He doesn't accept it because he doesn't need it as much as others and does not want to take it from someone in greater need. Your position is anti-social and akin to attending an event where there are treats available for children, but you take them as an adult and some children get none, but you feel no shame.


I don't judge you, but* you're naive to believe what someone says, not what they do.

* this is where you can usually tell someone is judging

And your metaphor of the poor as children you wouldn't steal candy from is exactly the kind of ideological superiority i'm talking about.


> Currently working on toy projects to sharpen my web development skills

Could you talk about what those projects are about and what languages/frameworks you are using?

What's next? Are you looking to start another business or taking some time to just learn and work on projects that you find interesting?

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog posts and forum posts on IH. Good luck!


>Could you talk about what those projects are about and what languages/frameworks you are using?

Sure, I'm working with Angular now. I might switch to Vue.js because I'm not crazy about Angular and I've heard very good things about Vue, but I'm also wondering if I'd like Angular more once I reached proficiency in it.

>What's next? Are you looking to start another business or taking some time to just learn and work on projects that you find interesting?

The project I want to get back to is a keto recipe search engine (https://ketohub.io/). I put it on hold for other projects, but I have more ideas for it and it's a good project for me to stretch my web development skills.

I may also consider projects targeting customers in Western Mass that nobody else is really going after. When I tell people here I'm a developer, many tell me that the software they're forced to use at work is terrible and old but there's no replacement, so maybe I'll find one I can tackle.

>Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog posts and forum posts on IH. Good luck!

Thanks!


> Sure, I'm working with Angular now. I might switch to Vue.js because I'm not crazy about Angular and I've heard very good things about Vue, but I'm also wondering if I'd like Angular more once I reached proficiency in it.

I am probably preaching to the choir here, but if you are looking to sharpen your skills, it's almost always better to stick with a single tech and learn it really, really well. That doesn't mean it's harmful to step through some Vue tutorials to get a feel for how it is different, however, if you're not careful you can end up losing a ton of time learning about the JS framework du jour and not actually making progress on anything. Especially if you are not in any hurry to build something useful.

Just about the only constant in JS frameworks is that any decision you make now on which one to use will probably be wrong in a year.

That's not to say optimizing for development speed isn't a good thing, especially if you are looking to bang out POCs as quickly as possible to vet startup ideas. But if you're not careful this can devolve into "funtime with tech" that could be a major distraction which might not even look or feel like one.

Speaking from experience :-)


I want to do something with AI/ML and recipes also but monetizing a passion is not always possible. Have you seen the NYTs open source recipe ingredient parser?

+1 for moving to a less expensive area and ‘buying back’ some of your own time. I did this a long time ago and have seldom regretted it.


>Have you seen the NYTs open source recipe ingredient parser?

That's actually what I based mine on. I wrote a series of blog posts explaining how I did it:

https://mtlynch.io/resurrecting-1/


Have you tried selling your recipe parser to retailers like Kroger. Many of them are firing up features to order online and they’ll have pickers pull your order together so you can grab it later.


I think there's a bit of a delta between where my service is and what they'd need. There would have to be logic to do fuzzy matching from the parsed ingredient to the items in their inventory that customers can purchase. There are competitors in this space that are already far ahead of me in terms of building shopping lists from ingredients, so it would be difficult to compete with them. My idea was to start with smaller developers who prefer my service's improved accuracy and more liberal licensing terms.


Interesting! I’d been noodling with this idea earlier this summer while chasing a lawnmower about the yard. The SKU match seems tricky. Guess I’m way late to the party haha.


Hey Michael - have been following your story for several months. Disappointed to hear that the recipe parsing idea didn't work out for you.


Thanks for reading! Yeah, it's a shame but I expected that I'd have lots of ideas that don't work out. I'm trying to maximize what I learn from them and minimize the amount of time it takes to find out if an idea is viable.


I don’t follow your blog but I keep running into it, and it’s a really cool story. I hope you figure it out and keep documenting it because I’m trying to do the same and would love to maintain this level of autonomy.

Unlike you though, I think I’m taking too long to execute rather than failing to monetize something.


Mike, I did not realize you moved. We should meet up one of these days.

-Ty


Hey Tyson, yes definitely. I do plan to come back for IH NYC meetups on occasion.


Mike and Tyson. Mike Tyson.


Which part of web are you learning?


>Moved out of my $3.3k/mo Manhattan apartment and bought a home for $200k in Western Massachusetts

You have no idea how much the people of Vermont appreciate this. Be sure to tell all your friends who want out of NY how great Western MA is. ;)


Are there a lot of tech jobs in western Mass? I am working in NYC and really not feeling the whole big-city vibe.


Ssshhhh don't let anyone in on the secret! This is from a native! :)


I worked on the same team at Google for 4.5 years, and left 3 years ago. I was bored; I was getting better at doing the same thing, but I wasn't expanding as an engineer. I worked on a free product. We had no market incentives to make time-boxed decisions and could declare anything we did a success whether it was or not, which drove me nuts. I was at the New York office, so when the company got bad press you could usually rationalize it as "oh, it's this Other Google in Mountain View making these really bad decisions and having this weird cultural obsession with needing everything you do to be as hard as putting a man on the moon," but it dampened my enthusiasm for looking for an internal transfer. Staring down the end of my 20s, I ended up taking almost a year off to relax, reconnect with old friends, do a little traveling, fail to start a small business, and eventually interview.

I ended up at Etsy. A major criteria of mine was "find a business model I want to work for." Etsy checked all the boxes -- I was impressed by the caliber of people that I talked to when I was interviewing, I got a fair offer, I think the business model of selling local goods internationally is a good thing for the world, and I would be working directly on things that affected the bottom line. It hasn't been all sunshine and roses. There were 2 rounds of layoffs and almost everything has changed since I joined. But something that doesn't change very fast at a small established company is its business model, so I've managed to still be motivated to work there despite all the churn around me. It also helped me realize that some of the ennui I felt at Google was really a shifting of interests -- I'm not interested in technology for technology's sake anymore, but instead am motivated to solve problems that I think can be solved via technology.


Sadly a lot of what's featured on Etsy now is mass produced crap masquerading as handmade.

I get why it was essential to the business. You can only grow so much as a small truly handmade market. Then it's OK to sell "vintage" clothing and on and on...


Yeah, I hear that. Growth is absolutely a factor, and fairness is another factor. Like, how do you define "handmade" without punishing people who get too successful ("oh no, I have more orders than ever and can't make them all myself anymore. Do I have to stop selling if I get help?"), and while still being simple enough that content moderators can fairly and reproducibly apply rules for listings that are challenged. You basically end up at one end of the spectrum or the other, "everything has to be truly handmade, and we're okay being really restrictive" or some variant of "authorship is really the thing we care about".


Interesting experience.

>It also helped me realize that some of the ennui I felt at Google was really a shifting of interests -- I'm not interested in technology for technology's sake anymore, but instead am motivated to solve problems that I think can be solved via technology.

I personally have an interest in both aspects. Still like and find technology interesting, but I guess I had somewhat of a business orientation from earlier, so appreciate that aspect too.


>"I'm not interested in technology for technology's sake anymore, but instead am motivated to solve problems that I think can be solved via technology."

Words to live by. :)


Any advice for someone 3-4 years into their career with the option to work on something that's a "good thing for the world" or something that is more technically interesting and will be better career-wise?


I did ten years at Microsoft; loved it, but wanted a change, and Google desperately wanted people with VM experience to build GCE.

I was at Google for six years; I had a lot of fun building various parts of cloud, but then at some point realized I didn’t really care a lot about the component I was working on, and looking around, I didn’t see a lot of other projects going on that I really felt passionately about.

I had some savings, and wasn’t really worried about finding •some• other software engineering job in Seattle if that ran low, so I decided to take off to think about what I really wanted to be doing in life. And then a friend reached out to me - he was founding a startup, and was I interested in joining?

So I did an ML startup for a couple of years. It was tremendous fun; lots of work, but I felt very connected to what I was building, why I was building it, &c; it felt good to be really thinking about the product from an end-to-end, “How is this going to delight the customer?” point of view. I think I’d have had to be a director at Google to have the same level of involvement with the entirety of what I was building...

And then, we were bought by Intel. It’s not too different, though - it’s a much bigger company, of course, but I feel pretty connected to the stuff I’m working on; I see and understand the business case, and my role in it. I don’t know that I’ll work at Intel forever, but certainly for the foreseeable future; I’m having fun, and feel pretty fortunate to be working here.


It sounds like you're very happy with your career decisions. How long did you work on the startup before it was acquired?


The startup was vertex.ai; I worked there for a little over two years.

It was very educational (in a good way), despite the uncertainty around paychecks (just from the higher odds of going under at some point down the road). For people who’re in a financial position to handle some paycheck risk, I’d definitely recommend trying a startup.


I left Google after three years as an SDE because I had really really had enough of my bosses, I wasn't promoted when I figured I deserved it, and a project that meant a lot to me wasn't getting the staffing it needed to succeed.

I left for a more senior position at a smaller, less prestigious software company, though I've moved again since. Right now I'm working remotely from Toronto for a Silicon Valley start-up.

Ultimately, I wish I had approached working for Google a bit differently. I thought it was sort of an overgrown startup, and you were supposed to look for something that needed doing and do it. No. Google is a large highly structured company with a distinctly process-oriented culture. It's a place where you do what you are told. That famous proverb about Japanese nails absolutely applies. I eventually figured that out, but by then it was too late.


My experience with Google has been the opposite, for what it's worth. I've been rewarded for, as an IC SWE, starting conversations with random people across the entire company to make things happen, and then executing on it. I even presented my launch at I/O this past May. I think it helps that I'm on a smaller team. So from my experience, it still very much seems like a "look for something that needs doing and do it" kind of place. Maybe too much freedom is granted, in that a lot of "boring" things are languishing that shouldn't be simply because no one is interested in (or rewarded for) doing them.


It seems to depend a lot on your team and your manager. It's the first place I've worked where the vibe is: "you're clever: find something useful to do" from my very first day.


Yes, it matters a lot. I got some great advice from a friend who was already working at a big-ish tech company (Dropbox) when I joined Google. She said the #1 concern when picking a team was to find a manager I'd get along with -- that that's more important than anything else. And it was good advice. Managers set the tone for the entire team, and I'd rather be on a friendly, collaborative, supportive team doing a meh project than be on a dysfunctional team working on something "important". Studies have shown that the #1 factor causing job dissatisfaction is having a poor relationship with your manager, and then #2 is having a poor relationship with your peers.


Yes, this matches my experience as well. I've been at Google 6 years now in various SWE roles. I can count the number of times I've been directly asked to do something by anyone in my management chain on one hand.


What are examples of things you took initiative on (without violating NDA or revealing personal details?) Are we talking about new major products/features? Did you join with past experience/at a senior level? What org/product area?


It's hard to explain, not because of NDA but because of context specific things. Almost everything I do is open source, but can't fit into a comment.

My only advice to people at BigCo is to make sure you have a good reason for doing whatever it is you're doing. Your boss telling you to do something is not always a good reason to do it.

And make sure you have some kind of metrics that show your work is important. If you're told to do something that you don't think is important, make sure you have metrics showing that your work is more important and do that.


So say my boss assigns me a task of questionable value. Should I really question it having been there for a few months, or would they take it as I don't trust their judgement?

I just started recently and was considering leaving for a startup, but have decided to stay and see if it gets better (I have only been at BigCo for few months). Mainly I feel like I'm not really needed, and it's a long existing and complex system so I can't propose some project of my own that easily. Many changes require multiple teams input etc. Feels slow.

Thanks for the advice, I will definitely keep it in mind.


I am not the OP, but IMO when you have been at the job for only a few months telling the boss that he is wrong can provide some seriously negative return. You may be right but not understood or listened to or you may be wrong (e.g., because you are not aware of something they take for granted, etc.) and reinforce the "fresh kid who needs a lot of handholding" perception.

I would either build credibility at your local team first (seems slow given the setup you describe) or find another group that is more dynamic. Look for energetic team leads that run impactful projects, talk to them (face to face) and ask what would it take to join their team. My 2c. Good luck


If your boss tells you to do something, you should do it. "Make your boss happy" is generally the way to thrive in a hierarchy, whatever the stated principles of the organization or how they formally evaluate employees. If your boss is happy with you, it will all turn out ok; if your boss isn't happy with you, nothing will save you in the end.

I understand the initial project you're assigned may not seem terribly important. But that's because you're new and you don't really know how things work yet, so they can't assign you anything really complicated. Do the initial not-quite-busywork successfully, and more important and interesting work will come along.


If you've only been there for a few months, how do you even know that the task is of questionable value? I'd take it as a very bad sign if someone who's still relatively new to the team thinks they know better than people who've been doing this stuff for years. Trust that your teammates know what they're doing, and if they really truly don't (which is possible), find a better team.

It took me around two years in to start feeling comfortable setting direction and priorities at a team-wide level. Of course, I was making my opinion heard long before that, but it was just that, an opinion.

At only a few months in you're still an unproven quantity. Don't expect to be getting the most important projects just yet. Take whatever you are given and knock it out of the park.


Previous largeish tasks were found to be of questionable value after they were completed, by other mgrs.

I like my team and manager, I just don't think they have a lot of time for me or time to think about what I'm assigned and whether it's worth doing. Lots of new ppl on the team recently. It's also possible that I'm just not asking enough questions. I think it is a bit of both.


Yes! Don't necessarily question it and get into an argument. But both you and your manager have a different set of context and view on what's really important to the team and organization. Neither of you is necessarily more correct then the other.

If it turns out your manager was right (which is likely given you've only been there a few months), you'll at least get more context to understand why. You can use that context next time


Again, appreciate the time taken to respond. I'll do my best to make this work out, this was my dream job before I joined.


I recently joined a FANG and this is something that causes me a lot of anxiety. Our repos are hundreds of thousands of lines of code; how on earth can I, as a new hire, decide unilaterally that something needs to be added or reworked? I'm not at a startup, and the company's mission is decided at a level far above my paygrade. I need some degree of management to know what to do.

I'm also not a very social person, and randomly chatting with people around the company for project ideas is something that I'm seemingly incapable of doing.

Will this cause me to fail at my job? How do I learn to be more proactive with these kinds of things?


It sounds like you're trying to self-discover initiative. Initiative is not a first-class thing of its own; it's an outcome of, for example, staring at an inefficiency until you can't stop twitching.

But (to use my example) "efficiency" is relative. It requires a good mental model of what fits into what and how. So, to solve for that, you'd focus on absorption, and taking-in as much of the environment you can in as much detail as you can - oh, and focus on the most insignificant things the most. (The idea is to stretch your attention span and make it grow.) Endeavor to absorb at the same rate on day 100 that you do on day 1 (ie, replicating the way you react when things are new/interesting). Not perfectly achievable (I don't think), but that's the approach I've used to get my brain going in the right direction.

As for sociability, that's something that needs to be practiced in its own right to get stronger, like attention span. A bit like learning to use a new tool, you can't immediately be fast at it without some initial purpose-less practice. (Always fun to bootstrap those kinds of things...)


At a very high level you're wanting management, but really you're expecting someone else to solve your problems for you. These companies don't work like that. You have to find a problem and hammer it down.

If necessary (but only as a last resort) spend an hour each day increasing test coverage. That is just something you can do that will probably also yield further ideas.

Second, if you're at google, get a mentor. They probably have an internal tool for that, maybe even something hr-like.


> That famous proverb about Japanese nails absolutely applies.

"The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."


I'm guessing there are some "nail dimensions" that get hammered down, and some that are encouraged. (There are some anomalous characteristics that are accepted or incentivized, and some that are penalized.) I'm curious, could you (or someone in this thread working at google) help me understand which these are? Which weird character traits are ok, and which are not?


I’m going to make a guess here, but based on my experience of this type of culture at other organizations, weird character traits that are okay = anything unusual done by the very senior, generally-accepted-company-success-story people. So if you started a successful spin-off that Google funds and makes a ton of money from, then your penchant for rollerblading around the building is cute and HR smile when describing it to interviewees. However if you are one of the other 99.9% then get those damn things off your feet, your going to hurt someone.


Be transgendered. Works for me.


I love that proverb, but look at the flip side, the nail that sticks out gets pulled out and discarded....

Unless it's a coat hook. The lesson I think is if you're going to stick out, be useful.


The Chinese equivalent: the quacking duck gets shot.


That's brutal.


I was thinking - "Everything looks like to nail to someone who has a hammer"


>>I had really really had enough of my bosses

Its curious how these companies claim they are totally different or even unique but just turn out to be the very same.

>>I wasn't promoted when I figured I deserved it

This is again one of those large company political things. Year long promotion packet building, lobbying your work with promotion committees, getting a willing boss, and doing other routine political ground work to set you up for one.

Another big thing in these companies, every one joining has to go through a very arduous interviewing process, preparation for which can last weeks to months. So you have rockstars full in all teams, or at-least they like of themselves that way.

Ultimately regardless whatever people might say about surrounding yourself with smart people, its never generally a great idea to surround yourself with smart competitors in a pyramid hierarchy.


Big companies are all this way, people don't realize it before they work in one - you are just a cog.


Also, in a big company, culture is not homogeneous. Your direct manager and team will create their culture, with mild influence from the surrounding corporation.


Definitely this. I'm in a large org at a large company and there are drastic differences between groups because of managers. Simply changing groups can completely change your experience from a toxic team to a great one or vice versa.

If a smaller company has a toxic culture or you have a toxic manager you may have no choice but to leave.

Bad managers are everywhere!


Just to add to this, a good manager can insulate a team from problems "outside" that team, but there's a balance. Too much insulation and you'll disappear from everyone else's view (no more funding for you!), not enough and you'll become a dumping ground for people/problems/projects.


> This is again one of those large company political things. Year long promotion packet building, lobbying your work with promotion committees, getting a willing boss, and doing other routine political ground work to set you up for one.

Honestly, I don't care enough about getting promoted to go through that whole rigmarole, nor would I quit a job over having to deal with that in order to get promoted.

Of course, that's also probably why I don't work at a FAANG and never will.


> Honestly, I don't care enough about getting promoted to go through that whole rigmarole, nor would I quit a job over having to deal with that in order to get promoted.

Of course, that's also probably why I don't work at a FAANG and never will.

I don't think you should let that stop you. I work at Google and don't care about promotion. I expect that I will get it sooner or later but really don't care if I do or not. I get paid enough to live a decent life already so I prefer having the freedom to do what I think matters as opposed to what's good for my career since sadly those don't align as much as they should.


Here here, why require a raise if you're earning 250k+ a year? That's more than 99.9% of non-execs in most companies.


that's exactly what i thought -- getting a "promotion packet" is absurd. your promotion packet should be the job you have been doing all year long.

then again, i hate office politics and i cannot see myself getting to close to this kind of big-company.


> that's exactly what i thought -- getting a "promotion packet" is absurd. your promotion packet should be the job you have been doing all year long.

I'm guessing you don't know how the process works? I'd like to give a summary so you have more context. Apologies if that's incorrect.

Your promotion is decided by a promotion committee, who likely do not know you or what you do. This is done in an attempt to make promotions fair and objective across the company.

That being the case, you need a promotion packet to describe what you've done to people who are basically strangers.

Don't get me wrong, the process has many issues but I don't think it's fair to assess them without understanding their purposes and I don't think anyone I've seen who complains about it has been able to come up with something better.


Keep in mind that at many companies the promotion isn't to manager but to the next class of engineering ie engineer I to engineer II. This is how you increase your pay. Also if you don't get promoted within a certain amount of time, some companies will manage you out


> It's a place where you do what you are told

In my career experience, that has more to do with understanding what really needs to be done, and what brings value to the company.

I'm sure I've made some junior engineers feel that way after they tried to pull me into a long argument about brace styles, or after they wanted to refactor years of working code to use their favorite framework.


> I left Google after three years as an SDE

Were you on a 4 year vest schedule for your stock grant at Google? If so, did you leave some money on the table?


Google gives equity refreshes once per year, so you always have unvested stock. They try to design comp to avoid situations where your total pay suddenly drops 4 years after your initial offer package fully vests.


I don't remember, exactly. I think we had a one-year cliff at the time and then quarterly accrual. I definitely took a pay cut when I left, though.


Isn't it standard that grants are renewed yearly? If so you'll always be "leaving money on the table" (but then if you switch company you'd probably get a new grant, right?)


Nothing is "standard". I've never talked to a startup that offered an equity refresh like GOOG does.


Why wouldn't companies offer an equity refresh? I view equity as part of my compensation. So if my compensation dropped after 4 years I'd consider it a paycut and start looking for a new job.


Ex-Netflix here. I was a senior dev at Microsoft and Netflix (8 years of professional experience) and decided to switch to freelance for a variety of reasons. Eventually that turned into starting a company that provides a home for ex-FAANG (etc) devs that want to switch to freelancing.

Facet Development is a freelancer network made up exclusively of ex-FAANG engineers. Facet does the work of finding freelancing jobs/projects and then we send them out to devs in the network. We also provide project management and billing/collections, help with taxes, etc, so freelancers get to spend a lot more of their time doing the enjoyable parts of freelancing and not trying to run a small business.

We target FAANG companies and companies that wish they could hire FAANG devs when finding work for our freelancer network. When I was a dev lead at Microsoft, bringing on vendors or outsourcing was a terrible experience, because they always seemed to be below our hiring bar. So I started Facet to solve the problem I had when I was an engineering manager at a FAANG company.

We have more work than we can handle, so if you are a FAANG or ex-FAANG dev that wants to switch to freelancing or already is, you should sign up!

You can read more about the Facet Developer Network here: https://www.facetdev.com/blog/the-facet-developer-network-th...


Wow, this is a great idea. I can see both sides of it:

"Look, you've always wanted to jump ship to freelance, but it's hard and you're used to being heavily supported by your org. We have that for you."

"Look, you want to hire these people but you can't. I can, and they can complete your project in a super high quality way, you just need to pay for it. We can be there next week."


Exactly! :)

I always wanted to jump ship so I could work on my own startup, but was afraid cause I had no idea how to find work as a freelancer, and was totally not the sales type. I figured there had to be more people out there like me.


I agree, this is actually a really really good business idea. I heard so many times top devs wish something like this would exist.

Can you give an idea of what an ex-FAANG dev can expect after signing up? Like what's the frequency of projects? (not sure when you started this, if you just started it I understand you might not have a clear answer yet)


Facet has been in business for many years, so we have several long-term, repeat customers. We've just pivoted into this business model in the past couple of months because we we're getting overwhelmed with new projects and couldn't hire full-time devs fast enough. So instead, we thought we would see if there was an untapped pool of extremely high-quality devs that just wanted to be freelance. Turns out there is!

We get new projects weekly and our network is sized to match. We want make sure the number of opportunities we find covers 75% of our developer network. Our network is smallish right now (less than 50). If demand for joining exceeds our project capacity we will implement a wait-list for joining until our project volume catches up.


Wow thanks for sharing. Facet sounds right for me as I work for a big company but looking to expand my experience into a smaller more impactful business/startup/consulting space.


Bookmarking this. Excellent idea :)


What about non-residents that cannot stay in the US for freelance but can work in a similar timezone like in the US? I mean, if I were to jump ship I wouldn't be allowed to keep working in the US and so I'd need to go back to my home country, where I could actually stretch out the money way better :)


Netflix is supposed to have a really great developer culture and work atmosphere/benefits, much more than the other big N. Do you agree with its reputation? Was there any negative aspect that made you leave, or did you just have more of an interest in freelancing?


My experience at Netflix was amazing. It has to be one of the best places for software engineers. I left because I wanted to work on a startup and never would have had the time while working at Netflix full-time.

I got lucky in that a very large project (~$500k) fell into my lap while still working full-time at Netflix, so once the contract was signed, I quit my job and started freelancing. My small freelancing business grew into a proper software development agency over a few years. Eventually, I was able to do a "real" startup - I started an analytics company (www.numetric.com), raised $16M in VC and grew that for 4 years. I did NOT like working with VCs. So we hired a replacement CEO and I left to do my next thing.

I still own Facet and after leaving Numetric I had some free time to experiment with ideas on how to grow Facet. That resulted in the creation of the Facet Developer Network.


Is Facet only for senior devs or also for senior ex-FAANG data scientists?


Ex-Amazon engineer here. Worked for ~4 years in the Prime Music team. Contrary to popular belief, I had incredible time at Amazon. Learned a lot, good work life balance, progressed to L5 etc. Primary reason I quit is to start something of my own and not live under a draconian H1-B visa that treats people like second class citizens (will save H1-B rant for some other time).

What am I doing now?

I enjoy building dev tools. I am currently building ReviewNB (https://reviewnb.com) that helps with Jupyter Notebook diffs and commenting. I built https://nurtch.com earlier this year to help Dev/Ops teams write executable incident runbooks.

How?

I moved back from Seattle to New Delhi, India. Cost of living is less than $2000 per month which gives me enough time to work on my projects without being stressed financially.


$2k/mo seemw very high for India (I'm not too familiar), are you supporting a family/spouse as well or is New Delhi just expensive?


South Delhi is expensive. I pay $1000/month on rent. That's also because I have a larg'ish space (home office, guest room etc.)

Living in tier 2 Indian cities or suburban areas can cut down the expense in half. ~$1000/month for a comfortable lifestyle.


Ah I see. Yeah, to do <2k in the bay area either roommates or studio + ramen :P


I do not think so. Yes, it is ok if you are single but in India and earn 2k/mo, but remember everything is paid for and conditions are not very friendly. e.g. In Delhi you will most likely need a car (unless you WFH or live next to the office) and the fuel prices are among the highest in the world. You have to pay and save for your kids education (which can be pretty steep). Because of the heat and pollution, you have to invest in air-conditioning, air-purifier, water-purifier and the list keeps going on for a comfortable life. Also no health or social safety net means you have to maintain decent savings at all times.

Finally, the real inflation (not the official one) is high and any saving could potentially be worthless in a few years (except real-estate which is why it has absurd prices) which also means owning a home is quite hard.


He must be living like a king. I lived there for a year and struggled to spend more than $20 a day.


It must be, because I'm living comfortably in NY on less than $2000 a month post tax 0.o


Yeah, same here in the bay area.


And like, I know plenty of people in the US living decently well on $1,000 a month post tax. Most college towns will have bedrooms for like $350-550 a month.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a very progressive town like Chapel Hill NC, which has a completely free bus system for everyone (paid for by student tuition, state taxes, and grants), then you can get around for pretty much free. The rest could be spent on food and health insurance if one chooses


Saving this comment as I might go down the same route a few years from now.


Ex-Google SWE L5 (Senior) - Left in 2014 after almost 9 years spanning from my late 20's to mid 30's. I really can't complain, and would easily rank it as my most fulfilling and lucrative full-time employment experience so far, though the previous and post employment were in defense and startups.

In short, I left due to burnout, though I think it wasn't so much the team/work as it was my character lends itself to burnout if I'm not very careful to erect work/life barriers and not trample them in spite of myself. I also tried hard but failed to get promotion to L6 SWE, and that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This was mostly a matter of personal immaturity at the time though. In retrospect my technical skills may have passed muster, but my ability to make things happen in the organizational and interpersonal sphere weren't really at an L6 level. My foot was already half out of the door by then, anyway.

In the intervening time, I've worked on an (unsuccessful) Android game, worked at a startup (again, burnout is easy when you internalize the existential precariousness of this sort of venture), and have since moved back to my hometown, bought a nice house, started a family, and done remote contract work. I have a few projects incubating and am planning on pursuing some entrepreneurial bootstrapping once my current contracts peter out shortly.

I miss the proximity to amazing engineers and casual availability of supercomputing resources, but in the end, I'm grateful to have saved enough to have a great deal of freedom in how I spend my days and to have been fully present for the first few months of my son's life.

Another benefit of time outside of Google is getting acquainted with the equivalent software ecosystem outside of their walled garden. Borg -> Docker/Kubernetes, MapReduce/Millwheel -> Spark, Dremel/bigquery-> Presto, etc etc.


What is L5?


Google's internal leveling codes. I made https://www.levels.fyi exactly for questions like this :)


L5 is one of Google's internal levels. They're putting it there to let people know where they were in Google's hierarchy and they note that it denotes Senior. From what I know, people generally start at 3 right out of school.


To expand a little bit, you usually start at L3 as a fresh graduate, and then are expected to be promoted to L4 within ~2-3 years, and then L5 after another 2-3 years (although it could be shorter). L5 is considered a "terminal" position, in the sense that once you get to that level you're no longer expected to get promoted. (L3 and L4 are, by contrast, more "up or out", where if you don't get promoted after long enough you can get fired.) I actually met an L5 engineer at Google who had been there since 2002. Promotions to L6, L7, etc. start to get exponentially more difficult.


This is no longer the case. L4 is the new coasting position.


What about L1 or L2?


Google Engineering doesn't have L1 or L2 (you could consider interns as L2)


Senior Software Engineer.


Ex-Amazon (and ex-Vmware) here.

Worked at AWS from 2008 to 2014 (Europe, then Asia, then USA), then Vmware (also USA) from 2014 to 2016.

I then spent ~1 year at a startup, as CTO - the experience sucked, and I consider it to simply be a big mistake.

1.5 years ago, I left that job, worked on a new idea, and in August 2017 I founded a startup, Fabrica, with two other friends.

I am still there. No salary. Bootstrapped until March, then raised some angel money. Doing ok.

I will never go back to the corporate world. I'm done with it. I have some money on the side, and I firmly believe that money is to buy things that matter to you. To me, not working at a corporation matters.


>I firmly believe that money is to buy things that matter to you. To me, not working at a corporation matters.

Damn dude that is a very good way of putting it


Not sure I interpret your comment properly, but did you mean that you particularly liked the sentence? Or was there irony instead?


FWIW I interpreted their comment as unambiguously "liked the sentence".

There's helpful perspective seeing freedom from corporate work as something you're effectively "buying" with less income, rather than avoiding because "it's less enjoyable".

People tend to be quite loss averse, so reframing it as a feature you're buying rather than loss you'll accept can really change how it feels.


Yeah I meant that I loved the sentence! I worked in corporate before deciding to go back to Uni and it really resonated with me, even though unfortunately I wasn't able to already buy my own freedom to not be in corporate but need to be supported by family still. Hope I can make it one day :)


Thanks for clarifying!


> I then spent ~1 year at a startup, as CTO - the experience sucked, and I consider it to simply be a big mistake.

What about the experience sucked? What was the mistake?


It's a long story, and part of it I am not happy to share publicly.

Let's say that there were signals that I should have left earlier, and I didn't listen at first; such as: two co-founders fighting often and disagreeing; not a clear product-market fit, and my product proposals were never taken seriously; lots of arrogance; etc.


> money is to buy things that matter to you.

Yes.

> To me, not working at a corporation matters.

Yes. Don't see myself every going back. And don't have to.

"Money is coined freedom" -- Fyodor Dostoevsky

If your money is not buying you freedom...you're doing it wrong. :-)


dude .. that really gets the point across. I'll remember it.


How is running a startup better than being the CTO of a startup?


Not OP, but there are some common problems, assuming they were a non-founder CTO:

- Instead of leading an eng team, maybe CTO meant "our entire tech team".

- Maybe the founders sucked, or had personal conflicts.

- Maybe the business was broken in ways a technologist can't fix.

- Maybe the business was viable but this individual did not enjoy being a part of it. Could be anything from "there are too many salespeople yelling into phones all around me" to "the technical problems were not the sort I am interested in / good at solving".


Indeed. Also, non-founder CTOs often find themselves in the odd position of being responsible for success and delivery but not being able to influence overall company strategy, particularly in tech-focused companies. It's almost like being a second-class citizen of the leadership team.

Not all companies are like this, but smaller ones that are looking for CTOs (whether due to founder splits or turnover) often are.

The other thing that sometimes happens is when a CTO position is carved out for a company that is doing well but needs "maturity," typically due to missed deadlines/etc. This can be a pretty terrible experience unless this sort of thing floats your boat - a lot of the downsides of working for a large company, but still the risks of working for a small one.


Man, you're good!

The two co-founders had personal conflicts; the business was broken, and never became viable. And a few other things...


Does that mean you would turn down a lucrative acquisition offer from a big corporation?

That seems to be the paradox of founding a startup for the reason you stated.


That's a good point. I am not against being acquired, and I hope I will be a good leader and accept what's best for the company, not just for me.

I guess if the acquisition happens, I can happily accept it as a necessary evil to get more "freedom" in the form of money, and to make my co-founders and workers happy.


Running my own bootstrapped SaaS startup, Canny (https://canny.io). I've always wanted to do a startup.

Last year I wrote a blog post about the biggest lessons learned during the transition. Seems pretty relevant. https://hackernoon.com/software-engineer-to-saas-founder-c16...

Also left SF to be a digital nomad. SF is so expensive and if you aren't fundraising you don't need to be there. There's so much of the world to see, and it's easy to be productive anywhere there's internet.


Digital nomad - are you AirBnBing around various countries or are you staying in coliving/coworking communities?

I ask because I'm interested in doing that soon.


Have lived in Airbnbs for the past year and a half :)


Nice, I saw Canny used by Expo :)


I spent about 7 years at MS and 7 in amazon - mostly around databases. Now I have been with Snap for about 3 years and it has been going great. My reasons were:

- Agility. Snap moves 10x faster than amazon/ms.

- Small size. Our dev community is so much smaller than Fb etc. Last quarter our reported user count was around 188MM? So the amortized # of customers influenced per dev is very high.

- Ownership. I am the tech lead for all of analytics in snap (an uber lead as we call it). In Dynamo I was the TL for the storage part alone, my other offers from fb/twitter/oracle et al were around running parts of their machinery. Nothing came close to the extent of ownership provided by snap. An L1 in snap owns 5x of what an L1 would own in FAANG.

- Rest of the benefits remain equal / better: You are surrounded by smart people, you have hard problems to solve, perks, benefits and comp are very equivalent to / better than fang.

That's pretty much what I tell people during my job sells / interviews as well! If you are looking for the above, you can't beat small companies. On the flip side - FANG do have the scale very few others can only dream of reaching (dynamo did millions of qps per region and ran in 10s of regions). I am obviously hopeful we will make snap that big :)


That stock tho.


Not much to complain if you are shorting it :P


Shorting SNAP via puts was one of the best decisions I've made this year.

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