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To lure young talent, banks mimic tech workspaces (reuters.com)
113 points by glassworm 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 198 comments





I'm seeing this a lot. I had an interview with a giant telco and the head of recruitment proudly tells me how Google like they are. They have bright colors, beanbags, and nice lighting.

I ask them if devices are part of the workplace, they tell me no, you bring your own laptop. There are lots of open desks, but the seats are uncomfortable and I don't see a single monitor or keyboard.

We go down to the meeting rooms. They show me the coffee + barista, the bowling alley, and the nice grass like carpets.

It seems to surprise them that when I go to work, I actually want to be productive. I enjoy getting things done. I'm not there to go bowling, or play video games, or watch Netflix. A productive developer is a happy developer.


It's the typical big corporation superficial vision of a trend. Just like when an ad tries to appeal to youngsters: it always looks ridiculous to the target. They use what they think is cool, instead of what actually is because they don't care about understanding anything, they just want to pretend they do.

The corporate equivalent are agile methods with plenty of tooling but no direct communication with the client, open spaces yet still 100 layers of hierarchy, empowerement that means more responsability and no leverage, and the usual "we have plenty of cool looking equipment except what you actually need to get the work done".

I don't want a dual screen and 16Gb of RAM because I feel cool with it. I do because I'm paid $800/day and wasting time with something that can be solved for a few hundred dollars is just bad economics.


> empowerement that means more responsibility and no leverage

Wow, that so succinctly summarizes how I've felt at more than one workplace


> The corporate equivalent are agile methods with plenty of tooling but no direct communication with the client, open spaces yet still 100 layers of hierarchy, empowerement that means more responsability and no leverage, and the usual "we have plenty of cool looking equipment except what you actually need to get the work done".

Very well put.


Spend 1000$ on a biljards table, save 100,000$ in recruitment cost, and yet another 10 million in salary cost as you will get only new grads, just hope some of them can actually code. Then outsource everything that is technically challenging.

What is the point in having the college grads then?

To find out what parts are technically challenging.

To keep out the riff-raff and unwashed masses. "We hire only the best!"

I complained about similar things at Google.

They had this internal newsletter where REWS would expound on new office buildings opening, or renovated buildings re-opening. They would always highlight the impressive public spaces, with baristas, games, living plant walls, old cars built into sculptures, whatever. But they NEVER, NOT ONCE, gave any coverage to the areas where people worked. I don't know about you, but I spend 80-90% of my time at work at my desk. I was in an older building that had actual 6' tall cube walls, with real desks. When visiting other teams, I was horrified to learn that these new spaces had cramped worktables with low or no partitions. At least there were still assigned space, and keyboards & monitors (and workstations for most engineers).

Thankfully I left Google before my group was moved to such a building.


I recently saw the design of my employer's new office. Looks modern and trendy. And yet I'm told they're taking away all of our desktops and laptops, replacing them with thin clients connected to VMs (running on crappy server hardware) and in the new office we won't even have an assigned desk, every day will be a constant battle for a limited number of seats. It's the appearance of being cool while scratch just beneath the surface and it's the exact opposite. God forbid you want to put a picture of your family on your desk or work without an internet connection.

It's really surprising that a large teleco woudln't even supply their own computers... Do they make people install management software on their personal computers, or just not care?

That part is really difficult for me to believe. I've worked minimum wage jobs where I've been assigned a laptop, a telco required their employees to buy a computer and bring said nasty personal device on their network? What about minimum specs? Network requirements? Motoring and compliance??

I think there must have a misunderstanding or that was a situation I've never seen in corporate america.


Said company wasn't American. I'm not sure if this is related, but they were going through this "flat organization" reorganization, where everyone, from CEO to janitors shared the same benefits. I feel that they cropped out benefits like corporate PCs to the people who needed them.

But it could be a misunderstanding. I hope it's a misunderstanding because it was baffling. They informed me that once upon a time they did have cubicles and desktops, but those are gone.


> cropped out benefits like corporate PCs

But that's not a benefit; that's required for performing the job. Did they also make the janitors bring their own brooms/mops/vacuums?


I really like the idea of the same computer being used both for all my personal information and for looking up whatever particularly heinous pornography gets you through another "We won't change anything but the icon and call it 5G" mentally draining and demoralizing meeting.

The fact that they let you bring your own laptop is a good sign. In big french corp, they give you very slow laptop on which they installed a windows with a lot of security so that you can't install work-related programs like docker or sometime even intellij. The french big corp work station is a nightmare and a reason not to work for them by itself.

If you can bring your own laptop, at least you can choose one which can do the job. Big improvement compared to big corp laptop.


I doubt they'll just let you run your personal OS on your byod laptop. Big companies frequently get attacked, at least according to the infosec guy at the place I work. That includes employees stealing info or people including partners with privileged access or former employees trying to get into the office to get information from other people. You can bet you'll end up with a slow craptop bogged down by DLP software once they're done making it "secure" but now it's your laptop on the line.

* in the most superficial way possible.

I mean, the reason why people don’t work at banks is because:

- tech is still seen a cost center

- processes for change are onerous

- heavy focus on maintenance

- teams have non-uniform quality

- politics

- ...

None of which can be solved by furniture placement.


It can be turned around. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia was certainly like that initially, but now they're a tech leader within the industry and have a strong tech development focus.

Most Dutch banks are well aware of how important tech is, and the IT departments are run like tech companies. ING in particular tends to be maybe a bit too much on the cutting edge of front-end development. They're all reasonably Agile in my experience.

Although they're also still big, old organisations, subject subject to lots of regulations, and with tons of legacy systems. So they're unavoidably more limited than startups. But within those limitations, they're doing a pretty good job in my experience.


The reason people do work at banks:

- Money (highest you will get outside of FAANG or winning the startop lottery)

- quite an interesting industry.


> Money (highest you will get outside of FAANG or winning the startop lottery)

In some cases finance > FAANG. But you're still treated like a very highly paid janitor.


Being old (nearly 50), I think the relation between front office and IT has changed. Whereas before IT people were looked down upon, the relationship seems to be getting a lot more collegial. Traders realise that without having the best technology, they won't make as much money and are reliant on their technologists for this.

A senior dev in the department I am in now who works on a front end for trading derivatives had the head of trading and other traders come to his leaving drinks. This would be pretty unheard of 50 years ago.


This is correct.

A good IT guy is worth his weight in gold and is revered by the desk. These days if your trading system is down you can do literally nothing. Just sit there and think about the money flowing out of your book...


That might be the case if you're in the front office at trading firms or hedge funds, but it's not generally the case with banks. FAANG pretty much roundly beats any bank these days.

I definitely agree with your first point, but from personal experience the second one is debatable. It certainly depends on the specific activity, and will change with time.

For instance, while quantitative research during the explosion of Black-Scholes-based modeling and complex financial products was intellectually interesting, after the 2008 crisis the focus moved to maintaining existing models (mostly trying not to lose money on legacy products) and implementing various regulations (e.g. central clearing requirements).


Certain regulatory projects can be a lot of fun and interesting. I lead a stress-testing project for a big asset manager (a SIFI) and this was fun because stress tests force you to do 100x what you'd typically do once or twice.

Implementing stress tests drove us to

1. Massively scale infrastructure

2. Create elastic infrastructure to allow spikes

3. Re-do our models away from ad-hoc towards parameter models

4. Invest in more interesting compute models


True, in the last ten years nearly all the big projects have been Reg projects. These are normally never as much fun as revenue generating projects.

However, I still think banking as a whole is more interesting than a lot of others - FMCG, manufacturing etc.


Agreed. Would much rather work in finance than at Heinz as a brand manager for ketchup (if you’re lucky) or even in tech there’s some just insanely boring careers: network engineer, database admin, etc.

I can tell you why I don't - They're incredibly unethical

As opposed to facebook, google, or amazon?

As opposed to many companies that actually provide added values to lives of their customers. It might not look like that, but the world outside Silicon Valley is huge. But of course if you are mainly after money, your options are limited and mostly amoral

There are banks that do provide value to their customers. Not every bank is Goldman Sachs.

No, not as opposed to them.

All banks are unethical?

I find all types of credit cards with reward systems to be unethical. Their whole purpose is to bait people into debt in order to pay interest.

I find the whole concept of credit cards themselves stupid. It's old, insecure tech that really needs to die.

However, that does not make all banks unethical. There are absolutely predatory banks, but there are also banks that exist to provide value to their customers, while taking responsibility for their role in society. Avoid the former and choose the latter.

(It's entirely possible that ethical banks are so because they're forced to by regulations. If you think that's the case, vote for better regulation. Dutch banks seem to be taking these things very seriously, though most of them have also been involved in at least one greed-driven scandal during the past two decades.)


I agree that not all banks are unethical whether by choice or regulation. I was specifically calling out a type of credit card service. Even if the tech behind credit cards changed the predatory services would still exist. Whether you use a card, cellphone or some future tech they embed into your skin to access an account they still exist to get you to pay interest on debt.

If they deal in interest they are worse than slave owners in my eyes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult

Google lets people wear casual clothes, so we need to do that too:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/06/goldman-sac...

Facebook has bean bags, so we need that too. Cool co has cool toy -> we need cool toy.


Laszlo Bock (ex-Google HR Chief) has a whole section on his Work Rukes! book about this. It is always the bean bag, the hipster coffee, the ping pong table.

But are they copying you submit your own promotion case? Can any employee submit questions to the C-suite every week? Can you send a couple hundred dollars to anyone else at any time? Do they have ERGs?... and many more other things.

No, not that. So at the end of the day companies will copy the superficial visual easy stuff, while the things that really make the culture of a modern tech company are ignored, on purpose.

PS: Google is just an example, as some of these practices. Consider the whole before nitpicking one practice you don’t like before replying.


My experience of Google is that people are generally nice, respectful, and smart. I don't see any office politics - at least at my level. These things are a big part of why working here is attractive.

Facebook also has giant open plan offices where to "encourage collaboration and creativity" (at the cost of concentration) - https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/313034

In order to be a devil's advocate: a classic cargo cult is when you make an fake airplane from mud and sticks.

You cannot make a fake bean bag, or a fake dress code, can you?


No, you're missing the point:

If you don't understand what is causal - the original case being that a radio operator uses a radio to talk to someone to get cargo delivered - then there's no amount of mimicry that works. You can make everyone wear US army uniforms, even real ones, and it doesn't cause cargo to arrive.

So long as you are not addressing the actual issue, it won't be addressed. If banks want to hire tech employees they have to pay them, and they have to respect them.

Adding a bunch of toys is neither of these things.


Presumably the analogy is that the dress code and bean bag are the mud and sticks with which the banks are trying to mimic SV tech culture.

After all, the mud and the sticks were not fake, were they?


Good point. Very good point.

But wouldn't "fake it till you make it" have a chance here?


If you "make it", it's not fake. Sure they could pay people what tech firms pay and treat them the same way, but then it wouldn't be fake.

What's fake is trying to get real results without real change.


When cargo cult thinking applies to organizational structure, it's called mimetic isomorphism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimetic_isomorphism. There's nothing inherently fake about that, but contextual factors might make it inappropriate, whether or not the raison d'etre of a particular org structure is understood by the participants.

Art institutions in peripheral cities are often victims of mimetic isomorphism. They try to emulate what institutions in major art centres are doing, but without the supporting thick soup of intellectual and artistic talent.


Wow, danske has no shame to order pieces like this, after their participation in huge coppurtion scandal (see for example https://theshiftnews.com/2018/12/30/danske-bank-named-as-occ... )

Yup, clear case of submarine marketing (classic PG essay http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html)

Just pay higher (statistically significant) take home compensation than tech and see a lot of talent flocking to you. /cynic

Maybe 5-10 years back, when Tech was everyone's darling and Wall St reputation was in tatters after 2008 crash, higher packages alone wouldn't have been sufficient. But tech is sufficiently tarnished now.


HR people make their careers getting paid by people who would do anything to attract workers except for raising salaries or loosening up in any meaningful way.

I have a recruiter friend and we had a good laugh at companies hiring practices the other day when we were discussing contractor vs. permie hiring/compensation etc...

Company: "We need X, we're paying Y"

Friend: "For Y you're really looking more at Z"

Company: "We don't have the budget for Z, we're paying Y. And don't forget, we want the best"

Friend: "The pickings are slim, here is the best I can do"

Company: "These are all garbage"

3 months of mediocre candidates later

Company: "Holy shit we need to fill this role immediately, get a contractor! We'll pay Z*3

Friend: "Look at all these top tier candidates I have"

Role filled within a few days.


A statistically higher salary works well for luring employees, but doesn't help much retaining them.

As soon as that developer is used to his half a million take home, which takes roughly three years, he'll start looking for a new pasture.

So the understanding has formed that in order to retain employees, you must show them that the grass over there is not actually that much greener. That we also have interesting projects (read: internal mobility), career opportunities and the aforementioned bean bag chairs.


> A statistically higher salary works well for luring employees, but doesn't help much retaining them.

This is false. A high salary fixes the loyalty problem. It won't, however, fix the motivation or competence problems.

> As soon as that developer is used to his half a million take home, which takes roughly three years, he'll start looking for a new pasture.

He won't if you're paying above market rates. Especially if that salary comes with strings attached. (Bonuses, stock, etc.)


High salary alone will not create loyalty: there always will be someone who offers more.

The "strings" don't work that well either: deferred comp matching is pretty much standard these days.


> High salary alone will not create loyalty: there always will be someone who offers more.

"High salary" means "above market rate salary", i.e., you're the one who offers more than everyone else.

Yes, it does definitely create loyalty, to pretend otherwise is stupid. There are some things people won't do for money, but it's an awfully small list.


> As soon as that developer is used to his half a million take home, which takes roughly three years*

*Some conditions apply


> /cynic

Or /realist.

This works very well for the tobacco industry.


Its the truth even though most employees wont directly admit it is the $$ that is the key infuencer.

Here's what young talent wants, at least, this is what I want:

- Give me a powerful enough computer that it provides me no hindrance, with a couple of decent sized widescreen monitors so that I can see everything I'm working on at once. The more balls I need in the air at the same time, the more monitor space I need.

- Allow me the latitude to pick my own tools without shoving your security policy down my throat every 10 minutes.

- Give me room to speak my mind freely and consider my opinion with the kind of respect that's worthy of the paycheque you sign me every month.

- Don't mire me down in meetings and process beyond what we need to effectively produce dependable results.

- Provide some occasional time that we can gel as a team.

- Show me where I can get food and tea for a reasonable price. Free tea and milk and a kettle that actually boils water if you really want to impress me.

- Allow me the facility to work from home without complaint if needs dictate.

- Trust me to do the job you pay me a small fortune to do. Treat me with the kind of trust you'd expect to be treated with if you were in my seat.

- Judge me based on my results, don't micromanage me. You're not my Mother, I'm not an infant. You hired me because you believed I can do the job. I can. Get out of my way and let me.

- Recognize everyone's contributions to the team. I don't need awards, but I do want the occasional "Hey, you really showed up for us this week, it was a critical week for our success and we couldn't have got through it without the contribution you made. You really made a difference and helped pull us through it. Thank you."

Realistically, most of my list is about being provided with decent tools, treated with respect and being allowed to do my job without hindrance...and tea.

I don't need gimmicks and bowling alleys, table tennis, sleep pods, etc. I'm happy when I feel like I'm providing a meaningful contribution. I've paid my dues many times over and I continue to pay them every day, but I'm not here to impress you or claw for recognition. I'm here because I can make a real difference. So let me.

Edit: Although, if there were a free gym with decent equipment and showers onsite, I wouldn't knock that. Perhaps spend some of the money from all your other gimmicks to pay for a handful of personal trainers we don't have to pay for and allow us enough time during the day to work out - i.e. lunch break or whatever.


It is pretty funny when you work for a company that pays you enough to put you in the top 10% of earners, yet still treats you the same as the boss you had working for McDonalds.

All your points are basically counterpoints to a low trust environment. Such places usually aren't fixable, and anyone stuck in one should start looking for other opportunities ASAP, even if they've only had the job for less than a year.


This is so on point, I think every manager needs to read this sentence over and over and over again until they really understand how detrimental this one behaviour is to the wellbeing of their team.

If you didn't trust me to do the job you hired me for, why am I here and why do you pay me so much? Why not hire an intern for almost nothing and micromanage them instead because you'd be in the same position and you could give yourself a nice fat bonus with the budget you're saving.


All perfectly reasonable requests (except maybe the security policy one). If you ever move to the banking industry you can expect exactly none.

This is generally why I avoid working in the banking industry. I've been asked to attend a number of interviews in the banking industry which have all resulted in offers that I've turned down for this reason.

Worked at a bank for a year on a greenfield project. They had walls painted in primary colors, an open workspace (for some employees), and typical bullshittery like 8 hour hack-a-thons which output directly into the trash bin. The main issue with working there: it's the Dead Sea. No one is interested in working. They're interested in retaining control of their domain. As a result, nothing gets done. We spent a year integrating with two systems. The data we aggregated was never used.

Infantalizing the workforce has proven to be very effective at pacifying and enabling them to not take their work seriously enough to consider the potential negative consequences for society, the world, and future generations.

I'd like to point out the growing trend of infantalising society in general.

Engineers should be required to take a full-assed ethics course during undergrad.

Banks pretty much are software companies these days. Software isn't a cost centre, it's where the super-secret algorithms do their thing at high speed to get them a market advantage. It's where the ATM network needs to be built, managed and maintained, it's where your app gets built to differentiate you from your competition, where your large-scale account databases need to thrive and grow, where your always-on trading platform brings in business etc etc

In the UK at least, it seems like it's not so much about mimicking tech workspaces as it is dropping the old requirements to wear a suit and be in at 8.30am sharp. My last contract for a bank was quite relaxed, we did some interesting stuff around cloud infrastructure management using (and building) in-house tools, built things with microservices etc etc. It was quite fun and the team were good people.


The banks need to emphasis what I believe they have that is truly superior to startup or smaller tech firms: an established business, stable, predictable hours, reliable pay, excellent benefits, and the security that your job won't be ripped from underneath you.

None of these apply to banking jobs, other than the established business one. At least in the US.

Maybe the problem isn't so much with banks, but with American companies, and the lack of reasonable regulation there.

There are still good ones, you just have to hunt quite a bit more. The current administration certainly won’t be adding any new regulation, although it would be nice if it somehow happened.

My friends that went into investment banking did so because they were going to make shit loads of money without having any technical skills. They put in a few years of hellish hours then move to private equity for even more money at less hours.

The money is the selling point.


... which would still make working at a bank vs. at a large company the option with a

- worse work-life balance

- worse benefits

- worse point on the good-evil scale

If someone from a smaller tech company (which has worse pay or work life balance than a bank) decides to change jobs, they’d almost certainly switch to a bigger tech company first. Banks simply aren’t competing with the kinds of small companies you’re thinking of for talent because they aren’t even in the competition.

They certainly are competing with Google, Facebook, etc, for new grads, but only when they’re able to offer much better pay.


I agree with this. For all of their annoying qualities, my employer 1.) doesn't make us work overtime 2.) the work is stable and it's hard to get fired if you are a full time employee 3.) the benefits are pretty good, especially vacation and child leave.

These are a lot of the reasons I would join a bank. Ping-pong tables just do not factor in these decisions.

Unless you are aiming for the shallowest of the shallow tech guys, superficial stuff won’t help you.


Yes, they'll blow lots of money on renovations while ignoring work-from-home demands of employees. Meanwhile, the folks in charge of dredging their internal systems up from the 90's are working on skeleton crews. It's just mindless corporate trend following.

“Seventy-seven percent of millennials say that the workspace is more important than salary,”

I'm sorry what now? I mean chill out on the dress code and maybe have some snacks, but. Jesus. Work doesn't need to be Disneyland.


The quote is from an executive in Denmark, where wages are on a much narrower distribution compared to America and many services are socialized.

If it's the difference between $90k at a hip tech company or $93k at a stuffy bank, people may choose the tech company. If it's $250k at Amazon or $120k at a startup, they'll probably choose Amazon. But those kind of spreads are less common in Europe.


I think it’s more interesting than that, because unless you do robotics (which requires skills in electrical engineering) then banks are our leading tech companies in Denmark.

The most impactful piece of Danish software in recent years, that I can think of, is an app called MobilePay. It lets you pay for things, send or request money from friends, stuff like that. It’s made by a bank.

I mean, we do have a few unicorn startups, but most software-companies build rather boring stuff with JAVA or C# and sell it to boring companies or the public sector.

Then there’s the benefits, but it’s really hard to compete on that in Denmark, because a lot of them are set by law and you can’t beat the public sector anyway. I work at a muniplacity, at significantly lower pay than I could get in the private sector.

But I get 15 weeks paid maternal leave (as a man), 6 weeks paid vacation, paid sick days, flexible hours, paid leave on the first and second day of a child’s sickness, two-four days of paid leave per child under 11, 15% pension, all sorts of insurances and 25.000dkr a year for additional education.

And when I said significantly more in the private sector, it’s exactly like you say, not an extra $100k a year unless I leave Denmark.

But as far as the premise of the article goes, I’d say that banks are tech companies in 2019.


Yeah, Denmark hasn't done much recently, but if you look at the history of inventions in IT made by Danes, you have a lot of important stuff including:

    - Google Maps
    - Ruby On Rails
    - Skype
    - PHP
    - C++
    - Google V8 (The JS engine behind Chrome)
    - C#
    - Unity

Oh absolutely, and couldn’t you add C# and Unity to that list or am I remembering wrong?

A lot of those things leave Denmark though. We don’t have that many interesting tech houses that actually stick around. I think there is an important distinction between “made by Danes” and “made in Denmark” when we’re talking about companies.


Thanks, I added them!!

Yes, very good point. Most important things made in Denmark or by Danes eventually move out! I wrote about it here too:

https://thenordicweb.com/startup-comic-silicon-valley-vs-den...


I'll make sure to stay away from Denmark.

Playing devils advocate here - why would I really need that?

In the EU you have tap and go for small amounts "buying a coffee, bus ticket" and chip and pin for larger items s using your debit or credit card.

Why not write people a cheque or just use cash - the problems with using internet banking and phones (you have heard of the ss7 problems)

If the Head of the Bank of England doesn't use online banking ill do the same as her.


Checks and cash don't work very well on the internet. Besides, checks are ancient tech; cumbersome, inconvenient, with no discernible upside, so nobody uses them anymore as far as I know. I don't know MobilePay, but in Netherland we have Tikkie (also made by a bank), which makes it really easy to send a payment request in a text/whatsapp message. Then you pay the request through iDeal, which is the standard Dutch internet payment system supported by all banks. Tikkie is used to split bills, pay babysitters, collect money for events or to buy a present for someone together.

Banks absolutely need to be tech companies. If US banks aren't, I suppose that explains why banking in the US is still decades behind in so many aspects. (I've heard some workers in the US still get a check they need to cash to get their salary, bouncing checks is still a thing, and of course there's credit cards, which are woefully insecure, but fill the holes in primitive payment systems.)


This wasn't about CNP / Internet usage - its about replacing cash in physical transactions.

MobilePay is not really about paying in a store. You can do that too, but the real force is that anyone with a cellphone can send and receive money on the spot to other MobilePay users as long as you know their number.

Local football team cannot justify the cost of having a card terminal, but can have a MobilePay phone and get donations and payment for coffee and cake at an event. You don't need cash on hand for paying for something you found through facebook marketplace.

You can use it for keeping your childrens class funds for activities, or a gift account on your workplace.

It's seriously disruptive for the more and more cashless society.


Because cheques and cash are both less convenient. Convenience wins in the end.

Google has a small office in Aarhus. I wonder if that's true of any other tech companies?

> But as far as the premise of the article goes, I’d say that banks are tech companies in 2019.

Tech companies are still tech companies in 2019, it’s just that some (many) countries barely have any. Denmark has Unity BTW.


> But those kind of spreads are less common in Europe.

Having lived and worked in Europe (Germany) for a few years now, I can confirm that this is the biggest lie/propaganda ever. It's particularly bad in the city I live in, where "bErLiN iS a PoOr N cHeAp CiTy So ThE sAlArIeS aReN't HiGh" is a meme disguised as a fact and spread around, especially to non-German newcomers. The massive salary spread is alive and well in Europe, but the people who benefit from it aren't talking about it enough (or at all, due to culture).

"Salaries are low in Europe" or "more fair across jobs" fooled even me when I first arrived, but now I see it for what it is - a salary suppression technique, a very effective one too since it's, by now, basically self-propagating. That "30k average wage before taxes" (that's the German figure, not sure about Denmark but they're all just as low and rigged) actually includes freelancers, part-timers and (I'm sure) even the under/unemployed! But you'll only know that after researching for the fine-print, a lot of times people parrot the "30k average" as a benchmark for full-time employment.

Some true salary figures from people I know in Berlin (I've seen matching payslips, so they're 100% not lying) include 65k for a frontend web dev with 2 years experience, 55k for marketing with 3 years experience, 60k for a junior non-technical PO. Mid-career devs (8-10 years experience) pull in 90k easy, while management/directors in startups get paid 120-200k. Currency is EUR btw, not $.

Yes all these figures, in Berlin, where they tell foreigners on Internet forums "45-60k is a LOT for a dev with 5-10 years experience, because cost of living in Berlin is low (it's not) so come on over and relocate!"

This is not helped by Europeans (particularly Germans and Scandinavians) being very reluctant to talk about salary, they are much more tight-lipped than Americans. So all you're gonna hear is mostly how Karen who moved to Berlin from America for her German boyfriend is making 28k at Zalando with her 3 years of experience. That's really the result of very effective wage-suppression propaganda - not a true reflection of market rates and nowhere near what informed people are getting paid.


I think this reinforces the parent commenter's point. The range of salaries for just new grads in the US is wider than what you've mentioned. In lower CoL areas you occasionally see as little as 30k-40k, although that seems to be pretty rare, while the high end in expensive cities is around 250k or so. In my experience a solid established company will frequently offer around twice as much as a funded startup for the same candidate.

In Norway all income data is publicly available.

We must have very different experience. I've found that people from the US are very reluctant to talk about how much they make; unless they're in the top brackets.

I would also argue that 60k+ is good for a junior position. We might disagree.


> people from the US are very reluctant to talk about how much they make; unless they're in the top brackets

Yep!


Would this be related to the claim that Americans are never poor, just temporarily embarrassed millionaires? Only people at the top would have nothing to be embarrassed about, while everybody else would love to tell you how much they make once their ship has come in.

Hmm I would say that Americans may be wary of revealing their own personal salary, but that there's very open discussion of typical wages for any given kind of position in the US, and it's not considered taboo to complain about being offered a salary below your expectations.

Correction, they are publicly available for locals with (whatever you call a SSN in Norway). A non-Norwegian not living in Norway (for example, a person being offered a job to relocate there) would not be able to access that database.

That's correct, it was recently changed a little. That said, I'm not sure how that would help you anyway, given that you probably wouldn't know anyone to look up?

There are better ways to look these things up, like trade unions. There are plenty of them, and they all publish income data on a regular basis.


How did they gat that past the new privacy regulations

Your contribution to the welfare state (absolutely MASSIVE public sector) is considered public information, to ensure that everyone trusts that everyone contributes equally. Not joking.

But does this outweigh the individuals rights

It's not considered private information, I guess. There's also exceptions to gdpr for laws and regulation, so I assume they're pretty well covered, being /the government/ and all. This data is published by the tax authority.

And it isn't something new, it's been like this since post-WW2.


Just because its been this way since ww2 is not a good argument - this sounds like complacency to me.

> That's really the result of very effective wage-suppression propaganda

Spot on. Companies often pay "marketing/PR" agencies to take all sort of actions to push salaries and expectations down, prevent unionization, suppress rumors about wrongdoing and so on.

Many of those agencies pay freelance private investigators, "media influencers" and even black hats.

The techniques include spreading rumors, writing articles, commenting on forums, creating fake reviews on glassdoors.

Even HR employees use wage-suppression techniques by publishing fake job ads, doing unneded interviews and so on.


I think you've got an excellent point regarding salary suppression propaganda; this is in my opinion quite widespread in Europe. I have seen examples of wage suppression collusion that would result in lawsuits in the US, and the propaganda examples you provide sound very similar to things I hear locally. (Scandinavia).

However, 90k per year for a senior engineer is peanuts compared to the shareholder value a well-placed engineer can generate. I think this is reflected in the compensation of the major tech companies in the US; they can easily be double this amount or more. And you'd be hard-pressed to find those salaries for a non-director employed position in Europe. Some consultants can demand this rate, which interestingly provides a clear image on what a company is willing to pay for the right to fire someone at will.

What we're lacking in Europe, apart from seeing through the propaganda, is enough companies that can properly utilize technology and would benefit from attracting the best engineers. That would lead to better pay.


>What we're lacking in Europe, apart from seeing through the propaganda, is enough companies that can properly utilize technology and would benefit from attracting the best engineers. That would lead to better pay.

Don't forget, however, that cost of living is generally cheaper in much of Europe (maybe not in Switzerland or Scandinavia though), than in the big tech-hub cities in America. Rent is cheaper, food is cheaper (and better quality), healthcare is much cheaper. Also, you can pretty easily get along without a car, which is a huge expense for Americans.


Maybe true for Europe in general, but at least for Norway, this isn't really the case. It's not as crazy expensive here as in the major tech hubs, of course, but you'll still pay at least 300k USD for a completely average dwelling anywhere near what we would call a major city (population 200,000 or more).

I found food to be similar in price or cheaper when I was on holiday in San Francisco. Avoiding the car is doable if you live in one of these city centers, but then the dwelling will be 400k and up. And a car will run you ~7000k USD per year in TCO, unless you drive an old beater. Taxation is around 50% in aggregate, probably slightly higher if you take care and count all the smaller taxes.

Guaranteed healthcare, workers' rights, vacations, parental leave and social safety net in case of disaster are fantastic, though. Although you'd probably get better _treatment_ if you've good good insurance in the US. It's probably a better quality of life if you're in the bottom 60% of earning power.


>Maybe true for Europe in general, but at least for Norway

I specifically mentioned Scandinavia as an exception in my post.

And Norway is even more exceptional, because it's not even in the EU, unlike the other Scandinavian nations.

>It's not as crazy expensive here as in the major tech hubs, of course, but you'll still pay at least 300k USD for a completely average dwelling

That's not far from what you'd pay in one of America's larger tech-hub cities, and far less than you'd pay in Silicon Valley.

I'm not trying to claim that Europe is as cheap as Thailand, I'm just pointing out that America is really expensive to live in these days in the nicer cities. Even in smaller crappy places, the rent has gotten ridiculous in the past decade or two.

But again, for the rest of your stuff, as I said, I specifically called out Scandinavia and Switzerland as exceptional and expensive. From what I saw in Germany, it's really cheap to live there compared to a major tech hub in the US, and the quality of life is much better.


This is very accurate. I think it might be somewhat true for the majority of the workforce though. For specialised roles such as developers, management etc. I think the spread is bigger.

If I were to guess, I would say that the lower bound is higher, giving a skewed distribution with a big bloc of salaries around the same avg. range. Couple this with a reluctance for high earners to speak openly about it and you have the illusion of everybody getting roughly the same.

A very clear sign that wages are kept superficially low, is that as a contractor I can get away with asking 3x what I would as a perm developer. In theory I get less job security this way, but in reality there is so much demand that this is a non-issue.


> ...but in reality there is so much demand that this is a non-issue.

In reality, apart from some niche areas and companies, speaking in broad population terms, it is best under current economic culture and terms to treat every job, even "full-time with benefits" ones, as contract jobs subject to instant termination.

For the broad population, there really isn't much of a job stability ecosystem in the economy any longer. For the tech employment scene in general terms, job hop for the salary gains until you plateau out, work to your best abilities while you seek out and develop your next local maxima and start job hopping again towards that. Most managers, companies, institutions and the general market speak through their actions that they're perfectly fine with this state of affairs, protestations to the contrary. Let the economy speak, listen intently, and follow through the words to their logical conclusion.

I'm not a fan of this, as we're losing significant "complexity cohesion" where we comprehend and reason about complex solutions to solve entire complex problem domains which only come with time and stability as we are still emotional creatures that don't respond well to chronic stress. But scraping away micron-layers of low-hanging fruit will eventually, at some point before the heat death of the Universe, get us to approximately the same place.


>This is not helped by Europeans (particularly Germans and Scandinavians) being very reluctant to talk about salary, they are much more tight-lipped than Americans.

Huh, salary is basically public information in most Scandinavian countries..


I don't find Swedes so reluctant to speak about salaries anymore, I think it has changed the last 10 years or so. Maybe this is just my reflections as a Swede though. I mean, your income tax return is public information so if someone wants to get a good idea on what other people maybe, it is really not that hard to look it up if you really want.

I currently live and work in Germany and I know that here it is much more tight lipped, it might even be a fireable offense for you to talk about your salary, which might explain why people don't really talk about it.


Seeing those numbers honestly reaffirms that wages are lower in Europe. I know a lot of people who out of college are making $100K+ USD working for FAANG.

Perhaps, but they're certainly not as low as a lot of people portray them to be. I know a guy who did mechanical engineering and with just 1 internship experience was offered a job at VW (albeit in Wolfsburg, not Berlin) for 65k a year upon graduation.

50-65k EUR as a starting salary in Berlin with under 2 years experience will make many people's eyeballs pop out and they'll start rambling about how "30k is the average and that's just disgustingly overpaid". Truth is though that it's reasonable to find those (tech or nontech, the trick is to not accept the first shit job, probably from Rocket Internet, that you get offered within 2 weeks of applying) and it's not overvalued - people making 30k are the ones being underpaid.

Also $100k for FAANG in the Silicon Valley is nothing. Assuming single young worker, 60+k EUR in Germany would be very competitive with the 100-150k USD range in the valley because you can rent a NICE studio apartment for 800-1000 EUR, spending 30-40 EUR on a night out is already plenty and in bigger cities like Berlin, you can get away without a car (it's still uncomfortable and inconvenient, but much less so if you're single, and certainly much better than BART and 99% of American cities).

If you're taking 6 figures in a LCOL US city where you're socking away 70% of your income as savings at under age 30, then yes, there's no equivalent to be found in Europe.


It also seems to apply to all types of employees, not tech specifically. The executive is from ISS, which is a services company, not a tech company.

Bingo. You can bet that the Europeans would put more emphasis on salary if the difference between checkout clerk and tech lead was more than 2.5x, and the difference between junior developer and tech lead was more than 2x.

I feel like this is employees saying "make work not so psychologically abusive" and businesses going "ping pong tables, got it..."

The relationship equivalent here is the abuser showing up with gifts after punching you.

Ping pong tables are cheaper

and don't forget the free soda as a "perk".

I wouldn't say exactly that, but I think there is a reason that many tech companies do invest in to office environments. I don't think employees really care about having all kinds of entertainment or "fun" at the office anymore, or ever did, which seems like the the banks in the article don't get (they are about 15 years behind as usual).

I do personally do care lot about the environments where I spend most of my time (my home, office, places I hang out). People are visual and many prefer nice and comforting environments over bad ones.

Imagine being a candidate and interviewing few companies. One company is low ceilings office space style place from the 80s, and other one is nicely designed one and see yourself coming there each work day. Each of them offer you about the same role and compensation, then which one do you choose? Obviously its probably never the main reason but can be a reason to tip someone over.


I was in this exact situation and chose the one that looked like office space. We don't really have a dress code and there's a reasonable selection of snacks. But the other place was all open and glass and they had lunch catered every day. Not that I don't like those things, but I'd say all the amenities in the world aren't worth more than a $5k salary difference to me at the most (excluding the monetary value of the actual lunches in this specific case). My priorities are to 1) like my work 2) like my coworkers 3) make a good salary, and 4) work in a nice place, in that order.

Of course we can't know what exactly the survey in question asked, which is key. If someone offered me a prettier office for a $100 a year pay cut, then, sure.


I find catered lunch a mixed blessing. Plus = free lunch. Minus = spend less time at lunch getting closer to co-workers (drive/line/wait/food/drive-back). Spend more time at office instead out around town.

To put it another way

catered lunch = just another meeting except with food

going out to lunch = break/mini social event with friends


Wow, that's weird. I personally never go out to lunch with coworkers, unless the company is paying (which they do once a quarter or so, for "team building"). My coworkers would want to go to places I don't want to eat, plus I don't want to waste so much time out of my day with them; I'd rather go home earlier.

The problem with catered lunch is that it can frequently be something I don't want to eat, like cheap pizza.

For me, the less time I have to spend at work with my coworkers, the better. I already spend 8 hours/day with them, I don't want to spend more.


Drive? I don't think I've ever driven anywhere for lunch

Well, okay, walk if you live somewhere you can walk. Here in Tokyo I would do that. When I was in SV there was nothing in walking distance.

Yeah. I mean I only go out with friends for lunch on fridays anyway, but the purpose of the free food is definitely to keep you working longer.

Is it though? The way I see it it saves me a lot of time which means I can end my day earlier.

Plus, a socializing lunch break in the middle of a day cuts your space for deep work in half, which means you'll often not get any done in either half. That's why I always brought my own lunch and/or ordered stuff to the office to eat at my desk, and went with people to lunch only every now and then.

How productive is 8 to 13 hours of deep work? Personally I need a break every so often to celebrate the incremental wins, else life becomes one long problem to solve.

8-13 hours of deep work are unsustainable on most jobs. My problem with breaking day in half is that deep work tends to require some runway; 3.5 hours is not much if you account for the time it takes to achieve full concentration.

To me it seems like it is the companies that have "cool" offices with ping pong tables that try to get you to work 13 hours instead of 8

Technically a millennial here: would take a salary cut any day to not work in the average bank or auditing firm.

I worked at a PwC office for a while but couldn't stand it. In this case I ranked the work place as more important than salary.

Of course there's a point where this doesn't hold up. I would not work for free, but the last time I did a round of interviewing and got multiple offers, the top contenders were 100% based on non-salary motivations, such as the team, the atmosphere, work-life balance, free healthy lunch and even natural light.


I'm gen-X, and work freelance for banks mostly. After every project I decide to do something other than a bank this time, and every time I end up at another bank. They pay well and they're not all that bad, really. Not as great as the most fun places I've worked, but not as bad as the worst places I worked.

Before I freelanced, I often had multiple job offers to choose from, and regularly went for the lowest pay because it seemed like the most interesting opportunity. None of those were ever banks though. And my current project at a bank is more interesting than all of those others.

The only real downside is that I don't walk around in flip-flops and shorts in summer. Other than that they're fine.


I understood "workspace" to only mean the physical space, and maybe the superficial amenities like food, games, events. So from your list only atmosphere, free lunch, and natural light.

I interviewed with pwc a while ago, other than the $$$ they were offering, the projects they were working on (this team was working on something i thought was very pedestrian), the location they were in (downtown), 1 1/2 hour commute for 40 miles, and the overly formal nature of the whole enterprise was off putting. I agree, there is no point being miserable at some workplace for a little extra cash.

What does that statement even mean? No one is saying they will work for free. Given two equivalent job offers, however, I would definitely pick the company that has a more casual atmosphere, better management dynamic, no dress code, flexible hours, more vacation time, free meals & snacks etc. over toiling in a toxic workspace a couple thousand more dollars a year.

I interpreted "workspace" as not including things like management dynamic, vacation time, or lack of toxicity

As someone that has worked from home for the last 6 years, it’s all relative. If I can work from home I’ll take a ~20% pay cut. The thought of having to drive into an office everyday is hard for me to even imagine.

> said chief operating officer Troels Bjerg at ISS, a top facility services firm whose customers include most of Europe’s 25 biggest banks. Chief executives see attracting and retaining talent as their No. 1 challenge, according to data from ISS World, a Danish provider of facilities management, security, catering and other support services to companies globally.

The dude is selling his services.


Ummmmm, I'll continue taking the high salary every day. When I go home, where I REALLY live, it will be there that I enjoy myself in comfort and relative luxury.

Right? I am 27 and I would take a bigger salary over a bean bag chair at my desk and free snacks. I got bills to pay and mouths to feed. And honestly I work better in a cubicle with headphones than I do in an open office.

I don't work in Silicon Valley and don't make near the wages. While work amenities are nice, the biggest thing that weighs on me is going "can we afford for my wife to take mat leave and still pay the mortgage". I don't wake up on Sunday mornings in a panic because of the lack of a pinball machine in the office.

Surly upgrading from open office to cubicle falls under "better workspace"

You can't illustrate an article on a "better workspaces" with just cubicle walls!

You've got to be able to take a single photo showing desks with laptops, brightly coloured couches, big windows with no blinds, a kitchen, and exposed duct work or wooden beams, all in the same photo.


Actually, no. Developers these days want open offices, and actually hate cubicles or walled offices. I know people on these forums are usually the opposite (as am I), but most of the younger devs I know actually love open offices and wouldn't have it any other way.

I'll take the basic creature comforts, but just think about how much money all those massage stations and fashion shows cost, and how big of a chunk that must take out of everyone's paycheck.

Not that much, actually. Painting the walls costs the same regardless of the color. And buying one massage chair per department is certainly cheaper than purchasing it on your own.

I'm just on the borderline of "milennial" and I agree, "workplace" is more important than pay.

However, that doesn't mean there aren't minimum requirements for all aspects of a job, including both "workspace" and "pay". It's just that when it comes down to it, I have a harder time finding a great workplace than I do finding great pay.


I mean sure, I would take a small pay cut for a private office, but I'm not sure that's what they thought they were asking.

Indeed. I would easily take at least a $25K pay cut in exchange for a private office where I can actually get work done. Maybe more.

This seems odd, you want to get paid less while producing more?

It’s less stressful to be in an environment where you can actually work vs one where you constantly have to fight distractions. Yes you produce more but it’s also better for mental health so it may be worth being paid less.

In my experience being more effective at my job cultivates leverage to acquire substantially more salary, bonuses, and stock options.

There are a lot of things that are more important than salary.

You hear that, Millenials? Stop asking for more money, it's "workplace culture" that's important.

Is that bad? I've never quit (or chosen) a job because of money. Every time its because a want a better workplace with a better work environment and more interesting work, the fact that I also got more money is just a very nice bonus. (Although admittedly I'm a few years to old to be millennial).

I did once. But it was because I knew I was worth a lot more and got a 40% pay increase by changing companies, proving that I really was worth a lot more.

But my theory is that the new IT boss didn't like that I would say when an idea wasn't a good one, and so he stopped my raises to get rid of me without making it look like he was the reason.

As I left, they opened up job openings for 7 people at what I earned at my new job.

That makes me sound incompetent, but I was the guy that everyone called when there was a problem. Even when I wasn't "on call", I still got called. So I'm reasonably confident that it wasn't a skill or knowledge issue. Plus, I'm still at that new job and making a fair bit more than than when I started.


> Work doesn't need to be Disneyland.

Why not? I spend a lot of time at my workspace, so it's only natural for me to choose a nice one.


“Seventy-seven percent of millennials say that the workspace is more important than salary,”

Probably said by some exec.

As creating that workspace is way way cheaper than actually paying a decent wage


> Seventy-seven percent of millennials say that the workspace is more important than salary

This is border line fake news of bad journalism at its finest.


Right, because the thing keeping people from working at banks is the lack of an open floor plan and foosball table, not the fact that they’re, how do I put this, banks.

I'm currently finishing up a contract at a large chemical company doing the same thing. They have a fancy new office in downtown Chicago that clearly a lot of money went into. They emphasize scrum, being fast moving, and a geeky, innovative culture that supports cutting edge tech.

I say finishing up because for the amount of money they're pouring into the center they aren't seeing what they want, so they downsized the contract I'm on and are severely limiting the funding going to this center. To the point where 2 weeks ago a breakfast and learn had to be cancelled because they couldn't get approval to buy 2 dozen bagels or something similar.

So I would take this with a grain of salt. I imagine most of the bigger companies taking this route will either roll back their spend on this or have the workers pay the piper within a year or three.

Granted, they aren't really scrum or (that) fast moving and there's tons of red tape for obvious security reasons, but it does lend well to work life balance. I might look into a similar role when I start looking again.


Interview with a financial firm and with high probability you will hear “We’re not a financial company, we’re a tech company that does finance”

... unless you're being interviewed for a position in human resources.

They will tell you that all the bank is doing is simply putting right people in right places an managing them wisely.


"We're not X, we're a tech company that does X"is the latest thing that gets right on my tits.

> thing that gets right on my tits.

Is this a real saying? Or a typo?



> Interview with a financial firm and with high probability you will hear “We’re not a financial company, we’re a tech company that does finance”

Well...yes if you're interviewing with Silicon Valley Bank or Monzo. I'd be surprised if this is how Citi or Credit Suisse see themselves :-)


When I was interning at Allstate 5 years ago, they were saying this BS. Meanwhile it took 5 weeks of my 12 week internship to get all the system and software access I needed to get my dev environment set up.

Surprise!

(No seriously).

I was recently in a loop with Goldman Sachs, Citi, cap1 and some others, and they all said this. And granted, some really were.

Some were not.


Shocker, people care about the place where they're expected to spend the majority of almost every day doing mundane work for an awful bureaucratic behemoth. If that's the work you do, for whatever reason, I hope to god you're doing it somewhere that will at least make a shallow attempt to court you. I also hope the work is interesting. If neither of those are true then that ain't a good situation to be in.

On the specific note of ping pong tables: I hate them with a passion.

I hate ping pong, I have no desire to play it, but people get upset when I don't want to play it with them. I'm happy to sit round, drink a couple of beers, and talk shit on my Friday afternoon, but I just really don't want to play ping pong.


This problem is so specific, haha. I'd say 99/100 people could navigate this easily.

Someone decided we needed a pingpong table .. in an open plan office. Imagine trying to work with that noise.

There was a war of words for a few weeks between the pro and anti factions until someone discovered silent pingpong balls!


I'm surprised ping pong tables are a thing in startups. I feel something like a board game or cards would go along better, but someone decided that ping pong was the startup thing

I voted for ping pong in addition to FiFa on the xbox at the office because I think it's nice to have a break where you move around a bit instead of just concentrated moving your thumbs and index fingers.

Anyone know the salary for a Senior SWE at Goldman Sachs SF office?

Download the Blind app and ask there instead of HN. Comp is all that community talks about

I've never heard of GS having a significant software presence in SF. Their technology teams are mostly in NYC/Jersey City. The closest bank I could think of with a decent SF presence is Capital One and their senior SWE positions seem to range from 110-175k a year according to Glassdoor. That'd be roughly in line with many startups, though ofc not competitive with unicorns/FAANG.

Glassdoor salaries are not anywhere near where people are actually compensated - 50% of income in a lot of places is in bonuses and at places I’ve worked Glassdoor has always been extremely low.

Yup, totally valid points. Unfortunately I don't have any better sources of data so Glassdoor's the best I could come up with.

Is this a valid use case for the blockchain? A shared ledger of salary info folks post to that isn’t easy to munge.

May be your comp is just somewhat above the average for your company?

Glassdoor usually completely misses stock grants, bonuses, etc. Base salaries are close.

Anecdotally: Capital One senior associates in New York(senior associate is their internal title, here it means with ~3 years experience) are at ~125-130k. I'd imagine from a cost of living perspective, it'd be about the same in SF.

I left the start up world to join a bank. Best decision I ever made. I feel respected and valued here and I have full control over my time. I also like that my work is seen by millions of people, we get about 30,000 unique hits a day on my site. The startups I was at were lucky to break 1,000.

How about no workspace at all. Can we all drop the collective illusion about cramming into an office together to "brainstorm" or whatever?

Does it have to be all or nothing? I enjoy working remotely but not all the time. I still need some social interaction and like collaborating in person depending on what’s going on.

The best option is to provide flexibility as needed and build up infrastructure around that.


I worked full remote for about 4 years, and I've found it's less efficient and rewarding as part-remote, flexi working. It's nice to avoid rush hour and work from home a day or two a week, but it can also be really useful to discuss more complicated things in person. Often fully remote workers can find themselves becoming seconded-class employees because they get left out of many of the casual office conversations regarding the direction of projects, etc.

> Often fully remote workers can find themselves becoming seconded-class employees because they get left out of many of the casual office conversations

I worked entirely remotely for about a year and I hated it. Maybe it’s not a skill I have, but I definitely felt isolated and like something was lost.

I’ve also read somewhere (sorry don’t remember the specific source) that people who work entirely remotely when others are in an office tend to lose out on things like promotions and end up making less.


Well, if your employees can work from home, they can work from Mumbai. Yes, all the words have been said about how awful reckless outsourcing is, but when the business sees salary expenses cut five times, all guards drop.

Not all of us hate the open office. I actually prefer it IFF appropriate limits are set e.g. no Spotify blaring on a Sonos system, all calls need to be in a room.

And what?



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