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How I survived being a $220k/year intern (matt.sh)
429 points by nodivbyzero 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 184 comments

I don't understand people who write things like this. If you're unhappy leave, if you think the corporate culture is wrong, either participate in fixing it, or get out. I honestly can't stand people who self righteously sound the alarm about how they can see all of the things wrong with everybody else. It sounds especially childish when you are making so much money.

Rachel had something about fixing corporate culture recently (hint: you can't), and sometimes really you can't leave. Some are shackled to their jobs through their visa, others because of healthcare needs (their health insurance has favourable terms, and they need to care for a family member), and others because of the nature of the industry (university faculty comes to mind, especially post-2008).

The fact that you are paid does nothing about the ennui. You clearly never held a no-show job before.

The concept of fixing corporate culture seems like a weird one, if you remove corporate and go for the generic term, can you "fix culture"?

I think what you can do is influence the culture of a company and reap the rewards, having done the devops transformation in two difference companies that were deemed unfixable (both more than 4 offices and 3k people) I feel it is very doable! It just takes time and it is not an algorithm you can learn and apply blindly.

The type of person who will write blogs about how terrible a company is is not the type of person who has enough empathy to understand why things are as fucked as they are and how to fix them.

That's a really unfair comment on the OP, especially as the blog literally details why things were fucked and all their efforts on different teams to try and improve things.

What’s your deal against someone blogging? It helps others learn about the company, and the public perception might cause management to things they thought they could put off

The key ingredient, which you certainly had and the author didn't, was buy-in from an authoritative level of management. Yes, put in the work and it's possible... as long as the VP doesn't shut it down.

You'd rather say GP was hired by management to right the ship, for that kind of task someone external is needed. Tone is set at the top, and getting buy-in from the head bum to throw the bums out, that's unheard of.

If you have the political capital to spend, you can, for example:

- Model the behaviors you want to see.

- Thanks and recognize others when they do the behaviors you want to see.

- Use your Comment and Reject buttons when formal processes ask you to sign off on behaviors you don't want to see.

- Propose initiatives to influential people you trust and identify as likely allies.

Of course if you're wrong about having the political capital, and especially if your own manager is not on board, swimming upstream can be dangerous.

Insider club here? Who is 'Rachel'?


hiya rachel. you good?

Blogger commonly linked to on HN, domain name is rachelbythebay.com

I guessed that is who it was but I you know she is not exactly 'PG'. And her name isn't unique enough like 'Elon'.

I read comments on another blog whereby one commenter thinks he is a guy who can use his girlfriend's name as if everyone should know that is who he is talking about like he is on a first name basis with the crowd.

Well, if you figured it out then maybe Rachel is unique enough =)

For your enjoyment: https://rachelbythebay.com/w/

While all these are true, they don't sound relevant to this job, as portrayed by the person who wrote it anyway.

What happened in 2008?

The GFC.

>their health insurance has favourable terms, and they need to care for a family member

At 200k per year, you can buy Obamacare which is 6k per year and for an individual 6k max out of pocket.

So many people are fooled into thinking their companies health insurance is worth something beyond 12k/yr. And that 12k is firefighters union tier.

That math doesn’t look right. I think you are confusing out of pocket maximum with premium. Your premium depends on the people covered, their ages, tobacco use, the state you’re in, etc. It can definitely be more than 12k per year just for the premium.

That sounds crazy to me. I looked at federal "market-based" insurance in 2017, and it was just shy of $2k per month for my family. It covered basically nothing and had a deductible of several thousand dollars.

Interesting. How many family members?

Checking I'm on my throaway.

I followed exactly this practice - immediately left crappy places -> kept strong clients. Took myself from $40K/year to $500K/year (not tech BTW so this is I think a bit harder than in tech).

Here is the kicker - some of the terrible places I left later called and specifically requested me. I literally burnt NO bridges. I would just apologize and say I didn't think I could meet their standards / expectations at that time and wanted to be prompt about letting them know so they could find someone new. And the reality - they are pretty friendly departures if done early - no time for crap to build up.

Quick things I don't recommend off the top of my head

* Having multiple bosses on a project * Having responsibility but no authority * Being asked to deliver stuff with no data / dependent on too many others you don't have control over.

Things I didn't mind.

* Bosses with high standards. If they were willing to pay, I'd be willing to live up to those. Even if I thought they went way too far with it cost / benefit side. I learned a lot from these folks. Some examples.

Me: You could pay someone $20/hr to do this work. Them: We want you to do it. Me: I charge $200. Them: OK.

Me: I'm busy, I can't help. Them: What would it cost to help. Me: 150% my normal rate and I'd have to work weekends only - can you open the office on the weekends and have support staff in on the weekend to help me? Them: Yes.

At the time I thought these folks were nuts, but they both went on to do really really well (and in one case I turned out to be absolutely pivotal in that).

* Working onsite - remote work is hard to see

But the bottom line - some consulting clients are not worth having, just move on. I never ever complained. I would make a few suggestions, give it my best shot, then moved on quickly if needed. In all but one case the tough ones imploded later. One case (that called me back) actually took my suggestions on my way out (you might consider restructuring department X like follows) and got 10x bigger.

Funny thing - govt work is very interesting. You can see how a Shadow IT setup comes into play if you work for govt.

What was the time frame on your $40k -> $500k jump, if you don't mind my asking?

Not OP, but, guessing less than 2 years.

Unfortunately a fair bit longer - I'd say 6 years?

It took me a bit to catch on to the right approach and had to learn along the way (wasting time forever with a folks who were set on doing it their way into the ground and learning from clients doing a good job).

But what happened is once you focus on clients that work well with you (and you with them) then the reputation value just goes through the roof. It looks like everything you do "works" - but half of that is you are picking clients ready to make it work?

Now of course I have lots of different stress - you can grow too quickly - and even with staff can fall behind your clients now high standards - so a quick fall is possible. People paying premium $ expect a good result not unreasonably - especially if they themselves are delivering on a high level. No one minds if you screw up and are getting paid $25/hr. In some ways I miss those days. I def went out drinking a lot more back then.

If no one calls these companies out nothing will ever change, maybe he still has friends in the company he'd like to help out, nothing will light a fire under a companies ass more than appearing on the front page of HackerNews for the wrong reasons. If I was applying to this company I would like to have this insight to make my mind up, it's another data point, doesn't mean it's 100% correct but that's up for me to decide. For example on glassdoor this company has a 4.4/5 rating. I know for a fact my company posts fake reviews on glassdoor, where are we supposed to get real insights about companies from?

To me, the writings of a disgruntled ex-employee who is on a vendetta against the company, is just as worthless as those fake Glassdoor reviews. They have written at least 5 rambling articles with the sole purpose of tearing down Pivotal, which at some point starts to be more of a reflection of the author than the company.

You say disgruntled employee, I say it sounds like a problem company.

I just read this and I can say, I worked with a company that was roughly this but multiplied by 0.25. Main product that never worked but sold as if it did? Check. Weird investor schemes? Check. Sales people lying about the product, or the customers (as if the company had them, instead of a string of noncommittal POCs)? Check. Sales people having no clue what the product did, and just selling the bullshit they invented? Check. CEO rotations? Check. Someone getting entangled in what looked like a different version of Nigerian Prince scam? Check.

I can 100% believe everything the author said, because I've seen a lite version of it. And if all you know about a company comes from their website, press, conferences and their salesmen, you'll never realize how rotten things are on the inside.

> I just read this and I can say, I worked with a company that was roughly this but multiplied by 0.25.

Who hasn't? You will find the points of that bullshit bingo in any company with some degree on severity, even more so in a young startup.

A good portion of the article is the author realizing that stock options are shit when the company isn't doing as well as they claimed. (Welcome to the club!) Another portion is the author realizing that they don't like working on an open source project with a BDFL that they perceive to be resistant to input. And then they complain about the sales people doing a good job, because they are selling what makes the company money instead of support contracts for what they work on.

In the end, if I were to consider working at the company, nothing of that would tell me if it were a good idea or not.

I think this is just a more extreme example of a common psychological phenotype that I've encountered somewhat regularly over 25 years in industry.

Agreed, this is an extreme version, but you’ll find a decent number of developers at most companies with a toxic viewpoint along these lines.

I have a similar story, but it was my first programming job, and it wasn't a cake-walk to get it, so for myself I simply couldn't imagine doing much better. And to be honest, after quitting, I haven't. I'm at least healthy and happy again.

But you're right, honestly the only thing I really learned about that experience was I should have just quit sooner. That's really all there is to it.

I agree to some extent.. only the point being here from what I gather is that they deliver sub par software, defraud their customers and just straight out lie.

This is very toxic and can be very depressing and when I see posts like this I salute them because everyone who reads this will think twice before working for that company.

If people are not allowed to talk and read about what they found to be wrong, they will never figure out how to fix it. And they will never figure out what real problems are and what is fluff.

First step toward being able to participate in fixing anything is being able to reflect on what is going on and being able to learn from what others in similar situation did or did not do.

I get the impression that he views his declining of severance package as analogous to Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, or some other righteous form of protest. But you're right it doesn't carry the same weight given his quarter-mil. per year salary

Something smelled fishy, so I did a bit of follow-up. This dude is leaving out a huge detail to make his employment troubles be a pivotal problem when...it's not.

Let's footnote a coupleo f his "Story of Pivotal The Employment"

> Hired

To contribute to Redis

> All My Work Is Owned by Another Employee? What?

The primary redis maintainer, not a pivotal employee?

> Let’s Organize Instead of Being A Hobby Project

Let's misrepresent the philosophical position of the OS project maintainer on the best way to move the project forward.

> Two Days of Work to Clear 4 Years of Issues Ignored By The Creator Because Laziness

A bunc hof those issues have fundamental problems that the creator explicitly drilled into and explained (https://github.com/antirez/redis/pull/1906#issuecomment-5145...)

very interesting thread, I'm impressed with the depth of antirez's patience and goodwill.

Not disagreeing, just pointing out that Redis development was sponsored by Pivotal at the time, and antirez was presumably on their payroll: http://antirez.com/news/91

The response by antirez is professional and reasonable.

hmmm, redis is a high profile open source project and sits in a pretty interesting spot in the world of software architecture. I'm sure lots of developers would love the opportunity to be paid $220k/year to contribute to redis. Not everyone of course, but it really doesn't sound like a bad gig.

> Let’s Organize Instead of Being A Hobby Project

What I also found odd in that section was that the poster apparently started a product strategy discussion with his coworker over Twitter.

It's an open source project, sure, but that doesn't strike me as a healthy approach.

I don’t understand. Does the fact that the author of the project in question is antirez change anything about the authors experience?

Given that they were tasked to contribute to a very popular open source project, the author may have been able to get past their perceptions of mismanagement at Pivotal. But part of their complaint seems to be that they were not able to contribute as much as they wanted. Different people adapt to such a situation in different ways.

If Antirez was an ‘employee’ at pivotal at the time, and was apparently very hard to work with (of course we only see one side here), them I can sort of understand the authors frustration.

If Pivotal hired someone to contribute to Redis who then wasn’t actually allowed to contribute, that’s even more silly.

I work for the "Labs" (Services) portion of Pivotal and I've seen this guy's stuff on HN before...

Can't comment on what non-services teams are like at Pivotal but the services organization is pretty spectacular.

Pivotal's got problems just like every other organization does, but this guy seems to be mad as hell and blowing things a _bit_ out of proportion.

> but the services organization is pretty spectacular.

Overall, the org looks decent on Glassdoor.

Separately from this specific case, Glassdoor is a very imperfect way to evaluate an org. Companies will encourage employees to juice the reviews (https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/01/22/companies-gaming-glas...).

Anecdotally, Glassdoor will often remove negative reviews for paying employers by giving flimsy excuses like "They are against the 'Community Guidelines'" (something that's so broad it's impossible to hold them to specifics). The "features" they advertise for paying employers are all above-the-board though.

Adding another anecdote, I worked for a company which paid Glassdoor to remove a bunch of negative reviews. The score jumped from 2 to 4 overnight and a bunch of well-written negative reviews disappeared.

Can confirm. Old employer started asking employees to post positive reviews when their rating tanked following a series of poorly integrated acquisitions

Some people would be happy if their first job was to be at a customer service desk or even stacking files for experience with a decent salary in order to get their foot in the door to a internship at a FAANG company. Where as here we see a very arrogant developer paid top dollar for a less demanding role and yet still complains about their employer and chose to work there for over three years.

Every company has problems and you don't have to stay there even if you hate everything under the sun about them. Perhaps he was too focused on hate-watching his company's culture to even think about quitting.

I get the sense that the author is somewhat toxic in the workplace and his managers didn't have the power to fire him, so they gave him as meaningless a job as possible to get him to quit.

I'm also surprised he isn't more concerned with anonymity. I know if he applied for an open role at my current company, based on this post he would not be hired.

> I worked from home for three years with a $220,000 salary, traveled a total of six times, two SF, one Seattle, three to Europe, and contributed thousands of lines of features/fixes/optimizations to high profile projects, all the while never being granted responsibility greater than what you’d give a middle school intern.

But... that all sounds like a lot of responsibility doesn't it?

None of it implies responsibility.

> contributed thousands of lines of features/fixes/optimizations to high profile projects

What's more responsible than pushing code to a high-profile project? Responsible for the product's performance, security. Responsible for what the customer sees and experiences. Responsible for keeping their data safe and guarding the company's reputation.

Responsible enough to be allowed to work independently from home.

Responsible enough to travel the world representing the company in-person.

That sounds more like rhetorics and framing to me, not responsibility as normally used in English. Especially the work from home and travelling - calling work from home responsibility is ridiculous. Pretending that every work travel implies some kind of "guarding the company's reputation" is making too much from nothing.

Being responsible for product's performance and security means something completely different then "having commits". Having commits does not make you accountable for either nor able to influence either. Except maybe by making it worst - if you work on part of the software that is actually influencing either.

I can fix tons of bugs in open source software without having responsibility for anything. The fact is, modern software development is oftentimes factory where you get task, you do task and then forget about it all. If you had not done the task, nothing grave would not happen except that you would loose job over time. And that is all there is to it.

My reading was that those were to open source projects the company didn't control.

Contributions required by paying customers as a result of a commercial support contract.

If he's pushing to Redis he's responsible for the integrity of probably billions of dollars worth of data. That's a massive, international-scale level of responsibility, in the name of his employer. That's huge responsibility!

And to boot, he has a portfolio of work he can show potential next employers instead of it being blackholed in a private repo forever.

The only interesting thought I've had while reading this pretty mundane post is "man am I happy to not be working with that dude".

Right. A guy who'd give up fifty grand just so he was free to write a rant.

It's actually 50k of time off (not made clear other than in the contract at the bottom), which is not exactly the same thing.

What does "50k of time off mean?" They were going to give him vacation time accrued or something else?

irrc 50k at the rate of his salary until he got a job, may be mis-remebering.

Oh so they were going to pay him 50k to sit on his butt for X amount of time. I don't know if I would really consider that leaving money on the table, personally.

I think "Matt" thinks he's a bit cleverer than he is. It's not clear what he's talking about.

He also uses the word "fraud" ad nauseam. One place I worked actually used Pivotal Tracker, and I found it worked pretty well from the end-user perspective. Wasn't ground-breaking software or anything, but it at least worked. I could see my tasks at a glance a lot easier than with, say, Basecamp.

Just another person with an axe to grind.

For what it's worth I think Tracker is a very small part of the overall Pivotal business. I think their main focus is their cloud computing products.

I love PT and I've used it for 6+ years at my last two jobs.

Yeah I’ve used PCF and their open source stuff a lot, and i’ve never had an issue with their stuff not working. Pair programming and TDD lends itself to code that works well and is pretty well documented. No complaints

Blog posts like this are usually best interpreted as the bitter ranting of an ex-employee who was let go. The author himself was semi-notorious (possibly still so?) in the Redis community for being a bit of a self-serving demagogue (to put it nicely).

Generally speaking, if an individual was a remote, WFH, IC employee whose manager didn't even talk to them for a year, they probably don't have the working knowledge to do much critiquing of the company at large.

It should also be noted that Pivotal was acquired by VMware for ~$2.7B.

Points like this:

> At the other end, you have employees who create your products being treated like unwanted interns because development and engineering isn’t given recognition for generating revenue. Obviously only sales and executives are money makers. Developers are just an unneeded, low skilled, interchangeable burden reducing your profits because they have non-commission-based salaries. Why not just fire all your developers then sell what they made without fixing or improving anything—wow, infinite profit!

Coupled with him making $220k/yr in salary (no mention that I saw about equity) doesn't seem to gel. The entitlement is strong with this one.

> It should also be noted that Pivotal was acquired by VMware for ~$2.7B.

This doesn't mean much. Both Pivotal and Dell were controlled / belonged to Dell at the point of the acquisition, so this was more of a Dell-internal restructuring than an acquisition on the open market.

That said, I agree that the OP is way over the top to be taken seriously.

Wait, so how much did Dell buy it for?

I think GP poster means “both Pivotal and VMware were owned by Dell.”

IIRC Pivotal’s stock price collapsed, it didn’t seem to have much of a future as a public company, and so Dell consolidated it into VMware to save face.

gotcha, I looked it up, apparently EMC spun Pivotal out from an internal dept, but still maintained a majority stake in the company, then Dell bought both EMC and VMWare, and at some point Pivotal went public, but then I guess due to poor performance the price dropped so dell had VMWare buy it all back.

I'm guessing that's what OPs referring to when he says that the customers and investors were the same, probably most of their customers were other Dell companies.

> The entitlement is strong with this one.

And stupidity. He is already behind $50,000 for refusing to sign off his rights to tell his 'story'. Maybe he feels there is a market for his skills (and to your point, um, attitude) for his take on things. (There isn't)

And the idea that there is no potential blowback from the company because of free speech means he is simply not aware of what a willing and able (financially) adversary can do to you if they want (using legal or other means). Company could decide to go after him just to send a message even if no chance of actually winning or collecting or other tangible benefit.

Yes, this is self-sabotage, I would never hire him and I would leave a company if they were to hire him. Yikes.

Edit: and I didn't catch the audio clip at the end until just now! Wow. What is this guy thinking??

> I would leave a company if they were to hire him.

Wow. I don't know you, but going by nothing but that statement, you sound as privileged and entitled as he is.

> The entitlement is strong with this one.

You'd need to know what sales were earning before you resort to name calling.

I'm not sure why the amount that sales is earning is relevant. The sales team could all be earning $20B/yr each but it may very well be the case that they are worth that. He was making $220k/yr as a remote employee. That, again, disregards any possible equity comp as well. The median _household_ income in the US is ~$60K, indicating he was earning over 3X the median. Speaking from experience, that $220k/yr is very much so inline with the cash comp at top end firms for a Sr. SWE. He was clearly NOT being treated as an "unneeded, low skilled, interchangeable burden".

The world isn't zero-sum everywhere.

> contributed thousands of lines of features/fixes/optimizations to high profile projects, all the while never being granted responsibility greater than what you’d give a middle school intern

Am I being a bit dim or did they immediately contradict themselves here?

A lot of people, I suspect including the author, consider "responsibility" to exclusively mean the power to tell other people what to do.

I read that sentence like 8 times trying to figure out how the first part tied into the latter part. I may be similarly dim.

Being paid a lot of money for not having any responsibility sounds good to me. This guy sure seems angry about it though.

I had a job for several years where I was paid a lot of money to do very little, because the company moved at a glacial pace compared to what I was capable of.

I did do a lot of FOSS work during that time but ultimately I started feeling depressed. I'm not a live to work person, but I do want to feel like my work has some sort of meaning, even if that meaning is just "building a product that people use".

Having my contract not be renewed (insourcing to China) was the best thing that could have happened to me. I got a new position where we moved at a decent pace and I was contributing to something real, and I felt way better almost immediately.

You probably wouldn't enjoy it. Everybody talks about Impostor Syndrome but I bet you would start internalising some deep fear about your own capabilities if you never get to do anything and people paid about the same money do get to do stuff.

also giving up a $50k severance package doesn't sound as exceptional when you've already collected $660,000 from them. Yeah it's still a lot of money, but apparently being able to promote his blog with anecdotes from Pivotal was worth the $50k to him...

It makes me suspicious of a person who passes up $50k because they would rather write a rant on their blog. What type of personality does that?

Sure the agreement was one sided, and maybe it even had questionable legal basis and would be unenforceable, but guess what, so do many other contracts consumers sign every day, and those don't usually net us $50k!

> passes up 50K

If the author had another job lined up already, the severance package wasn't worth much of anything -- it only paid out until he had a new position. So, probably closer to passing up $0 than to passing up $50K.

Still a bit of an annoying personality. If you know you won't get any $ from the severance package, just send a "thanks but no thanks" message to the person off-boarding you. Don't harass some poor corporate lawyer 2 years of out law school with inane demands for preferential terms on the severance contract for an individual contributor.

I think you're giving the system too much deference here. If an individual contributor is important enough that the company wants to give them a gag order, they're important enough to ask for preferential terms about it.

To be fair, his severance legal vernacular seemed problematic.

Fair enough-- I suppose that makes his decision moderately more reasonable

Some people just don't enjoy that kind of life. I worked for a large financial company where I had a super easy job, very little responsibility, but great compensation. I didn't last a year there. Every day I could feel the life being drained from me. After a few years I would have been a braindead drone just like the rest of them. Doing what I'm good at is far more fulfilling than getting paid to waste my life.

My first real job out of grad school was like that. I was making bank but not doing anything useful. It was soul crushing to spend so much time doing nothing, or doing bullshit work - writing reports that no one would read, making presentations that no one needed to hear...

I took a paycut but the world is totally different when you enjoy your job.

When I was in Kuwait on military deployment last year one of my three roommates was a pediatric cardiologist. I remember hearing a conversation between him and another of my roommates who was disgruntled because they couldn’t get a real job. I butted in saying I have a six figure job in a low cost of living economy and I don’t do shit. I hate it so much they could take my job. I would happily give it to them. They were both envious, but surprisingly the cardiologist voiced the greatest envy.

I am home from deployment working at the same employer, one of the biggest and most profitable companies in the country/world. This employer is one of the best employee friendly companies I have ever seen and pays well. I still hate it. It’s not really the employer I hate, but working in corporate software.

If I could get any other job at a vaguely similar income level I would take it happily, even if it’s digging ditches or shoveling shit, and this is even though I really enjoy writing software. Corporate software is grossly dysfunctional.

* In software I am frequently surrounded by people who are afraid to do their jobs - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22478996

* It could be that I am frequently surrounded by people who lack confidence because they have no idea how to do their job - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22412477

* Or maybe software just allows people to be less than competent because there is not an agreed upon definition of competence. Maybe software is a blue collar industry with an identity disorder - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22391509

* If you needed an example of that identity disorder: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22360326

* It seems other developers have similar observations - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22345702

* Often times it’s easier to do nothing, because when you try people cry - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22194297

* Since there are not industry defined norms and ethics you too can attain a do nothing job recognizing the bias that goes into hiring and manipulating it to your favor - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22164138

* For the longest time I had incorrectly thought the corporate software directly encouraged incompetence in a highly competitive way. A HN comment convinced me it was just mental laziness - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22116659

* Sexism is just a symptom of that bias and mental laziness - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22098101

* If you want examples of mental laziness in practice - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21965539

* Everyone in software is an engineer right? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21905285

* People actually seriously trying to justify being paid for other people doing theirs jobs for them - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21885691

* If you actually do your job you might fail, so better play it safe - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21884188

* Blue collar work work, as evidenced by the expectations - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21739708

* Originality is scary - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21417450

> the cardiologist voiced the greasiest envy.

I guess you meant greatest but I love the idea of greasy envy. (Apologies for the diversion.)

Good catch. Phone auto-correction.

It was hard to get at the main bullet points from the rant.

I found that what he did - his job description as he put 'Matt as a service' - to be reasonable.

Support, bug fixes, documentation, and development. It would be nice to see more companies have someone completely own a small piece.

Often when I contact developer support, I talk to someone who clearly does not know anything about the product I'm talking about. It would have been nice to talk to Matt at that time.

Conversely, having the developers directly talk to customers gives them more visibility to how their products are being used. This is both fulfilling and enlightening.

Should be tagged [2017]: while the article itself doesn't have a date, the next in the series ("How Dumb Must You Be To Work For Pivotal in 2018?") notes:

> Previously (December 2017): Pivotal Empolyment 2013-2016

Also here[1] it's listed with the date 2017-12-16. It's confusing that the article appears to have 3 titles: "Commit. This.", "How I Survived Being A $220k/year Intern", and "A Senior Developer Who Couldn’t Commit Code". Also obviously confusing that the article page itself is undated.

[1] https://matt.sh/

I really feel the need to rebuke hacker news commenters on this. The number of comments shouting "You made 220k! STFU!" is ridiculous. I don't care how much you pay me, you don't get to treat me like shit. Once you reach a certain salary a job is more about fulfilment/ego/interest/motivation than $$, there's a reason we're not all whoring ourselves out on street corners for an extra couple of dollars in the evening.

What the author is talking about is a real issue - there is a very significant portion of enterprise (and b2b) software that basically adds little or no value compared to a competitor. Often the money is made by leveraging relationships with contacts in large corporations who frankly won't notice the money is missing - and for a plethora of reasons are more incentivised to push for buying something than to actually see the company succeed. I've personally seen sales organisations pay hundreds of thousands to external contractors when we had more competent staff literally sitting waiting to be asked to do the work. Even then, there's a hell of a lot of software out there that isn't difficult and isn't interesting, so the defining feature of who provides it is what their sales organisation looks like.

The result of that dynamic though, is the engineering organisation can be crap- because they're not where the company derives its value. Which might not be what an software engineer wants to hear, but it's true. (as an aside, find out what sales folks are paid at your current job - it's probably more than you).

> "I worked from home for three years with a $220,000 salary"

I stopped reading right there. I really don't want to hear someone in this situation complain. Suck it up or find a new job - take a pay cut if you're really that unhappy. I've worked for shitty companies for a fraction of that salary.

Hell, It's taken me over 15 years to get to a salary even within spitting distance of that amount - and I've never been able to work from home.

> I Passed Up a $50,000 Severance To Write This

I wish he had taken the $50K. We would have all been better off!

(As noted in the article, the $50K severance would have been tied to a non-disparagement agreement.)

$50k to not write an alcohol-fueled angry screed on my personal blog sounds like a pretty fair trade to me. I'd take it.

If anyone is tired of getting $220k/year, i could take it!.


I think sometimes developers have drink so hard the kool aid of changing the world and all that, and if is not happening, then get sad. But why?

Maybe because I have a long time in this industry, but this is what I do: If see an opportunity to improve things (without need to convince others) I do. If need to convince others, and succeed, great. If not, but the environment is okey, I keep going.

I think sometimes developers have drink so hard the kool aid

I think a lot of people just have no perspective. I'm fond of this movie scene:


> If not, but the environment is okey, I keep going.

If you're a strong developer and willing to live in certain areas -- at least for a couple years before you're trusted enough to go remote -- you can make $200K/yr. It's mostly just a matter of telling yourself you are worth that much, applying to companies that pay that much, and not being afraid to be on the job market every few years.

Doing meaningful work and getting respect for it are important aspects of job satisfaction. The author seems to be offended for not getting that.

> That’s okay though, just hand off the company to your bloated, slovenly, zero-posture assistant whose name literally means “I’m going to rip you off.”

This is where I got lost. I worked at Pivotal from 2014 to 2017. There's a lot I can say about Rob Mee but this is just a bizarre and wrong attack given that he 1) Founded Pivotal labs and lead it through the EMC Acquisition, 2) Was responsible for creating a first-tier services company with a name to rival Thoughtworks and a reputation that to this day bumps my resume to the top of many recruiters' lists by virtue of just seeing "Pivotal" on it.

Edit: Quote from one of the prior posts in this "series".

> Future employers judge you on your past employment. Having any extended tenure at Pivotal on your CV is a negative mark against you.

I have absolutely not had this experience. None of my former coworkers have had this experience.

On the other hand, people who write blog posts like these... might have this experience.

No interns make that high of a salary. That means they value his work/skill. It’s clearly a management problem but this is a hard problem. In fact it’s different for everyone. Some people like well structured management and others don’t. On top of that he was remote, which makes it even harder.

His rants are mostly in sales. Engineer ranting about sales is like Sales people saying Engineers are pointless. (Btw both are very common perception). Now that I’ve done both ends I can share that sales people are doing that for a reason. At the end of the day, high end sales are all politics and you need to be good at the game.

This type of rant is what interns do.

Interns also don't read articles properly.

I survived a job that amounted to fixing keyboards for $35k/year but kudos to you for surviving your $220k/year internship. I’m sure it was brutal.

It's even more brutal reading articles properly and realising he wasn't an intern.

Damn I had an offer from them years ago. I should have took it. I don't mind making that much for doing little that's plenty of free time for my side projects....this guy could have used his time wisely and never complain about it ...you can't force companies to be good employers or successful at what they do obviously this company had major red flags you could have left quietly long time and find a more fulfilling role ...otherwise shut up and take the money and use that free time to do great things if you are capable

> At the other end, you have employees who create your products being treated like unwanted interns because development and engineering isn’t given recognition for generating revenue. Obviously only sales and executives are money makers. Developers are just an unneeded, low skilled, interchangeable burden reducing your profits because they have non-commission-based salaries. Why not just fire all your developers then sell what they made without fixing or improving anything—wow, infinite profit!

Funnily enough I've worked in a company that did just that, they developed a TV software that puts ads on the streaming of soccer games and the software was 5 or so years old with no software team. They had a person who did support and was there for a long time and would always have 2-3 developers on the payroll who wouldn't stay more than their probation period. I left within 2 weeks but the company owner was very rich and seemed pretty OK with how things were...

this seems old, but to be honest, the "work got boring" part is not unique to the company described.

i have this nagging feeling that we have tons of issues, and overly complicated systems created today because very talented and smart engineers are being giving the most mundane tasks to do on a daily basis...

Why is this at the top of HN?

Can anyone elaborate on “and proudly brags about his criminal acquaintances in the news”? It’s a bullet point in the section about, presumably, antirez.

> At founding, the company allotted about 13% of company stock for employee ownership.

Is this meant to be disparaging? it’s actually above average (of 10%).

Note that at each finding round, and as needed if you make too much money (don’t spend money fast enough to require another round), you allocate another chunk. The 13% isn’t fixed for eternity.

That’s like the first paragraph. It’s already clear author doesn’t understand how companies work.

Sounds like a person who is really bitter. Good thing he wrote this as a warning sign to all future possible employers or managers.

Imagine giving up 50 racks to complain about getting $220k per year. If you don't want the job, I'll take it.

While lots of organizations are not great, and some are even dishonest, something about the guy's tone suggests the demotivator from despair.com:


I worked at this company overlapping this time frame.

Although the post is emotionally-charged,it's totally on point.

I think everyone is hyper focused on the 220k number, which is not that unusual for a VC-backed Silicon Valley startup.

Admittedly the article is a bit rant-filled, but I have also heard other people say Pivotal is (was?) a bit weird, especially regarding taking pair programming a bit too far (another blog example: http://mwilden.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-i-dont-like-pair-pro...)

I am a bit surprised at all the criticism of the author and saying that "I wouldn't hire the guy because of this post". Consider the asymmetry of power between employer and employee. Companies often put up self-praising blog posts describing their perfect hiring process and how great they are, but often they are a big messy hairball inside. In the US, people very rarely work up the courage to criticize them, because they have mouths to feed, health insurance to pay, and can't afford the expensive lawyers to combat the large companies' legal teams. So we should encourage those who speak out, or at least not punish them more for doing so. In fact, I think the only reason this person is comfortable doing so is that they have probably enough left over from that 220k/year to be comfortable speaking out.

I wouldn't want to encourage anyone else to write such a rambling "speaking out" blog post that you can't really take anything away from. There are good ways to write such blog posts, e.g these accounts from an ex-Apple employee[0], that nicely lay out what was going wrong. I tried to extract similar information from this blog post, but failed, as it was filled with so many detours, vagueness, and subjective name calling about the company in general rather than an actual retelling on how he personally was supposedly mistreated.

[0]: https://techreflect.net/2019/12/10/aperture-senior-qa-2004-2...

Having grown up in and around both, it's interesting how many people who complain about mental jobs would fare in physical jobs that are far worse.

It's good to work thru your feelings, but for many people feelings are a luxury, having access to opportunity to improve yourself in anyway is a privilege.

The interesting thing to me is that they had an open-source support business getting requests to buy their services, which the salesmen dropped because it wasn't the most lucrative deal they could be doing. But presumably there's a viable business in that particular type of support.

In my experience, those kinds of support contracts are mostly valuable (and mostly intended to be valuable) as a way to shove your foot in the door at large companies. Often they're not valued at all, and exist just as a legacy from when the company was younger and any sale was a good sale. It's not surprising to me that an incoming lead whose first question is "what are your prices" would be considered a waste of time.

This article takes “tech bro” to a whole new level of entitlement.

We engineers need to organize ourselves. We make piles of money for companies, yet we are too often voiceless.

I wonder how widespread this phenomenon actually is, anyone has similar stories to share?

Extremely, and not just in tech. Most people just don’t want to admit it because most people need to feel like they “earned” their money. The reality that many, even most in some companies, people get paid simply to maintain a social system is a troubling thought for a lot of people.

You can easily work for a decade at some companies and contribute absolutely nothing if you know how to play the politics.

title really needs the leading ‘How’ from TFA

I'd comment, but if I did, I'd likely exceed the boundaries of my own agreement with a different company.

the weirdest thing to me about pivotal is that they require full-time pair programming. how do people survive in that company at all? i can't fathom being yoked to someone (literally) 40-50 hours a week.

I think if a dev shop is literally yoking their programming pairs together, they're taking the metaphor a bit too far!

When working alone remotely from home, I simulate pair programming with a methodology I call "The Stranger". I sit on one of my hands until it becomes numb and tingly, and then it feels like somebody else is typing and moving the mouse!

lol I get the reference

So is that what Matt is complaining about? The pair programming?

I work at a company that does pair programming and it’s not that bad. Generally, one is encouraged to switch who you’re pairing with every couple days to avoid creating knowledge silos.

fuck this was funny

I find this post to be relatively unimpressive. He spends a great amount of time complaining about how the company was shit in a way that implies he was personally offended, but the title says he got a generous salary for little expected work. It’s not clear to me why he is bitter about anything. I have no doubt that the company was genuinely poorly run. His observations about problems in the sales culture are likely true. But he could have left any time and instead chose to stay there for 3 years. And I get that leaving a job isn’t always an option for people but those reasons don’t feel relevant for his situation.

Author reads as overly entitled and arrogant imo.

I don't read it as bitterness over his personal situation. Clearly it was pretty comfortable for him. It seemed to me more like bewilderment and amusement over the whole Kafkaesque abomination.

If I were in his position, I would've kept taking the paycheck without complaints, but once I was no longer there, I'd definitely consider writing something like this.

The fact that he turned down $50k to write this post makes me think it's more than just out of amusement

If he had another job lined up, the $50k was $0. He wrote about the other conditions which you are ignoring.

Is severance contingent on unemployment? I thought it was usually a flat amount.

It was an explicit condition of the contract. Not sure if it is legal though.

The author is experiencing cognitive dissonance because he was expecting professional life to push him to his limits, in an environment designed for maximal productivity and innovation, working with people who care about doing the best work of their life. A lot of overachievers in school have that outlook.

There are some jobs that are like this, but they are very few and far between. There are far more companies that claim to be like this when really it’s just a convenient excuse for treating their employees poorly.

The reality is that if you care about your craft a tiny bit more than average, you will most likely end up feeling that you are overpaid for trivial work, that you could do so much more for the company, that your coworkers and hierarchy are apathetic to things that do not directly affect them (and will seek to avoid any change as much as possible). The more you stay in this situation, the likelier you are to burn out.

If you are that kind of person, then you need to GTFO and start your own thing - have your own skin in the game - or accept that that’s the reality of being a mere employee. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do good work, btw - just that you’ll have to find your sources of life fulfillment elsewhere.

> The reality is that if you care about your craft a tiny bit more than average, you will most likely end up feeling that you are overpaid for trivial work, that you could do so much more for the company, that your coworkers and hierarchy are apathetic to things that do not directly affect them (and will seek to avoid any change as much as possible).

Damn, I've never read a better articulation of how I feel at work haha. I'm in cybersecurity and the box checking "just need to get through the next audit" mentality is RAMPANT.

This has to stop, or we'll never progress as a civilization.

See all this incompetence revealed across the entire economy and governance in the wake of COVID-19? Apathetic people ticking boxes is a big component of the cause.

Thank you for saying this. It’s much-needed food for thought in my current situation.

While I don't disagree with most of what you're saying, this idea that people should (or can) just leave employment, needs to stop. This is not the way most of the world works and many people are "stuck" in very shitty situations that don't have many opportunities, out.

But with regard to the rest of your comment, absolutely. This guy is a knob.

I’m not sure what “most of the world” has to do with a guy making more than $200k a year. At $200k per year, you are in a very good position to change your circumstances.

Imagine going down to your local watering hole and lamenting about your circumstances that “stuck” you in your $200k job. Probably a pretty good way to get punched in the face.

> this idea that people should (or can) just leave employment, needs to stop

On the contrary, when my friends/family complain about employment I'll usually ask them why they stay. While sometimes people just want to vent (and that's totally okay) there have been various instances where they realized that their notion that they need that particular employer was flawed and they've been able to move on to other gainful employment.

While the idea that people should just leave their job is overused and probably unrealistic for some individuals if you stop saying it you may miss a chance to help someone realize that they may be their own best bet for getting out of their current plight and move forward to something (hopefully) better.

> this idea that people should (or can) just leave employment, needs to stop

I don't think this applies when you are pulling down nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year - then I think you probably have quite a lot of freedom to just walk out the door anytime you want.

It doesn't matter what your salary is, if you've got a big old mortgage and a wife and kids then losing your income is really scary. What if the job search takes longer than you expected? What if it takes much longer? He's already remote working, that massively narrows down his options. It's not as simple as just "get another job" and every day he doesn't have a job, bills are piling up.

I feel like all of those concerns are nullified if you just don’t quit your job before lining up another... which is what people usually do.

If the mortage/rental and family expense is in the same order of magnitude as the salary, it's little different than everywhere else.

Does this really apply to people earning as much as a quarter of a million? Surely at that point most of your money is disposable income?

>Surely at that point most of your money is disposable income?

Not if you're living in a major city with wife, kids, and a mortgage.

The market is still desperate for developers so you can get away with it here. Technical interviews mean you have an alternative to your work history, so you can get jobs if you have skill but have some gaps or sudden departures. If anything, we've learned that finding the right fit is difficult. This is just knowing the market. If the market changes, then yes, people won't be able to suddenly quit as often.

There are some crazy boring jobs out there that will absolutely be fatal to any real passion and some people want to see where that takes them.

I feel like I acknowledged that in my post. Most relevant concerns for “why don’t you just leave” are around having enough money to pay for basic needs, having other jobs, or finding a place that works for your geographic situation.

This guy got a huge salary in a market with tons of demand while working from home. There was no particular urgency to leave, so he could have casually looked. It also seems like he would have stayed there if he wasn’t let go.

And from the look of it was still writing about it years later.

Ditto. Taking into consideration average salary in US it is just asking for rather uncharitable read.

And that is not taking into consideration in demand skill set that could land him another like job with relative ease.

I don't often go for dismissive, but cry mich ein river.

Agreed. My work had a six month period where they wouldn’t really let me do anything meaningful while they were in analysis paralysis (other than keeping the ship steady) so I found other useful things to do and trained myself on some new tech. Clearly this is not the worst thing that has ever happened to a worker.

> cry mich ein river

That should be "cry mir ein river". You want the dative case, because you are requesting that the river be cried for you.

"cry mir einen river" since river is masculine

"People called Romanes, they go, the house?"

Right. Now don't do it again!


I mean, sure Fluss is masculine... But it seems like borrowed English nouns generally end up masculine also. So sure, why not!

Thank you for that. I haven't used German since HS so I am a little rusty. I can still order a beer though.

With that said, I picked that particular version of the phrase from zero punctuation. I did not intend for it to be grammatically correct.

No worries... It's been almost 15 years for myself. Even when I was much better, I used to describe myself as competent enough to get into trouble, but not back out again.

It is an interesting story and I can relate. I don't think anyone should feel sorry for the author or me though. In the grand scheme of things it is a good job, just a shitty company. I find Warren Buffet's commentary to be interesting as well but I don't feel sorry for him when he makes a mistake or has a problem.

I regret to inform you people can become weary of work/dollar as a metric, and can become enchanted with hands-on work or what they perceive as meaningful contributions.

Yeah that's fine, but it's informative to more junior people who might consider employment at pivotal so they can go in with more (if biased) information.

It’s a symptom of our dysfunctional industry. We are stuck in that old Annie Hall joke: “A guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs”

> .... shady “customers, but also investors, but also customers.” It’s convenient having combo customer/investors. If quarterly numbers look bad, just ask your customers, who are also investors, to buy more services to prop up their own investment. After all, they wouldn’t want their investment decisions to look bad, right?

That's not shady, to me, it is a common practice and does take advantage of the accounting practices that different stakeholders use. This is what all of tech is doing with VC portfolios. That startup that delivers lunch to your startup, do you think that was random? It is an incestuous movement of money around VC portfolio companies to merely print higher revenue numbers so they can sell them one at a time for 10x those revenue numbers.

Pretty much nothing is organic, so I can't make a distinction for this particular practice. The market can bare it.

Honestly, it should be a more common practice for market participants to be taking pseudo-activist roles in their investments. Just because you are used to passive investments - and probably can't do anything else - doesn't mean it is the best strategy for your portfolio.

Not making any opinion about the other problems with Pivotal, just pointing out how this section isn't validation for the complaints.

Just because it is common doesn't mean it's not shady.

And depending on what the "pseudo-activist role" entails, that could be a massive conflict of interest. If a person at Company A is steering business toward Company B because they have an investment in Company B, that could easily conflict with their obligations toward Company A.


> so I can't make a distinction for this particular practice.

was meant to be a rebuttal to this

> just because it is common doesn't mean it's not shady.

so I think you walked right into it.

> If a person at Company A is steering business toward Company B

and that's company A's problem

There are a lot of interesting and useful takeaways from this article that are being overlooked because of the jealousy of, "boy, I wish someone paid me 220k to not really do anything while working from home!"

“jUsT QuIt yOuR jOb” -hn

With no second thought on any outside life factors.

Someone who earns nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year can probably quit their job and continue to support themselves and any outside life factors for several years if they want to.

The other doesn't seem to be in SF, but have you seen what a mortgage payment is in SF?

So much whining in this thread.

It is possible to make $220k/year and also be unhappy. Deal with it.

Beyond a point, money won't increase your happiness. Riding out a terrible job where you're underutilized and overpaid because the job pays well isn't "grit".

It's dishonest. It's opportunism. It's cowardly.

Having worked for a strange startup with plenty of cronyism and nepotism, I honestly think there needs to be some kind of government oversight to make sure that executives aren't squandering investors' money or worse that the investors are in on some kind of shell company.

The point of private investing is that the investors get to do that kind of oversight on their own. There's a whole world of public companies to work for, if you're looking for government oversight to double check the investors' work. (Although Pivotal seems to have been a public subsidiary for at least part of the author's story.)

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