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Top Paying Tech Companies by SWE Level (drive.google.com)
792 points by zuhayeer on Jan 6, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 589 comments

As a FAANG engineer going on 9 years now, let me address the usual rebuttals:

- There is a selection bias. Nope, this is pretty much accurate.

- These aren't real. Yes, yes they are.

- Self-reporters are lying. Maybe some do but these numbers are pretty accurate. If anything, I question Lyft and Airbnb as such outliers. I wonder if this factored in Lyft's post-IPO stock performance and makes unrealistic valuations of Airbnb's RSUs/options. But for any listed company, these numbers are accurate.

- You have to work incredibly hard for this compensation. no, you don't. In fact you'll typically find significantly better work-life balance at a FAANG than a startup.

- These numbers are inflated by years of stock growth that is unlikely to continue in the future. This there is some truth to but not as much as people claim. Amazon, of all these companies, builds in expected stock growth into their initial grant valuation (which I think is total BS; if any Amazon recruiters are reading this, please stop). But I know what offers new hires can get pretty accurately so at current stock prices as a new hire these numbers pare pretty accurate.

- Newer offers are likely to be less. False. If anything, initial offers continue just climbing such that anyone who is interested in maximizing their compensation should probably move companies every 3-4 years, especially 4 if you don't get an additional grant after your initial grant has fully vested.

There are some things to be aware of though and these can make it nontrivial to compare competing offers. Some examples:

- Most FAANGs have a 25/25/25/25 vesting schedule. Amazon does not. It's vesting schedule is 5/15/40/40 with a vesting signing bonus in the first 2 years to (partially) compensate for this.

- Amazon, as noted earlier, assumes stock price growth in their offer.

- Amazon (noticing a trend?) has vesting on 401k matches that can take 2-3 years. Most FAANGs do not.

- Anything less than a 50% 401k match is below market.

- Some FAANGs have caps on 401k matches. Some don't.

- I think the most generous 401k match I've seen is Google's at 50% of your contribution with no cap or vesting period or 100% of the first $3,000 at year's end, whichever is higher. The really nice thing is because there's no cap you get it immediately. It's fairly common to get your bonus in January, put it all in your 401k, get your 50% match and you're done for the year.

- Some offer the ability to make contributions into after tax 401k (Google "mega backdoor Roth" if you're interested in this). This is potentially huge beneficial. You can use it to invest money you can withdraw at any time at no penalty but the investment returns are tax free. If you withdraw the returns (not the initial investment) prior to being aged 59.5 you pay taxes plus a 10% penalty, however.

- Vacation days vary but 4 weeks (20 days) should be considered the norm for the US (30 for Europe/Australia).

- Some companies (eg Google) start you on less vacation days but you get more with length of service.

- Unlimited time off is bullshit. Think of this as no time off.

- Health insurance can differ but I imagine pretty much all FAANGs at this point have good health insurance. The gold standard is probably Kaiser for CA residents.

- Some FAANGs have a 1 year cliff. Some do not (eg Google, FB).

- Vesting schedules can vary. Some are monthly, some every 3 months, some annually. Try to avoid anything less frequent than once every 3 months. It can create bad incentives for the company to get rid of you before a big vest date.

- FAANGs will give you performance-based RSU grants annually. The time of year can vary. The eligibility can vary. For example, Google gives you a refresh grant at, after Q2-Q3 calibration (based on your previous two halves). And I believe in recent years it changed that if you joined that calendar year you aren't eligible.

- Because of refresh grants and your initial grant running in tandem, years 2-4 can often be your most lucrative. If you don't get promoted or an additional grant you can get significantly less compensation in year 5. Why these companies let people leave because they won't give them additional equity rather than competing for a new hire is beyond me. But they do.

- Because of the inflation in initial offers, a new hire can often have a significantly better offer than someone who joined 3 years prior. The veteran may only have higher total compensation because of refresh grants and/or stock growth.

- FAANGs tightly control salary within bands for a given level. Going beyond this is unlikely to happen however there is FAR more movement on RSUs in an initial offer and/or signing bonus.

So this is all another reason of why from a financial POV working for a startup is--how should I put this?--suboptimal. Your equity is probably worth nothing (even if you get acquihired, liquidation preferences probably mean all non-founder stock is worth $0). The hours are worse. The benefits are worse. There may be reasons to do this that aren't financial (as a non-founder) but personally I'd suggest people use their most productive years to ensure their financial independence and then chase whatever moonshot tickles your fancy without the pressure of having to pay for food.

100% agree - I joined a FAANG company 2.5 years ago and was given a $280k package as a mid-level. After two annual review cycles, I currently make $318k. My initial RSU grant is about to hit double what it was ($105k initially), and my refresh RSU grants are close to hitting 50% above their initial value (two grants of $125k) still as a mid-level. Benefits like 401k matching and ESPP stock purchasing also push up effective compensation.

I worked about 5 years in startups and small companies beforehand, and I probably work about the same as in a startup (long hours, partially because I'm a workaholic/ambitious), but with far better quality of life due to management being more competent and working with me to manage stress.

Some comments on specific bullets:

> - Vesting schedules can vary. Some are monthly, some every 3 months, some annually. Try to avoid anything less frequent than once every 3 months. It can create bad incentives for the company to get rid of you before a big vest date.

I have not seen Apple trying to play that game at all (their vesting schedule is every 6 months) - my understanding is if the company wants to get rid of someone, they give them zero refresh RSUs come annual review time as a strong hint.

> - Vacation days vary but 4 weeks (20 days) should be considered the norm for the US (30 for Europe/Australia).

Apple is a bit abnormal in that they give you 12 days to start, but the company typically has ~18 company holidays. Creative folks could negotiate with their manager to make those more flexible with comp time after showing competence.

> - Unlimited time off is bullshit. Think of this as no time off.

I agree for most companies, but Netflix I think is an exception here - my Netflix friends all enjoy copious time off and still get sizable annual raises, one even being offered a promotion to manager.

Unlimited PTO is bs because when you give unlimited time off people usually request less time off, and companies don't have to pay you for unused time off when you leave. The potential to punish for taking time off isn't a thing anywhere I worked that had the unlimited deal, but the result was typically that the average employee would rarely ask for more than 8 days a year because they didn't feel like they had anything worth taking time off for and there was no use it or lose it mentality either.

Unlimited PTO is always in the company's favor because even if you try asking for more time off than you might have been granted your manager can simply claim that now isn't a good time, or say too many people have asked for the same days off, or point out that others haven't taken as much time off so they should get more time off before you do and because it doesn't risk you not using limited time off they can feel like it's not a problem and it leaves you with no way to prove a loss.

If the company says you get unlimited pto, and actually delivers on it's promise, why couldn't you just take off for like 6 months every year? If you actually need to get approval for time off, then it's not 'unlimited', because they are literally 'limiting' your pto. Is there anything to these 'unlimited pto' offers, besides being an obvious scam?

I don't think they're usually a scam. Typically, small startup (which may have quickly grown into a larger one) with idealistic founders who fancy themselves as being forward thinking and pro work/life balance and think that an unlimited PTO policy will allow employees to take care of themselves. Likely they at some point worked somewhere with a very strict policy and saw bad things happen to people who had medical problems, family emergencies, etc. and don't want to subject their employees to that. The reality of course being that nothing is truly "unlimited" and instead there's an unspoken limit that you don't want to cross (because it will affect your performance reviews whether it's mentioned or not) and the fear of accidentally doing so means that people take less time than they otherwise might. Then of course, because people look at how much time their coworkers take off to figure out what the "norm" is and stay on the safe side of that, the "norm" edges even further down over time and eventually no one ever takes time off unless it's a true emergency. So generally, I think their heart is in the right place; they just didn't fully think through the systemic effects. Or who knows, maybe by now some truly unscrupulous execs have figured it out and are actually doing it on purpose...

Does Netflix have a true "unlimited PTO" policy or do they enforce a minimum PTO usage per year? I've heard of places with unlimited PTO but they require their employees to take a minimum of 2 weeks a year (and strongly, strongly encourage 4-5 weeks a year).

I've been at Netflix a few years now as a SWE.

There's no forced PTO, though good managers will encourage you to take it. That's relatively common from what I gather.

I've never had any friction around taking time off, if I was responsible about clearing/delaying/delegating projects and getting my day-to-day work covered.

It's easy to fall in the psychological trap of thinking you never can, sure, but since Netflix pretty much starts at the Senior level for hires (biggest reason they aren't in the first two sections probably) I think it's less of an issue. The fact you see your coworkers taking time off without the world blowing up is also a powerful social cue.

I'd never trust a startup with unlimited PTO, but Netflix actually does mean it.

> Unlimited time off is bullshit. Think of this as no time off.

I'm so tired of hearing this. I think there are some professions/job levels where that is true (client facing jobs or higher up managers), but for most non-management development jobs, this just isn't the case. I've worked at three different companies that have had unlimited time off (I seek it out now) and I have plenty of friends who have worked at companies that have unlimited time off as well.

I've had a few friends work at companies where "unlimited time off" = "no time off", but those are the exception not the rule, in my experience (and usually down to a bad manager somewhere in the chain of command).

I've been at my new company 6 months and have already taken 4 1/2 weeks off. I had a friend take 6 weeks off to backpack through Europe. Two companies ago I took off the entire month of September one year. I'm convinced people who say "Unlimited time off is bullshit" are just bad communicators.

If are at a company that has unlimited time off and actually want to use it beyond just a few days a year, here's my tips:

- Get your work done. Above all else, when you are in office, get your shit done. You want your manager to trust you and be able to justify your job if someone higher up goes "why are we paying someone who isn't even here".

- Be aware of your teams workload. Don't try and take a month off two weeks before you're about to ship a mission critical piece of feature.

- Communicate with your manager/PM/team early and often. If you want to take a month off, let everyone know a few months in advance. Planning is usually done quarterly. Letting your boss know you are going to be gone for a month allows them to only schedule two months of work for you instead of three. Additionally, remind them occasionally that you are going to be gone (I usually bring it up every other one on one)

- Before you go, make sure your work is wrapped up or handed off to someone else. Don't start a task and then disappear for a month.

- If possible, leave a "how and when I'm reachable". You don't need to always be working or even online, but seeming available (even if you're not needed) does a lot to calm nerves. Things like leaving a phone number where you can be reached incase of emergency, listing dates where you will be 100% unreachable, and checking email or slack occasionally for high priority things (I tend to do this while I'm sitting in the airport) make things so much easier for managers.

I know a lot of this seems like common sense, but so people get it wrong and then complain when they get reprimanded because they didn't do it.

If you provide value when you're at work and make sure you leaving causes as few disruptions as possible, taking large portions of "unlimited vacation" is totally possible.

If I can't join the company then immediately take the next 30 years off I don't have unlimited time off.

Do you also get angry at all you can eat buffets when they won't let you eat it all?

> The gold standard is probably Kaiser for CA residents.

I love your post but I almost shat myself when I read this. Kaiser is convenient but not top ranked in much. The gold standard is a PPO that lets you go anywhere (else) you like incl. top specialists + a membership primary care network like OneMedical for convenience.

(By the way, I support Medicare4All. Good healthcare shouldn’t just be for wealthy FAANG engineers and even for us the system still sucks.)

I was going to say the same thing. Kaiser (KP) is a "full stack" healthcare provider, which means they save money by being vertically integrated (healthcare payer + provider). The downside is that it means you get very little choice of your doctor, the hospitals you use, etc. I had both KP and UHC, and UHC was far better (more specifically UHC + the providers I chose).

I think the only reason people consider it a gold standard is because they market it really well (especially in the bay).

Kaiser varies significantly based on which center you end up in. I've heard very good things about the Redwood City location and very bad things about Santa Clara. There're probably similar variations among its other hospitals. YMMV.

I've been on various Anthem PPOs of varying quality (Google's covered basically everything with zero copay or deductible, their individual plan wouldn't even cover my PCP, my wife's plan was in the middle but getting progressively worse). There's a convenience/flexibility tradeoff. With Kaiser you know that they'll take care of you but you don't have a lot of flexibility or recourse if your particular needs don't meet what they offer. With a PPO you have a lot of flexibility to choose the best providers available, but you have to fight with the health insurance company for a lot of things, and the administrative hassles can be a huge burden.

I’ve heard bad things about both their Santa Clara and Redwood City locations. I’ve also experienced bad things in their RWC location. For example, I was always exhausted and I requested a sleep study. What I got from Kaiser was a crappy take home gadget that detected no abnormalities in my sleep. When I switched to PAMF, I got a real sleep study in a lab. They were able to diagnose breathing and snoring issues within 30 minutes. There are more stories from both coworkers and friends. Save yourself a headache, pay more for a better provider

The only advantage Kaiser has over many health care providers is price.

For actual healthcare outcomes, Kaiser will outrank most PPOs. Because Kaiser is an integrated health system, they are highly incentivized to actual improve outcomes. PPOs might feel better to you (because they let you have choice and freedom) but I strongly suspect that from a purely what's best for public health is systems like Kaiser. A patient's sense of satisfaction with their healthcare is rarely correlated to outcomes. For example, I worked with healthcare data and we were developing quality metrics and we found for a lot of providers had a negative correlation in metrics to their review scores. I.e there are tons of doctors with high reviews who actually perform quite badly in terms of outcomes. We strongly suspected these are doctors who have good communication and empathy skills but weak clinical skills. I remember looking at malpractice studies and seeing something similar. As a doctor, the probability of getting sued for malpractice is driven by your bedside manner and NOT your clinical outcomes. Essentially, we've found that a doctor with bad clinical expertise but great bedside manner will get sued more than an amazing clinician who has bad bedside manner.

It's a slipper slope if you think your anecdotal satisfaction with your medical provider is a metric of how well the system takes care of you. Unless you are looking at outcomes at a population level it's really hard to see what's going on.

I will say (as others have noted) that Kaiser's mental health support is terrible, but there outcomes outside of that are very strong (if not best in class). They were frequently studied in my partner's master of public health, because of their strong outcomes.

Also don't underestimate the power of primary care in the heaths system (patient's tend to skip primary care visits in PPOs). Many of the life threatening issues my partner sees were caught only due to a primary care visit which exactly why systems like Kaiser are effective.

This type of post is a pet peeve of mine because you use terms like “data” and “anecdotal” but it’s actually a poorly supported argument. This happens too often on HN. It’s certainly true that primary care visits improve health outcomes, but you offer no evidence that people get more primary care at Kaiser. Meanwhile the most significant rankings are not only patient opinions but rather systematic reviews of outcomes, expert analysis and objective metrics. Newsweek did one such ranking that put Kaiser behind 4 other hospitals.[1] US News puts UCSF ahead of Kaiser in many aspects and specialities.[2]

When you need a brain surgery or cancer treatment, you’re definitely going to “feel better” having “choice and freedom” to go to the best.

[1] https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/04/03/ucsf-medical-center-s...

[2] https://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/ca/ucsf-medica...

OP and myself were discussing Kaiser as a health care plan. The ranking you showed was about hospitals not health care plans; a health care plan and a hospital are two completely different things. I also never said Kaiser was the absolute best in every area (I even mentioned their mental heath is very weak), just that their model is solid.

Here's an actual comparison of health care plans:

[1] https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/ncqa-insurer-rankings...

[2] http://healthinsuranceratings.ncqa.org/2019/HprPlandetails.a...

[3] http://healthinsuranceratings.ncqa.org/2019/HprPlandetails.a...

[4] http://reportcard.opa.ca.gov/rc/HMO_PPOCombined.aspx

And here's some research showing Kaiser's outcomes quality: [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26131607

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29625083

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30002140

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270203/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC64512/

> It’s certainly true that primary care visits improve health outcomes, but you offer no evidence that people get more primary care at Kaiser. Again, I worked with claims data where we could analyze primary care utilization and kaiser was significantly higher than most PPOs in our systems (and high in general). We specifically built an email targeting patients who did not visit their primary care doctor in the last year and Kaiser was at the bottom of numbers because of the high usage. There is definitely a lot more research you can find studying Kaiser's integrated approach and how it related to primary care usage. Kaiser is pretty good good at preventative care, primary care usage, and some chronic care management.

> When you need a brain surgery or cancer treatment, you’re definitely going to “feel better” having “choice and freedom” to go to the best. Again, I've outlined research showing outcomes and quality metrics showing Kaiser is pretty solid. Their primary care usage is higher than other health plans, and there are quality metrics and research showing they are pretty good at preventative, primary care, and chronic care management. There are definitely gaps, but from a population level outcomes, they perform at or better than many PPOs given their costs. If you take a step further and look at the economic ROI of their plans, they definitely outclass most PPO and HMOs.

It's not like they have that much secret sauce, the main advantages they have are the same ones a nationalized system has (being integrated aligns incentives better).

> If you take a step further and look at the economic ROI of their plans, they definitely outclass most PPO and HMOs.

You moved the goalpost from “healthcare outcomes for tech workers” to “economic ROI given their costs”. This is what I mean by poor reasoning.

Sure, Kaiser is a good bargain. Lowering costs means more people get care vs don’t get care. It is not the “gold standard” when premiums and deductibles are not an object, like a tech workers company sponsored plan.

> OP and myself were discussing Kaiser as a health care plan. The ranking you showed was about hospitals not health care plans;

This is a bizarre retort as Kaiser generally locks you into their hospitals. Clearly we’re arguing different things.

Kaiser is also terrible for mental health.

Kaisers mental health services are mostly used by Kaiser staff. Its a fun industry secret.

Kaiser is awful. Sutter and Palo Alto Medical Foundation IME are far superior. I've used these 3 systems.

Thought PAMF was a part of Sutter Health?

Anyway, I agree with you. Kaiser is convenient, but the standard of care of HMO-nominal (i.e. poor).

I've used PPOs with PAMF for lots of years now, and it's been far better than Kaiser no matter who my actual insurance provider was.

You're correct, PAMF is sutter.

This is fascinating to me since I've never worked (since graduating, anyway) outside of the Upper Midwest. I worked for a startup here once, but that was bar none the worst job I've ever had.

Job offers have never been anything but a straight salary and a 401k, sometimes with matching, sometimes not. No bonuses or stock ever. Raises have usually been just below inflation rates. Vacation peaked for me at 3 weeks.

For context, I'm a senior software engineer with twelve years of experience. I make $130k right now.

> I make $130k right now.

If you're in a reasonable COL area, you're probably closer to FAANG salaries than you think.

I make about that in a relatively low COL city in the south. After receiving some recruitment emails, I thought about FAANGs but ran the numbers and decided against it.

$400000 is not nearly as awesome as it sounds if you're living in the Bay area or similar tech mecca. Note: it's an immense salary, of course, but not so far from 130000 when you consider COL. Whether 100000 or 400000, we're all very fortunate.

Finally, from what I've heard, it's far from guaranteed for a non FAANG senior engineer to get offered a senior engineer position coming in. More common is to start at engineer, which would be a straight up demotion in salary when you consider cost of living.

FAANG engineers are welcome to correct me if this is not the case at their company.

Edit: surprised this is getting heavily downvoted. I'm not claiming they're equivalent, only closer than you'd think. Also, I wonder if folks even look at COL comparisons, which don't even tell the whole story. For example:


And I live in an even lower cost-of-living city than Raleigh. I also think this site gives an optimistic view of San Francisco COL, based on what I've heard from friends. Particularly if you want to buy a home.

If you're just coming out of school, and can get a job at a FAANG, go for it. But for older devs with established families and spouses with careers, the salary isn't as overwhelmingly more as it appears at first glance.

In the absence of arguments otherwise, I'll assume the truth hurts.

I mean, by the numbers:

400k salary - 129k taxes - 72k housing (~1.2M dollar house) = ~200k left over

Just off that alone, the 400k blows the $130k out of the water, no matter where in the country the $130k is living.

Does $1.2M put you within walking distance of any of the FAANG headquarters? I'm looking at Mountain View, and it appears it's more like $3M to live close to Google. There isn't anything listed (Zillow) close to Infinite Loop, Cupertino. What is listed is $1.8M+.

Just curious, as I currently walk to work and that's a massive QOL issue for me. Sitting in traffic even 60 minutes/day would be awful.

Almost nobody walks to work at the Silicon Valley tech company campuses - they are mostly suburban office parks surrounded by parking, so you'd have to walk pretty far. Lots of people bike though. There are plenty of people that walk to work in SF itself, and walking to work in San Jose will probably become more popular as the various new office buildings around Diridon start to open.

If you highly value walking to work (and to other amenities) then NYC is a great option. $1.2M won't buy you a place, but you can certainly rent a great apartment within walking distance of the Google or Facebook NYC offices for significantly less than $72k/year.

I'm in Reston, VA (outside DC) currently. $500k for a decent townhouse and 1 mile to the town center. I can walk to Google's Reston office spaces, Walmart Labs is around the corner, and AWS (Herndon) is a short bike ride.

Interestingly, the suburban office campuses in this area are beginning to go away. Companies are moving to locations that are at least Metro accessible (Google's new office), or into urban areas (Amazon HQ2). Local zoning has changed to make that more palatable - just interesting to see the change in preferences since I started work in 1999.

Reston is nice! Didn't mean to imply that NYC is strictly better. It would be nice if there were even more private-sector tech jobs in Reston, although I fear that housing supply constraints would then push Fairfax and Loudoun county home prices up to NY/NJ levels.

I own already, that’d be great for my retirement. ;)

And to be honest, my ability to walk was dumb luck. If I change jobs, I’m just as likely to have to drive/Metro into Tyson’s as walk locally. But walking is a big incentive to stay put.

That was one fear with HQ2 coming to DC. With it on the other side of Fairfax, it’ll be a while before it impacts housing out here. But if Google expands its footprint, and with the Metro opening soon, we might see another bump soon.

Here's a 2 bedroom less than 10 mins away from Google for $1.2M: https://streeteasy.com/building/marais-coop/10b

That isn't a house at all.

It's an apartment condo. Worse yet, the land itself is leased from a different owner.

Start with the idea that you own the land and the building, and that you can walk around the building while staying on land that you own. Ideally you would also have mineral rights, the right to drill a well, and similar. You should have the right to bulldoze the building, paint it any color, add brick facing, add gargoyles, or install a triangular front door.

900sqft. I like my space.

I like my city. I don't need more space.

The point is, buying a place for $1.2M in walking distance isn't crazy.

I rent a studio in NYC for $2500/mo ($30k/yr). It's within a 12 minute walk to Google and a 12 minute bike ride to FB. Also close are Amazon, Twitter, Spotify, Uber, etc.

You don't need to be at the company headquarters to make $500k a year. Not being at the headquarters is only a problem if you want to get past director level ($1.5 M/yr)

? All the new SFH in mountain view near Google are close to $2m, not $3m. $3m buys you a massive lot as well.

Either way, rent is around $5k a month here for a three bedroom, which is quite doable on a Google salary.

$1.3m will get you a 1300 sq foot town house, so yes, it's quite possible to be located near fang HQ on the budget described above with a family.

Source: Zillow around whisman station

There are many houses just east of AP to the airport in the 1.2 range, and they are not in bad areas

1.2M house? Assuming you want what's going to be pretty typical in the midwest, that's not at all realistic.


If you really want a house comparable to what's affordable on 130k out there, you're talking at least double that.


Still more money, but your number are off by about 25%

Kind of. The problem with a $1.2M is that for most people this means you are massively leveraged. If anything goes wrong (e.g., market, tax mistakes, health issues), you can easily end up bankrupt.

Did this once and won my bet, but was very aware of how bad it might go. (Well, "won", since my ex got it all...)

Those are low taxes, to start. You can use SmartAsset [1] for effective total tax rates (40% leaving you $238k in SF, 30% leaving you $90k in NC).

Then you can use NerdWallet for cost-of-living excluding taxes (SF is 211% of NC). So after you've replicated your $90k take-home in SFO, you have about $48k surplus to invest. Not bad, but also probably not what you were expecting!

[1] https://smartasset.com/taxes/income-taxes [2] https://www.nerdwallet.com/cost-of-living-calculator/compare...

1.2M house on the penninsula is going to be extremely crappy and definitely in a very bad neighborhood, maybe previously was a crack house.

The only thing that’s significantly more expensive in the Bay Area is housing. Even with the housing prices, you will still probably come out ahead. Remember that if you own, you are building up equity in a huge asset.

CoL calculators online are not accurate at all.

I personally work remotely for a FAANG from the upper Midwest, but if this arrangement ever runs out I’d move to California or Seattle before I took a 30% pay cut.

You're forgetting taxes. CA has some of the highest taxes in the country. Comparing to TX, for example, gas is about $1/gal more in the bay and TX has no income tax.

> I personally work remotely for a FAANG from the upper Midwest

Which FAANGs hire remotely, please?

And why do you think online COL calculators are inaccurate? They're relatively close to government reimbursement tables, which are pretty well-researched.

Edit: Also, once again, I'm not arguing that I wouldn't come out ahead, only that you have to consider COL. So many new grads I know have moved to CA for a junior position, elated at making the same salary I make here as a senior, only to realize that cost of living eats up a huge percentage of that salary. Granted, some of these people may not be the most financially frugal around...

My main argument is that COL is an important component of salary.

The problem with COL calculators is that 100% of your pay does not go to costs. You can't just say SF is 4x as expensive as Chicago so I need 4x the salary. The increased costs are a fixed number, not something that scales with salary.

Cost of living calculators are calibrated for the median budget, which looks very different from the budget of someone who makes 400k/year. Poor people spend a large fraction of their money on housing, which is much more expensive in HCOL areas and skews the cost of living multiplier. If you were only paying 5% of your income on rent in a LCOL area and your rent quadruples after moving to SF, you only need a 15% pay increase to cover that, not a 300% increase.

Also don’t forget that wealthy people can save most of their money, so an X% increase in overall expenses doesn’t need to translate to an X% increase in income.

You need to account for savings. A dollar saved in a high COL area is as good as one saved in a low COL area. If compensation triples and cost of living triples, your savings also triples.

If you are saving 100k/year in a place that is very expensive, and are happy to live in a place with low COL, work for 10 years in the high earning/high cost of living area and retire in the low COL area.

Just to back you up on this, the savings should more than triple. 3x the compensation probably more than offsets the 3x in costs, so your savings may be more like 5x or more compared to low COL areas.

Assumption: cost + savings = income

3 * income - 3 * cost = 3 * ( cost + savings ) - 3 * cost = 3 savings

Is my assumption wrong? Otherwise it's 3x and not 5x.

I should have phrased it differently, the 3x in cost primarily applies to housing while most other expenses only increase marginally. Overall costs are closer to 2x increase instead of 3

Amazon at least for AWS consulting positions seem to hire from almost any major city as long as you are willing to travel and are near a major airport. I’m mostly a software engineer now but I’ll probably be looking to work for AWS directly or one of their consulting partners in two years when I am more willing to travel.

I think the same applies to Microsoft (Azure) and Google (GCP)

Note remote but Amazon/AWS have offices in the twin cities. Google has an office in Madison, Wisconsin. Google is also opening up an office in Rochester, MN. Whether you can work remote is another question.

Typically to be allowed to work remote at a FAANG, you need to have spent time doing critical work onsite - this is still a very rare arrangement.

One secret is that management in most companies, even FAANG, often will let you work remotely from time to time as long as you get your work done - I have often worked while traveling in order to cut down on vacation day usage without complaint.

Otherwise, I have seen Netflix offer remote positions on occasion, but know that such positions are extraordinarily competitive. You will not get such a position by being just an above average dev.

I agree with your overall point, but in addition to housing I'd also include childcare / private school tuition, and taxes.

Honestly I don't think I'd switch. My current job is comfortable and interesting, despite the "low" salary. It also allows me the freedom to explore my own ideas and projects while maintaining really nice work/life balance.

Numbers on paper don't tell the whole story.

if accredited investor status accounted for Cost of Living I would agree with you

but the reality is that hard numbers, especially when they are 300% more, really do matter

Sure, but after a certain point, more money doesn't make much of a difference.

I travel enough. I go to plenty of good restaurants with my wife and friends. I can buy some fun toys. My retirement fund is in progress. I have no debt.

Would I turn down another hundred grand a year? No. Would I do much with it? No, it'd just go to investments, which I may or may not live long enough to use.

nah, I want to be able to make the same amount annually from interest alone, I want to be able to afford appeals court for any civil or criminal issue, I want a total exemption from the socio-economic woes of the proletariat such as the privilege of switching fielty to nations when convenient or preferred, a total exemption from ever needing to split assets built in a marriage because they would have never been built in a marriage or at least no real impact to an actual nest egg since they existed beforehand

That's... oddly specific.

You do you, though.

Its the privilege that separates the classes. As you pointed out the consumptive aspects completely disappear, but its an incredibly limited view of money.

I forgot to mention the tax and liability advantages of a fully funded trust and autonomous private foundation.

I admit I never considered these aspects of financial gain. What books or other reading would you recommend on the subject?

This is very bad advice. 130k in low COL is absolutely not equal to 400k in Bay. People generally cap their housing expense to 30% salary. So that may give you a mansion in low COL and a 3 bedroom townhome in bay, but the remaining 70% goes very very far. Remember vacations, Tesla, electronic goods, in n out, cost the same no matter where you live.

> 130k in low COL is absolutely not equal to 400k in Bay

It's amazing to me how little people read comments. They latch onto one idea, and then respond to that.

I mentioned - 3 times! - in my original comment that they were not equivalent, but only much closer than they appeared at first glance because of COL. In light of all the responses above, many of which were enlightening to me, I stand by that assertion.

As a parent and engineer in the bay area COL is more extreme than other higher cost areas in the country, My company gives a 15% paycut from the sf bay area to say Colorado front range and these were a few things I noticed (having lived in both, colorado on left sfbay on right): - Housing, 3000 sqft house vs. 1500 sqft (sfbay house double the cost) - Taxes(state) - ~4.8% vs ~10% - Property taxes - $6k vs. $17k yearly - Gas ~$2.2 per gal vs. ~$3.40 a gal - Childcare, 12k vs 24k

I don't think your analysis is correct. Or at least, it's really incomplete and thereby misleading. I'm going to use hard numbers as someone who lives in one of the highest COL areas, but I want to emphasize I'm doing that for illustrative purposes and not to be condescending.

To begin with, the cost of basically anything you buy online from Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Best Buy, etc is the same no matter where you are in the country. Likewise for digital goods. That's a point in favor of the high COL areas.

Of course it's not that simple. You're right that there are plenty of things which cost more money in higher cost of living areas; namely entertainment, cinema, service-oriented experiences like restaurants, bespoke labor, groceries and housing.

In most of those cases the absolute cost raises significantly but the relative cost to your increased salary is still tiny; for example, I spend $6 - $8 for a half gallon of milk, but since I earn well over $300k/year that doesn't really matter. Similarly movie tickets are ~$18 but again, that doesn't scale enough to make much of a dent relative to a competitive engineering salary here.

On the other hand, some cost increases are significant even relative to competitive salaries. This mostly and primarily applies to housing, but it does also apply to restaurants and entertainment somewhat. But despite the fact that I spend over $4000/month for a luxury condo and another ~$2500/month on fun "stuff", I'm also saving over $100k/year on top of maxing out my 401k. That simply blows out any combination of lifestyle and savings I could enjoy in a meaningfully cheaper area.

Finally there is (unfortunately) an opportunity cost to working outside of high COL areas. The concentration of wealth and capital in high COL cities has a superlinear feedback effect on opportunity and lifestyle. There are numerous Michelin rated restaurants near me, a concierge and retinue of helpful staff in my building, world famous entertainment venues within a 20 minute train ride, numerous gyms, lots of childcare, excellent schools, etc. My commute to work is also only 20 minutes.

But those things don't interest everyone. More practically, it is also easier to quickly change jobs here, either out of necessity or for a quick 20 - 50% increase in compensation. Not only is the higher COL a justification for higher salary, but the employee power that comes with a bidding war puts a positive pressure on external compensation packages. The last time I went looking, I received about 10 offers. I don't even currently work at one of the most competitive companies according to levels.fyi.

I don't want to push this on other people because money isn't everything and it's perfectly valid to choose a lower COL area. But I do want to lay out the hard numbers from my experience so as to give a better picture for the situation.

That's interesting. Thank you for that analysis. Again, I wasn't arguing that they were exactly equivalent. They're just not as different as they appear at first glance. It is true that you have a good chance of increasing your savings rate if you can get a job with a FAANG, which is a big deal.

It's also true that it's much easier to change jobs there. That's IMHO the biggest asset and what I used to argue for moving (wife won out).

The culture stuff isn't as interesting. Sadly, wife and I are just homebodies. When we were first married, we lived within a short subway ride of Manhattan yet rarely made it down there. We tend to enjoy cooking, reading, hobbies, etc. Kids are the same. Also, there are multiple other extenuating circumstances that make a move not possible at present.

I do agree with you about the opportunity cost of working outside high COL areas, and I agree that it's not a good thing. It's increasing the country's polarization, which bodes poorly for everyone. But you're right that it's the current reality.

What about my assertion about senior software engineers usually getting shuffled into engineer positions. Do you think that's true, or no?

It’s certainly true that senior people are unlikely to get hired at a FAANG in a senior role for their first year.

Being a high achieving senior engineer is about delivering on communication and prioritization, more than anything else. It’s very hard to evaluate a prospective hire’s day-to-day willingness to communicate and prioritize, no matter how impressive their resume.

If you do well, you’ll quickly get promoted, though.

And the salary difference is pretty negligible, relative to RSUs, and people who think of themselves as senior can often get pretty senior RSU packages, so this distinction isn’t super relevant for total compensation.

You mean like downleveling? Sure, that happens a lot. The top paying companies mostly only consider engineers from similarly high paying companies to be known quantities. So if you are a staff engineer at a smaller tech company or a startup, you'll probably end up being "only" senior at Google or Facebook.

> You mean like downleveling? Sure, that happens a lot

Yeah, so that's a major factor here to consider, right? We're talking about moving to a FAANG from a non-FAANG in another region. If most non-FAANG people lose a level, then it really does make the salaries less when you consider cost-of-living.

Downleveling happens, but the $ calculation almost always makes it out very much ahead. At my previous job at a startup, I was making $160k base with stock options as a tech lead/engineering manager, but at my current job at a FAANG, I was offered the same base but with $15k signing bonus and $105k RSUs that are now almost worth double as a high mid-level engineer. For me, accepting the offer was an absolutely a fantastic financial decision. Responsibility-wise, I never felt like I was given less responsibility than at a startup either.

What the downleveling does is align expectations correctly, since most people not at a top tier company likely need some time to ramp up to the expectations of the next level up. What senior/staff/principal mean at companies like Google/FB/Apple is very different from what it means at most companies.

Well, not really. Look back at the salary levels from the levels.fyi PDF. Most people downleveled from senior will end up one or two levels up from new grad. That puts you below the numbers from my comment, but not by a whole lot! And after one promotion you'll be at or exceeding my present situation.

I am much closer to the floor (new grad) than I am to the ceiling, as far as FAANG salaries are concerned.

Does up-leveling happen too? If you were senior or staff at Google, can you get a Principal job at a smaller growth company?

Yes. That's really common when someone very senior at a FAANG wants to achieve a greater level of autonomy and "impact". Once you hit L5/L6 at Google/Facebook (or equivalent elsewhere), the promotion rate slows down quite a lot. So one option to continue career growth is to jump ship for a smaller (but promising) tech company in exchange for more responsibility and a title increase.

How does that all change if you live a decidedly non-California/non-Bay-Area lifestyle?

I work in the auto industry, which doesn't pay nearly as well, and I'll grant that you're all talking savings rates above my before-tax salary, so you win on that point. However, my hobbies include a machine shop in my basement and a woodshop in the backyard. I estimate the expense of moving to the Bay at north of $150k due to having a non-50-state truck that I would need to replace to be able to move a machine if I ever wanted to upgrade or replace, etc, along with the need for ~2x the typical space that people want in definitely not a condo or apartment. Is that even possible, nevermind practical, in Mountain View?

I probably have a dozen hobbies I'd love to explore that just aren't compatible with my NYC lifestyle. Like anything else, you make your choices on what tradeoffs are worth it to you. For me, not being able to have a machine shop (also on my list) is well worth all that I get in return. You can't have it all, and trying is just going to make your life miserable. If you're happy where you are, then that's what's important.

I hear you on that. I mean that I currently have these things and don't want to sacrifice them, but I seriously am unsure if it's possible to have them in the Bay. If it's not, as I'm coming to expect, I doubt I'll ever consider the switch. I definitely won't for the pay at a startup or the like.

It's very difficult. Whole classes of hobbies are more or less out of the question in the Bay just because of the high cost of housing. If you play the game for a few years, some doors open up but it's never going to be as straightforward as it would be in a low COL area. You'll end up using more shared spaces and possibly need to sacrifice on the commute front to buy more spacious housing.

On the other hand, new venues open up due to the larger amounts of cash on hand. More expensive travel or dining, for example.

Almost exactly same situation with exactly same salary. I work at a bootstrapped startup.

from a financial POV working for a startup is--how should I put this?--suboptimal. Your equity is probably worth nothing (even if you get acquihired, liquidation preferences probably mean all non-founder stock is worth $0). The hours are worse. The benefits are worse.

This has been my experience over a 20+ year career of working mostly at startups. If you choose to work for a startup, assume the equity will be worthless. Don't even factor it in to your compensation package. It's a false lure.

In many other ways, though, I don't regret working for startups. They're fun and exciting, at least when you don't have a family, and you can learn a lot in a short amount of time. They're good proving grounds for anyone with an entrepreneurial bent, in my opinion.

>- Because of refresh grants and your initial grant running in tandem, years 2-4 can often be your most lucrative. If you don't get promoted or an additional grant you can get significantly less compensation in year 5. Why these companies let people leave because they won't give them additional equity rather than competing for a new hire is beyond me. But they do.

Many large companies operate on an up or out basis. If you're not getting promoted then you're encouraged/expected to leave at some point. This compensation scheme seems like a soft version of that.

Years 1-4 you're being paid both for what you do as well as for your potential. If you haven't been promoted by year 5 then you're just getting paid for what you do.

This seems very locally maximized. Over a X0 year career it's impossible to consistently run-rate at that level of performance. But as an outsider there is no turnover issue at the sample set posted here. Just an observation.

Netflix is a little different from other companies. Netflix pays entirely in cash plus a small stock option bonus on top. You can opt to get any amount of your salary as stock options if you choose. There are no vesting schedules, you get everything immediately (including 401k). Netflix has unlimited vacation.

I wonder how unlimited is that - how common is that people take e.g. 60+ days off (not including sick leaves of course)? I guess most self-impose 30 days limit (or 15, considering US culture).

It varies a lot from team to team and person to person. In general I would say that Netflix encourages healthy work/life balance and people do use vacation a good amount.

And just to be clear, I currently work at Netflix.

Why would you take 60+ days? Why not go for 600+ days?

The idea of unlimited is that it's not 14 days or 21days. Take as many as you honestly reasonable need to. Everyone's life is different, you might get sick, have a sick family member, have a new child. There might be things that come up that requires you to take time off without you having to grovel to your manager. If you also need to take time off for the good times, a wedding, a party, to go see a world cup, Olympic, whatever, do so. So long as you're contributing, not holding your team and peers back and your impact is constant.

p/s. I don't work for Netflix, but that's what I imagine anytime I hear "unlimited".

I was advised ~30 days/year was normal. Only downside is you don't get paid out accrued vacation days when you move on.

60+ is ridiculously high. Isn't the upper end of European countries only like 30 days (6 weeks)?

For what it's worth, the company I just started at is "flexible", but the average is around 25 days per year.

I tried doing starts for the first couple years including during school. I've been personally involved in 5 different startups and after my involvement I conducted research to see if my experience was typical. To make a long story short, all 5 starts I participated in were badly managed to the point of failure and this is typical.

Any promise of eventually being the smarter move due to ownership or profit share is not worth it. Only 1 in 10 startups is likely to exist at the 10 year mark, and the majority of those still won't be well funded or be issuing dividends. Working for a startup is roughly similar to playing the lottery, somebody is going to win and it won't be you.

To your point FAANG companies used to be the worst career option because managerial expectations were impossible, but that ended almost a decade ago. If anything, FAANG companies will likely be among the first to even implement a 30 hour 4 day work week in the next 10 years for the same salary as the 40 hour 5 day work week. It's getting batter to work for an established company, and most of the bad managers that insisted on making the working environment terrible are now running the startups.

After years of research the clearest conclusion about who you should work for should always be answered by who has the best management team. Good managers enable work life balance, compensate above average and rarely dictate how to get things done. They should be more interested in making you valuable than whether you plan to stick around, and all of this is supported by real research into successful management techniques (See books like Good to Great, Team of Teams and The Goal for supporting reference materials).

Having worked a total of 10 years at 3 of the FAANG companies I second most of this. At least in the parts of Netflix I saw, though, people do take adequate vacations.

I agree with your overall point but as a small nit: usually founders hold common stock, so they will get paid at the same rate as employees (bar "acquisition bonuses" and other similar things).

Just to add to your awesome comment, many of these companies have compensation policies that discourage retaining talent. I'll give an example of a certain FAANG.

- Initial offer sets your comp for your first 4 years.

- If stock outperforms the expectations (as it has historically done) you get no refreshers.

- If your comp is at the top of your band, you get no/nominal raise.

- Newly promoted engineers get paid the bottom of the new band. If they are already earn that much or more (via stock growth) they get nothing.

And then the truly key points.

- The company stack ranks employees every year. Only top performers (a tiny fraction) get raises to the top of their band. If they are already at the top or above (via stock growth) they get nothing.

- Most other employees get no/nominal raises.

- Employees must be 'consistently performing at the next level' in order to get promoted. This avoids the Peter principle [1].

Why do I say this discourage retaining talent? Let's consider the following scenario:

- You are a good engineer, and get hired for your level at top of your band.

- Because you are at the top of the band, no matter how hard you work, you won't get any raises. Being rated top performer, which is quite difficult, gets you nothing (other than an ego boost).

- You need to consistently perform at the next level to get a promotion. This might take a few cycles in the best case scenario. If you are doing well, essentially you are doing L+1 work for L salary.

- When you finally get promoted, you go to the bottom of the band. Including stock appreciation, you will still probably not get a raise.

- You need to be a top performer at the next level to get a raise.

Also once your initial grant runs out, you rely on stock appreciation and top performer ratings to get more money.

This model incentives behaviours like these:

- Get hired at the top of the band. Use competing offers between top companies to get there.

- Work just hard enough to not get fired in your first 4 years.

- After your initial grant expires, interview somewhere else.

Or, if you have a very good shot at a promotion.

- Get hired at level L.

- Do good work to get promoted to L+1 within your first 4 years.

- Shortly after the promotion, look for L+1 positions in other companies. Chances are that a new hire offer elsewhere will be much higher than your current comp.

Anecdotally a good number of people leave after a promo, and this is probably one of the reasons why.

EDIT: Fixed formatting.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle

This setup is unique to Amazon and is not at all common everywhere else. Almost all others give refresh grants as long as performance isn’t in the bottom 5-10%.

I don’t think that’s accurate.

Refresh grants for mediocre performance are mostly a Google/Facebook thing.

No, refresh grants (around 25% of initial 4-year grant) for median performance are the norm. As far as I am aware, this is the case in all FAANG except Amazon.

Have you worked at Apple or Netflix? Since that’s what we’re talking about.

Getting promoted only makes sense if you can't get interviews for L+1 without the promo. Otherwise it only makes sense to do the minimum required to not get fired, and prepare for interviews elsewhere.

Many people do, particularly after getting passed for a promotion once or twice. My anecdotal evidence is that it is harder to get promoted to L+1 than to get hired at L+1.

> Some FAANGs have caps on 401k matches. Some don't.

Federal contributing limits at 19.5, no?

Yes for your individual contributions. For the good companies, they will match 50% putting you up to 29,250. If they are good, they will also allow you to do the mega backdoor roth [0] which allows you to contribute the remainder of the max 57,000 (so 27,750) in after tax dollars and immediately move it into a roth account where it grows tax free.

[0]: https://thecollegeinvestor.com/17561/understanding-the-mega-...

An example of a cap: the 50% match is capped at 6% of your salary so if your salary if $150,000 then they will only match that 50% on the first $9,000 of eligible contributions, so $4,500.

I actually think this is a terrible system as it punishes most the people who need it (ie lower level employees) but here we are.

For completeness, there is also vesting, which I mentioned. This means you get the match but if you leave within a certain period (eg 2 years) they will claim back your match.


401K limits are separated into 2 limits, the second being a bit more obscure.

There is the employee limit of ~19,500 which is reviewed by the IRS every year, and there is the employer limit which is an additional number where the total of both is reviewed by IRS every year. It is currently ~$56,000 or so

Many employers only barely flirt with this number, offering a few thousands here and there in various schemes.

Any software engineer doing a little contracting can pump $30,000 into their own self directed 401k acting as their own employer. You can have multiple 401ks as long as the total limit doesn't exceed that super max.

To be fair, the max you can put into a solo 401k on the employer side is limited to 20% of your net annual profit (business income minus half of self-employment tax). So in order to put in $30,000, you need to have net income of around $160k, which is doable, but more than a little contracting.

For most people here, the mega backdoor Roth is probably more doable, assuming your employer offers the option.

That’s the individual contributor cap, contributor + company is $57k.

Matches and after-tax contributions go to a different bucket.

> - Some FAANGs have a 1 year cliff. Some do not (eg Google, FB).

?? I joined Google in 2014 and had a 1 year cliff. Have they removed it now?

Yes. As of -2 years ago.

What you mean with 1year cliff?

It means that your normal vest schedule doesn’t start for one year, so if your initial stock grant vests quarterly, none vests at all for the first year and then 25% vests all at once after year one, then the other 75% of it vests quarterly over the following three years. Essentially it’s a small, localized version of golden handcuffs for the rank-and-fils, since it means if you leave the company within the first year you get no stock.

Yes, but you still need to be a really really good engineer in the top X% of your field for a FAANG whereas the startup will higher anyone whose qualified to do the job.

total compensation depends A LOT on when you joined and what the stock has been doing, especially a year after that (typical time RSUs start to vest).

A lot of companies had seen their stock more than double, so a 500K grant turns into over a million (typically vested over 4 years). This is before any bonuses and perf grants

so essentially I AM missing out, big time

> - These numbers are inflated by years of stock growth that is unlikely to continue in the future. This there is some truth to but not as much as people claim. Amazon, of all these companies, builds in expected stock growth into their initial grant valuation (which I think is total BS; if any Amazon recruiters are reading this, please stop).

Yeah Amazon is really deceptive with their offers and raises. Assume you won't get anything more than what's on the offer letter, even if you get promoted. And don't expect much reward for high performance, if you want a proper raise you'll need to job hop instead. Even if you do get a reward, expect it to be heavily deferred and reduced based on a ridiculous 15% stock growth assumption. Amazon uses a 6 month vesting schedule to try and ensure they have ample time to kick you out before a vest (or they get to get away with not giving you the comp if you get angry and leave before a vest). Here is a review of how Amazon comp works:


Also, this has Amazon's location listed as "Seattle, CA"

It makes me feel bad how many people see these figures and immediately start trying to find ways to rationalize why they must be overstated. Aside from some of these companies not being public (so those RSUs are not very liquid) or backloading vesting, they’re pretty accurate IME.

The main thing I would point out is that the years of experience guideline is a bit optimistic. Many engineers get downleveled moving into top paying companies (so someone with 9 years of experience might be level 2) and usually either level 2 or level 3 is a terminal level, meaning it’s both ok to stay at that level for a long time and that promotions get harder.

Also, while these figures don’t (or shouldn’t) include signing bonus/relo, nor health insurance, free food, and other benefits, it should be noted that most of these are in the Bay Area or similarly expensive areas. So a lot of your money goes to housing (with housing close to work large enough for a family being super expensive), and state taxes are a bit steep.

>It makes me feel bad how many people see these figures and immediately start trying to find ways to rationalize why they must be overstated.

Some of the numbers can be hard to comprehend... for example, tech salaries weren't great until about the last decade. And, it used to be that the eye-popping numbers were not for everybody, and certainly not for entry-level / new-grads. Heck, just the amount of transparency in compensation available now was completely foreign when I started my career. Likewise, what's interesting is that in our always connected digital world, location still matters. Thus, for someone not working at a FAANG and not in specific geographic locations, these numbers are other-worldly.

> for someone not working at a FAANG and not in specific geographic locations, these numbers are other-worldly.

Yes. other-worldly is a good word for it. It's not so much that people don't believe these numbers, I think. It's more of a sense of disappointment and feeling left out.

So many experienced professionals work their whole adult lives and end up maxing out at only a 1/10th of the compensation of a "principal" at a FAANG in Silicon Valley.

And the last few years I've taken to blowing off recruiters from SV (including FAANG companies). I'm earning very good money for a software engineer where I live, but... dang, "other-worldly" is a good term for the money you people make.

OTOH, being forced to live in California is a huge downside to any FAANG job (for me, anyway).

We need to cut the myth that these salaries only exist in Silicon Valley.

Seattle and NYC also offer otherworldly packages.

Google (and probably other FAANGs) also pay extremely well in Boston, Los Angeles, Boulder, Chicago, Austin and Zurich/Switzerland.

Yes - but try Des Moines or Missoula or Boise or even Portland, OR (a growing tech hub) and these salary levels are hard to hit. And, outside of the FAANGs the salaries are a step down just about everywhere.

Was just responding to the "being forced to live in California" comment.

> being forced to live in California is a huge downside to any FAANG job (for me, anyway)

You must not like being able to go snowboarding on a Saturday and surfing on a Sunday :)

some of it could be jealousy and envy since most SWE won't get to ever work at a FAANG. FAANGs higher the best, and if you've failed at getting highered by a FANG then you probably won't like seeing all these great figures.


But yeah.

Now imagine having one of these incomes but having a spouse who is hellbent on moving back to the southeastern U.S. in a year. It’s driving me nuts; I can’t find any company in the south that pays anywhere near my current compensation, and a rough calculation indicates that leaving FANG will bump my retirement age from 38 to 65 (never mind the amazing health insurance I’ll be giving up too). It’s like throwing a winning lottery ticket on the ground and walking away. I’m seriously considering commuting by plane in the future, because even with a $200 per day flight, I would still retire a decade earlier than taking a local job.

Negotiate better terms. I work for a FANG, and my salary is pretty consistent with what's in that list despite the fact that I work from home elsewhere. Sure it's northeast, but that's probably closer to southeast than to west coast at this point. Maybe in southeast you'll take a bit of a salary hit, but probably still make quite a bit more than you can get locally.

There are a couple of other downsides, though. One is that you'll probably only be mostly remote. I travel one week a month, which my family can tolerate well enough (one kid in high school) but if your need to be with your family is greater then that could be a bigger issue. The reason I do this is because of downside #2: being the only remote in a team sucks in 90% of cases, even more at FANGs which tend to have extremely remote-unfriendly work flows/habits. A lot of people just can't be weaned away from hallway (across the desk, lunchtime) decisions, nothing written down, each outcome typically presented as a no-longer-debatable fait accompli days or weeks later - no matter how much it screws you or anybody else. Questions asked online get answered hours instead of seconds later, if at all. Code reviews take days instead of hours, again because everybody's attention is exclusively on what's happening in person and also because of time-zone issues which you can't avoid no matter how well you've educated your colleagues. Get used to working west-coast hours at least half the time no matter where you really are, and expect to get dinged on reviews because you can't complete anything collaborative as fast as your peers (short of being such a force of nature that you can overcome the entire org's resistance to change in this area).

I know that sounds pretty dire, but that's how you'll earn those big (by local standards) bucks. Only you can decide if it's worth it. Good luck.

I'm in central Canada and work remotely for an org in the bay area, and this is (generally speaking) true.

As the remote worker you're always going to be a step behind. Still totally worth it, financially speaking, but know that your triumphs are smaller and your fuck-ups larger while remote.

Hi any chance I could speak to you offline? I am about to start a similar situation and would love to understand your setup. My email is in my profile.

HN never ceases to amaze me. Plenty of people here are great at negotiating job offers, but struggle negotiating in relationships. Different skill, set I guess maybe no surprise. Well, either way, figure it out. Go remote, long-distance, invest, build a business, or whatever else you need to do to retire around 40ish. Learn to make sacrifices.

There's more to risk in the relationship negotiations, especially if there are kids involved. You can play potential employers off against each other. You might be able to leave an employer and come back in a few years at a higher compensation level. Try playing off a spouse against their replacement and see how that goes ;-D

It didn't go well.

See if you can negotiate a remote work position. I work for one of the companies in this report in a fairly senior position and even though they don't advertise it, they do allow some folks to go remote after a lengthy HR process. If not your current company, figure out which companies will allow it and get a different job, then work there for a year or two to establish a great reputation and then ask for a transfer.

Please don't consider commuting daily by plane. The CO2 impact is immense. Heck, even flying 8x or 10x a year or so is a huge impact that requires significant lifestyle adjustment to mitigate.

> See if you can negotiate a remote work position

If you're lucky and they DO offer a remote position, it will be for 1/4th of your current salary. Bet on it.

Harsh remote pay disparity was much more common ~5 years ago, but in my experience it's significantly better these days.

There's definitely a large swath of companies that try to use remote workers to lower costs, and there's usually some hit to package size, but the serious companies make extremely worthwhile offers.

Two anecdotal data points:

I work semi-remote for a non-FAANG enterprise company and my comp is bay area level. I'm in Seattle, which helps negotiation, but my colleagues in rural areas have a quality of life that suggests competitive compensation even in middle america.

A friend in rural NY got a remote job that was within 10k of his bay area salary. ~120K for a non-engineer at a company with ~13M series A.

Do you have any evidence for that claim? I don't have anything broad-based, but I work remotely for one of these companies and make exactly what I would if I worked at HQ. And it's not because I'm some super-awesome negotiator.

Gitlab famously publishes a bizarrely micromanaged & comprehensive policy on how they will reduce your salary based on where you choose to move, and they are a fully remote company.

It never ceases to amaze me how companies try to argue they shouldn’t pay their top wage everywhere, and how workers are willing to accept this. Especially for a remote-only company where your salary should literally not be based on costs in your home region (since the company is not based there, not paying taxes there, etc.).

I've looked at Gitlab's calculator and decided not to apply for a job there as a result. As a potential employee it does feel quite unfair that someone else doing the same job might make twice as much money.

If you put yourself in Gitlab's shoes and imagine hiring people, it does make some sense. A couple years back I remember reading articles about the oil boom in North Dakota. People were flooding into a remote area that was lacking all sort of services, so next thing you know rates shot up, even for mundane stuff like barbers or auto mechanics. Of course, I don't want to pay twice as much for a haircut or oil change just because some folks in a boomtown a thousand miles away are charging those rates.

Of course, my hair can't be cut and my oil can't be changed remotely, but a REST service sure can be implemented from a thousand miles away. It'll be interesting to see if GitLab sticks with their approach long-term, as I do believe (anecdotally) they are missing out on good talent in second-tier cities.

>a bizarrely micromanaged & comprehensive policy

Perfect description.

I've always been amazed by that blog post.

It reads like a textbook case of bike-shedding(seriously the number of words and engineering thought spent on it is asinine) for what ultimately amounts to faux virtue-signaling about how you're going to get paid 20% below market.

I wonder if GitLab's policy is actually more bizarrely micromanaged than most large companies, or if we just get to see it since GitLab defaults to everything being open. I mean, I'm sure Apple has had countless debates about how to pay their people in many different locales, they just aren't open about it. If you get an offer from Apple, you just see that offer, not all of the policy and philosophy that drove why that particular number made it onto your offer letter.

It's kind of interesting to see how the sausage is being made, even if I feel like GitLab would underpay me in my current location.

> Gitlab famously publishes a bizarrely micromanaged & comprehensive policy on how they will reduce your salary based on where you choose to move, and they are a fully remote company.

They literally punish you for working in your own country. Today I work for a company based in the Valley that pays me a great salary, maybe not SV, but also not "median local (Mexico) rates".

When I started looking to opportunities at GitLab, I was surprised at how they punished remote workers based on where they were from.

I could always move to SF or around on a TN1 and earn the full salary, but I am happy where I am.

I think there are actually two issues here: where should companies hire, and what should they pay those they do hire. The answer to the first question is unequivocally "somewhere cheaper" even though the cost in terms of cultural change and coordination cost can be non-zero. I think it's valid to pay differently in different markets. If an increment in salary has negligible effect on recruitment or retention in that market, it's wasted money. I don't even believe in "shareholder returns uber alles" but I'd rather see that money spent on hiring more people rather than the same number at higher salary.

In my case my employer couldn't have gotten me for too much less, because I did make clear that being an only remote with frequent travel was a negative. That concern doesn't apply equally to everyone, though, and tends to decrease for all as companies adjust to having remotes on every team.

I work remotely for Bay-area tech(not literal FAANG, but similar orbitals), and my pay is in no way arbitrarily multiplied for my location.

>Bet on it.

Where do I collect my winnings? :)

Did you start remote? I wonder if there is a difference in experience between people who start off working onsite but then decide they want to live somewhere else and negotiate remote work after proving themselves.

>Did you start remote?

Not right away. My progression in tech was as follows:

* Company 1: Explicitly onsite, no existing remote paradigm

* Company 2: Explicitly onsite, no existing remote paradigm

* Company 3: Explicitly onsite, existing but ad-hoc/unofficial remote paradigm

* Company 4: Explicitly remote, with other onsite employees

* Company 5: Explicitly remote, with other onsite employees

Companies 1 & 2 had no existing remote paradigm, and there was no opportunity to negotiate for it.

Company 3 had an existing remote paradigm, but it was somewhat ad-hoc/unofficial, and dependent on varying levels of political/organizational capital(how influential/liked was your manager, and their manager etc...). I was able to prove myself and negotiate for full remote after a couple of months. Unfortunately, said political situation deteriorated and with the prospect of my contract not being renewed(or renewed exclusively onsite) I sought a different role.

Company 4 had an onsite/physical office space, but my team/role was explicitly remote, and this was an established aspect of the role throughout the interview process.

Company 5 had an onsite/physical office space, but my team/role was explicitly remote, and this was an established aspect of the role throughout the interview process.

Hopefully this is helpful. My anecdotal experience says that you might need to seize an opportunity to negotiate for remote work where it might not be a first-class paradigm, and later pivot this experience to get a 100% remote role with the established infrastructure and organizational frameworks to properly support it.

Ok thanks this is helpful.

that's not my experience, is it your experience?

Yes, that has been my experience. Remote offers have been for the local area market, not the company physical presence market.

I would divorce before considering working an extra 27 years. If your spouse thinks this is justified then he/she needs to be replaced anyways.

Yeah because nothing is more important than the acquisition of wealth.

Another way of putting it is adding 27 years of work to someone's life.

It's okay if your marriage doesn't work out because you want to be in different places and have different life goals.

It's worth mentioning that retiring early is an important goal in and of itself. You can either spend the bulk of your healthy years working towards a far off goal in your 60's, or you can work hard in your 20s and 30s and then spend your only time on this earth doing things that interest you, with your spouse.

I'm gonna die before be I can retire (cuz shit happened). I decided to deal with this by getting a remote job and traveling. My cost of living is lower than when I lived in SF, and every weekend can be a mini vacation with a little planning. It's a new development, just since December. I'm planning to do it thru end of year to see how I like it.

I did this for 18 months, figured out that stable personal relationships were critical to me (read: met someone I loved) and settled down again. It was completely worth it though as it really changed my outlook on the world and I'm a much happier person. I also feel more grounded in where I'm at in my life. I wish you all the best, if you ever want to chat with someone who has been a digital nomad and knows a few spots, feel free to reach out to me directly.

> or you can work hard in your 20s and 30s and then spend your only time on this earth doing things that interest you, with your spouse

What if your spouse wanna spend her 20s and 30s with you, in a place that has a normal cost of living, doing a job that doesn't require you to be on 60hours a week?

What if she doesn't wanna wait for you to retire or she doesn't want to retire early (or can't)?

What if you spend your 20s and 30s to do the things you like and interest you and then spend the rest of your life working a steady job enjoying your family?

It is possible to work hard in your 20s and still have a lot of time to do what you like.

It is not possible to do what you like in your 60s with the same energy you had in your 20s.

It's not binary, you either work or stay with the people you love doing interesting stuff, you can do both if you realise that retiring at 38 is not that important as a goal.

> What if your spouse wanna spend her 20s and 30s with you, in a place that has a normal cost of living, doing a job that doesn't require you to be on 60hours a week?

I'm not sure 'bout the exact number of hours, but the top comment in this thread already said "In fact you'll typically find significantly better work-life balance at a FAANG than a startup.".

"Better than a startup" is a very low bar.

I work at a startup in San Mateo and feel that the work-life balance is great here. Not all startups are created equal.

> "In fact you'll typically find significantly better work-life balance at a FAANG than a startup."

I agree with that sentence.

But it also depends on what people are looking for. If working at a FAANG means having to spend a capital for housing in the bay are, maybe that's not what they really want.

Or maybe life in the bay area is not the kind of lifestyle they like.

My point was more about trading money for freedom, especially freedom from bureaucracy/politics and freedom to prefer to be with your spouse instead that being at the office to retire early in your life and maybe divorce in the meantime.

We are young only once in our life, we have plenty of time to work hard.

> It's worth mentioning that retiring early is an important goal in and of itself

Is it really?

I'm not sure retiring early is such an important goal per se.

There are many categories where it isn't true: researchers, scientists in general, doctors, writers, journalists, politicians, teachers, artists (some arts more than others) etc.

The more they age, the more their reputation goes up.

I think many of those people having retiring at young age as a goal are going to change their mind when the time comes

Retiring at (really) young age is a goal when you are in your 20s, not so much anymore when you are in your middle 40s and have a good stable job, where you are respected

It's amazing what you can do with life if you don't care much about your reputation. I'm not in my middle 40s yet (still ~10 years off from that), but have a good stable job, feel respected, and still totally want to go for early retirement in 5-7 years.

You got a point, a provocative one, but still one.

Let's expand it: it's also amazing what you can do if you don't care much about being good at what you do and pass it to the others (that's what reputation is for, being authoritative), it's even more amazing what you can do if you don't care about your family or other people in general.

Madoff achieved a lot by not caring about scamming other people

Then he got caught

It's ok to not care, but rest assured that one day not caring will catch up with you

What I mean is: if your wife wants to move far away from the place that will give you early retirement, maybe it's because she hates the kind of life that will let you retire early...

Is it better to retire early (much early!) or end up divorcing or having an unhappy marriage?

Have you thought about that?

These are the kinds of compromises people usually go through when they are building something that involves more than ME.

I would put financial freedom pretty high on my importance list.

Not talking FU money, but retire and maintain current lifestyle.

There goes half your pay to alimony

Do not relocate. Figure something out. Have dual residences. Negotiate negotiate negotiate. Read every relationship book known to mankind. Especially out of fashion things like ”way of the superior man” and such.

Read How to Win Friends and Influence people.

Do not quit your job.

Surely cheaper housing, education and other costs would compensate for a locally lower income? I don’t know where in the southeast you’re talking snot but I imagine it’s 50-80% cheaper for housing?

Here's the central issue with the coast: saving 10% of $350k anywhere is a lot easier than saving 20% of $175k in a dirt-poor county in <Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana>.

Partially, this has to do with the desire to retain your absolute peer tier: if your neighbors have PhDs in Alameda, then you want to live with the PhDs in New Orleans. And the Sliver by the River is still expensive. Same holds in Augusta, Jacksonville, wherever.

Those numbers are way off. Th comparison is saving 25+% of $350k vs 50% of $175k.

And that's assuming your spouse doesn't work.

Also higher quality of life. The spouse wants to move for a reason. I wouldn't live in San Francisco for any amount of money.

Sure but then you need to go for even cheaper housing when you retire. Instead of going from high cost of living to medium cost of living, you end up going from medium cost of living to low cost of living or worse.

It's harder, but not impossible to get this sort of compensation in a remote gig. I recently went through a similar process, needing to move from Seattle to central MD for family reasons, and not wanting a lifestyle-altering commute. E.g. Stripe is high on this list and is very remote friendly.

As someone who worked for a remote FAANG office IN the southeast US, I feel your pain. Rates in this part of the country aren't anywhere near what they are in the bay area sadly. I took a job with fedgov for twice what I was making at FAANG.

You mean half?

No. FAANG remote position paid a pittance. Promotion was going to require a relo to HQ. Fedgov paid double what FAANG was paying in the same area believe it or not, and I had no desire to move to SF. Admittedly the barrier to entry is quite a bit higher w/ Fedgov and the work isn't nearly as glamorous.

One of the highest paying companies is stripe. They recently annouced that their fifth hub would be remote.


> because even with a $200 per day flight, I would still retire a decade earlier than taking a local job

You'd get so many air miles too!

No offense, I'd let her go. Speaking from a guy with 14 years of marriage and a subsequent nasty divorce. I have custody of my 2 children as well. You only live once. Retire early.

How many years to go to hit 38? And what do you plan on doing from ~38~58? Do you plan on sending your kids to a big name school that's going to charge 5-6 figures per semester?

As someone who's bearing down on my mid to late 30's, my recommendation is to work you ass off while you're still young and full of energy.

How much of the delta in years is compound growth?

Btw Monday to Thursday with a corporate apartment (aka hotel) might he easier.

are you kidding? that's the dream. Just work for the FANG for 5 years and save 75% of your salary. then you can retire for the rest of your life in the Southeast US. I'd love to be in that position.

Have you considered working at a bank in Charlotte?

I just landed a senior role at a FAANG-ish SF company paying over $300k TC. Some comments on this:

1. Equity is the biggest factor in these figures. Levels.fyi is extremely bad at clarifying whether you should be reporting your equity value at signing vs how its changed since. Signing is the only apples to apples comparison.

2. These level descriptions are weird. They make it sound like “senior” engineers with 5+ years exp don’t write much code, are just 30% of the company, etc. I suppose it depends on the company, but key teams at FAANGs are able to hire more seniors and just invest in better engineers writing code every day. Good engineers like writing code and working with other good engineers. Netflix for example is known to hire mostly seniors. They’re not just writing design docs.

3. Speaking of Netflix they are an interesting outlier in that they don’t do equity, they do cash TC that is competitive with cash+equity FAANGs. So their offers are great data points that clear up some of the ambiguity around equity value. They are out there every day negotiating for talent. Although I think there’s a little bit of a premium to attract engineers down to Los Gatos.

4. Can they see who opens their doc on google drive when shared like this? The link immediately opened my app with me logged in.

Another point of reference: here are some offers recently aggregated on Blind. In 2019, I got an offer almost identical to one of those listed below, and a friend got an offer a little higher than listed below. So I believe the reports are legit.

While the raw salary data on levels.fyi is useful, other context about the candidate & team is pretty important. For example, my friend has no college degree but matched to a very profitable / well-funded team, so he got a relatively larger stock award. levels.fyi probably has a pretty good estimate of how each company assigns base salary bands to the now "standard" four levels (junior, senior, staff, decorated).

It seems sign-on bonuses grew a lot in 2019. Several posts for Facebook new grads getting $100k sign-on bonus.



* 185 base, 10% bonus, 300k - 400k for 4 years stock, 60k sign on

* Total Comp: 294 - 319 / yr


* 210 base, 15% bonus, 600k for 4 years stock, 75k sign on

* Total Comp: 411 / yr

Senior Staff:

* 230 base, 20% bonus, 1M for 4 years stock, 100k sign on

* Total Comp: 551 / yr



* 210 base, 15% bonus, 700k for 4 years stock, 80k sign on

* Total Comp: 437 / yr


* 225 base, 20% bonus, 1.1M for 4 years stocks, 100k sign on

* Total Comp: 570 / yr



* 195 base, 15% bonus, 750k for 4 years stock, 100k sign on

* Total Comp: 438 / yr


* 220 base, 20% bonus, 1M for 4 years stock, 120k sign on

* Total Comp: 544 / yr

I've recently interviewed and got 5 offers. Those numbers check out.

All SF/CA numbers I suppose? Any idea how these differ in Austin?

Yes, all SF offers.

No idea for Austin, but I used levels.fyi to give me an idea of what to expect and negociate, and it helped a lot (and was on point with what I got offered). I think you can filter per city, so there might be some data for Austin.

yeah pretty sure these were all CA. offers I've seen for Seattle are a bit lower, not sure about Austin.

Does “1M for 4 years stock” mean a 1M grant per year that each vest over 4 years or 4 years worth of grants that total 1M?

1M/4 = 250K vests each year (excluding any refreshers)

Do you know how many years of experience these companies need to place someone in these levels?

For my offer, I had 10 years of experience and they slotted me as Senior. Generally I've seen people with as few as 2 years of experience slot as Senior. I think it has less to do with the years of experience you actually have and more to do with your panel.

What I find completely demotivating is working for a FAANG in Europe, and seeing the massive disparity between US colleagues. You can argue cost of living is different, healthcare is public blablabla, but recruiters have told me straight out: we dont adjust for cost of living, we adjust for market rate. Therefore they dont give a rats ass about how much it costs to live in a specific country, they just pay based on the average going rate. Unfortunately, some EU countries (e.g. IT) have very low purchasing power due to stagnant wages and inflated prices. So we're getting the shit end of the stick.

There are over 1000 engineers in Amazon's Toronto office. Every one of us knows we could make a huge increase in total comp by moving to the USA. Amazon would even help us make the move, relocation support, everything.

I know ~3 people who've done so after 7 years here. We just like it better here, money be damned.

What's the pay differential between Toronto and SF/NYC?

Presumably the ones who wanted to move already have so you’ve never met them.

Exactly, most of the people that I know and moved to Amazon Canada did so,because they got stuck in a visa limbo in the US

But after a year or two in the Canadian offices, they usually qualify for an L-1 if they wanted to go back.

And yet, here we all are.

I think what this whole exercise proves is that remote working is an unsolved problem, that "can physically see employee at their desk" is worth well over 50% of their salary. Therefore it's not a global market. Proper global markets produce things that cost similar amounts almost everywhere, like crude oil or iPhones.

That's more of a "how do we manage people in a knowledge industry" problem, not a function of employee-desk visibility.

We already have webcams and software on corporate laptops that logs every single keystroke. I'd argue it's already been solved, just not implemented.

50%?! More like 90%.

And your point does not explain at al why salaries are so much lower for on-site workers everywhere else in the world.

The answer, I'm afraid, is privilege.

I don't think that universally true. I work for G in Munich, and salaries post cost of living are competitive with the Bay Area (maybe 10%-20% off, but OTOH consider quality of life). From what I can tell, Zurich beats the Bay Area.

>From what I can tell, Zurich beats the Bay Area.

Not really. Out of all FAANGs there's just Google in Zurich with a significant presence. They pay well above almost all other swiss and european companies, but are not really the top paying employer in the Bay anymore.

Not being able to job hop among FAANGs is a big risk to your compensation here in the long term and will make you eventually lose out to Bay Area, even despite lower taxes.

> From what I can tell, Zurich beats the Bay Area.

Yes, with the similar salaries and a 1:1 exchange rate between CHF and USD and the only tax is the Cantonal tax of 13% vs 50% for Bay Area, it makes Zurich way far ahead.

The offices in Zug down the street get only 7% tax.

And healthcare is free, but its a negligible concern at these compensation ranges. It just shows how the American arguments fall apart, since most of them are based on "how much Europeans must have to be taxed"

Basically everything you wrote is incorrect.

- It's not just the cantonal tax; you've ignored the federal and municipal taxes.

- The location of the office isn't what matters, but where you live.

- Healthcare definitely isn't free. Everyone is legally obligated to buy private health insurance.

Thanks for the summary, makes me wonder if I would live in Zug and work in Zurich.

If you like having a 40+ min commute instead of a few minutes of walking/biking for a few thousands of tax savings a year. Some people don't. Generally the richer you are the more you get to value your own time.

Also we don't get free heathcare, we pay for it through taxation. I believe this is morally right, but that's beside the point: These well-paid American employees are also probably getting a great healthcare package as part of their contract, so they don't even have to pay for it.

Oh, healthcare still costs money in the US, when I was at Google in the bay area I still had monthly premiums and out of pocket costs. It wasn't super expensive though...as long as nothing went wrong.

All employer provided healthcare is subsidized not free.

Haha, your comment reminded me when I went to Las Vegas and the hotel told us to go into bus X that they offered as part of the service for their guests.

When we arrived to the bus, we asked the driver: "Is this the bus service that goes to XYZ place and it si free?" . The driver very seriously told us: "It is not free", to which we replied "but they told us it was free!", finally he added: "it is not free, it is complimentary"

I found amusing how the US culture finds the concept of "free" (gratis, kostenlos) somewhat dirty.

It is free are G. There is a 1000 deductible and people get 1000 in their HSA at the start of the year. Nothing gets cut monthly from your pay check..

The Swiss offices have much lower tax rates than their bay area counterparts, a tax rate which includes health insurance (correct me if its a separate tax)

At 200k+ pay from FAANG swiss income taxes are not that low. In Zurich they roughly are comparable to US federal taxes, like what you'd pay in Seattle with just a few niceties like no capital gains tax. It gets a little cheaper in Zug and Schwyz but not much.

Health care is absolutely not free, in fact it's probably second most expensive country in the world for healthcare after the US. A doctor visit is going to cost you 100-200 franks at least. Insurance system works much better than in the US, but prices are (almost) as crazy.

Health isn't a tax as such, but an insurance service that everyone is obliged to buy from one of several providers. Importantly, it doesn't depend on your income, rather your age and health stuff like whether you smoke.

For what it's worth I moved from SF to AMS a few years ago for my employer (FAANG-ish) and they cut my salary by 30%. I was pissed and fought hard, but they didn't bulge. My quality of life (including buying power) was still more in AMS.

Depends on what you're buying. I made a similar move from SV to Munich, some things got cheaper, like rent, transportation, childcare, and groceries. "Stuff" (anything that comes out of a factory) was generally more expensive, as was media/digital subscriptions. Definitely feel poorer in Munich, though part of that was just an unfortunate school situation.

media/digital subscriptions more expensive than SV? Like which ones and at which scale?

My experience with europe (France and Netherlands) is that most of those things are also incredibly cheaper, 20e/month for unlimited data cellphone plan, 40euro for fast internet, etc.

What type of media subscription you have for those to feel like they lower your buying power? I feel like once you've paid cheaper "rent, transportation, childcare, and groceries" you mention, how are your media/digital subscriptions making a difference?

You are lucky it was 30%. For most people hired locally it would be much lower in most companies.

> we dont adjust for cost of living, we adjust for market rate.

This is true everywhere.

You'll do better if you focus on living your best life instead of worrying about someone else having more money.

If you don't move to USA, how does envy make your life better?

What are FAANG in Europe salaries like?

Is there also a perception of core product/business work taking place in SV and therefore European teams aren't as important?

You can dig through the salaries on levels.fyi. From my brief perusal, it looks like 50% less for London. I'd guess other places will be even lower.

I can pitch in to say in London I make ~$150k + $50k/y options (not sure how to value these, strike price is only slightly discounted) for L4 (should be ~$300k according to levels)

From what i've heard London has by far the highest tech salaries in Europe

That is around £114k, which is a high salary for London, but nothing in comparison to what you can make contracting (and at the same 'salary', as a contractor you'll pay less tax in the UK). The base rates for web technologies are around £500/day, and if you specialise and have a track record for delivering you can easily push that up.

Is that at Google?

For Google, Zurich has slightly higher salaries but half the RSUs compared to SV. But taxes and housing are lower in Zurich, so.

Comp isn't based on what's important for the business; it's based purely on market reference pricing.

>but recruiters have told me straight out: we dont adjust for cost of living, we adjust for market rate

Isn't that how it should be?

What I'm taking away from this is that many (most) companies are grossly underpaying their engineers. I've been through the SF/NYC Senior SWE interviewing gauntlet twice in the past three years, and received 10+ offers at half this rate. Levels claims to be checking offer letters, which is great IMO. It's really hard for people to know they're being undervalued when the employers are low-balling and the self-reporters are lying.

> many (most) companies are grossly underpaying their engineers.

No, that's simply unfair to the companies who don't have billions of dollars in free cash flow or effectively infinite amounts of VC money.

The top firms have gotten themselves into an insane bidding war which has a side effect of creating an oligopoly on talent, as it's simply unrealistic to impossible for many firms to compete. Not to mention they apparently pay many people these sort of salaries to do basically nothing [1]: they've decided it's better to simply retain talent than risk them going to a competitor, regardless if they provide any value or not.

That all said, as an employee in whole debacle, you should simply focus your interviews on firms willing to pay these levels and maximize your income while you can.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21961560

> The top firms have gotten themselves into an insane bidding war.

That may be true, but there's more to it than that. The first wave of successful IPOs (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter, etc.) caused a spike in housing prices as employees purchased houses. On top of that, companies have added tens of thousands of new jobs, without proportional growth in the housing supply. So housing prices are now absurd, and these companies need to pay more so their employees can buy smallish houses on the peninsula at $1.5-$2.5M a piece and have a middle-class quality of life.

Yeah I think this part is a stretch.

Just look at Vancouver as a far more extreme example of how local property prices can be out of whack with wages.

House prices are a function of wages (or, more accurately, have a floor set by wages if land is constrained) not the other way around.

Also, the level of entitlement by a lot of such engineers I find to be borderline disgusting. Why do you think you're entitled to a $1.5m house at all let alone 3 years out of college? If you really want cheaper housing (as a function of income) just move to a lower income area. It's actually pretty simple.

But the most objectionable part for me is not just how much of a non-problem this is but it completely ignores people with real problems, like, oh I don't know, the people who drive the shiny white buses who need to live 2+ hours away. Or those not in tech who have to do the same.

Engineers are compensated well now because of the value they create for their employer, nothing more, nothing less.

> House prices are a function of wages (or, more accurately, have a floor set by wages if land is constrained) not the other way around.

I guess if you state it as a fact, that makes it true?

But if that’s the case, why would the company pay an engineer more when she moves from the Austin office to the NYC office? She has become more valuable to the company overnight? And the most valuable engineers just happen to live in the most expensive cities?

Sorry, but salaries are impacted by cost of living. Because if they’re paying top talent too low relative to cost of living, those engineers will just move elsewhere, as you suggest.

Yes, this puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the housing market, affecting everyone in the Bay Area. I’m not claiming this is good.

Vancouver is a different situation entirely.

> Why do you think you're entitled to a $1.5m house at all let alone 3 years out of college?

This is not at all what I said. And most people I know here cannot afford a house 10+ years out of college, unless they’ve worked at a top-paying company all those years.

Who is claiming they’re entitled to it? I’m saying companies are offering it to retain employees, because it’s in the companies’ best interest.

> it completely ignores people with real problems, like, oh I don't know, the people who drive the shiny white buses who need to live 2+ hours away.

And there are plenty of people less fortunate than the bus drivers. By your logic, if they don’t like it, they can just move somewhere cheaper. Maybe it’s just too late in the evening, but I’m not really seeing your point here.

>Engineers are compensated well now because of the value they create for their employer

This is dubious.

No, COL definately is a large reason. Even the same engineers at Google will get paid different amounts based on where they are located. I believe the Bay area is x1.5 more than other cities, for google.

> can buy smallish houses on the peninsula at $1.5-$2.5M a piece and have a middle-class quality of life.

That's the same situation as in Sydney, but Aussie engineers aren't getting near the level of pay of Bay Area engineers.

It's not the housing prices, it's more the labour market competition.

Yes, labor market competition is the primary factor. But is there a place in Australia where engineers can work for higher salaries and the same or a lower cost of living?

In the US, the discrepancy between Bay Area and non-Bay Area salaries is not as great as they seem at first glance, once the real cost of living is factored in.

Yeah Melbourne has 1-3 companies where you can match your Sydney compensation, and Melbourne has a significantly cheaper property market.

But Melbourne has far fewer high-paying positions, so it's not really much of a help.

Under/overpaying has nothing to do with how much any particular firm has and everything to do with what other companies are willing to pay. If there's a bidding war, then whatever that produces is the fair market rate.

Yes, it's the market rate but no, that doesn't mean it's necessarily a good buy; it's set by the most optimistic buyer. Buyer's remorse is sometimes a thing in auctions too.

I think of open (non-sealed bid) auctions as effectively discovering the price by the second most willing buyer, not the most willing buyer.

> it's set by the most optimistic buyer.

No, it's set by the least optimistic seller.

That's the reason we have labor unions -- to stop those that otherwise would work for low wages and/or in deplorable conditions, from doing so. Thus undercutting those that "hold out" for fair wages and conditions.

Think about it. If the entire graduating BSCS class of 2020 banded together and declared they would not work for less than $400k/yr starting, FAANG would simply have to pay that (they have the cash). It's because there's one dipshit willing to work for $250k TC that all the rest have to take that salary as well.

>> Not to mention they apparently pay many people these sort of salaries to do basically nothing [1]: they've decided it's better to simply retain talent than risk them going to a competitor, regardless if they provide any value or not.

I don't think Google is purposely ok with some of their employees doing basically nothing. I've heard the theory that companies pay for some top talent who don't generate value just to prevent them from going to competitors, but is there any hard evidence for it?

> No, that's simply unfair to the companies who don't have billions of dollars in free cash flow or effectively infinite amounts of VC money.

I mean.... so what? Why should I, as an engineer, care if some companies are suffering under the "unfairness" of high salaries?

> which has a side effect of creating an oligopoly on talent

It doesn't really make sense to use the work oligopoly, which has certain negative connotations, for a situation where companies are merely choosing to outbid others.

I would only use the term oligopoly, if there is some sort of unfair barrier to entry, such as because of some government law that is hindering competition.

> I mean.... so what? Why should I, as an engineer, care

You shouldn't, you should always maximize your income. That wasn't my point. My point was the guy shouldn't interview at a 5-person bootstrapped startup and act bewildered when they cannot offer Facebook level comp packages.

> oligopoly

It's absolutely an oligopoly. There are a small number of firms who possess the capital to compete on salary and that creates a extremely high barrier to entry. It's not a bad thing, it's just the reality of the situation. There's plenty of options though, e.g. don't decide your HQ must be in San Francisco.

I think the technical term would be “oligopsony”.

> No, that's simply unfair to the companies

Maybe that's true of Walmart and GM, but your random A/B round startup? I don't think it is unfair at all. They could offer legitimate equity of they choose not to. Sure, it would be still be a gamble but at least it would be French roulette and not the West Virginia lottery.

"Unfair" sorry that's not how capitalism works

> the self-reporters are lying.

I think it's less that self reporters are lying and more that there's a selection bias among self reporters. Engineers with average salaries probably don't bother to report.

I think these numbers are accurate.

Some of the numbers are skewed by the unicorn startups: since employees at Airbnb and Stripe (and Lyft and Pinterest, at the time these numbers were reported) can't sell their equity, and since the equity may drop considerably after IPO, these companies compensate by offering more of it.

LinkedIn is widely known for paying extremely well (to the chagrin of people at parent company Microsoft). Same with Netflix.

I think it's more that software development's divided between the maybe—maybe—5% who are looking at comp at these levels, and everyone else who's in the $70K-180K range, with a cap somewhere in lower-leadership positions that perhaps reaches $200K, maybe mid $200Ks at best as you start to move into management proper. Anything past that you've gotta really nail some niche that someone with lots of money (probably finance) needs and likely become a consultant of some kind, or move into the smallish (relative to all US software development) set of positions that compensate like the ones at the link.

Its not a small number of positions its just a small number of companies

At the moment these few companies are expanding as fast as possible and have an infinite number of positions that pay these amounts until they dont

Relative to all software development, I mean. There are tons and tons of places employing anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of developers each, in the US, not paying anything like this. And almost no smaller shops are, of course. All the positions at all the companies like this, even though most of them are large, I'd still be surprised if it's more than a single-digit percentage of all software positions in the US.

Yeah but it starts to add up when you see how much the tech giants employ

These comp ranges from the growing companies on that list arent different from the tech giants

Not infinite. They have hard caps on how many they hire each year.

Levels.fyi seems to be pretty accurate in my experience, though there may be selection bias as there are more offers at the top of band than bottom submitted.


This is top 5. Look at the difference betwen position 1 and 5 (30% (sic!) for entry level). Ask yourself how many companies are in the SV area?

Then think where MEDIAN of those numbers is.

Looking at top 5 is like looking at best performing stocks in last year (from 5000 of ohers), and thinking "YEAH, thats what I should expect from my future investment portfolio".

Your portfolio should only contain FANG companies. Every single one has outperformed the market by at least 2X and up to 6 X over the last 5 years.

The contrarian position now is to double down on a small number of stocks where the business model function as a data aggregator hence FANG. As opposed to index tracking style portfolio investing, even your Uber driver has ETF's.

> Your portfolio should only contain FANG companies. Every single one has outperformed the market by at least 2X and up to 6 X over the last 5 years.

Based on this, your portfolio should have only contained FAANG companies for the last 5 years.

The argument for "Your portfolio should only contain FANG companies" would be "Every single one will outperform the market by at least 2X and up to 6 X over the next 5 years".

Buying FAANG in 2020 is buying assets whose price has just gone up a lot - the very opposite of contrarian.

The best investment is whatever large cap company left wingers hate the most. It used to be oil companies.

I've been in this industry in NYC for about 20 years of progressive levels of responsibility where I'm now directing multiple project teams and doing company strategy and am somehow earning as much as a college grad in SF.

Honestly, it all depends on the type of company. There are only about 20-30 tech companies who consistently pay this much, and at your level of seniority, half or more of your comp is going to be equity. If you're working for startups, agencies, Fortune 500 companies, etc, you're just not going to be making anywhere close to what the big tech companies pay.

Why don't you do a round of interviews for roles at the big tech companies in NYC? You could probably double your comp pretty easily.

Oh, I have. Thought I did pretty well in some of them, but never got anywhere. Not really sure what kind of role I would actually do since I haven't really been a coder for so long.

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