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Ask HN: Quitting Big Tech, what is it like?
670 points by throwaway1m on Nov 27, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 400 comments
I've spent the last decade in two FANG companies, and I've got to a high level where my total compensation is ridiculous.

The problem is that it bores me to tears, and I don't want to do it anymore.

At first thought, maybe I am burned out? However, I can still come home and write code for a side-project, so I don't think this is "burn-out". I don't know to be honest. I think the best description is that I am cynical of the "mission", and I can't connect my work to people I care about. How do I know what the source of the problem is?

However, I wanted to pose two questions.

First, what is the environment like for exiting high-level former-FANG employees?

Second, what are some of the surprises post-FANG that I would be in for if I wanted to start a company?

Thank you for your time.

I quit full-time work in 2001, after being burned out in the dot com boom. I did well for myself financially after the startup I was in got bought. The phrase "well" is of course subjective, considering that no colleague of mine quit. I left a whole lot of money on the table, but never once have I regretted it.

I decided that the name of the game is to optimise quality of life. That means, infrequent brutal deadlines, minimal (pref. zero) commute, opportunity to learn, and spend time with family and friends and be of use to society at large.

This meant (1) I'd only do short-term assignments (less than a year) (2) I'll keep my technical chops as current as possible, so no shortage of interesting gigs to work on (3) Not hurry into the next gig when one ended.

I have never learnt the art of work-life balance, but now I'm able to amortise it over the course of a year! Work my ass off when I have a contract, then take off and putter around with different technologies and hobbies. There's lots of time for family and friends. The money is of course considerably less than what I could make, but more money comes at the cost of very high expectations and brutal deadlines. I charge less, and I get more time to do a quality job. Clients remember you for the quality, not for the time taken. Of course, as I get older, I _need_ the extra time too; I just don't have the stamina.

I love it. I am 55 and I code every single day, just for fun.

Your answer is very inspiring and also perfect example for youngsters to understand money and productivity are not the only things that matters in life.

I had a similar junction in my life and I selected money instead of pursuing family and academic life, now I'm starting to think maybe wasn't a good decision. I'm getting older (38)

Do you mind if I ask did you also quit your job to pursue Phd? Nowadays started working on my old projects, ideas and realised this is the only stuff that I'm enjoyed right now!

The grass always seems greener on the other side. Academic careers have their own stresses and challenges with many postdocs and pre-tenure professors working slave hours at just-above-poverty wages for many years.

If you want to do academic research (and teach a lot), you are definitely young enough to get a PhD. But make sure you are switching because academia is what you love doing, not because you hate your current state (success in academia requires a major committment). My 2c.

>The grass always seems greener on the other side.

Everyone should memorize this adage. Sometimes making a change is the right decision of course. But I've also known a lot of people over the years who just got an itch to make a change because of some relatively minor gripes. And things did not work out as hoped.

Academia in particular is easy to idealize based on successful tenured professors at top tier universities who seem to have a pretty good life.

On the other hand...

Most people have a built in bias to stick with what they know rather than trying something new. We probably stay in bad situations much longer than we should. Ymmv

That's totally fair as well. Although things worked out pretty well, I have stayed at long-term jobs for longer than I probably should have.

One key is probably to really ask yourself why you want to make a change (or why you're hanging around if you don't really like the situation). If you have good answers, that's fine. If you don't...

Ultimately you have to make decisions based on incomplete information and with the knowledge that no situation is likely to be perfect.

I don't believe the grass is always greener on the other side. In fact, many people agree with me that the grass on my side is way greener.

It takes effort on my part to control envy from others. I actively suppress it.

Yes, I did. At the age of 42!

Funny you should ask. I posted about my experience in a recent thread a few weeks back.

Search for my user name here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21299546

Yes indeed, I've read with enthusiasm :)

Thanks for sharing, I want to congratulate you and your wife because I assume as we get older big changes like quitting job, moving to another country or even moving to another house is getting harder to decide. But I guess hard choices are mostly fruitful in the long run.

Ha, thanks!

Some choices are hard because of uncertainty and fear of the unknonwn. People live through terrible relationships, suffer terrible commutes, work in soul-sucking places etc and are yet unable to quit because the alterntives are less defined.

While I have enough finances to be comfortable (and reduce uncertainty), I don't know of anyone personally who has made the choices I have, even though many are vastly richer than I. They continue to grumble about expenses and commutes and health issues. Middle class people vastly overestimate how much they really need, and peg their lifestyles to that bar, often at the cost of everything dear.

I have a very simple approach. I ask "What's the worst that can happen? Will this affect me next year?". I find that once I quantify it, most fears just melt away. Say my laptop gets stolen and everything in it is irretrievable. No backup, say. What's the worst? It would be a royal pain to get back my life, but by this time next year, I'd be just fine. Moving to a different country to do a PhD? What's the worst? I'll perform badly and get chucked out, and I will return and get another job. Five years from now it would be a fine story to regale my friends with.

Sorry. I'm getting wordier as I grow older!

I really agree with your comment, but the problem with "What's the worst that can happen?" for a lot of us is that it's so easy to go down a rabbit hole and find a way that your life would end or be ruined, no matter how unlikely it is. When I'm feeling anxious, like if I'm driving, I genuinely believe that I will be hit and killed at any moment, and there's nothing I can do about it.

So the technique I use is I say to myself "It's pretty likely that I'll be 35 years old at some point, regardless of whether I try to get a post-bac or not. It'd be really nice to be a doctor by then". Substitute in whatever long-term goal you have like founding a company or running a marathon.

Nice story! I'd love to try do exactly the same, did you have to move to Cambridge for your CS PhD?

For context, I have a graduate diploma from the Judge business school, but that was a semiresidential program that allowed me to live in my country.

Yes. I moved. I wanted to. There is no substitute to meeting your friends at elevenses (tea at 11 in the morning), pubs etc. Getting the degree is just 10% of the fun.

I read and really liked your story about going to Cambridge when you first posted it. Did you find a PhD helped you find more interesting gigs?

Yes. I worked on the Bloom language at Berkeley. I am teaching now at a Uni. These wouldn't have been possible without a PhD.

> I had a similar junction in my life and I selected money instead of pursuing family and academic life, now I'm starting to think maybe wasn't a good decision. I'm getting older (38)

Wasn't a good decision despite making money or wasn't a good decision because you didn't make enough?

More specifically, I think at the end, money that I got wasn't worth not spent time with family and pursuing different life paths. My friends who were taking it slow has not much of a different life than I do now.

More deep in that topic, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has a good experiment where they research about what life worths living by asking many participants with different incomes. Result was pretty clear that after some amount of money the life standard has a plateau.

At the end I think this can be considered as an engineering optimisation problem of scarce sources which is limited "time", therefore if I had a second chance I would choose balance more then leaning to one side of family, religion, work triangle.

ref : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/66333.A_Life_Worth_Livin...

This book sounds very good. I'll order it.

Have you read the book "Scarcity"? It had a life-altering effect on me. The authors first illustrate the ways in which poor people make terrible economic decisions (spending it all in the first few days of getting a pay check, for example). Then they show how people who are always short of time -- poverty of time -- make similar irrational decisions with their scarce resource, time.

Once you are assured of a certain financial level, one needs to optimise for time.

As someone (32) in an academic 'career', I'm thinking the same ;) Rather, how similar (apart from pay) academia is to high paying jobs in IT.

I guess I just grew out of a phase, into a new one. Which one that is, I do not know yet. But I do know that time is limited, and I'm not going to spend too much on work-for-pay.

It's inspiring reading this. In many ways, I feel I'm on a similar track.

The thing I struggle with the most, though, is keeping up with the trends. I tend to do things the same way I did them years ago -- and while these are battle-tested methods of doing things that I know will work, I'm aware that the industry is evolving and maybe I'm not keeping pace.

The older I get the more I see patterns repeat themselves and I'm less interested in learning about the latest trend. I seem to be more passionate about other activities than I am about tech -- especially when I was in my 20's -- and I am concerned I'll eventually become obsolete.

How do you stay motivated to learn tech?

One is by teaching and giving talks. I too see patterns repeat themselves, so I try to boil the latest trend down to what is genuinely new. Clients are particularly happy to be ELI5'd.

Second, my interest is burrowing down into the underlying mathematics and formalisms. This frees you from having to chase trends at the superficial level (React vs Vue, for example). I went for a PhD in my dotage just to up my game (see my comment history for a recent thread where I described my experience).

Third, I got disillusioned with working for BIG Software and their clients. But smaller companies and organisations and NGOs have got interesting problems to solve, but can't afford talent. Here you get to do build the entire thing on your own, and it is an art to make it simple and aesthetic and a pleasure to use; you get to use lots of relatively new and free technologies, without putting the client's business at risk.

I can relate to this. Given a choice between tech I know works, and tech which is "trendy", I find it hard to take a punt on the new stuff.

I do feel it's OK to require new tech to prove itself though and I am quite happy to keep it at arms length until it's earned its stripes - while recognising it can take years for the hype cycle to play out.

I don't find it hard to find motivation to learn something that has genuinely new concepts to teach me. But I can't motivate myself to keep up with fads, or to learn bad technologies just because all the lemmings are running toward them right now.

You’re describing the reason I wanted to transition into developer management for so long - to be in a position to have the conversations that will prevent the type of environments that create burnout.

So far, it’s working but it’s not as easy at it should be. I do work for a company where I legitimately care about the mission, the company and it’s impact but I get most of my sense of purpose from taking care of my team.

I did that for a couple of years and it didn't work for me. I ended up quitting after a couple of years out of frustration. In part because big decisions were taken unilaterally without consulting other departments outside of management and sales so I couldn't really protect my team.

Your colleagues are lucky to have you.

I'm in somewhat opposite situation. Spent a good chunk of my 20s like that. Keeping my costs low, working more during winters (but still nowhere close to full time), spending most of the summer time riding bicycles and visiting music festivals.

Ended up doing 180 on this due to "adult life" responsibilities but I plan to turn this into 360 sooner or later.

Could I have easier time now if I would have been working more a decade ago? Probably. But if I travelled back in time, I wouldn't change anything for less than guaranteed very cushy fuck-you money.

This is great. As a new (1 year) coder starting out at 39 years old, this sounds very similar to the path I envision for myself. Thanks for the inspiration!

What language/s are you starting out in (if you don't mind answering)?

My path started with my wife coming to me with a unique gold-mine of a video game idea, so I started learning C# and Unity. Quickly realized that I needed and wanted to learn more programming, so started OSSU and did the Python course. Had a kid, then decided to fast track to get a decent paying job, and so switched to ODIN project. Have learned web (HTML/JS/CSS) and am learning Ruby/Rails stuff there. Have done some PHP + API integration work on the side for my local fixed wireless ISP, the owner of which is a good friend and former boss of mine.


I am 32 now. I am inspired to read this. I still need to get over the fact that I am not making anywhere near a FAANG engineer.

I was you, 5 years later I am working at a FAANG making 400k/yr

Mind you I was making only 80k less at my last job, a non-FAANG startup. So not saying FAANG is everything, but the workload is sufficiently less than the mad max startup lifestyle.

EDIT: Just read that you said "80k less", not 80k. Actually, that's okay for me. As long as the work is quite interesting, but I'm not making anywhere near 320k.

Yeah, less workload, better pay, what not to like? I guess I just need to get better now.

What did you do in the 5 intervening years?

Worked for three startups then started my own. I got an offer from a FAANG company that I couldn’t turn down, so I put my company on pause.

Will probably return to my startup after I leave my current gig


In your case your pay increased 5 times too.

Who wouldn't want such a life.

FWIW, they mentioned their previous job’s pay was only 80k less, not absolute.

You're also likely not paying as much for living either.

The difference barely matters for the discrepancy between regular and FAANG salaries.

I live in NYC (cries in the corner)

Thanks for sharing that, good example! I have done well in my career, but for 20+ years working for large companies, I took Mondays off every week and had HR/accounting only pay me 80% of my salary. Later when I was a consultant, I would also take long periods off, like you do. I left money on the table, and I am fine with that.

Me too!!. As I said I was burnt out, but it wasn't an instantaneous quitting. I was offered a promotion to the of an engineering manager, and I counter-offered that I'd take Fridays off with no change in pay. Best goddamn decision ever. Every week followed by a three-day weekend! The downside is that you quickly find out how redundant you are when it comes to meetings and decisions taken! It took a few months to get used to the new reality. I did that for a year before circumstances changed dramatically (friend and mentor passed away in 9/11). But even if that hadn't happened, I was quite frayed by the industry attitude, the sheer pace without any rigor or thought. I mean not just about engineering, but about the kind of systems being developed and their effect on society.

Edit: Hey you are that Mark Watson! Truly love your blog!

Glad you like my blog!

First, thank you for your answer.


> I have never learnt the art of work-life balance, but now I'm able to amortise it over the course of a year!

I took a similar approach and realised that with my attitude towards work I'd need to reduce the contract lengths to a week max, which is obviously impossible, unless I switch careers completely.

What I find really hard is to maintain a work-life balance in my _everyday_ life. I don't mind and occasional crunch—in fact to me it's something equally exciting and addictive. I keep switching between being excited, frustrated or depressed (bored).

It's something I'm trying to work on and recognise some of its triggers, but keep failing, miserably.

This sounds like an emotional or energetic balance problem. Would you care to go into more detail? I have had the problems for a number of years, but the fluctuations (appear to) be decreasing.

Are you a consultant then? What type of projects do you do and how do you find clients? This is something I'd love to do once my current gig is done.

I consult, I teach (distributed systems) at a university, I sit on a few technical advisory boards for a few companies. I don't really go out of my way to find clients; word gets around and I get referrals. If the problem interests me, I'm happy to sit with the potential client and give pointers and advice (for no charge) even if I don't want to take that project (cf. rule 1 -- never pack my calendar). It is a win-win.

I've also gone and worked for a postdoc salary (at Berkeley, on the Bloom language) because the project was so interesting. Once you own a home outright, and health insurance is taken care of, the other expenses are completely manageable. I don't need to earn a lot to lead a rich life.

"Once you own a home outright, and health insurance is taken care of, the other expenses are completely manageable. I don't need to earn a lot to lead a rich life."

That is the checklist of a rich person, own home outright, health insurance taken care of, and manageable other expenses.

If you were the same age, but had no home ownership, no health insurance, and dependants how would that change your perspective?

I aim to earn about 50K a year. That's my treading-water level. Does that sound doable? My wife and I have discovered that it is possible to lead a rich life within that income in the Bay Area -- international travel, more books than we have time for, eating well with friends and so on. Insurance comes out of this amount as well.

A young person with desired skills could easily be making more than twice this amount in the Bay Area. Owning a house is strictly optional (and a bit mad, to own a house in earthquake country, esp at those prices!)

Point is, many people vastly overestimate how much they need to enjoy a rich life. There's plenty of room at the bottom :)

Now, 50K is huge for the vast majority of the population, so this is all still rich talk. But the HN community is probably in the top 2 percentile of the world's population, so I feel little freer in saying so.

You can buy a home for $50k in Pittsburgh, I would argue that doesn’t make you rich. You can keep a very easy job (think Starbucks) and your health insurance is taken care of. If you live a modest life your expenses are manageable.

Maybe your definition of rich is incorrect?

I've worked both in a coffee shop and in a FANGish tech role. The coffee shop was much more brutal and physically demanding with long shifts on my feet and unpredictable scheduling -- I don't think I could keep that up as I age. I'd much rather stay in a tech job if my goal is just to keep health insurance.

Maybe you forget how many hours are in a day? After 40h a week at starbucks you can't consult, teach, sit on multiple boards, and program everyday.

Also, I've worked as a barista. My high paying tech job is waaaay easier.

Tech jobs are the easiest job bar being rich and watching investments make money for you. Crazy that people think being a barista is easier.

It's easier in the sense that more people are able to do it. Not in the sense that doing it incurs less suffering, or in the sense that making yourself do it requires less willpower. The spectrum between easy and difficult is multidimensional.

Sorry, can you clarify how you got your health insurance taken care of? I know a number of people that would retire if they could, but need the health insurance for themselves/family/kids.

Health insurance is the single thing that would sink my finances if I wasn't working. Everything else you can minimize costs on pretty significantly. Health insurance is on the order of $1-2k / month even for the worst plan (family of 5).

I lean right on political issues, but it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if a Democrat won in 2020 and actually pushed through significant healthcare reform.

By taken care of, I meant earn enough to take care of insurance and housing. But there's a lot of wiggle room there. People spend much too much on having a larger space than they can afford, and then it becomes a millstone. For health insurance, I go for high deductibles and copay and take the risk. For vision and dental, I go for health-tourism ... hang out by a beach and get your checkups done as well.

I made exactly the same choice after the dot com boom. I have a wonderful rich life with less money but very high quality of life and more than anything, freewill, compared to peers.

Highly recommended. The most valuable things to me are love first and time second. The benefits of freedom to be good and feel good about what I do are immeasurable.

> That means, infrequent brutal deadlines, minimal (pref. zero) commute, opportunity to learn, and spend time with family and friends and be of use to society at large.

This is what I'm aiming for in the near term, but how on earth do you find a position with infrequent brutal deadlines?

I work for Google and have never had a deadline during my years there. I tend to set up my own goals, sometimes I meet them and other times I don't, but nobody has held me to any dates.

I have had exactly two hard deadlines in the two years I've worked at my current startup. One of those was brutal but the other was very fair.

I don't know if I have a trick for finding a position like this other than to pay close attention to who your manager will be and what _they_ value. My manager believes strongly in the mission of the company (decarbonize the electric grid) but also has young kids that he cares a lot about. He left big tech to work here. So his passion and his work life balance both "trickle down."

If you don't mind me asking, who do you work for?

I sent you an email

I have not found one. That's mostly my fault. I try to jump in whole when I'm getting stuff done.

What I meant to say earlier is that in a consulting lifestyle, one gets to choose how soon to move to the next gig. For me, it is always a few months between gigs, so the average number of deadlines per year is low :)

I enjoy your sentence, "Clients remember you for the quality, not for the time taken."

> I have never learnt the art of work-life balance, but now I'm able to amortise it over the course of a year!

Thats interesting, I will try to follow your experience.

Good story. I'm just considering to change my career to seek a new job for work-life balance.

These kind of posts keep making me think I should go work for a FAANG so I can actually retire one day. Anyways, as someone on the other side, who has never worked for or applied to FAANG, I have a few reactions.

First, your salary is absolutely ridiculous. I know hard working people who have built their own businesses with blood and sweat, and they still don't make as much as a slacker engineer at FAANG. So I'd say try not to take it for granted - you will find it difficult to even make a fraction of your comp if you leave FAANG.

Second, in my experience working with ex-FAANG - these engineers, while they all tend to be very smart, tend to be borderline junior engineers in the real world. They simply don't know how to build or operate something without the luxury of the mature tooling that exists at FAANG. You may be in for a reality shock when you leave the FAANG bubble. On the other hand it could be a great challenge if you're bored, and will broaden your engineering experience greatly.

If I was in your position, I'd look into FIRE and then you can just relax and do whatever you want without worrying about finances.

> mature tooling that exists at FAANG

I never worked at FAANG but even after more than 10 years working in tech, it still surprises me how undervalued well working tooling is. I'm not talking about 100% automation with infinite possibilities. Just really basic stuff, like deployment or setting up a development environment. That should always be a no-brainer.

I used to work at Google, and I find the tooling much better on the outside. Heroku is much better than Google's deployment tool; Github is much better than their review tool.

The only things I miss are the snacks and the searchable codebase

I did a short contract at Amazon (not AWS) and I couldn't get away fast enough. What a rat's nest.

> and the searchable codebase

Do you mean that you'd search Google's entire codebase monorepo for code examples, or that there was a better, searchable code snippet tool internally?

> Do you mean that you'd search Google's entire codebase monorepo for code examples

As another former Googler, yes, searching the entire monorepo was a frequent occurrence. Internal code search is pretty good (it's a search company, after all) but I have to say that I don't miss it so much now that Sourcegraph exists.

Not sure about google, but most of the big tech companies have a code browser website with a search feature that shows the most "relevant" repositories first in the search results. For example, repositories that people in your team or org have recently modified will show up near the top of the results.

And it's totally reasonable that this isn't common place. The team I'm with now has been spending a lot of our spare time at work trying to get a suite of tools built out to make things like logging, message publishing, etc. spun up easily. It is very painful. The simple case is pretty simple, but if you add any complexity to it you're in for a world of pain.

Not sure what stack you're using, but Azure Application Insights is very nice for logging. And they have lots of tools for what you're mentioning (but you have to pay for them). If not, maybe you do have to build them (and it might be monetizable even!)

it doesn't show up on the books. All companies over optimise for things they measure and under optimise for things they don't. Nobody has a reliable measure for development productivity so it oft doesn't receive the love it deserves.

Easier said than done even if you _do_ get the time to invest into it.

We're using Azure at my current workplace, and the amount of legwork you can get done is pretty amazing (as long as you're willing to pay for it). We have an ARM template to set up environments, deployment is painless with Azure DevOps, etc.

Pro tip: Building repeatable and distributable tooling patterns is a great way to break into client sites as a consultant

I've been told more than once that your average Midwestern software engineer blows your average west coast engineer out of the water, but never seen it elaborated on like this. Tooling does make a great difference - I was shocked when I had a coworker actually speak out against automating mundane git commands.

For an average, absolutely. I can hire an engineer where I live for like $85k as an FTE who will develop into an above average one in a couple of years.

The difference is that certain talents and deep specialists only exist in the hubs. It’s similar to medicine where you want to go to NYC or Boston for certain diagnoses.

Upvoting for the boost to my Midwestern ego :)

What's FIRE?

Financial Independence Retire Early

Short version is organising your finances and life in such a way that you can retire as early as possible. Things like maxing out the right kind of investment (not sure in the US but in UK it's things like ISAs), controlling outgoings, being frugal, ...

Financial Independence/Retire Early

The core idea is to define your annual expenditures (let’s say $50k), a long term investment strategy you personally feel comfortable with (say 5% ROI), and from there you can deduce the amount you need to save to be financially independent (in this case, $1M).

>" a long term investment strategy you personally feel comfortable with (say 5% ROI)"

Could you elaborate? Why would you need a level of comfort with an ROI? Or is the thing you need to be comfortable with actual the risk involved in getting that target ROI? Is that what you mean?

Also is the "million" you mention just a hypothetical? Although a million is a lot of money I don't thinks it's enough it's large enough to to qualify as being financially independent no? At least not in the US or EU. You would still need to work full time as it's not enough to retire on.

you sure as hell don't need more if all you want is retire early and live frugally.

if you'Re thinking of a McMansion with several cars which you exchange every so often and constantly buy new gadgets etc then no, its not gonna be enough.

>"you sure as hell don't need more if all you want is retire early and live frugally."

You sure as hell do need more than that if you want to retire in your early 50s and you plan on living another 30 years. At least if you want to live somewhere remotely interesting. $1 million divided by 30 would mean you need to live on 33K a year. Which is about $2,750 a month without accounting for future inflation which would erode this figure substantially over those 30 years. An average inflation rate of 2.50% would be a cumulative inflation of 109.76%. Your $2750 would trend towards half that during that time[1]

[1] https://smartasset.com/investing/inflation-calculator

You invest the $1M, this grows faster than inflation, live off of that.

Please walk me through this with some concrete numbers. How long do you suppose it takes to build up a million through investing your savings? You realize you can lose money in the market as well right? Lastly When you start pulling that money out to live on each year you aren't earning money on this.

Most recommend using 4%, although that's also considered too risky by many. On the flip side 3% is also seen as too conservative. Not being savvy with economics myself, I've personally chosen to use a happy average of 3.5%

What do they tend to recommend in terms of generating passive income? Just investing in index funds and high dividend-yielding stocks (Ford, AT&T)?

Mr Money Mustache [1] advocates just investing in index funds. Others push things like real estate. Really depends on where you interests and talents lie.

A common thread that these people tend to find though is that once you've saved up that much money, what you have actually learned is how to efficiently grow wealth, and I have seen very few examples of people actually just stopping there and coasting. Usually they just keep on trucking, maybe shifting into a different field.

[1] https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/

Financially Independent Retire Early

I feel like I've seen the tooling problem with a couple ex-Googlers, but more and more the FAANGs have started to sell their tooling as cloud products so the difference isn't what it once was.

> these engineers, while they all tend to be very smart, tend to be borderline junior engineers in the real world

Define "real world"?

Small-medium sized businesses without dedicated devops people. I'm working with an ex-Googler who struggles with basic dev stuff like

* How to make a Python environment for a brand new project

* Source control basics like commits and merging

* Reading documentation or using SO

* Basic command-line debugging or even using print() statements!

I've asked a few times: "How did you get anything done before?". And (S)He responds that they never had to worry about this at Google.

[Edit]: I don't think all or even many Googlers are this way. But that this person made $10k/month for a year and a half gives me pause. I don't thing FAANG's are touchy about firing people. At this rate (S)He likely won't make it through our ninety-day review.

> I don't thing FAANG's are touchy about firing people.

Google basically doesn't fire people unless they are grossly incompetent or if you broke some rules. It is very likely it took a year and a half to fire the person and they joined your company thanks to their credentials at Google and not their skills.

Does Google have a time limit for new grads to reach L4? Seems like this person may have hit that wall.

I've heard a similar commentary about Microsoft millionaires founding startups and having absolutely no clue how hard logistics is.

Because if you have a guy showing up on Monday, there's an office already set up and ready for him by close of business the previous Thursday.

I like to solve problems at work with openly available tools. I will often file patches or add comments to tickets or StackOverflow so that when I am at a new place all of that information is still documented somewhere I can get at it.

In house tools are a siren's call. And the fact of the matter is that if you wrote a tool because you had a need for it before anyone else did, that eventually others will want it too, and there will absolutely come a day when their version eclipses yours. You have to have a way to run your systems without tying them that tightly to a specific tool. And you have to accept that the 4 years of utility you got out of that tool was money well spent and you can retire it now with a clean conscience.

hmm I didn't have to do #1 in the list when I was at Google, but I did 2,3,4 pretty much everyday. I guess this really depends on which team your coworker was in.

Wtf ? This is not true. 99% of devs at Google would go above and beyond this.

Yeah, I work at another large tech company and I'm pretty sure all of my coworkers know that stuff or would be able to easily figure it out.

$10k/month gives you pause? that’s intern wages. so that you hired a low skilled person gives you pause? it should.

Outside the tech bubbles, that is an obscene amount of money.

The fact that that amount of money is regarded basically as chump change is something that is very strange to certainly myself and I'd guess most people outside those regions.

We're specifically talking about somebody who came from Google, so whether that's a lot to an average person is irrelevant. Somebody making that at Google would be very inexperienced, and the fact that they left to work for much less at another company probably indicates they were struggling at Google. So this person is by no means an accurate representation of a typical Google SWE.

But the thing that the OP is talking about is specifically that they think it is nuts that said person made that much money, regardless of the fact that relatively speaking that wasn't much money for the company.

How on earth did she pass their interview screen?

But yeah, at Amazon I encountered people who passed their tech screen but spent days trying to figure out basic bash / zsh config problems.

Companies that operate without a firehose of money from advertising or shiny hardware to fund everything.

I came from a series of real world companies struggling to turn a profit to a FAANG, and the difference in, well, everything is pretty vast.

> First, what is the environment like for exiting high-level former-FANG employees?

For most employers, it will be a positive. There may be a handful of very small startups that see it as a negative, but the reality is a very small startup is so different from a giant tech firm that the hiring team is probably correct in assuming you've never had to do something incredibly arduous without enormous support (I once had to spend 6 months reverse engineering a video output because our customer refused to tell us what it was - I ended up finding a clue on a Russian blog and I translated it with Google - this is the sort of shit you will do at an actual hard-tech underfunded startup. And if you care, it turned out to be a proprietary video signal invented in the 80s that had long since been abandoned by almost everyone so I then had to build a fucking circuit to decode it).

> Second, what are some of the surprises post-FANG that I would be in for if I wanted to start a company?

Your reputation will help you with investors, but it will not help you with reality. Starting a company is much harder than you think it is - no matter how hard you think it is; it's harder. That thing I said above about reverse engineering a proprietary video signal because our customer was impossible? That was one of the most enjoyable parts of my job.

If you want to start a company, and you're able to do so (don't put your family savings into jeopardy over this), go for it! Just realize it's not going to be anything like a giant tech firm, where you don't realize they actually do 99% of the job for you. It will be far more rewarding. It will be far more stressful. There is an extraordinarily high chance of failure. You will likely make friends with new peers, and likely ruin some relationships in the process.

The best advice I can give anyone that wants to start a company: ask yourself why do you want to start a company? If the reason is anything other than "there is this huge problem that needs to be solved and I know a way to do it!" then you are chasing a bandwagon of the glory that comes from being a successful technology entrepreneur, and aren't actually building a company with any value behind it.

> Just realize it's not going to be anything like a giant tech firm, where you don't realize they actually do 99% of the job for you.

This. So much this.

All those teams of devops people, the SREs, the QA people, the network engineers and all the other unsung heroes don't exist in a startup yet the people who only ever worked at BigCo assume that they do and so forget about all of the problems involved in building a codebase that can scale in a meaningful way because it's always been someone else's job and they have been focused solely on their KPI or singular deliverable.

All that build infrastructure or coding standards or documentation or monitoring systems that you took for granted at Google or Facebook? None of it exists. Not only that - you won't be rewarded for building it, instead you'll be asked why the next person to come behind you got their work done faster than you did.

I almost got burned by this. The COO of the company basically asked my why I wasn't getting anything done. I had to be direct and say that I'm happy to spend 100% of my time coding new features, but he is going to have to answer the phone when a customer says the site is down, because I will be too busy coding.

I got burned by this. I worked at a Google spinoff as the first non-Google backend engineer. The documentation was atrocious and so was the onboarding process so I took the time to fix the problems for the next new hire.

I was then told the new hire got up to speed faster than I had (no shit) and that this reflected negatively upon me.

at least there is a customer. you need to prioritize in a startup and your COO is telling you that you have the wrong priority. it’s not useful to have a reliable monitored system that no one uses.

I agree with most of this, but services like CircleCI, Rollbar, and (now) Github Actions are just as good as the build infrastructure at many large companies, and they are free at low usage

That may be true, but they don't configure themselves and adapt over time as new demands or bugs arise.

And sure, doing so may be "easy" but it's yet another context to switch in and out of. The difficulty and time required also increases as the scale of the company, codebase, and infra grows.

I used to work for small companies where I was very hands-on with all of that infra/devops sort of stuff in addition to app/systems dev, but now at a not-quite-FAANG-but-you've-heard-of-them company realize how much I don't actually know is going on in our infra because I don't have to. In some ways I appreciate it, in other ways I feel disconnected.

> All that build infrastructure or coding standards or documentation or monitoring systems that you took for granted at Google or Facebook? None of it exists. Not only that - you won't be rewarded for building it, instead you'll be asked why the next person to come behind you got their work done faster than you did.

Not necessarily like that, but yes, almost. For instance, if someone sat down and spent a month writing documentation for shit we might pivot from in two, I must fire myself for having let it happen. Just wasting money and (perhaps more importantly) time.

I've definitely seen what you're saying happen, though. Lots of FAANG engineers not experienced in how things come to be.

- "Why don't we have blue/green deploys?"

- "Great idea. What will it help us with and how can we make it happen?"

That's likely to happen. Someone else speccing out a deploy system for you with canaries or b/g or whatever so you can go write some code isn't going to. You're hopefully independent enough to make the case, build the thing fast enough that it's worth it to the business, and have it running.

It can get a bit cumbersome. Especially for people coming fresh into an agency environment. You are going to have to learn a dozen different build pipelines and tech stacks by the time you are done at the agency. We are absolutely aware of blue green deploys or whatever it may be, in fact client X had it, they are gone now though and our most recent inherited code base uses cloud formation to spin up feature specific environments instead, have fun learning that and then never using it again.

We work hard to normalize tech stacks and deploys as they come in, but it is always a cost/benefit tradeoff and very often "leave it alone" is the clients choice.

Not all of us working at big companies are like that I was actually shocked when I came across that attitude at BT.

I've found FAANG experience typically a negative in hiring. (note: "typically" not "always"). That kind of big company experience doesn't really prepare you for the day-to-day, frantic, resource-starved environment of most startups. The consequence of most decisions is more immediate* -- and can be company-killing. Whereas at any big company there's rarely true pressure (lots of pressure, very much so, but in my gf's experience mostly due to poor planning or politics leading to "must have immediately"). I think this is why ex-FAANG folks, in particular ex-googlers for some reason, are caught out as startup CEOs and almost always (or always?) fail -- the things they've learned just don't apply. Doesn't mean they aren't smart, thoughtful, hard working etc; it's more like having to write poetry in a related but different language from the one you grew up in, and one you have never actually spoken.

Someone who's left a big company and successfully gone to some other small company can be great -- let them make their mistakes and screen themselves out on someone else's dime. Or someone who worked already at a startup, went (perhaps through purchase) to a big company and wanted back into the fray.

* I'm a startup only guy and my gf has worked at most of the big guys (FB, Goog, msft, LinkedIn, Amazon). I would hate the idea of working for any of those companies and she would not really be comfortable with the uncertainty I face all the time, even when the startup is well funded. Neither of us is wrong.

Very few startups have failed because the coders couldn't solve a algorithms problem in 45 minutes. A lot of startups have failed because the coders built something that didn't have a large market, or didn't compete well with existing competition.

The big O of a function matters when you have 100 million users, not so much when you are struggling to get 1 user.

My personal observations tell me that what happens with a lot of ex-googlites specifically is that they go to or found a startup and say something along the lines of “well, first I need to rebuild both on and the other google infra, and then I can finally start working on my business...”

It’s just the wrong mindset.

> I'm a startup only guy and my gf has worked at most of the big guys (FB, Goog, msft, LinkedIn, Amazon). I would hate the idea of working for any of those companies and she would not really be comfortable with the uncertainty I face all the time, even when the startup is well funded. Neither of us is wrong.

I've done all of the above. I started at large companies (Sun, Raytheon), spent 15 years at early, mid, and late stage startups, ended back at a big company by acquisition, and am now at one of the mentioned "big guys."

Each environment had it's own advantages and disadvantages, each of which was weighted differently depending on where I was in my own life's journey. As I look back from the perspective of 20+ years (still a long ways to go!), each of those environments taught me invaluable lessons. Obviously the pay is fantastic, but that'll be less important once the kiddo is out of college and a big dent has been made in the mortgage and I'm less worried about my company running out of cash at the end of the month!

Try being in charge of a telcom billing system run for pressure :-) its day 22 in the month and it still not done, this was some POS we inherited from Dialcom

But I do know some one who single handled rescued a big snafu on a quarterly run for British telecom, your talking about hundreds on millions

FAANG is about the worst preparation possible for starting a company. The skillsets are completely different, and in many ways diametrically opposed.

I'd suggest working for an early-stage startup before starting your own (e.g., 5-10 people). Or step down gradually. Work at a company with 50-100 people, then 5-10. Companies and roles are very different at different orders of magnitude.

I don't know. I moved from AWS to a <10 person startup and it has a very similar feel.

> (I once had to spend 6 months reverse engineering a video output because our customer refused to tell us what it was [...] so I then had to build a fucking circuit to decode it).

This sounds like fun, tbh. Maybe I just have a weird sense of fun.

> it's not going to be anything like a giant tech firm, where you don't realize they actually do 99% of the job for you

100% true. I've gained a huge appreciation of all of the things that a company does for its employees that they don't even realise is happening.

It'd be fun as a side project - with tough deadlines in a start-up and having to continually explain why it's still not finished this sprint... not so much.

> I once had to spend 6 months reverse engineering a video output [...] this is the sort of shit you will do at an actual hard-tech startup

I don't know about hard-tech, but it seems to me that most startups can't afford to have a person work on one project for 6 months.

It depends on how important the project is, obviously.

Not all start-ups are simple crud web apps

Some of them are complicated crud web apps.

I did sort of the reverse. I went from a very small firm in a somewhat related field to a larger (but not huge at the time) company. On the one hand, there's so much "machinery" in place to help you. On the other, it's big--and things like communication take a lot of repetitive work.

> The best advice I can give anyone that wants to start a company: ask yourself why do you want to start a company? If the reason is anything other than "there is this huge problem that needs to be solved and I know a way to do it!" then you are chasing a bandwagon of the glory that comes from being a successful technology entrepreneur, and aren't actually building a company with any value behind it.

Couldn't agree more.

" Starting a company is much harder than you think it is - no matter how hard you think it is; it's harder." This is very true, I wish there was an easier way to start.

Loved that story about the video decoder. Simply brilliant :) All the best!

I left Apple to join a startup that was then acquired by Facebook. I recently left after five years there to start another company. It takes a few months to get back out of the mind-set of consensus building, socializing ideas to avoid surprising anyone, and getting sign-off at every step. All of that is necessary to keep organization thousands and projects with hundreds of people on them operating smoothly.

When you’re off on your own, have to remember that you yourself are usually the main bottleneck. You have to figure out how to unblock yourself and context switch efficiently as you take on every facet of the thing you’re building, especially as it escapes purely technical work.

FANG companies do a great job of coddling you because it’s effective all around. You have to find your own lightweight substitutes for all of that.

> How do I know what the source of the problem is?

You don’t like working for FANG. That seems like a totally normal sane response to me. I’d be more concerned about the people who love that corporate environment rather than those it doesn’t give meaning to. Some people like the security and routine and structure (understandable), some people like the politics (weird), but I don’t think you need to overthink this. There’s nothing wrong with you.

I think in life we need a combination of meaning and joy to be reasonably satisfied. Joy mostly comes from relationships, meaning from work and other responsibilities eg being a parent, helping other people.

Working for a big corporation puts food on the table, but it’s hard to see any meaning there. Actually, I can imagine working at old Apple or SpaceX could give you meaning. But most corporates are not driven by meaning, but by profit, which can be completely meaningless - travelling in a hundred different directions, for example. And these giants can also disconnect you from the world, like what is the impact of me writing this test suite for FANG’s internal HR system, why do I even care.

Startups provide more meaning (ok, some startups) but it’s a totally different game and I’m not sure most people are suited to them. All the good startup people I know are outliers - surprisingly they are not motivated by cash; they are prepared or enjoy to work really hard; they have diverse skill sets rather than being the best coders; they are not just fine with risk, they like it because it’s a bit of gambling and they need that.

There are many other options to consider. What if you worked in tech for a non tech company? Your skills then have a massive impact. What about an organisation like the Khan Academy rather than a business? What if you made tech your hobby not your career? Teaching, training, consulting? Working only part of the year and spending the rest volunteering in developing nations (met people who do that)?

As others have pointed out, take a break, get out of your environment, you need to see the bigger picture and remember what your really enjoy. Travel and spend time with people you love.

> You don’t like working for FANG. That seems like a totally normal sane response to me. I’d be more concerned about the people who love that corporate environment rather than those it doesn’t give meaning to.

There are lots of people at Amazon, Google, and I'm sure Facebook that find meaning in their job. Improving search actually does help people, billions of them. Improving the web stack (Chromium) also helps billions of people. I'm guessing the people at Oculus (Facebook) believe they are helping to invent the future. Pocket computers used to = newton/palm/ce, VR is at that first level but many believe it will advance to iPhone level (more ubiquitous)a at some point. I know people working on robotics at Amazon who love it.

Except that working on stuff for FAANG doesn't necessarily make things better and instead just helps with monetization and/or lock-in.

Is it really an improvement to cover more of the search results page in ads, centralize ever more functionality on that page which pushes out smaller/independent competitors, track users more comprehensively and optimize mobile loading times by creating a corporate-controlled, Google-hosted format that companies are coerced into instead of doing the same thing with standards-based, distributed technologies?

Is it really an improvement to the "web stack" if Chromium kills diversity in the browser engine space, blurs the lines between client software and Google account, then proceeds to limit ad-blockers' capabilities via extension API changes? While at the same time Google web sites happily go about cross-advertising for more monoculture and deliberately not supporting Firefox even where it provides all required functionality.

(Similar examples exist for other market-dominating companies and products.)

One man's improvement is another one's trading the long-term health of tech and business ecosystems for short-term convenience and stock market returns. It's tempting to believe in the usefulness of one's work is when the massive scale and complexity of FAANG companies make it so easy to miss the forest for the trees.

Yeah, I think you’re right in that I’ve come across as _too_ dismissive.

I’m sure many people do find meaning at Amazon etc on specific projects, I just think it’s extremely unlikely that _most_ of their employees will; in large corporations there are few cutting edge robotics jobs etc and lots of jobs that don’t really have a purpose outside of serving the corporation. I guess I’m talking about the majority.

I think the distinction is that FAANG companies are so large, all of these experiences could happen to different people:

    - Works on core or important projects that are released regularly (yay)
    - Works on important or cool projects that get canned before being release, or cancelled shortly after (fun for some, deeply frustrating and demoralizing for others)
    - Same as #2, but the person see's it coming a year ahead of time (my scenario in non-FAANG. Impossible to stay motivated)

Unless you can get back towards #1, the work will be deeply dissatisfying for most. Though some people don't care all that much, and as long as they like the team or their work life balance, are perfectly happy. That's fine too. But I think hn attracts a lot of start-up crowd, and most of us identify strongly with position #2 / #3 being deeply dissatisfying. So it colors our vision quite a bit.

You are touching on something called the "4 pillars of happiness":

1) Having a purpose and meaning

2) Feeling as though you are in control

3) Feeling as though you are making progress

4) Being connected to other like-minded people

If you Google it you'll see similar ways of describing the same concept. I've personally used it as a framework in my professional career to help me understand why I'm unhappy. You can then use that information to identify opportunities to improve happiness or as a realization that a pillar won't improve. What you do from there is up to you. I personally strive for 4 out of 4, I can survive (sometimes) with 3 out of 4, anything less and it's time for a change.

That’s great, thanks!

Made me think a lot about number 4 - don’t have enough in my life. Something to work on.

This response resonates a lot with me. To give one perspective on working in non-tech: I'm pretty much the only tech person in my organization surrounded by economists and agronomists. I love it, it gives me a lot of autonomy and potential for impact. It's also really fun to mix different disciplines and learn how everyone else approaches things. It's an NGO so definitely not FAANG-level compensation but the work feels meaningful which I think makes up for that. Can't really compare to FAANG though, never worked there.

I burnt out decades ago. Unfortunately, I kept coming back to tech when I could half-stomach it again and desperately needed money instead of doing what I really knew I should have done, which was to make a career change to something drastically different. This is one of my greatest regrets in life.

Now I'm old, my skills are out of date because I really don't give a crap enough about tech to learn the latest buzzword technology out there, and that and the gaps in my employment during my severe burnouts make for a CV full of red flags, which means that even in this nearly ideal seller's market for people with tech skills nobody wants to hire me. I don't blame them. I wouldn't want to hire me either.

So if like me you're burnt out and feel you're really no longer suited to the tech field, it might be better for you to permanently get out sooner rather than later. Consider doing whatever it takes to make a career change to something drastically different, even if it's risky and maybe you don't know exactly what you'd rather do. Taking such a risk will be a lot easier when you're younger.

Welp, I changed careers drastically, just to find out that the major problem I have is... myself. Paradoxically, I've found out that the other half of the problem is seeing myself as a problem. So now I'm kinda stuck in this loop.

That's a shame, what would you have done instead?

Also, at what age cut-off would you consider it being easier than being labelled "old" ?

"what would you have done instead?"

Maybe teach or try to make it as an artist... or try to get in to making movies. I have so many other interests apart from computers. Trying to pursue any of them professionally might have lead to something, and, honestly, maybe I would have burnt out on whatever it was or just failed, but at least I wouldn't have kept banging my head against something I hate and dread over and over and over again.

"Also, at what age cut-off would you consider it being easier than being labelled "old" ?"

I'm not exactly sure I understand what you're asking there. Could you rephrase your question?

Certainly. You said you would have made the change earlier but now consider yourself to be "old" (and therefore your skills are out of date). At what age would you have not considered yourself "old" and likely a more suitable candidate for jobs?

I know that the "buzzword bingo" of tech doesn't help. What languages did you write in?

I play a few instruments and it is enjoyable but I am not sure I would have "succeeded" as an artist, simply because it is another industry set up to sell things just like the software industry (particularly "rent-a-software" that seems to be taking hold) and disillusionment would have set in (unrealistic expectations?). I suspect I would have ran out of creativity or ideas, and I wonder if the same would have happened to you?

It's a shame about you hating it and dreading programming. I don't like some of the stuff I have to write but at least it is writing software - I try to keep in mind that's it's still "better" than other jobs I would have gone insane in (eg. basic administrative jobs).

"Certainly. You said you would have made the change earlier but now consider yourself to be "old" (and therefore your skills are out of date). At what age would you have not considered yourself "old" and likely a more suitable candidate for jobs?"

Well, being more suitable for jobs is less a matter of being young than of having the right skills and a good CV. The reason I brought up being old is because I think it's harder to make a career switch when you're older than when you're younger.

"What languages did you write in?"

I'm actually going to refrain from giving any more details about exactly what I did. Suffice to say the tech I knew at my peak is, mostly, no longer in fashion and that I knew a variety of languages.

"I suspect I would have ran out of creativity or ideas, and I wonder if the same would have happened to you?"

That's certainly possible, but there are ways to keep oneself fresh.. like surrounding oneself with other creative people, who can be really inspiring, or to work on many different projects at the same time, so it's more difficult to get bored than working on the same thing over and over again. I do share your concern, however, particularly in the long term, but now, looking back on my life I wish I'd just tried more things career wise, and taken more risks... even if they didn't work out in the end, they would have provided lots of opportunities to completely change my life, learn new things, and meet interesting people.

"It's a shame about you hating it and dreading programming. I don't like some of the stuff I have to write but at least it is writing software - I try to keep in mind that's it's still "better" than other jobs I would have gone insane in (eg. basic administrative jobs)."

Yes, there are plenty of worse jobs. I dread those too.

I realize this may come off poorly, but I intend this as a serious question: What is stopping you from trying a career switch now?

I get we all need to pay the bills, but hear me out: could you explore alternative options slowly?

One piece of insight I received from my advisor: “How do you know someone really wanted something. They DID it.”

If you are serious about wanting to try something else, start doing it. See if it is something you get excited about. Maybe you can’t do it full time right away, but you can do something toward that goal now, regardless of your age.

My 2 cents...

We all need to pay the bills, as you noted.

It's difficult to hold down a job and re-skill yourself at the same time. It's more difficult as one gets older. It's even more difficult if you're burnt out.

Once you get done with re-skilling, the question still remains: how are you going to get someone to hire you?

To answer/comment in reverse: “How are you going to get someone to hire you?”

For this question, I fall back in a fundamental belief system I have: value for value. Everyone looks for value when they make a major purchase. You expect to get more “value” then it “costs” you when you buy something. Same is true with employment.

The easiest way to guarantee employment (in my experience) is to ensure the value you provide greatly exceeds your total cost. I am talking ideally a 5-10X multiplier (minimally).

For your cost, keep in mind this is your total cost, and I am not just talking about your “fully burdened rate”, I am also talking about the “Emotional/drama/personality” you bring. If you are a model worker, and the person everyone likes, then you have positive karma, if you are someone that makes things harder, that is an additional “cost”.

For the value, be very honest with yourself. What do you bring from a technical/personality point of view. Are you really a 10X programmer, or if switching fields, how good will you really be on day one, 10, 100.

As long as you can give a positive ratio, with a high multiple, I suspect finding a job won’t be hard.

Okay, to your main point: Finding time/motivation when none is there.

I personally have been through burnout. It sucks. The only surefire way I have found to get through it is time and finding meaning in the day to day.

But to the finding the time: the simple answer is if this is really important to you, then you make the time, every day. You don’t have to spend a ton of time, but even just 30mins a day can get you somewhere if you are diligent. It just comes down to how disciplined you can be with yourself. It sounds easy, but I know from experience that it is usually the “easy” things that are the hardest to really do.

Hopefully this helps...

> or try to get in to making movies

I'm seriously interested in this. However, I don't see how I can make a living from making movies. What approach or avenues would you have taken for this endeavor?

I’ve worked in both big tech and startups. Startups are nothing like big tech companies. The work and needs of a small company are completely different than somewhere like Google.

And here’s the bad news: going to a small startup or mission-driven company probably won’t make you happy. You often have all of the same problems, with none of the support or validation from a big company.

I’ve hired and worked with many who were in your exact same position. Almost all of them quit after a year or less and went back to big tech.

In my eyes, hiring someone from big tech is risky for this exact reason. It rarely works out, and the guys I’ve worked with end up getting sour when they realize they traded a job with high salary, security and perks for what amounts to at the end of the day another job with lower salary, few perks and no security because they got restless or bored.

I don't think the only two options are big tech and chaotic startup. There are non-tech places that just want someone to add some tech to their business, for example.

There's also big consultancy, which allows you to see all kinds of companies, work on different types of projects and still have a bit of consistency at your firm. It's not for everyone, but if you value some consistency, decent pay and working for different types of projects and companies, it's definitely worth checking it out.

It's not the type of job to find a 'mission' though, usually.

If by "big consultancy" you mean working for one of the big 4 consulting firms this seems to me to be the worst possible combination for OP. I've worked with a ton of these types and my impression of them only seems to decline with each interaction. The "expertise" of big four consultants that I've met is largely around sounding good rather than honestly understanding technical solutions. The are optimized for delivering solutions rather than solving problems. So the work is going to be far more tedious and empty that working in big tech. The pay is also pretty bad for something that is supposed to be "high paying". I very valuable role at a startup or small company can easily get you more money with a lot more fun.

I've seen consulting being suggested freq as a viable gig to support yourself when you run out of money to pay the bills. How does this work? Register on Upwork or fiverr? What if your capabilities as a consultant are inadequate? What if you struggle more than you actually did at a full time job? How do you position yourself for the gig?

Whatever you do, don't go onto those horrible, horrible websites unless you want to be banging out WordPress templates at $50 a pop.

There's freelancing and consulting. Freelancing is just you, by yourself, finding gigs, selling yourself, doing the work, invoicing clients etc. I guess freelancing is technically consulting.

Then there's contracting, where you go and find a contract job which is advertised for X months and $Z by an employer or 3rd party and you work that. That's what I'm doing now and it's pretty good money.

A consulting job (in my mind) is where you get a job at a firm which does all the client engagment, marketing, invoicing etc, and you just do the work. You could work at a consulting firm as a full time employee or a contractor, since their need for staff fluctuates.

If you have the skills and need some short term work, look out for short term contracting gigs being offered by consulting firms - they pay pretty well and they're on the market because there's a pertinent need to get a bum between a seat and a keyboard as soon as possible. For example - my current job is as a contractor working for a consulting firm which is engaged with a government agency. The firm promised the agency a warm body for X months, but for strategic reasons the firm wants to move that person elsewhere. That's where I come in. They hire me for three months so they can reallocate their employee while keeping their existing obligations. In circumstances like that, price isn't the main issue.

There are a few variants of this. Most classic is to work for an actual consultancy (Accenture, ThoughtWorks et al.). That's a normal job, where you have a normal salary with the benefits etc. They will handle the sales process, and depending on the company and project you might be working with colleagues from the consultancy or you might be working as a lone contractor at the client.

The other is to be a freelancer. Then you are dependent on contracts, and you lack a lot of benefits (no guaranteed salary, no extra benefits). On the other hand, you should make a lot more money. As a freelancer, you can either work with a firm that handles the sales and account management for you, or you can try to find clients on your own. The first one has the benefit that you work with (hopefully) experienced sales people that can do the sales and contract work for you, but they can take anywhere between 10% to 30% of your rate as a commission.

Doing sales yourself is the most flexible and you likely earn the most, but I would not recommend doing it unless you have a solid contact network already. Sales is often a difficult and tedious work, and that's not always fully understood or appreciated by consultants.

I have not worked with Fiverr or Upwork, but I don't see them as a serious alternative. Too short contracts that are not paid nearly well enough. They might be nice for students that want to make a bit of extra income though.

Source: I've been a consultant and a freelancer for nearly a decade

>I've seen consulting being suggested freq as a viable gig to support yourself when you run out of money to pay the bills. How does this work?

I think people conflate consulting, freelancing and contracting. In the context of "quitting your job" to go "work on your own", we can treat them as the same thing.

This is what I do, so it's merely anecdotal: there are many companies out there that cannot afford and/or do not have the need for a full-time, technology-savvy employee (data scientist, programmer). But they do have a need for tech solutions. I've had luck in finding small businesses that have $25k-$50k annual budgets for technology solutions; reporting, automation, small mobile apps, process streamlining. 4 or 5 of those in rotation, in a low cost of living part of the country (where skills are less abundant) and you're doing alright. The fact that you're equivalent to, essentially, a sub-$50k salaried person means timelines and expectations are utterly reasonable. After all, it's nigh impossible for these companies to find a substitute. Other bonuses include being able to define your workload and schedule, as well as seek out interesting work.

Is this consulting, contracting, or freelancing? I don't know, probably a bit of all 3.

I wrote 'big consulting', because there are many large consultancy firms that would be happy to hire anyone with FAANG experience. Capgemini, Accenture, Deloitte, PWC, etc. Many of them work with companies that are being disrupted and are trying to stay relevant. This creates interesting opportunities.

From what I hear from someone who works at a big 4 it sounds soul destroying.

I work currently at one of the firms in my comment and it's not bad at all. Currently working on a really fun project too. It really depends on the firm and even the team within the firm.

I think the parent suggested joining a consultancy company. The work I did for one was regular coding work, just with projects changing faster. It was nice having new colleagues frequently when switching clients. Salary was lower than product companies in the area paid.

I joined it as my first job after graduating. I was expert in nothing but was billed as one straight from day 3. Excellent way to learn as a motivated junior, assuming the company cares and places you among seniors who know what they are doing. For senior people independent freelancing is way better deal monetarily.

Fiverr and Upwork are for inexperienced people with no network and no deep skills. I am sure there are people who are good who are on both but that's not who they are for.

Most of the time, you make money consulting to people you worked with, directly or indirectly, previously. To make consulting work, you need to offer a specific, deep skill that is not widely available. This can include specific systems or toole, specific markets, specific deployments, and so on. This is specifically why Upwork and Fiverr don't make any sense - no one who hires someone to do consulting is going to look on either for highly skilled hires and likely wouldn't take seriously anyone who was on them.

Unfortunately, this does mean that doing consulting prior to getting career experience and building out your network is quite difficult and has a very different earnings profile than it would otherwise.

Being close to the customer helps in finding these gigs, especially vendor-side.

big consultancy sounds like BCG/Bain/McKinsey/etc to me, not freelance - aka you have a brand and other people driving the business engine and handling logistics like taxes for you

Outside government and government contractors, being a part of a cost center is not the path to a happy life.

True but get ready for taking ages to get changes done

Consider avoiding sample bias (or any unconscious bias) that might shape your further hiring decisions. Also --even if they only lasted a year-- if they gave their A game, they may have made impactful contributions to the startup.

So this is something a lot of us have struggled with and I think it happens when your goals aren't aligned with your work.

So what are your goals right now out of work? What is your workview and your lifeview. Find the intersection between those to get a good idea of what you want to accomplish in your life.

After coming up with those, try and tabulate the things you do at work where you have the most energy and the stuff you do at work that engages you the most. Hopefully, there are things in that list that give you some energy or engagement. If there is, do more of that and tell your manager to help you move towards doing more of that work. If there isn't, ask yourself what you want to learn. If you can't learn that on your current team, switch to a position/team where you can learn that. If your company can't provide you with those opportunities, then it might be time to find something new.

Startups are super rewarding but there are many unknowns and you have to do a lot of vetting to find the right ones. Even then, you could be wrong. If your goal is to start a company, then it might be the right route to go.

TLDR: Try and understand your goals in life and what you enjoy doing day to day before jumping ship to a startup. Your safety net will allow you to do that :)

I don't know why your comment is being downvoted. This is the usually the root of work frustrations I have seen people have (including in startups).

If your goal is to achieve public acclaim And recognition, you will do things differently vs. say a goal of work on intellectually stimulating things vs. say controlling the decisions in a company. I have a colleague who once got a kick out being the one to sign the cheques of major celebrities who endorse our brands and you'll have a different kind of career path if that's your goal vs. say the kicks a financial trader gets.

Problems usually happen with job satisfaction when either goals aren't clear or you're optimizing towards conflicting goals.

Boredom was the biggest thing for me at my startup. When waiting around for the business guys to make the right partnership for 3 months while you refactor for a demo for the nth time....

That doesn't sound like a typical startup experience though. Typically it's the opposite: too many things to do and the deadlines are always too short.

This also sounds suspiciously similar to big tech...

This sounds suspiciously like all business everywhere.

Yup, and I WANTED the typical startup experience when I joined, so I left once I could see there wasn't much traction, plus a few more red flags.

I’ve lived this a couple times. I hate to be pessimistic, but it’s a really bad sign. The startups I’ve done that were successful were always running just at the edge of total meltdown because the business guys were hustling hard.

Heh, that's the diff between early stage and growth stage. Some people like going 0-1, others like riding what others have built.

Found as a solo! You are the business guy making partnerships, so if you have nothing to code it is no ones fault but your own!

Small companies more easily provide perks such as part/flex-time and remote work.

Totally disagree as someone who has done both a few times: Try working remotely or from home with a small company or startup. In those environments you typically wear more than one hat and it requires face time. You'll also often work longer hours which throws any chance at a work/life balance out the window.

Have to agree, and the stakes are higher. My recent experience was with a bunch of ex-corporate types that had worked together for quite a while then spawned a new startup, but obviously had lost the passion for work, so new hires were bought on to revitalize the small team (and do the lions share of the work).

The only thing I'd say that counts is get any promises/sweeteners said in the hiring phase in writing. Every C-level I've met to date has promised great things, and been a stingy, greedy bastard at the end of the day.

I'm sure that's common, but by no means universal. I work at a 5 person startup, and do wear a lot of hats, but remote is flexible (2 or more days a week) and I maintain reasonable work hours. Just saying it does exist.

One reason I think it works is all of us are very autonomous in day to day tasks, and only meet occasionally to verify priority and align expectations.

Just as a counterbalance, my experience is the exact opposite. No client yet succeeded at making me work more than 20 hours a week (and even that I agreed to after heavy negotiation).

In a similar situation, I decided to take a leave of absence with no plan for what I was going to do. Since I wasn't sure I'd go back, I made sure other people on the team were prepared.

Then serious family stuff happened and I was happy to have the time to deal with it. After the leave of absence was up, I still wasn't sure and asked about extending, but they didn't go for that so I left the company.

Since then I've learned to play the accordion and now I'm tinkering with electronics to come up with a new musical instrument. No real desire to get a job. After a while I decided I'm fine with simply being retired.

So I'd say try the leave of absence?

How do you support yourself? Do you have a family to support?

After a decade in FANG and living a not extravagant lifestyle, you could easily have a couple million socked away.

That at least gives you breathing room to do whatever for a few years.

For a few years? What kind of lifestyle do you have that a few millions only last a few years? I really doubt with that math you would have been able to save a few millions in the first place, unless you won a lottery.

Typical cash plus equity for an experienced engineer is going to top $300k/yr at the low end. Millions might be an exaggeration, but it's certainly trivial to save well north of $1M in a decade on that salary, barring misfortune like a health incident.

The argument was that if you're capable of saving that much, you're going to have a hard time spending it in only a few years, especially if you're not working.

>barring misfortune like a health incident.

Here is a reminder to everyone that a health incident is only a financial misfortune in the US.

If a health incident makes you unable to work, that's a financial issue in much of the world.

Not being able to work is one thing.

Not being able to work and have hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt because of it is a whole other situation

> that's a financial issue in much of the world.

Well, unless they have a pension. Which about half the countries in the world seems to provide, at least for government jobs.

There often are in the US as well for government jobs. But they usually depend on a significant number of years of tenure and defined benefit plans are pretty rare at this point for private employers. (Which isn't even necessarily a bad thing unless you think retirement benefits should be heavily tied to decades of employment with a single company.)

It's not just being unable to work, it's about all savings: "66.5 percent of all bankruptcies were tied to medical issues"

I envy the bubble you live in. If you have say $3M in the bank and you spend $50k / year then it lasts you 60 years doing nothing.

Way more assuming you’re generating interest (assuming you’re not a financial idiot who’s keeping $3MM in cash)

Beginning in 50s, health insurance alone is $25k per year in premiums with after tax money plus ~$13k out of pocket maximum per year.

Don’t know how a couple can afford to forego that, especially if they have assets that can be taken, the hospital will come for them.

Oh, I almost always forget how fucked up American healthcare system is. However with this much money, even a 1M stacked, one can live a happy life in anywhere in the world.

I have a friend living in Berlin working 10h / week for a SF startup remotely and meanwhile he enjoys playing music and building stuff for fun.

I live in Berlin, pay $5.3k health insurance with $1k deductable.

I was considering applying to remote jobs in SF but I think the time zone would mess with my family life.

Yes, if I didn’t have passive income sufficient to pay for all of my and my family’s healthcare, I wouldn’t feel economically secure in the US.

And that means at least $70k to $150k in passive income per year.

That sounds very depressing TBH.

With 70k passive I could retire in Hungary. Just by having $150k in your bank account would give you 5-8 years of runway in Budapest to live a very good life.

The $25k for someone making $50k is a completely bogus number. It’s likely a little less than half that for a family of 4 on a Kasiser healthcare plan according to google.

Not bogus in NJ:


Kaiser is an exception and is only available on the West coast. And maybe a little bit in VA.

Either way, the point about needing a ton of money for healthcare is valid. It’s a race to get to Medicare age before you get hit with a medical problem.

Edit: Here's the data for nationwide for a 40 year old. Based on the NJ pdf above, you can double the premium to figure out the cost for someone in 50s to 60s.


Edit: I just noticed you were claiming someone earning $50k won't pay $25k in health insurance premiums, which is right. I did not know that premium tax credits only took into account annual income.

I’m in Georgia and Kaiser’s website says there are 26 locations throughout Metro Atlanta.

Here's a list of all the places Kaiser offers healthcare, and it doesn't apply to most people in the US, so I don't consider it relevant for a discussion about healthcare costs for people in the US as a whole.


OP said they work for FANG and they are likely in California or Washington. It’s very relevant.

$25k is a bogus number. I know several self employed people. The highest earner is paying $900 a month and the other is paying $800 for 2 people. Another person I know who is 1099 and makes less than $30k is paying about $75 a month.

Personally I paid about $30 per month working part time as a waiter in college making about $20k a year.

My parents just purchased a silver HSA plan on healthcare.gov for $2,000 or so per month, with a $13k oop max.

Here’s the source:


A young person’s data points about healthcare costs are useless. It’s the 50s and 60s that get you, and when you actually need healthcare.

That’s unfortunate for NJ, the $900 person just turned 60 last Friday and the couple paying $800 are 63 and 64.

My brother in law is a low income 1099 earner and gets a special insurance for his kid that’s about $30, called PeachCare and it maxes out at $70 for 2 kids. Depending on income it’s $10-$35 dollar max per child.

$900 per month is $10,800 per year for 1 person, which is $21,600 per year for a couple, and I wrote $25,000.

My point is that there are significant healthcare costs, well into the tens of thousands of dollars, in one's 50s and 60s, and the data supports it. I don't know what the situation is if you earn $50k from investments every year, as I'm not familiar with the subsidy rules, but it would seem strange to me if the US government offered subsidies to someone drawing investment income from $3M.

Edit: It seems that you can get subsidies even if you are deriving your income from investments, so I guess you are correct that someone earning $50k doesn't pay the full premium price.


No one making $50k self employed is paying 25k in insurance premiums period. The people I quoted are probably making between $150-200k a year.

How old are they? Insurance gets a lot more expensive as you get older.

A couple million would let you retire and live off of say $60k/yr indefinitely if and only if you magically solved healthcare issues.

If you've say spent $100k/yr and still saved up $2m (still easily doable), then you don't want to retire yet because you're gonna eventually run out of cash. Sure it'll last more than a few years, but it's going to deplete the longer you go.

Also figure your healthcare costs increase drastically without being employed.

Also half of my statement wasn't a financial one, just an assumption that after a few years you might get bored and want to do something for employment anyway.

At a FANG they are probably living in a high COL - got to pay that mortgage

Also, if your friends are also earning similar amounts, then the activities they take part in are probably going to be more costly too. Which usually means if you want to continue being in the circle, or at least an active member of it, you’ll need to engage in some of those activities, especially if you have kids, and then things get expensive.

Throw in a healthcare issue and there’s not much wiggle room.

It sounds like he might be living off of investments or leftover savings from his previous position.

How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?

Late 40's.

I quit Google in 2017 to go work on something I thought would have a large positive effect on the world: https://www.jefftk.com/p/leaving-google-joining-wave

I liked the startup work similarly to my work at Google, though it was very different. I needed to be much more focused on "what's the number one thing I need to be doing for the company now" and not "how can I design and build in a way that will work for the long term".

After about five months the product failed (for non-technical reasons) and I was laid off. I decided to come back to Google and start earning to give again: https://www.jefftk.com/p/rejoining-google

Thanks for sharing the write-ups: It was as much interesting as inspiring. Earning to give is such a noble way to live.

Just left Google after ~4 years, and couldn't be happier (always been more comfortable independent though). I liked everyone I worked with, but the work was incremental at best, and most often about perf optics. You'll probably be surprised how hard people work outside those companies, and how good they are (even if you already knew -- it's easy to forget in there).

I'd say if you don't have something you really want to do, just take time off and code for fun until you figure it out. I wouldn't just go work somewhere else, esp somewhere that is impressed with such a resume, it would probably be worse.

Mainly, you need to figure out how much of your soul is left, and if the rest can heal or be repurposed. Because of your financial security, finding a personal mission you care about will be essential. You could make a difference. And you should.

> most often about perf optics

I've found once most companies reach a certain size, from an employee perspective they become less results-driven and more perf optics driven.

Starting up: expect lots of discomfort. There's so much bigCo support you have to re-build and it is hard to hire. It might be better to spend 6mths - 1yr at A/B stage co first then only to the founder stage. Alt, try doing something on the side to begin with. Find a partner in crime.

L7 & single? You can afford to pay the outside co-founder a bay area survivable amount (140-200 varies) and have that person work through some of the early situations and then skip out when things are moving along (eg. think A round). Risk-adjusted & safe but yet keeps a lot of the upside while allowing you to taste what it's actually like.

L8? Risk-reward ratio is skewed towards staying at a FAANG. Find and fund a few projects. See what happens. Get excitement outside of work (take all! possible vacations)

Either way, maybe find some time to talk with a proper counselor/therapist (and not HN...). Doesn't hurt and can help with the disconnected feel.

ps. funding env for form FANG, it's good assuming you are doing something sort of close to what you were responsible for. Don't expect risk-reward to be favorable though..

I worked into a similar position early on where, like you, I was bringing in more than twice (or 4X) what I really needed to live on and save for retirement. My personal path was Contracting rather than BigCo'ing, but with the same result.

I worked out that an hourly rate paying you "Twice What You Need" in a year will also pay you "As Much As You Need" in six months.

Once you're provably good at this stuff, you can pick up short term contracts kinda whenever you want. And with each one you do, you get exposed to new tech (upping the skills and thus bill rate), and to new people. People who will have future need of good developers and friends with the same need (upping your ability to pick up the next gig).

By the time I had moved on into my SaaS/Entrepreneur phase, I was repeatably doing 3 month gigs with 9-12 month downtime in between to spend traveling and doing the things in life that I actually wanted.

So I guess Phase One might be to figure out a way to get that first big chunk of free time to see if you actually have other things in life you'd rather be doing. But definitely don't ditch the BigCo gig completely or burn any bridges.

I met lots of smart young people on the road working their way along on odd jobs. Hostels hardly ever offer you $250/hr to watch the front desk. Your ex-boss's new VC-backed startup just might though.

> I've spent the last decade in two FANG companies, and I've got to a high level where my total compensation is ridiculous.

> The problem is that it bores me to tears, and I don't want to do it anymore.

One of the nice things about working at a FAANG is the ease of changing teams. Most large companies have a formal process for doing that and it's not normally frowned upon unless you do it very frequently.

You may find that staying at your company and changing teams will get you the change you desire without sacrificing your FAANG compensation.

Except when you get to a high level. Then, the powers-that-be have plans for you, and you can't really refuse (e.g. how do you refuse the CTO who says "I need you on this critical project?"). And there really aren't that many teams that can take you even if they wished to. What OP _might_ be able to do is "invent" his own project. If he has something that he believes is (longer-term) for the company good, he probably can say "I'm just going to do this" instead of quitting. What are they going to do, fire him? If he was planning to leave anyway, it's not really a problem.... and one finds out that managers are not so eager to fire good engineers. He might take a hit in compensation though (bonuses/raises) especially if his plans don't pan out.

Google isn't like that. There is no CTO and even people in high levels can change teams.

Before making the "jump", I recommend you take a leave of absence for 1 ~ n months.

Go live abroad, make new friends, shake up your day-to-day, challenge yourself in non-tech ways.

Then after n months test how you feel about going back to work (and to your high salary).

If you're dreading it like it's torture, there's a strong indicator you should be thinking of alternatives.

I wish taking a sabbatical was this thing you could just up and decide to do. A lot of times you’re needed to much by management. I guess you could give them an ultimatum if you’re absolutely ready to follow through and leave.

Do it. Go live in Europe or Asia and let life sink in a bit.

I made a similar move a while ago, though I was not at the same level that you are and worked at startups before joining FAANG.

> Second, what are some of the surprises post-FANG that I would be in for if I wanted to start a company?

The biggest changes for me were psychological. I'm a competitive person by nature, and where I worked, most people were the same. It mattered a lot to me that I was keeping up with my coworkers, both in terms of salary and peer recognition. This was unconscious, and I never truly realized this until quitting.

As a result, it had become difficult for me to enjoy my free time. I would hate myself for doing nothing and wasting time. Let me give you an example. When I was younger, I loved playing videogames. After quitting I thought it's finally time to catch up with all those games I had missed. But after having worked in tech for so long I found myself unable to enjoy them on the same level I had before. Instead of taking my time appreciating the game and its art and discoveries, I felt pressure to complete it with 100% as quickly as possible, in the most efficient way possible. I believe that's what tech culture did to me. It made me into a robot trying to compete. That also spilled over into my relationships, where I would regularly cancel dates or leave early in order to optimize my time.

Getting away from this mindset took a long time and I'm still working on it. I am now slowly learning to enjoy the small things again, relax without worrying about wasting time, or keeping up with everyone else around me.

It's super cliché to quote this guy, but the first time I found myself quitting a megacorp job that didn't fully resonate with me, but that others would envy, I thought of this Steve Jobs quote:

> Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.

Good luck!

Good one.

Saved for later use, as I'm in a similar situation. :)

I never worked at a FAANG and have way less experience then you, but here's my 2 cents for whatever it's worth.

If I were in your shoes making a "ridiculous" compensation, then I'd calculate how many more years you'd have to work to get to FIRE (financial independence). If you're only 2-5 years out, I'd consider just sticking it out. As far as I'm aware, nowhere outside of the FAANG pays anywhere close to $500k comp. I'm guessing most startups generally don't pay more than $250-300k, which is like a 50% paycut meaning you'll have to work at least twice as long to retire.

At the same time, life is too short to be wasting it doing things you don't enjoy and being bored to tears. Just be careful of "grass is always greener" syndrome / FOMO. You might find startups to be way more work and way more demanding, and then regret having taken a steep paycut to give up a cushy job.

Or maybe you'll find yourself working on projects you're much more passionate about, start your own company that goes on to be successful, and be both personally and financially better off. It's hard to say as everyone's experience will be different.

I'd seriously consider the sabbatical route, and definitely wouldn't recommend quitting without a plan. The beauty of making so much money is that you can afford to hire people for your projects which you'll be doing anyways as a founder, and if things fail it doesn't matter because it's play money.

I left Amazon 9 months ago, after working there for 8.5 years. My total comp was over $500K when I left, which made it both easy (allowed me to save money) and hard to leave (I left about $1M of granted RSUs+Salary for 2019-2020 on the table).

At one point, I realized that a career as a full-time employee in at a "high-stress" employer is not the ideal one for me. I'm working for myself right now, but if one day I needed to go get a full-time job again, I would almost certainly not go to big tech again. I'd rather get paid a fifth of what I was doing, but do something that leaves me with some energy after I put in a day's work. My compensation and status growth were not conducive to increased satisfaction. I wrote more about my reasoning here: https://medium.com/@dvassallo/only-intrinsic-motivation-last...

I am at that "OK, what do I do now" point after having a couple of years off. I started applying for the same places I left, and then realised how stupid it was to do that. At some point I had to come to terms with what I really wanted, and it wasn't a high wage. So now I am looking for jobs (and working for myself) at places or in ways that I actually like, and don't care about the wage at all other than that it is enough to pay the basic bills I have.

I can't work at a place where I am employee #8973235879 in a row of programmers who never really see any benefit to what they are doing and have to mindlessly fill tickets. I mean I literally can't, as in the same thing will happen as before (I will go crazy and no longer function in general).

What is your retirement plan?

I am guessing the 500k compensation number is due to stock growth, not something that is given as part of a promotion. I know a few SD2s that make more than SD3s because they vested back in the day at $700 a share and due to how Amazon does total comp, the final number is over 300k a year currently.

I had a competing offer from Oracle in 2016 at $370K, and Amazon matched it to $390K for 2016 to 2018. An extra $70K and $120K in 2017 and 2018 came from stock growth. But for 2019 and 2020 they had topped me up to ~$460K, so I would have kept that level if I stayed, even with no stock growth.

I am assuming sd3 role?

Yes, started sde-1 in 2010 and had been sde-3 since 2014

370k in cash?

It was 180K cash and the rest in Oracle stock vesting every 3 months.

Interesting. I know people 3 year out of college at Oracle with base ~190k. Partly because Oracle doesn't do cash bonus.

Not all big tech companies are the same. My understanding is that Google is much less stressful with similar pay.

I’m sure they are differences, but I doubt any high-paying big tech job is going to be low-stress. I don’t mean necessarily working long hours, but you get the kind of work where you need to be figuring out ambiguous problems, always convincing other stakeholders, dealing with some level of drama, etc. Things that require expending a lot of energy.

It’s unlikely you’d be just converting Jira tasks to code at these levels. (That would be my definition of a low-stress job).

I know many ex-Googlers who consider working there to be low enough stress that they joke that they'll retire one day to go work at Google.

That's probably an exaggeration, and they may have just had particularly easy jobs, but everything I know about these two companies tells me that Google would be much less stressful to work at than Amazon.

I wouldn't call that stressful, just interesting.

You need to make decisions in a high-uncertainty environment. If you care about your work... it's much more stressful to have actual decision power than to have none and just vent with your colleagues about how bad the top-level decisions are.

Sorry, that just sounds like the opposite of boring to me.

I wasn't debating the "interesting" part, I was debating the "I wouldn't call that stressful" one.

That’s great, and I just don’t see a stress dimension here.

-e- especially the necessarily stressful part of this role.

It depends on the person I guess. Sometimes you're stuck with a poorly defined project that you don't believe in and there's no one to really validate your work. Leads to a feeling of meaninglessness and purposelessness and that your time and energy could be offered in a much more meaningful way.

Can happen at companies of any size.

What would you call stressful?

Impact (on others, on myself permanently) correlates very well to stress for me.

High impact decisions cause more stress: getting a project defunded, letting go of people, critical mistakes in execution that cause the company reputation or finance damages, etc..

At the very far end are life and death decisions that impact others and the very low end day-to-day decisions that only impact you (what tasks to complete, what shoes to wear).

With the above framework, it's unlikely highly paid Googlers made low impact and thus low stress decisions.

Low impact can also be stressful for me (I might be unusual). First, there is guilt that you are being paid all this money to twiddle your thumbs. After you stop feeling guilty for the wealthy corporation, you realize that you aren't fulfilled if you aren't achieving anything meaningful, which causes you to go on a stressful hunt to scratch any real impact out of the available work.

Then after still achieving nothing, you get nice ratings on your performance reviews, and then you realize that barely anyone is actually having any real impact. There is an enormous organ you are attached to that absorbs money to write fluffy annual performance reviews.

Then you eat ice cream in the nap pod hoping that you can feel content with your extreme comfort, but the most meaningful change in your mental state is a mild brain freeze.

Impact matters but I think stress comes into play when you feel like things are going more wrong than right. And I wouldn’t say that most high paying tech responsibilities are anywhere near life or death decisions. But are much closer to comfortably fun and compelling challenges.

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