A lot more discussion on this topic: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19828317
you will access <personally>.<identifiable>.<stuff>.pixel.archive.md
"Cost of Living" adjustments are a red herring, what they really are is really "competition density".
There are plenty of tech companies paying great salaries in the bay because they have to, otherwise they would just go work for someone else. On the other hand, if you lived in Oklahoma you aren't going to say no to $LOCAL_OFFER+10k just because bay area salaries are $LOCAL_OFFER+90k.
As long as this disparity exists, I forsee bay area salaries and CoL still being high. Until companies move headquarters out of the bay, the trend will continue.
Similarly, in this thread, Consultant32452 states  that the real argument is between those who can demand a high salary regardless of geography, and those who can only demand a high salary _because_ of geography.
The mistake is many people in the latter group think they are in the former.
 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23162855 by hn user nemothekid
 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23265158 by hn user Consultant32452
It sounds dramatic expressed that way, but doing so is committing the binary fallacy.
In reality, there is a spectrum of the leverage between employees and employers that depends on many different factors including the employee's knowledge, skills, experience, reputation, trust, institutional knowledge, and even the degree of the employee's willingness to show up regularly in person.
That and the extent to which the employer values any of those.
The covid19 wfh emergency is going to modify that spectrum, depending on the job, cost of living, and the area. But it is not going to get rid of the spectrum altogether, just as it isn't going to eliminate the intrinsic value of cities and metros as factories for creativity, just diminish them a bit for a subset of the employees.
It is not only on remote work, same with Google privacy issues, Zoom issues, micro service/monolithic, Electron... Most of the big conversations on HN have been going on for a long time and still do
Now I've not shown up onsite to ANYONE in 3+ months (we went remote early before shutdown). And it's not clear to me that value has diminished, though I need to up my zoom game a bit.
So some people may be discovering they thought they were geo tied / competitive but may be more broadly valuable or able to serve into that market remotely more easily than they thought?
It's not yet clear if the same level of trust can be built by a purely remote worker with no pre-existing rapport or reputation.
Probably the only thing I take issue with is your second point. No matter how much companies talk about how much of a "talent shortage" there is, the mythical "overpaid engineer" in an area with high competition density is a lot rarer than they'd appear. To even get and keep a median salary job that lets you move there (and stay there), you're competing with (and often have to lose to) a lot of folks.
Social participation in that world and the learning of what gets rewarded and punished during your formative years helps condition you towards going about solving problems a given way, and alters you as a person. I am sure that I would be different if I spent the early formative years of my career in SV instead of NYC. I'd be solving different problems with different people and moving up career wise through different maneuvers.
So here's my question: will the pivot towards remote work diffuse or further reinforce hub centrality for current tech hubs? To be honest, I'm kind of mentally split on this one. Here's what I could imagine along both sides:
- Lacking differentiation, areas outside of tech hubs will become increasingly commodified (one giant suburb), stratified and divided into castes
- Executives will tend to cluster around hub centers, middle managers around suburbs, ICs around exurbs and further; moving up will require "moving inwards"
- Customer and capital consolidation into cities will continue
- City lifestyle will continue being a status symbol synonymous with affluence, success, clout and social standing
- Propped up by inflated prices out of line with their underlying assets, hubs will crash economically when people have the option to work there without living there
- Companies seeking to evade the "geography tax" will learn to work remotely to gain an edge in OpEx over competitors that don't and through lower margins gradually beat competitors that don't adapt into submission
- Natural disasters, climate change and pandemics have/will continue to spark continued interest in the "retreat from society"
- The pioneer spirit will come into vogue again, as enterprising contrarians try to rough it on the frontier once more, taking risks on developing fringe territory to capitalize off the nonlinear value they add (this, along with DoD funds/braintrust, was how SV began)
I don't know. It's hard to reason about what the outcome will be at this point. Greater flexibility seems like it would lead to heterogeneity. But as always, there are nonlinear second order effects that we can't think of now that will doubtless seem obvious in retrospect. What do other folks think?
Isn't this already the general pattern? I see that continuing, but with a very slight diminishing of the mega-hubs and a slight boost to secondary hubs (Austin, Boulder, etc).
> For diffusion: - Propped up by inflated prices out of line with their underlying assets, hubs will crash economically when people have the option to work there without living there
I think any prediction of the loss of the significance of cities is pretty far fetched. Cities have been robust to millenia of changes, including multiple past pandemics that have always disproportionately affected them vs more remote areas.
> [Companies] will learn to work remotely to gain an edge in OpEx over competitors that don't and through lower margins gradually beat competitors that don't adapt into submission
This will only happen in sectors with competition over thin margins and high OpEx as a percentage of expenditures, like running a manufacturing plant. That doesn't really reflect the kind of tech work done in tech hubs, which is CapEx and creativity heavy. Even pure software has to stay abreast of consumer and cultural trends, which are largely form in cities. A lot of software are dynamic cultural products, similar in many ways to movies, music, and TV shows. It could. however, affect things like consumer-facing tech support, but that has largely already taken place - a lot of tech support for major companies happens out of lower cost cities in the US, not the expensive tech hubs.
I understand what you are saying here, but this perspective sees investment as the driver of the creativity of cities, while another perspective that I put more weight on is that the creativity of cities and the culture they create is a byproduct of human social/group psychology, itself a result of the fundamental reality that there is more security in numbers.
Investment, whether private or public, is then just a way of incentivizing the creativity machine of natural human agglomerations to produce ever more novel stuff.
Or put more succinctly: culture leads, investment follows.
The important differences from typical offshoring are that it's costlier, but comes with fewer cultural, linguistic, and time zone challenges.
Not every business needs a cohesive engineering culture - but if your primary product is tech, then it stands to reason that the cost of your developers is a second priority to effective execution at scale.
Productivity as an employee is about meeting a bar (that you partially define along with your employer). Caring about maximizing productivity is the goal of your employer. But you have some leverage in this job market so it's not like they can squeeze you dry. Remote only helps the employee side of that adversarial relationship.
> Also, it's nice seeing everybody at work, getting lunch, having a coffee break with people, whiteboarding, etc. There is a huge social aspect that is lost with WFH that zoom can't replace. Imo that reduction in socializing has reduced my work performance because I've noticed I just sprint ahead for 4+ hours straight and burn out really hard at the end of the day.
I like showing up at work to work together with my co-workers. If you don't then maybe you should get a new job where you like the people you work with.
Am I really not looking forward to the new remote work future. Maybe someone will come up with a way to restore the socializing I got from work. I don't just want to hang out with friends. I want to work together with people on a common goal, and by "work together" I mean I want to do this in the same space. Just like eating lunch on zoom or going to a virtual bar via facetime is not as good as actually siting at the same table with friends neither is remote work as fulfilling "for me" as actually being in the same space as my co-workers. But then again I like my co-workers and I like the things we are building together.
I don't think this is guaranteed to happen. Another possible outcome is that tech salaries will pin to the lowest common denominator, such that employers will "outsource" much of their engineering work to engineers that live in low cost-of-living markets.
So just as always, you have a choice, what's worth more to you? Money, or free time? And pick your job accordingly.
They paid poorly precisely because of the relative lack of opportunity for software in the region at the time. That meant anyone who’s livelihood was in software had little recourse other than to move. That was the option I took, but others can’t for a number of reasons.
Just because you're working together in a circumstance that benefits the two parties doesn't mean each party is not also working against each other to some degree to better optimize their self-interests.
An employer may need an employee to create something and by creating and selling that thing, an employer and employee may both get a cut and benefit. None of that prevents the employer or employee from attempting to get a larger cut or do less work (invest less time) to receive their cut. Extremes to either side cause the relationship to collapse but there's definitely wiggle room in the margins beyond a 50/50 split.
I've yet to meet a single employer that doesn't try to optimize on labor costs in that relationship through some component or another, directly or indirectly.
Which is also true. At the same time, risk is highly relative which is why this situation is feasible at all. What's risky for you to do as an individual is not of the same order of magnitude of relative risk when you consider scaling of available resources.
Example, Alphabet, Amazon, or Company Y decide to invest $1 million in a new SaaS 'X' effort with some monthly fee in an attempt to build a successful product/service. These companies have arrays of pre-existing successful products/services they've built (typically diversified) that generate stable profits. Relative to that sort of expected profit, SaaS 'X' is a drop in the bucket. If 'X' fails, it's the same absolute monetary loss ($1 million) but the relative risk of losing $1 million isn't significant to any of these businesses, it's small relative to their total resource pool of disposable assets. Loss recovery will also take significantly less time.
On the other hand, if I as an individual go through the effort to form an LLC, develop SaaS 'X' myself and fail, $1 million is nothing to scoff at. Even if you're in the higher income scales of our industry and making $300-500k+/yr for labor, you're looking at ~3-4 years or so of potential losses and values that are probably near or a bit more than your total personal assets, at the very least I'd say 10%. If you start an LLC and get a loan or have some investor drop money on you, $1 million is still likely going to be a lot relative to your loan. It's highly likely that if 'X' fails your business will fail. There's high relative risk here (there are some mitigations strategies from your personal assets but it's still significant). You're probably going to face noticeable financial hardship or have to revert back to the labor market due to business small failure rates.
Risk is mitigated through scale, snowballed growth, and diversification (amongst other strategies) in our economic system through initial successes that often occur either through true innovation/market creation/penetration and/or sheer luck.
My personal take on things is that if you don’t recognize the adversarial part of the employer/employee relationship, then you will suffer for it. It’s more healthy to recognize where parties have competing interests, and it’s unhealthy to ignore them.
I’d also say that the people who can ignore the adversarial aspects of employment can only do so because of a fair bit of privilege. For example, people will throw around the saying here that “HR is an advocate for the company, not the employee,” but many of us will never really have to deal with HR in a way where it really matters.
I'm not sure I'd agree. When a company loses an employee it's an inconvenience but when an employee loses their job it's often devastating.
The market rewards them for this. Is the market wrong, or your thesis?
Your employer needs employees, not specific employees.
And this change isn't going to improve employee leverage, it's going to decrease it substantially when all companies develop processes to have a significantly higher pool of candidates to hire from. Long-term employees will look at having a company-provided office with a good work environment as a luxury.
This is the path to mediocrity and leaving tons of money on the table in much of the tech industry.
I've been able to be well above mediocre in west coast tech for years now with this strategy /shrug For FAANG, startups, and other BigCos.
FYI, the bar can be the bar needed to get a promotion & bump your pay grade. It can also be to keep your current job & stay the course. And it can change over time strategically.
Unless your side hustle brings in $300k+ a year, you’re better off becoming critical at the main job because it becomes very lucrative.
Now, WFH I'm free to set my own schedule. Sometimes I do my best work later in the evening, something that I never had time or energy to do while following the "9-5" schedule.
I don't miss the socialization much, probably because of the roll my family fulfills. The most important difference now is that I have a lot more patience with my family, because I don't feel the constant stress of my old commute and schedule.
I was super productive in the first month of WFH, but that spike is going away, and I think a large part of it is meeting fatigue. The projects we are working on require coordinating with lots of devs within our team and then devs and PMs on other teams. That means lots of meetings here and there to make sure we're all on the same page.
There are days where I have 30 min or 1 hr breaks between meetings, and I just cannot get productive in that short window, knowing I have another meeting coming up (which sometimes I need to prep for).
My team does have lunches together remotely, but having to be tied to the computer the whole day, I often want to drop out of those and just be outside in the sun.
But to your point about burnout, I find that that's the other extreme as well. In those afternoons or days that I don't have meetings, there's a sense that, okay, I have to go hard now because everyone else is working hard. While at the office, you'd have occasionally breaks and conversations in the hall when you were getting up for coffee and you could see people's rhythms. At home, I don't see that, so my natural, irrational belief is everyone must be working hard, so I should too.
But FB people ops (or beyond) aren't stupid and hopefully they can come up with ways to intentionally replace this. Won't be the same but something is needed and will be better than nothing or ad-hoc.
This sounds like a normal day in the office for me pre-lockdown :/
The feeling of "I have to go hard now because everyone else is working hard" can also be pretty hard to shake. Especially if most people are heads-down and there's no chatter on Slack or email or anything going on.
1. Companies have to invest in work from home practices and they have just started to do that. Using zoom and creating more meetings to replace in person experiences is not sufficient.
2. People have in effect just brought work into their home, into a house with no child care and generally no prepared work spaces
So please don't use this period as a reference for what WFH looks like when an organization is dedicated to doing it.
So in some ways, the current situation is actually an improvement over a more typical split environment.
Ask me to WFH in a shared room in a tiny SiValley apartment with construction, gardeners and the neighbors music blasting randomly and I will show you how to waste $250k per year.
We are moving to a house next month with a separate office space on the other side of a 2 car garage from the main house. I am beyond excited.
When I am repairing my car/bike, he comes with his bike (small plastic one) and gets under it and starts repairing act.
And he does it for long as I am repairing mine.
It's interesting that I don't live with him but he is copying my action but when I asked his mom if he helps with housework as he probably sees her doing a lot of housework, she said no.
I've no idea why getting under a bike is more appealing to him than doing stuff like cleaning with a mop and bucket.
kicks the dirt a bit
We call it iPad time.
I’m on my 10th year of wfh with just a handful of days per year in the office and I notice how each time I’m in the office I realize I actually like that guy who is professionaly the most annoying one. This is extremely important for an organization to work. I do it too little and while I wouldn’t want to go 100% to the office I realize I’m not doing it enough.
We are 90% remote. Most remote employees are in the same area though, so sometimes they commute to the office for weekly meetings or just to hang out and work together.
I don’t live in the same country so I’m 100% remote. However, I still travel to the office ( when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic going on ) a few times a year.
I think giving people the option to work in the office when they want to is the best solution. Keep meetings on skype/jitsi, whatever, but give people the option to attend in person. More people will come than you might think.
I manage four small development teams and the one metric I track is velocity or velocity per developer (VPD). If you're familiar with scrum, you probably have a sense of what this means. (Note: this data is tracked in an open spreadsheet and not used to reward or punish but rather to adjust and adapt.)
Anyway, we went full-time remote from in-office 9-10 weeks ago. We did have some experience being partially remote (team members in different offices) before this. A comparison of avg VPD for last 3 sprints in-office (WFO) vs last 3 sprints (WFH):
Team | WFO | WFH
1 | 8.6 | 7.8
2 | 9.2 | 7.6
3 | 8.1 | 7.6
4 | 7.5 | 7.7
My impression is that productivity has held more or less steady and VPD will eventually not be too different from where it was.
I've also talked about this individually with members of my team. The consensus seems to be leaning toward a flexible mixture of WFH and WFO. That's the future I'd like to see.
Suffocating Agile, as is the standard these days, is about pushing away risky, but really valuable tasks, in favor of fine grained, easily estimated and understandable tasks that are only of minor importance but "feel" like progress. They are more amenable to Bad Agile, and so are the tasks that get selected increasingly in the long run.
WFH is far, far better at deep work, which is much more important to the long term value of a company.
Schools are closed.
"Velocity is the sum of the estimates of the stories that were completed in an iteration. If the programmers estimate perfectly, it's simply a measure of the number of hours that the programmers worked, minus interruptions. The number is often confused by estimates that aren't 100% accurate. Velocity measures a strange combination of estimate accuracy and hours worked. It's a great planning tool, but as a metric, it has serious flaws."
do you have any other recommendation?
The article you've provided continues to keep saying story points are good things.
I don't know how we've found something contrary to what I've asked, yet.
* multipliers, like infrastructure work or pipeline improvements?
* fixing of technical debt that may have no immediate benefit?
* projects of uncertain monetary value?
* projects with great short term value but so much technical debt that they crumble the company a few years later?
* moonshots that may revolutionize the company?
How would organizations like the entirety of Microsoft Research where some guy got to play with coloring problems for a long time and that just so happened to end up requiring him to solve a subset of the halting problem, which just so happened to have benefit in driver validation? (It’s going to take me a looong time to find that source somewhere on the internet.)
> Velocity isn't a productivity metric, so your findings probably aren't meaningful.
They were responding to someone that was using their average story point completion rate to track their productivity.
This person seems to be talking about what sorts of work to work on - the kind that makes the company money.
If it's already been predicted or measured that a certain project is going to earn the company money, then you need to know how long it's going to take to complete that project, which means either estimating it as a whole, or breaking the project into parts and estimating each part.
Assuming two projects of similar mathematical proportionality of size and value, you can then estimate velocity based on how much projected time it's going to take to complete each step of each project, as estimated by story points or similar.
In this way, story points can still be a meaningful metric that you can estimate velocity on.
In short, the discussion is on two separate things and their initial premise of velocity being meaningless is not correct.
Velocity is a great prediction tool. Given a total estimate, it can tell you approximately how many weeks it will take to be done. It's a unit conversion factor: velocity = 25 points / week, therefore 100 points = 4 weeks.
Productivity is defined as output / input. Effort and time are both "input." Velocity is a way of converting from points (effort) to weeks (time). To measure productivity, you still need to define "output."
OP said, "On the productivity question, if you're interested in some soft (very squishy) numbers, I can provide them."
But OP didn't define "output," so they weren't measuring productivity. They just showed that their effort --> time unit conversion factor had changed. Given that there's any number of possible reasons for this—changes in hours worked, changes in overhead, changes in estimating technique, changes in estimate accuracy—the numbers probably aren't meaningful.
They're measuring how much work they're getting done based around approximate predicted complexity / work amount using story points and then using that to map overall work output and charting it from between non-WFH and WFH. If the projects they're working on have tended to remain of similar complexity with people that tend to be consistent, then this seems like a perfectly fine metric for exactly what they're trying to discuss: the relative output from WFH and non-WFH.
A Story Point is a relative unit of measure, decided upon and used by individual Scrum teams, to provide relative estimates of effort for completing requirements.
It is generally recommend you not include time as a component of that unit. For our teams, we kinda do. (Basically, for us, story point = time + uncertainty + complexity.) So there is a common standard. But with scrum you're supposed to size stories relative to other (previous) stories and I feel it's ok for the standard measure of a story point to drift apart between teams as long as its internally consistent to the team.
So maybe there's some kind of leveling force at work. But probably not.
Also, ideally, you should be able to meet your colleagues once in a while to discuss important matters and keep a human connection. But surprisingly lots of trust and friendship can be maintained at distance.
Take time to refresh, slow down during the day and try to maintain social contact despite the lockdown (whatever your local conditions are, you might have to use remote methods of course).
I've been able to work well those last two months but can't wait to hug all my colleagues - miss them as well.
The former are generally pro working from home while the latter feel more swamped and are always talking about how busy they are now.
My guess is that for the first group it's pretty much business as usual, while the second (not generally producing visible output) feels that meetings are the only signal to indicate work being done. And as a result # of meetings in their area has gone up dramatically.
Would love to hear a counter from managers, perhaps I'm way off the mark.
More that as we transition to remote, there is a higher internal desire to signal worth to offset not being in the office. Which on the surface is easily accomplished by adding meetings to your calendar.
Why has this happened? My estimation is that it isn't "because I'm a manager" or "because I'm trying to create artificial face time to indicate my value", but because the broader organization hasn't matured enough culturally to know how to handle itself when everybody is WFH. Examples of things that haven't happened yet:
1) Top down declaration of any core hours, to reduce need for early morning and evening meetings
2) Adjustment of business objectives
3) Formal recognition that there is inequity across sub-populations when it comes to WFH effectiveness/capability (type of work, family situation, living situation, infrastructure access, maturity, mental state, ...).
The perception most within the org seem to have is that, while we pressed pause on some activities (proactive sales outreach, for example), we are accelerating others, and this is coming without much regard for human experience.
Imho, there's also a difference between normal WFH -- as a previous commenter noted -- and this cv-forced WFH. I think there's real fear, that well-founded, from workers who know they can't be 100% productive right now, but don't know if that fact will be adequately recognized by their employer or have clarity around how it will impact future performance ratings, compensation and promotion decisions. As a result, many folks are struggling with balance because they feel obligate to structure their lives in an unbalanced way.
Producing the results managers achieve over videoconference meetings takes more meetings (nothing as hoc now) and is physically tiring. Maybe that is what managers in your circle have been talking about.
Now that I work from home, I've more time at my hand so I am working on my hobbies which make me more productive at my work.
Zoom/Phone don't quite replicate that experience - they require focused attention. In person, your attention can "wander" while you are still focused on the conversation. Look how many people maintain eye contact in a cafe while having a conversation. Not many right? But do the same thing on Zoom/Skype/$VideoChat. "Hey, are you paying attention?" When really, wandering eyes are indicative (usually) of deep thought.
I have a heuristic when synchronous communication (phone, video chat) is necessary: When something is:
a) complex, or
b) has a significant likelihood of misunderstanding (which is just a more specific version of (a).
Actual face to face... that's got to be for things that are socially critical. Breakups. Hard messages to people who are close. First meetings with the biggest client of your life. Important deals, if they take more than "Happy? Yep." Etc. Stuff where the physical impression makes or breaks the experience.
One executive I spoke to put it like this (paraphrased): "the introverts are loving it and the extroverts hate it. Productivity-wise its neutral to positive, but emotionally a lot of our folks are struggling without work so we're still committed to reopening offices when it's safe to do so."
> Also, it's nice seeing everybody at work, getting lunch, having a coffee break with people, whiteboarding, etc
These are the exact reasons WFH is more productive IMO. Less people coming up to your desk talking nonsense distracting you.
I run a completely distributed company and no one in their right mind would argue that a completely distributed company or even a partially work from home company
can be as good as the same people working TOGETHER in one office
The bonds are much stronger
The interaction is much better
Two superstars together are 10 times better than separately
However, when you do remote, it's only 5 times better
At minimum, it is 50% worse to have a distributed company than have a real same office, same location company
What really makes people say 'working from home is just as good' is a combination of
1) liking it for other reasons (more time with family, less pressure) and rationalizing
2) being able to cut out time wasting things (which they could anyways cut out if they were better at saying no to time wasting stuff
3) not ever having done it for a long time and seeing the long term implications
There is a very good reason that very few companies have become very big and very successful while being distributed companies
What about work visas? Will this encourage more visas, or will citizens become unsettled after more cost effective labor is remotely hired while they’re left competing against far cheaper world economies. I can see arguments for both expanding H1B program, and making it more difficult/selective.
Something about this doesn’t feel right, the pandemic isn’t nearly as bad as was predicted. It’s been devastating, but nothing like 1918. That is to say, perhaps these drastic actions of mass WFH will have implications we can’t predict yet, especially at scale.
Will cities become less congested? How about home life, if WFH becomes standard in 5 years time, and some positions that are easily remote are hard to find physically, will home life become disrupted? (Currently domestic violence, child abuse has soared, though this is most likely due to the stress of the pandemic, and not the WFH itself. Through school, work, etc tends to allow those at risk to form social networks, and reach out for help from their abusers.)
There is something to say about spending time away from immediate family. Some people need the break, others are synergetic and can spend all their time together. Depends on the persons involved. But let’s not celebrate just yet, there’s obvious economic incentives, and it isn’t clear this can be reliably reversed. We’re rarely given the full list of motives, which may not be in our best interest.
I've worked remote before and it was fun, I got more done, and I could go into the office once or twice a week if I really wanted. I worked with a guy in Colorado I never met in person for over a year, but I did eventually meet him while driving through on a trip.
If you've never worked remote before 2020, this is not what remote work even remotely feels like. Everything is very different when it's not a choice. I think we need to keep that in mind.
That's true. But I'm damn happy this is the direction we're moving in, the commute is never fun, open offices are usually draining if you're not with a headset stuck in your focus bubble (which defeats the purpose of the open-office in the first place). Of course, we'll need to find a medium for this, but even an option for remote work is great.
That's a great reminder. Thanks.
I don’t know where we go from here, though.
That said I personally hate working from home. Never ever thought I'd say it but I long for my office cubicle as my work has totally monopolized what's usually my own personal space for side projects and zoning out.
I would like to see an increase in flexibility. Many people will choose to work from their own homes, and some may choose to use a flex working space near their homes, and some may commute to the office. Maybe you'll do all 3 depending on what's going on in your life or at work.
The increased flexibility is the key.
I'm watching mountain houses that have sat vacant for months get rented and I'm quite tempted myself. It's not like I can walk to anywhere that's open and I'm paying all this money to live in a hip area with bars and stuff.
Perhaps its less malicious than you make it sound. Isn't it pretty unprecedented in human history for families to be restricted in such close quarters, cut off from community, for such an extended period of time? People need personal space
Hunter gatherer and agricultural societies often have labor segregated by gender roles, with men, women and children spending more time apart from each other than a family in lockdown.
There are no eggs to collect or cows to milk in tech work.
Well we won't really know until we finish the third wave too
Edit: Wrong word used
If I leave Silicon Valley to settle down in rural Vietnam, I'm not going to work for $50k a year. If I couldn't find something paying at least $150k+, I'd start my own company and live off my savings until I get it up and running.
There's a real market-based reason engineers get paid as much as they do. It's easy to lose sight of that here on HackerNews, but just look at what your white collar, non-tech friends do at work all day. Their productivity can often be easily doubled or tripled by better tech. That is to say, someone generating $30k in value per year for your business could suddenly generate an extra $30-$60k a year with better software to help them.
2) Some 5-star engineers in the bay area are willing to take a pay cut to work from low-cost areas
3) I agree there are market-based reasons, but there are also geographic considerations as well as WFO momentum - why fix what ain't broken? Companies were not interested in experimenting/implementing remote work because it costs money and had unclear benefit. Their hand has been forced and they had to tackle remote work
Also, a genuine question
Are Amazon, Twitter, Google, Facebook really doing any very technically amazing things?
mostly they are building platforms to collect more and more data and spy more and more
that's hardly cutting edge stuff that needs the world's best engineers
perhaps Facebook is beginning to realize this
10 years later, I was burned out from working at my crappy FAANG job building platforms to spy on people, so I went into consulting on my own. Sure enough, it was a really similar situation.. I don't want to break any NDAs or sound like a jerk, but I was rolling in and doing things in hours that teams of my clients' best engineers had been failing at for months at a time.
You could grab just about any mediocre nobody from a FAANG company and drop them into any tech company somewhere else that normally pays sub-six figures, and they'd be the top performer there. I think it's something that can be taught, and maybe we'll have a tech renaissance now where everyone goes back to their comfortable hometowns, but there's a very real skill differential between the big tech hub cities and the rest of the planet. (And yes, I'm including other countries where even super hard-working geniuses make $35k a year or less.. because a lot of those geniuses eventually tend to either make their way to the USA, or start their own successful companies. If I found out I could eventually make $3.5 million/year by learning Chinese and working my way over there, you'd better believe I'd get it done)
However, it's also the case that the free market seems to now be only in play when it comes to reducing wages, off shoring, and other cost cutting.
The free market isn't at play when it's time for bailouts, subsidies, and government contracts.
Rugged individualism for all, except the wealthy elite.
I'm not sure the person who you replied to has a frustrated / discouraged tone, but that's what I read it as. I share the sentiment and the above is why.
This is a direct consequence of considering money to be free speech: those who have more of it have louder voices, and this matters a lot when it comes to elections, and when it's time for politicians to pay back their debts to the donors.
Something that I haven't yet seen discussed much on this or similar threads are the support and amenities staff. Most of the developers will be alright, maybe even better off, but the Bay Area is full of chefs, shuttle drivers, janitors, and who knows how many other roles that probably won't exist anymore. That's a big permanent shift in employment opportunity for those people.
It's not over.
I doubt we'll get anywhere near the numbers most models claimed with mitigation. Even the 90k/US currently will have to be re-evaluated at the end and pruned (or possibly added to) for any inaccuracies.
Predicting the future is often foolish, and I hope this is a cautionary tale. We'll have to wait until March 2021 to look at the average deaths per year and compare it to 2020 to get a real sense of the picture, but from what I've been reading currently, my hypothesis is that it will be no where near what was predicted a few months ago. (I could be wrong though, but we won't know until 2021).
It's all guessing at this point though. This whole thing we're in, was a guess, and the costs are high.
Over half of US counties have had zero coronavirus deaths.
Unfortunately, I'm almost certain things will get dramatically worse in the next 2 weeks. Come laugh at me in 14 days if I'm wrong :)
Maybe I'm in the minority here, but my main hobby outside of work is outdoors related. I consistently spend my Friday nights driving 3+ hours to the mountains. The idea of being able to up and move to a mountain town, save the hours I'd be commuting to work AND commuting to the mountains, is so exciting to me. And that's on top of just the happiness I'd get being able to look out my window and see (what I consider) nature vs the cookie cutter buildings of suburbia Silicon Valley. Where are the cyclists, the surfers, the skiiers/snowboarders, dirt bikers, rock climbers, etc etc in these threads? I really can't believe there are that few of us...
But on top of just hobbies, I'd be so excited to see what society could look like in a much more remote world. I think a lot of people would spread out and leave Silicon Valley (but not everyone obviously). I think you'd see more small/medium sized towns pop up across the US that would develop their own uniqueness and character. Traffic deaths would likely go down because people would drive less. Maybe general physical fitness/health would go up because people aren't sitting in their cars and have time to exercise? People working minimum wage jobs would likely have better access to housing as demand spreads and isn't as concentrated. We could see a maaassssive change in the lives of the population, and I'm optimistic it would be for the better.
Note: I'm not saying everyone should be fully remote, or that working remote works for everyone, but the general lack of any real optimism about what life COULD be like in these threads is surprising to me.
This may be different in firms where the workers actually have a say in the management of the company, but god knows there aren’t too many of those
This is fear mongering to say the least. Nobody is stopping those companies hiring from the said regions today. And it is super unlikely western engineers would want to relocate to the said regions given the choice.
Let's all admit outsourcing is a thing and it has been for more than 20 years. The reason outsourcing is dialed back is much more interesting to understand, and offers insight from perspective other than costs.
The high CoL in Bay Area is not sustainable. Software engineering is already democratized in a way, Bay Area no longer holds monopoly.
The high salary here is a reflection of prosperity of past decade of internet bloom, but there is no momentum to keep it that way as the party will end never-the-less eventually.
If anything, I see those remote working as a welcoming trend, to redistribute tech talents and money across US/Canada. Yes, the salary will go down, but it probably reflect better the reality we are already living.
Berkeley and Stanford will continue to drive innovation.
It'll boil down to completing with countries that have large human capital.
Clearly USA is not a winner there. Talk about jobs being taken by people living in Bangladesh/pakistan/Indonesia and other highly populated countries.
edit: I see you've modified your post, I'll update mine, too:
> People who have moved to costlier cities have done it at a significant cost and sacrificies
They're all welcome to return to the places they want to be. We often encourage people in dying towns to move elsewhere to find work or sustainable living. The people that have made 250k+ a year can do that, too.
> Talk about jobs being taken by people living in Bangladesh/pakistan/Indonesia and other highly populated countries.
I see the argument here; but, I don't expect it will be nearly as bad as is said. The platform may certainly change; but, there are still reasonably-sized development teams in countries that do their own thing. Further, a deep understanding of a given culture is very useful when developing software for them, or working with them as a team. We will become more global, certainly; but, there will still be advantages for US companies to pay for US developers: culture. Also, working hours. I had enough struggle on a team with a 3 hour difference in working hours. Having a team with members in Europe (7-8 hour difference from Pacific Time Zone) or India (13 hour difference) has a real impact on productivity that shouldn't be overlooked, unless the whole operation is moved elsewhere
But if the whole operation is moved elsewhere, what are all the developers in the United States and similar going to do? They'll probably start their own companies (yes, probably at diminished wages) and produce their own products; and, recognizing the job losses they've seen to skilled, overseas competitors, they may choose to prefer to hire relatively local employees, and the whole cycle may start again.
I believe the assumption that it will fully swing to 100% of development being out of the country is misguided.
Microsoft might not hire Silicon Valley or other US engineers; and, Facebook might not; but Stellar Games Interactive and the next "YNAB" or FreshBooks might.
-> but, there will still be advantages for US companies to pay for US developers: culture
I disagree here. My company has moved completed teams to India with no loss in productivity. Company today survives because of some projects that happened in India. Had the projects not moved to India some American folk would have been working on it and gathering accolodes and feeling proud of their work.
-> People will start companies here and hire people in other countries to code for them.
I don't know. People don't want to work for other people if they can start companies. How many chinese work for US organizations. They have their own companies and people to work for.
There are lot of points I want to bring forth but I fear they might hurt someone.
In the beginning it'll help people people living in Texas or Nevada. But that benefit will be short lived. People in USA are still super expensive compared to people in other countries.
Same argument hold for H1B. You get some selected very smart people ( only smart not the abuse that Infosys has been upto ). They train 10 people. Start companies hire americans. Economy and people here in general benefit. You stop them from coming here. They can do their work sitting in their 10 by 10 room in some other country.
See guys California's/New york's loss will soon boil down to USA's loss. Maybe it'll take 10 years. But USA is still one country. Taxes people pay in california is still used for the developement of the country.
Don't think of a 4 year picture here. 20 year picture in WFH situation will not settle well for USA's dominiance.
It'll work well for China's dominance. They don't let their innovations leave their country :).
This is not what I said. I said:
> They'll probably start their own companies (yes, probably at diminished wages) and produce their own products; and, recognizing the job losses they've seen to skilled, overseas competitors, they may choose to prefer to hire relatively local employees, and the whole cycle may start again.
That is: they may hire local devs.
Actively refusing to hire local or even in-nation devs and hiring only international devs is either something for a company so small they can't have a coworker; or, if they're hiring teams, some kind of money lover that wouldn't have hired local in the first place.
I disagree. If companies felt they could readily get the same level of talent outside the US, why wouldn't they do that currently? Just set up their business in a foreign country and recruit internationally? And if they're still hiring domestically, why are you so sure they're going to dramatically reduce salaries? They still have to attract talent. If an employee wants to move from the bay area to Wyoming, and their employer says their pay will be cut 50%, what's to stop them from applying to Twitter or another company allowing full remote with (I'm assuming, I haven't checked) a much more competitive salary?
"while obliterating the distinction between “work life” and “home life”"
I've seen far too many emails sent by people at 11:30 PM and followed up with another email at 6 AM for me to believe this hasn't already happened. Not to mention the self imposed aspect of it (neither of those emails NEEDED to be sent at those times).
In the bay area we only had five engineers, mostly focuses on architecture, R&D, new products etc, and even then they only came in two-three days a week mostly for face to face meetings. The VP had a lake house in tahoe and would work remote for 2 months every summer.
I can see a bunch of legacy code maintenance/qa work moving offshore further, but there will always be a core group of five to ten engineers who meet at the central office a couple times a month. Remote will increase but humans still need face to face contact periodically.
We went through Vietnam including Nha-trang on a tourist trip two years ago, of which I think Nha-trang is sort of their tech capital, I was really impressed with the level of development there and how modern it was, although I didn't talk with anyone directly in the industry while I was there. It definitely had an international modern vibe compared to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Well, by the same logic, why didn’t FB have a remote forward strategy before now? Presumably the pandemic has changed firms assumptions about the relative value of remote and in person work.
Now that companies have been forced to go remote, I think they're seeing some benefits from it, and there's a lot less inertia to fight against.
I understand why a person who REALLY wants to live in the Bay Area would be concerned about that. But for most of us in the world, not much is changing. In fact, salaries for the rest of us might go up because demand for our labor will go up.
Few companies were very accepting and open about remote work or had the structure to support it with any kind of scale (hiring, HR, legal, team structure, meetings vs async communication, ...)
If companies adapt their processes and workflows to include remote workers as first class employees, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to seamlessly integrate team members not only across the country, but across the globe.
This avoids the usual cost of outsourcing (communication and coordination overhead, lack of integration, etc), while still opening up a large, much cheaper labor pool.
This doesn't have to be primarily negative, but it very much has the potential to put a lot of downward pressure on salaries and should be considered.
By the time the pandemic hit, we were ready to be our most effective as a geo distributed team.
Seems to be very much a reflection of how engineering is managed at a company.
god forbid we earn the same as everyone else with our skills instead of an arbitrarily inflated quantity thanks to luck of the draw wrt lat/lon we were born near.
The potential reduction in housing cost alone(one of the largest inhibitors to developing wealth for most Americans) should be a massive cause for celebration. We can stop orienting our lives and our cities around commuting (and therefore cars) and start focusing on people.
People complain about the loss of the workplace as a social environment. What about the opportunities to create new social environments that aren't centered around work?
I wrote more about this here, if you're interested https://manyfoxgiven.com/2020/01/21/remote-work-promise/
That said, I also hold out great hope for this development. I’m already looking at places I’d like to live because I’d like to live there, not because there are jobs.
Did people that live in company towns tend to work 70* hours a week?
Reality is crumbling now that the pandemic proved that we can be as productive without an office. Some people are lying to themselves to justify why they have lost so many hours of their life in an office.
Sounds needlessly aggressive, just straight up dismissing any valid points the other side could have.
Do I like working from home? Yes. Does it give me more flexibility when it comes to my personal life? Absolutely. Would I want to work from home every day? Definitely no.
In a perfect world, I would love to work 3 days a week from home, with the remaining 2 days in the office (not necessarily back to back, e.g., I would prefer working from office on mondays and wednesdays.
I'm not saying this is the case for everyone (I'm using some here) but myself and a couple of my friends have definitely been in that category before realizing that we actually don't like going to an office.
I can’t wait to get back to one. For me, working from home is awful. For you, it’s not. Different people are different.
Mostly it’s the isolation that gets to me. I’m used to working with people.
I don't have all the equipment at home, so I only go to the gym once a week (well before lockdown, now I go 0 times but did end up getting some equipment).
Also the food. The office had free healthy food. Now I have to make my own lunch, which is often cheap easy crap and late in the day.
Also I miss socializing with adults that aren't my spouse. She's great and all, but we've already heard all of each other's stories. :)
I very much value all the extra time I get to spend with my family, and I also value the fact that when we wanted to spend a week in the mountains I could just up and go and work from there.
But there are definitely tradeoffs.
No! You'll now be able to make friends outside of tech! Imagine being able to work from the diner, or a coffee shop, or a bookstore, or a another country entirely! You're going to be able to make friends with so many different people. It would be a wonderful thing for the world.
Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I think it would go a long ways toward breaking humans out of the bubbles they tend to stay in. Maybe people would start to empathize and understand one another better.
Coworkers offer a great pool of like minded individuals that can relate to people. You have to interact with them, and relationships are inevitably built. This is fantastic!
On a personal note: the office is a social environment distinct from my personal life. I enjoy both: hanging out with coworkers after work talking about a hairy problem, working together with coworkers to fix on call issues, and then hanging out with personal friends on weekends.
To be clear: I have mixed feelings about remote work. I can see the benefits it offers but I love to be around human coworkers. I’m not sure how invested I would feel.
I get that all it takes is to find a meet up of like minded individuals that meet up regularly, but sometimes even that is hard to find.
You left out the military, but those are merely the few institutional walls that society has most oppressively forced upon us. There are countless other sports teams, game clubs, hobby communities, activist groups, charities/service organizations, hacker/maker spaces, martial arts gyms, etc. etc which we are more free to choose from, and are often more likely to enjoy. With the internet, such groups have never been easier to find.
Choosing is only an issue because we are so unused to having such agency over our own lives.
* Not everyone is equally productive when working remotely. For a variety of reasons some people just work better in offices.
* Mixed office/remote teams are unstable. People will be drawn to offices if only for career reasons, which makes it harder for the remote works, hence makes the office more attractive, etc.
* Some jobs are just better done in person. Auto repair is not a remote job. Same for manufacturing.
What I hope for is that companies will realize they don't need everyone to commute to the office every damn day. I freed up about 3 hours of transit time and reduced my annual carbon emissions by about a ton just by commuting one day less in the Bay Area. There's no reason why most white collar jobs can't work from home a couple of days a week. This would already be a huge improvement.
It's probably a bit bleak to say, but those people will likely be replaced by others who are productive working remotely given the new, wider talent pool a fully remote company will have access to.
An example being Shopify's announcement today was followed with them switching previously Canadian, or Toronto/Ottawa specific roles to being remote and available within the Americas.
This person was division I MIT crew, this person runs 200mi ultra-marathons, many coworkers have done an Ironman or two, many are cycling 100+mi/wk, many are running marathons or 10mi a day at sub six-minute pace.
Where I grew up the number for any of these things would be zero, but here it feels common. I'd guess partly highly selective entry from top schools biases towards people that are also athletes, or that there's some positive correlation with competitive/ambitious people and making sure to exercise. I suspect the normal no-exercise indoorsy stereotype is actually wrong when compared to other people on average.
You don’t see people bulking up and lifting heavy, it’s all time intensive endurance sports that make you thin.
How many times can you have the same conversation with someone complaining about <outdated software library> and being underpaid at <six figure salary>? It's amazing to me how few people in this industry have exposure to the world of experiences outside of the pinhole purview of techworld concerns. Going remote means you actually get to choose your day to day friends, experiences, social life, and culture instead of having them forced upon you! Craft your life the way you want to live it.
I can think of one big reason why HN readership is suddenly worried about the prospect of universal WFH: they realise that the supply in the labour market is going to suddenly double. No longer will companies be able to justify paying them huge amounts of money because people from all over the world are just as good and able to work for much less.
Remember a lot of people here are now addicted to money. They don't much else in life besides that.
I had looked in the past for remote work for precisely the reasons you mentioned. On top of that my partner would love to move back to Vancouver Island for a spell. Also Toronto is bloody expensive.
We've discussed all kinds of different options... but one of the core motivators would be affording a house, with some land. Being closer to family—mine or hers—and spending more time outdoors.
Also not having to commute 1+ hour each way—yes, please.
There are people that would benefit from remote work - they might like living close to the mountains, no commute and they can still stay very productive while fully remote.
There are also people who don't care about mountains, live close to work and are more productive while working in the office among other people.
Both groups are right in what they value most, and as long as there is no detrimental effects to the business/employer - both seem like good options.
If you're willing to go far enough up the mountain, real estate is still quite affordable.
And I think you'd be welcomed if you actually live in a small town full-time (as opposed to keeping a vacation home) and get involved with the local community. Many of these places -- the ones just out of organic-grocery-store range -- have been losing population for decades.
Of course, in California, you have to make your peace with living in the Red State within the Blue State, in case that's a thing for you.
Competition. Some believe that once orgs and managers get comfortable with a fully remote team, whats to stop them from replacing or supplementing office-only team with a cheaper remote-first one. That increases employer options and shifts market power over to them.
Work/life. Some like the hard separation between work and home. They are just not comfortable losing that wall.
Social setup. Some are scared shitless when they realize they will lose their only social setup: office, and will have to start fresh and actually talk to people who don't share their view of the world.
Family. For a lot of people, office is a convenient escape from family that does not get questioned. Take that out and it will drive them nuts to be around family all the time.
Income. Some believe that more competition will lead to lower salaries lesser opportunities, forcing a move to a lower income area leading to lower income and that sounds bad.
I see it as the opposite. If an employer goes from mandating everyone be in office all the time, to allowing ICs to have a choice, doesn't that treat them less like an undifferentiated drone and acknowledge that some people work better WFH and others don't, or that for some projects you might want to be away from the office for extended periods of time?
No, on aggregate it will be the opposite, I think. Each dev will be treated more like an API--requirements go in and products come out. When the entire country is your labor pool rather than a select population close to your office, that's easier.
If the human touch is important to you, there are a lot of careers that you will thrive at, especially with your tech skills that you can apply almost anywhere.
More people/better infrastructure in Gunnison, CO would be great. Maroon Bells getting a housing development and a golf course? Not so great. I'm worried that more people in small mountain towns near national forests has the potential to slowly eat away the national forest.
I'd say they are out there riding bikes, skiing or climbing, not discussing WFH arrangements for the third time this week :D
My wife and I decided to be in a major metropolitan area because of our kids and schools... but back before, we were living in more rural, mountain areas with a lot of access to outdoors.
At some point, we're going to get a small trailer for my use as an office, or an office trailer. It's something I would want anyways.
I think one good compromise with this is having a remote-first company pay for either a home office, or the membership fees for a coworking space. Some people really enjoy the interpersonal interaction. Me? I get enough of it via Slack and Zoom, and the occasional in-person conferences and on-sites.
One of the positives I can see us moving towards is greater interpersonal interaction with the local neighbors, and greater mixed-use spaces like it used to be. You work from home some of the days, and then walk down the street for the coffee and bagals. You talk with the neighborhood grocers. You can hang out at the community gardens. You make your living with things that could be done remote, but there is a much better sense of community where you live. When you spend money, it would be within the local community, so it helps distribute the wealth to people who you live side by side.
And ok, maybe if you don't like to cook, instead of using one of those apps to get some food from across town, you support your neighbors who love to cook.
In other words, instead of bonding primarily with the people you work with, your main community is the one you live in. I think that's generally a good thing.
There's a project called the Urban Farming Guys. They do a lot of hard work for developing food resilency, and transformed one of the worst neighborhoods in Kansas City into something that is great. Imagine living there, because you cared about the work they did. You work the remote job by day, and then walk over to their makerspace to teach the neighborhood kids about coding. When they ask for donations, you could spread some of the wealth from working with a remote tech job. You would have a choice to live with the people who share the same values that you do.
Here's the thing. I think a lot of people feel that they will be disconnected from people if they work remote. But I think if they were able to choose where they live, they might find that they are even _more_ connected with the people they live with, in the neighborhood they live with. I think there is a modern malaise of disconnection and brokenness, and that won't really be solved without reconnecting to your local community. The interpersonal camaderie at work is an imperfect substitute for what I think most people crave without realizing they crave it.
The schools are the main thing preventing us from moving to a small town in nature. Most of them have really bad schools. If they don't it's because they're a rich-people enclave and housing's very expensive.
Even if the schools are terrible in every rural school district you can get individual tuition for your children for very cheap compared to the difference in costs of real estate in urban versus rural areas. The average adjunct instructor at a college makes $3,000 per class. So for $24K your child could get individual college level instruction for 8 AP tests, as an upper bound. Cheap compared to the difference between a house in Boston and one two hours away.
Remote work may have as devastating an environmental impact as the automobile (if not more).
Just wait until 250,000 of your fellow outdoor enthusiasts move to Wyoming...
There are two broadband, Low Earth Orbit satallite internet projects that will be a game changer. These are supposed to have low latency to market towards high-frequency traders. If the cost is accessible for individuals, then yeah, you could live at the edges of the grid. Would still need some way to get electrical power.
My wife and I had been thinking about doing that with an RV, and just tooling around for a bit.
You can still have culture, transport and internet in smaller metros. Timezone is key - it's the main reason why offshoring leads to problems.