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Re: companies that claim to have a fully equivalent technical track: What I've found is that is mostly lip service. Yes, they publish salaries and requirements for the highest levels of engineering, and those salaries are equivalent to high levels of management as far as pay goes. But if you look a little deeper you see the problem.

At Google and Amazon and Facebook, a Distinguished Engineer is equivalent to a Vice President in pay. But how many of those engineers do they have? I'll bet you could name most of them, because they are world famous experts in their fields. How many VPs do they have? Can you name more than a few?

The ratio of DE to VP is about 1 to 100. To be a DE, you need to basically be the best in the world at what you do. To be a VP, you have to be a great manager. In other words, while they may claim to have an equivalent engineering ladder, if you actually want to have a chance of moving up to those levels of pay, you had better go into people management, unless you think you're the best in the world at what you do.






I would argue that for a Distinguished Engineer to have as much impact as a run-of-the-mill VP, they have to be the best at the world at what they do.

I agree, that's why it's lip service when they say that you can progress just as easily on the tech track because they "have the levels available".

I agree completely. And as someone who has had senior engineering roles and senior engineering management roles at different times, I'd argue that the reason management is paid more is simple supply and demand. For a very large majority of people, managing people is basically a more difficult, stressful, and shittier job. Not that there aren't a small(er) group of people who really love management, but management salaries have to be higher because, if they were the same as corresponding IC levels, it would be very difficult to coax people into management.

Huh, I'd argue more folks are interested in management then are being engineers.

I’d argue that it’s impossibke to compare a Distinguished Engineer to a VP because the job functions are vastly different. Using a vague measurement like “impact” doesn’t overcome this.

I agree i’ve never heard an understandable explanation as to why a company with 1 or 2 principal engineer level employees can have hundreds of VPs.


I left my previous company before their ladder (~14+ months of work) was finally released so I'm not sure how it has worked out but one of the first drafts I saw had a rubric for gauging your growth / fit for the roles.

One of the biggest things I took issue with was that you had to have some sort of "community involvement" but management had to approve your speaking engagements to some degree (be it time off, messaging approval, etc) so it was quite easy to put up a lot of blockers to achieving that. Who knows- they may have dropped that part.

The most striking thing to me, between this article and what happened in my personal experience, is that I was told "your technical skills are senior level" "but you are too emotional" to promote. I don't deny being emotional but as a reason to deny promotion on a tech track? Would they have said that to a woman or is OK since I'm a man it's not an inappropriate comment?


>I was told "your technical skills are senior level" "but you are too emotional" to promote.

Funny. I got a direct opposite experience. Being told that I got technical skills, but I focus too much on the technical side and don't consider other engineers' emotions. The team was pretty toxic though and I'm happy I left as soon as my lock-in expired.


> "but you are too emotional" to promote.

Jesus fucking Christ how is that even remotely acceptable as management feedback?


That seems like fine feedback as long as it was coupled with further specific and actionable feedback. e.g, "You yelled at Alice and Bob in the discussion about project X, rather than helping build a consensus about the right solution." Senior engineers should be solving problems in the org, not causing them.

And unfortunately it was not. That was the feedback in its entirety. Not an example of how or when I was being emotional nor what they wanted corrected.

The VP/DE ratio just reflects how likely it is to have that level of impact. A VP is typically not just "a great manager", they drive the product vision and ensure you're building the right things. A great engineer can produce similar impact but it's a lot less likely.

> if you actually want to have a chance of moving up to those levels of pay, you had better go into people management

Your own strengths and weaknesses as an individual are are much more important part of this decision than the baseline probabilities of becoming a DE or VP.


I know a (non tech) VP at a FAANG, his base salary is the same as mine and I am nowhere near SV/West Coast/NYC salary - he will get an extra $70K a year between stock and signing bonus. He asked me would I be interested, I told him that the pay difference wasn’t enough to make up for the cost of living difference. He then told me that most of the software developers make more than the non tech/business VPs.

I'm at a FAANG and I find it difficult to believe that people at the VP level make less than software engineers.



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