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Ask HN: Is all of FAANG like this?
738 points by faang0722 on July 23, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 614 comments
This last year I finally landed a SDE job at a FAANG company! However, I'm considering quitting because I am not happy.

The good: I get paid better than my last jobs. I can browse internal resources to satisfy my curiosity about how things work.

The bad: Basically no work gets done and there's no motivation to do any.

The dev tools, docs and tech debt impart such a slow iteration speed that even when I am working a full 8 hours, only a few very small changes get done, yet somehow this is even more than most of the rest of my team can muster during an entire week.

Because of this, I normally work about one day trickle out my changes during the the week. The other days I only open my computer for standup and if I get an IM. As far as I can tell, if I can be just barely the best on the team by doing there's nothing the company will offer me to work harder. If I get asked about why it takes long to make a simple change I can point to the environment and shrug my shoulders. Of course, it's possible the rest of the team is doing that too, but I have no way of knowing.

This amounts to a glacial development pace and when I look back at the progress made since I joined and estimate the cost to the company (salary, servers, etc) it's frankly disgusting. I don't feel what I'm doing is ethnically wrong, because the company is evidently pleased with my current productivity, but I find it unsatisfying and like a waste of my time on earth.

So my question is: Is all of FAANG like this? If the market value of such incompetence if FAANG salary, how can I do good work and get paid preportionally?

I worked for Amazon (like you:) but that was 5 years ago. Things were a lot more breakneck then - but I can see how things could’ve slowed down with the 3x dev count now.

As many have pointed out, it depends on teams. I have seen engineers in retail whose sole job was ensuring data entered the catalog correctly through the input system and fix any errant data. I also saw teams like mine (early kindle / early dynamodb) literally perform magic. We launched dynamo across the world with a <15 person team. But it had 3 principals and 5 sde3s in a time when the whole company had <100 principals. That team remained highly motivated through my tenure but the members went on to different parts overtime because it was too much talent concentrated in one spot.

In short I look at FAANG as flexibility. you have a major life event, you will probably have enough good will to work it out with lighter contributions. You want to build bleeding edge software, you can do that too.

I’d suggest finding the local legends now, see what they are working on, building deep knowledge about it, ask for an interview and join them. In a big place like that, there are always movers and shakers - they are also looking for motivated and talented devs for their team, so it is mutually beneficial. It will only work with your initiative and a bit of luck though.

FWIW - I still have some of my old contacts there. Message me if you want a referral. Good luck!

I think that is solid advice. Take the bull by the horns and make your own destiny. There is not much downside to reaching out to the legends but so much upside potential here.

> But it had 3 principals and 5 sde3s in a time when the whole company had <100 principals.

I can only imagine what principal / SDE3s that deliver products as big as DynamoDB got paid in bonuses/salary. Total comp had to be $500k-$1m+, no?

Nope. There's no bonuses at Amazon (at PE/SDE levels at least), and there are compensation bands for each level. A top-ranked SDE3 that delivered DynamoDB should have similar compensation as a top-ranked SDE3 working on internal tools.

I prefer not to discuss compensation - so will answer this indirectly. Few SDE3s definitely make principal salaries, Principals make millions and so on. I remember there was an ex amazon guy putting up the top end numbers on twitter which seemed more along these lines. It sadly comes down to your managers and VP decisions.

FWIW it is kind of a future investment IMO. You come out with a ton of knowledge and contacts that your future jobs can definitely be highly rewardd if that's what you're going for. Some find joy in the company of like minded peers instead of chasing the gold, everyone unto their own!

> I prefer not to discuss compensation

Why not?

I guess I have old school compunctions against discussing it, probably comes from generations of folks not talking about it and considering it impolite.

I also have seen how people react when they realize there might be a huge pay variation for same titles - it's not good for anyone. I avoid conflict as much as possible nowadays, so it makes me more reticent. I pretty much redirect direct questions even from family because of that. None other than me and my wife knows how much I make - that's the max comfort level I'd ever get to I suppose.

I'm generally of the opinion that the tradition of never discussing salary is entirely pushed by management to prevent underpaid workers from asking for more.

If nobody knows how much they could be making, they can never really be sure of what they are worth.

At a company that size, it probably saves Corporate billions, while serving the average employee not at all.

If it was "entirely pushed by management" then most employees would ignore it, especially those making several hundred thousand or millions a year. On the contrary, a lot of employees at all salary levels discuss their salary.

Management absolutely has an incentive to hide salary writ large so that is definitely part of it. But employees who earn more than their comparably-titled peers also have an incentive not to disclose their salary. If position X gets paid, at the median, $200k a year with a $20k SD, and you get paid $275k a year in position X, the only things that will happen by you publicly discussing your salary are: 1) you'll be called a liar; 2) your peers will get jealous; 3) the best peers who may have been content prior, will either negotiate a higher salary and leave less in next year's budget for you, or leave for other positions making more money, resulting in a brain drain from your team.

Salary discussion overall only benefits low and mediocre performers. High performing ICs have very little incentive to discuss it.

#3 is called "fairness." It's the part where the rest of your team -- especially the women, who, statistically, are almost certainly making less than the median -- realize what the median is and have the opportunity to demand that they are paid for their contributions. Yes, that might come at a cost to you personally, if you were making more than others on your team who were adding similar value. Would you rather scam more money from the system for doing the same work as your peers?

I'm not trying to convince you to reveal what you make, but I don't think "it's not good for anyone" is right. It might cause a bunch of conflict and I can definitely see wanting to avoid that, but that doesn't mean the outcome isn't ultimately beneficial...

I see things the other way - if it's all in the open, there is no possibility that it can cause issues down the line.

The absence of this allow employers to employ people below their true value, which is not only unfair working conditions, but also unfair in that some people get paid vastly more for equivalent (or worse) performance, depending only on awareness of worth and negotiation skills.

Public pay figures will not only tell you what you can expected to be worth, it will also tell you what the company truly values and rewards (as opposed to PR bullshit). Opening up salary figures means a company must face its own contradictions, if any.

Principal is L7. No way they make millions unless they are exceptional Principals and get discretionary pay.

I'm contrary on this. I see salary level as a negative, not a positive. I want to be paid comparably to my peers.

I don't think I'm unique. I think just about all workers want to be paid comparably to their peers. They get upset if they discover others doing the same stuff with the same levels of skill and experience are making more than they are. (And here I mean a lot more, not just "been with the company longer and got regular raises".)

Value is relative. Something is worth what someone else is willing to pay for it, and that includes the workers labor. And focusing on pay can be misleading. I saw an IT salary comparison a while back. An IT staffer in San Diego might make more than double what a staffer doing the same job in Wheeling, WV made. The reason was simple. It cost far more to live in San Diego. Employers there had to pay far higher salaries so their people could afford to live there. And the chap in WV might actually being doing better, relative to peers in San Diego, because even at half the salary, his living expenses were a lot lower, and more of what he made was disposable income, instead of just covering his rent.

If the salary you make is your main focus, I think you are doing it wrong. Money is a means to an end. Having money lets you buy things you need. Having more money lets you also buy things you want. If all you have is money, you have problems. You can't eat it, wear it, or live in it. All you can do is exchange it for food, clothing, and shelter.

And if your main focus is salary level, you are like the character played by James Garner in a film called The Wheeler Dealers. Garner was a Texas entrepreneur, buying and selling, being followed around by a breathless female financial analyst trying to understand what he was doing. He stated it very clearly. "It's a game. Money is how you keep score." If that's the game you like to play, you probably shouldn't be in IT.

I had an interchange a while back with a chap elsewhere who was folding a startup that had not proved out. That's the normal outcome for a startup. Most fail. Too many people think "Oh, I'll go work for a startup! I'll put in 90 hour weeks for shit pay. But the startup will succeed and IPO and I'll get filthy rich" No, you won't. Even in a startup that succeeds and IPOs, only the founders are likely to get rich.

If you found a startup, the goal shouldn't be getting rich. You should be doing something you love to do, and will continue to do regardless of whether your startup succeeds and you IPO. If the startup succeeds, you may get filthy rich, but that will be a side effect, and not the point of the exercise. The chap I was talking to agreed completely with my notions.

The OP's complaint wasn't money, it was inability to make a meaningful contribution. The company was too big, with too many little cubbyholes where folks could get tucked away and not have an opportunity to contribute. His challenge was to find another place in the company where he would have an opportunity to make a contribution, or to find another company to work for that would provide the opportunity. If I were him, I might even accept a starting salary that was lower than my current one, simply because I could do stuff that made a contribution, and I saw potential for growth and making more money later.

This isnt true. Top performers on top products always have larger compensation. Its not discussed openly, but guaranteed they are receiving bonuses in the seven figures. If you think this isnt happening, you are naive or havent been on an inner circle at a large corporation.

Whoever told you theres no bonuses at Amazon is not a top employee

Is there any actual evidence of this, though? Whenever software engineer salary comes up on HN, there are always one or two people who come out of the woodwork to share this oh-so-secret information. "Despite the pay bands that all big companies have and some even publish, there are secret squirrel individual contributor software engineers who make $600K and get million dollar bonuses! Trust us, it happens, guaranteed!" But nobody ever actually produces evidence of this, and none of these unicorn engineers ever post to confirm it. Inevitably, someone will point to one of those online self-reported surveys and one of the rows will show some ridiculously huge salary. But that's the only thing I've seen that even remotely looks like evidence that there is this secret cabal earning millions as employees writing software.

Yes there actually is "secret squirrel" business going on. Secrets are a thing, especially around money. It's a fact some computer programmers get profit sharing and it is not advertised.

Him: "Is there actual evidence of this?"

You: "Yes. But it's a secret."

You think the people inventing the critical algorithms behind amazon s3 and aws in general are line of business employees making what everyone else in their band makes? A trillion dollar corporation is going to let that guy walk out the door to save instead of chipping him an extra million?

This isn't about people who get their work done fast and execute on projects well.

I have no idea--that's why I'm skeptical and would love to see evidence. In some of these companies, veteran outlier high-performers end up getting promoted several times to things like "Distinguished Engineer" and have enormous staffs of engineers reporting to them. They are executives in all but title, so I'd expect them to be in the executive pay bands and get executive salaries. Those aren't the people we're talking about. We are talking about regular "top performer" individual contributors (write code as their job, no direct reports). Why would a company artificially keep them at some low promotion level but pay them as if they were multiple levels higher?

Do you think a multi-billion corporation would pay a low level employee an extra million just because they can? You may overestimate the value of individual engineers, big corporations don't. That's how they become big. The money they make is the difference between the value of your work and the money you make. The smartest and best connected people in the company are working to make that gap as wide as possible.

Yes, but if this engineer's achievements are well known, competition between companies is what drives crazy comp because they are seen more like a strategic asset rather than another engineer. They wouldn't quite be a low-level employee, these unicorn ICs often report directly to middle management or above. I'm surprised how little industry experience some of these commenters seem to have given that it's HN.

Competitors are also multi-billion corporations. I do work for one of those big multi-billion corporations, it's my second, and I've also worked for others not so big. Only newbie engineers fresh out of college believe the myth of the genius engineer who gets grossly overcompensated because they're so smart. You can find 10s of thousands of brilliant engineers in any of these companies, that's the bottom line. Not a single one of them is, on their own, irreplaceable. Specially valuable individuals get awarded distinctions like "fellow" or "distinguished". They're valuable, more than anything else, because of their contacts and rapport within the industry. It's never technical competency; not that they're technically incompetent, but most of their underlings will likely be more technically competent than them (if they're smart, after all, they will do the technical work). If you haven't figure this out yet, don't worry, you'll get there.

You clearly don't work for one of the ones that grant 7 figure salaries. I'm not saying they're common or that any engineer can aspire to achieve one, I'm saying they exist, I've seen it first hand, and I don't understand why it's so hard for you to accept they exist. Nothing in your comment constitutes novel insight to me, and neither of us have a good measure as to which of us have more credibility than the other, but I suspect you're just judging based on your own narrow experience.

Edit, just for more context I'm speaking of FAANG level companies here and very rare individual unicorn engineers who have been specifically hired into these kinds of positions for past achievements that have impact across the whole industry. I would agree with your general skepticism in any other context.

As I said, I'm on my second FAANG. The "very rare individuals" you mention are hired L9 or above. That is, distinguished engineers+. You don't get to L9 with "a valuable technical contribution", you get there because people know who you are, you have strong network of connections within the industry, and you are in a position to make strategic decisions. It's very much not a technical position, it's borderline executive. Let's put it this way, the people with that kind of compensation, you know who they are. It's never an anonymous whizz kid who's very good at solving technical problems, it's the guy who hired them and/or knows how to direct their work.

As you said, you don't know me and I don't know you, so I don't have a reason to doubt your word. If you say you've met engineers who get that kind of compensation, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Everyone I've met or I've known to be in that level of compensation were the people I already knew were making that kind of money.

Getting special bonuses is more about being part of an inner circle than being a "top performer" or inventing critical algorithms for s3. Yes, the people truly behind a lot of the important stuff are standard engineers making within band compensation (possibly out of band only due to stock appreciation).

Just because something would make sense to be true doesn’t mean it is, so I’m not sure if that counts as a valid argument

People who see it happen don't even have enough hard details to confirm it to themselves aside from the fact that they're witnessing it firsthand. The best I can do, for example, is to say that at FB I worked with someone who was very well known as a very highly ranked IC, and that the comp in the band he was known to be in is astronomical (1m+ annually). Another factor is that we don't want to dox ourselves by giving out biographical details that would otherwise have built a case. This particular engineer had built foundations of particular unprecedented things within industry with enormous current relevance, even to laymen, before acquiring their current rank. I can't get more specific than that, but $1m is absolute peanuts compared to the size of the market sectors these engineers have a hand in shaping.

Whoever told you there's no bonuses at Amazon is not a top employee.

So that's how Amazon works - people can't even get a straight answer from management as to the existence of a bonus structure (let alone how it works)? They need to whisper it to each other offer coffee, or... go on Hacker News to find out what the actual deal is?

Sometimes not even management has the whole picture knows. I know someone who was a former employee (top performer) at FB. He would have his end of year (or half year? Not sure what the cycles were) with his boss, receive his bonus and salary increase. Then his boss's boss would pull him aside and give him another bonus, that his own boss was completely unaware of.

Imagine working at a place this toxic. Holy shit.

> I know someone who was a former employee (top performer) at FB

Yup, checks out

I mean just think about it. You write some critical piece of Amazon S3, generates massive value for the company. Amazon knows they cant lose you, how are they not paying you a ton of money? Individual employees can get into situations where they have massive bargaining power over large corporations. Your average or even regular top performer is not getting this, but people definitely are.

The bonus structure works like this.

1.) You provide massive value, maybe move the needle on the bottom line

2.) Someone way high up who probably doesnt even know you wants to know whos responsible.

3.) He tells HR, give that guy an extra million and let me meet him

I've seen bonuses like this at Amazon. You forgot the detail where some clown who has been taking credit with no technical understanding of the project gets the bonus while the people who delivered the actual value are ignored.

That’s not how software development works

Not sure why I was downvoted, it’s absolutely true. SDE is not a meritocracy.

If you're concerned about your downvotes perhaps you can give us your theory of how it works.

Compensation is decided by a hierarchy of managers, with each manager giving his subordinates a budget to compensate his subordinate managers, trickling down layer-by-layer to the peons.

If your manager's manager's manager is awesome at self-promotion, you'll make more money.

The End

unfortunately, self-promotion matters a lot, sometimes. Shitty or competitive places will require it.

^ This guy reads the Dictator's Handbook.

You're downvoted because you post a shallow dismissal. Look it up in the guidelines, link at the bottom of the page.

Would love to connect to those engineers in retail :) We're looking at solving data quality issues and would be useful to understand how they are doing it.

SubuSS's advice is sound.

It's possible that your or your team's productivity is actually bad, and in general at the company you are expected to do more, but the team you are on is a puddle of low productivity within the overall org. How would you know if this is the case? There are a few signs.

What degree of tenure do other people on the team have? If old-timers aren't on the team, or worse, if they leave the team for others within the company, they might be seeing writing on the wall that you can't. If this is the case, your future on this team, and likely with this company, might be in jeopardy when the reorganization comes.

Is the team just not important? Are you responsible for maintenance of some cost center that isn't worth high-level executives paying any attention to? If this is the case, your future might also be in jeopardy, but the reorganization might be multiple years away.

Are you just not listening to your manager? It's possible that you are going to be "blindsided" by a PIP due to the lack of output. This might happen if the actual output of your team isn't what you are thinking it is. Maybe the engineers who aren't outputting anything visible to you are actually outputting considerably to other parts of the organization. If this is the case, your future is in jeopardy and you'll find yourself out of the company within a year or so (yes, it actually does take a long time to fire people at FAANG companies).

It could be one of these or something else. Since you have so much extra time, it might behoove you to figure out exactly what the situation is on your team, so you can make the necessary preparations (to change teams, to get a new job before you're laid off or fired, to do whatever you think is best).

It's especially important at a big corporation to actively take responsibility for your career, and ask your manager about what will affect your career. For a talented young software engineer, this may seem fundamentally uninteresting, and you may moreover feel humbled by the sheer amount of money they are throwing at you, so it is easier to avoid this task — and in any case you may be able to coast for a long time if they recognize your talent. Eventually, though, you will run into a situation where your talent and their evaluation of your talent diverge, and you may be blindsided by this, and even if you aren't you will need to make a real effort to realign those.

No one seems to train for this sort of career-self-management explicitly, and most engineering managers are actually not all that experienced or good at managing people. Many will try to make things more comfortable for themselves by being less confrontational and downplaying the negative things which will come back to hurt you later. As such, you should work to combat these anti-patterns, asking your manager on a regular basis questions like these:

- What are the company's objectives and goals for me if I am to remain in my current position? Am I meeting these objectives?

- How about if I want to advance in the company? Am I making progress on these objectives?

- Is there any feedback which I need to take into account which will affect my performance review?

- I have responded to earlier feedback; has my response been satisfactory?

Go over all of these regularly, especially the question of feedback (feedback is much more actionable if it's timely). When you're done, summarize to your manager what you heard, and your sentiment analysis of that. "It sounds like everything is on track for now without the need to make major changes, and I can expect a timely promotion; is this right?"

Take notes every time, noting the date. (They don't have to be long.) Keep the notes organized in one location.

"It's especially important at a big corporation to actively take responsibility for your career,"

100% agreed.

As someone very early in my career at a large company, I am bookmarking this, thanks!

This is great advice, thanks for sharing.

Great points!

FAANG companies like to manage people without giving negative feedback. This can be very confusing if you are used to explicit feedback and come from a more direct culture. "Listening to your manager" can be difficult if you are not used to decoding the issues.

Coasting is often possible. But this is not a good strategy - you are throwing away a huge opportunity to excel, grow and take on more challenges and scale. If you are not having a great time with growth on your current team, it's not advantageous to do the minimum. Instead, look for more exciting projects!

Why do FAANG companies allow coasting? It means people can feel safe, find passions and ideally excel and uncover huge value in these growing industries. Rather than a visible stick, there are (invisible) carrots. Take advantage of these!

As noted, eventually, lack of progression will count against you. You will be overlooked when big chances come up and fail to build relationships that will aid you in your career. It's hard to hire people who find these tasks easy - showing your capabilities will open doors.

These are very good points. I'm curious what the process is from the perspective of the manager. I'm new at the management side of things and was always a top performer as an IC (so didn't get a chance to learn how its down on the flip side). My biggest challenge is figuring out how to give negative feedback (and not destroy a weak player's morale). If someone is having not performing well, I act as a cheerleader and suggest ways of improving. I'm not sure how strong I could/should go (I'm not going to berate anyone since I am not a psycopath). By not providing stronger feedback, I think I am failing the struggling teammember since they may eventually get put on a pip. Any blogs, books or suggestions on how to develop this skill?

I thinking being transparent about it and highlighting how it could be a good thing for them down the line (Interview Question: "How do you handle challenges at work?") if they do improve the things you're noticing. Provide evidence of why you think that and say they aren't in trouble, but we want to improve the quality of your work in this one area.

- Hey X, I brought you into today to talk to you about something I noticed. There is an issue/errors with your work, when doing Y[provide evidence of common errors/average errors of others], I just want to say you're not in trouble, but we want you to improve this area and wanted to make sure you were aware of it.

- I want to extend any resources I have available for you to improve in this area, and of course I have some ideas, I wrote everything down on this paper/email.

- You can come with a plan of your own. Or we can collaborate on it--if you're not sure why issues are happening. Take some time and think about it, and when you're ready to talk about how we might ago about improving in this area, please schedule some time with me and we can work on this together.

Look at Crucial Conversations. Don't take it as gospel, but it's a good starting point.

Stick to facts. Clearly state your expectation, and show how they are not meeting that expectation. Then place the ball firmly in their court. The goal is not fixing the issue for them, but getting them to take responsibility for fixing it themselves.

Refrain from creating a "shit sandwich" by putting the critique in the middle of praise. That makes the conversation ineffective. These conversations are never fun, but they are important to have, and you eventually get used to it.

I really found the Manager Tools podcasts on feedback very helpful https://manager-tools.com/2005/07/giving-effective-feedback

It's not about berating anyone. It's about constant subtle modifications. They compare it to driving a car. Even if you're on a completely straight road, you can't just keep your hands off the wheel and expect the car to continue going straight. You provide regular nudges to keep the car on the road.

Maybe this analogy doesn't hold up that well anymore with auto-correcting cars :)

I think your concern about not providing stronger feedback is valid. Highly recommend the series of podcasts they have around this topic. You'll think about feedback in a much different fashion.

There are two approaches to negative feedback: growth vs deficit. In a deficit mindset, the negative feedback is everything your report is doing "wrong". In a growth mindset, it is things your report can "improve". Subtle framing like this can help with the morale of your employees as it's now how they can take the next step in their career rather than here are all the reasons you're a bad employee.

Some companies have "competency matrixes" (or "growth matrixes") which show what's expected at each level. These can be helpful - showing that whilst a Junior person might just be expected to fix a bug, a more senior person may actively seek similar bugs, add test-cases etc. This is great at setting the scene as "how to level up" rather than of negative feedback.

This doesn't directly answer your question and you didn't ask it, but I feel it relates directly to the source of your frustration potentially: you may never find a job that is fully satisfactory in terms of what you hope to find. I used to be in a similar boat striving to work towards and find some magical job that would make me feel fulfilled and purposeful. They all ended up having things I didn't like and would quickly lose interest.

So at least what I did is stop trying to put so much of an expectation on my job to fulfill me. I took responsibility to find and do things at and especially outside of my day job that did fulfill me. Now I feel no large angst or annoyance at glacial paces at work that occur, political games, etc.. because I have other things that are more important to me that are interesting, provide meaning to me, challenging, etc.

Having a nice paying job with relatively little work to do is something of a luxury, especially in this pandemic time where the economic toll is hitting many. So my unwarranted suggestion is to find something meaningful for yourself to do/experience even if your work isn't where it's at.. you probably will even have extra time to discover and pursue that since sounds like you're not so busy at work.

>So at least what I did is stop trying to put so much of an expectation on my job to fulfill me. I took responsibility to find and do things at and especially outside of my day job that did fulfill me.

I'm not debating you but I just want to point out that your advice depends on the personality. It may even work for most workers but for some us, we cannot mentally "compartmentalize" the day job as the isolated 9-to-5 soul-sucking slog and then use the weekend activities to make up for it.

I used to have a boring high-paying job and used the money to go on exotic travel and buy expensive hobby toys like hi-fi audio equipment and camera lenses.

I should have done the opposite. Find a day job that I was passionate about instead of looking for fulfillment in after-hours hobbies. For me, I need my hobby to be my day job. I know an entrepreneur who sold his business for millions and I always envied him because he worked 80+ hours every week and he had more energy than I did even though I only worked 40. Why? Because his intense overtime aligned with what he wanted to do. Mine didn't. He didn't golf or go on vacations. He always worked because that's what the most interesting activity was to him. His only break was weekly meditations.

That's what I'm trying to do now. I want to find something I can really sink my teeth into and work overtime on. I don't believe in "work/life balance". I tried that. I need work to be my jam. I'm probably the minority and others may even see that as a psychological defect but I can't help it. For me, the dissatisfaction of a boring day job always bleeds into the weekend as an underlying unhappiness I can't shake.

With all due respect, the fact that you haven't found that "dream job" yet kind of proves the commenter's point.

I'd love to work a "dream job" myself, it just doesn't exist. The whole purpose of a job is to make a company money, and money just never really motivated me other than in the freedom it buys me to not have to sell my time. Everything I enjoy doesn't make money, and if I wanted to "monetize" any of my hobbies it'd completely kill the fun out of it.

Being an entrepreneur and your own boss sounds amazing, but it's difficult and requires a lot of hard work, time, and money. The safest path for anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur is thus to get the highest paying least demanding job with the most prestigious title (for fundraising purposes), and work on it on the side until it has enough traction and you have enough financial cushion to quit the day job and go full-time on it.

Of course one shouldn't put up with a job they absolutely loathe, but in my experience the search for a "dream job" is a journey bound for disappointment. If the job were so fun, the company wouldn't have to pay people to do it.

True enough. Have you tried to get a paying job playing with puppies for example? It's hard enough to get a volunteer position for that.

I agree with that to a point, but I think it's more like a job employed at someone else's company and making them money is never going to be a dream job. I do think there's hope in creating your own dream job via entrepreneurship and paving your own way, working for yourself. It can be a job that you control the schedule and all that you do. Everything you say I still 100% agree with and have also never found a dream job out of what are considered great positions. I think it's out there if you take and make your own music, start your own company, whatever is that you like/want to do on your own terms and if that becomes a successful venture. Self made.

Well they’d have to pay people to do it well haha

Just wanted to let you know that I'm exactly the same way. In fact, I've even thought perhaps I was the one with the psychological defect where I simply can't stand the 9-5 grind, regardless of the pay, status or type of work. No amount of hobbies, travel or social efforts have made a dent in the deep, existential dread I feel after only a few days in a "normal" job.

Unfortunately, while I have had some successes working for myself, I tend to find down periods come along where I need to work again and I convince myself it will be different this time. It usually never is, the only difference being the length of time I can stomach being employed and even then it's a difference of a few weeks at most.

Is this actually a defect that needs some kind of therapy to correct? Or is it an acceptable way to be? Who knows but I thought I'd let you know that it's not just you.

I'm in the same boat as well, and I'm also questioning whether this mindset is something that is best to fix (e.g. through therapy), deal with ("suck it up, work isn't meant to be enjoyable"), or work with (by finding a fulfilling job). I'd love to hear from someone with the same mindset who's found satisfaction in one way or another.

I'm currently in therapy for work/career anxiety so I can weigh in on this. I've always felt like work should be fulfilling, as long as I can remember. It was around 5 minutes into my first job out of college when the feeling of "this isn't right" started and it hasn't left yet. I started trying to get over it but from working through why I feel this way with a CBT therapist, I believe I just need to follow this. I've found some satisfaction in I'd say 3 things:

1. Knowing that I'll always feel this way and always have a need to do something meaningful. It's my life and I get to decide what's important. This might not sound like much but just cementing that I don't need to change has helped me get through bad days.

2. Starting to make a career change. I'm going to try to get into med school, and to get healthcare experience I've just recently completed an EMT certification. I absolutely loved this class. Such a diverse group of people all from different backgrounds who also just want to have direct impact on someone's health. My therapist says I sound like a totally different person when I talk about how EMT is going. I think about that a lot. Last week I got to help a stranger with heat exhaustion and she was incredibly thankful, I think about that a lot too. Just starting to take the first steps towards something more fulfilling has been huge towards giving me something to wake up excited about.

3. I now treat my CRUD app office job like how most people would treat selling stuff on Craigslist - I do not care about it beyond the paycheck. I don't think about how it should provide any fulfillment. I don't think about being here a year from now, or even a month from now. It won't matter in the long run.

Possibly some of these things can be applied to your life as well. Hope this helps.

I'm currently working on a combined approach - deal with it + fix it via therapy/CBT/Mindfulness. Dealing with it by practicing gratitude for the benefits it provides and the goals it allows me to work towards. Current plan is to use this approach for 5-7 years working towards FIRE and then move into something more fulfilling with less pressure to secure a high salary.

We are lucky that tech pays so well that we could, in theory, retire early. It is very difficult to keep that in mind when you're miserable at work though...

Definitely ok to feel the way you feel. Talking to people is always an option as well. For me i was lucky to find a wife and now have a child. The 9-5 literally blows by, i'm at a giant mega co (not faang) and it sucks similarly. Sometimes it's crunchtime and u gotta work hard, other times no one gives a shit as long as systems function. I've put in my time grinding (5 years at startup) and now want to milk the shit out of these corporate bastards as much as possible.

Basically my wife and now child have changed my life , work sucks (just like blink182) said but hey they are payin me big $$$ to chill out. As a father and husband consitent steady income is name of the game. If you are single and want to hustle, sure fuckin job hop all you want bud!!

"isolated 9-to-5 soul-sucking slog"

jupiter90000 said not to bank on finding your "dream job" that fulfills you; you jumped to talking about "isolated 9-to-5 soul-sucking slog".

There is an in-between. Rather a lot of it, actually.

My job does not on its own fulfill my self-actualization needs on the Maslow hierarchy. I don't think any job could. That's rather a lot to put on a job. But I am satisfied with what I am doing, satisfied with the effect it has on the world (I'm not even remotely working to make advertising more effective), and I don't see it as a "isolated 9-to-5 soul-sucking slog". Sometimes I have to do some less-than-fun stuff, but then again, that is why they're paying me.

Does your mental models of jobs encompass this in-between? While you can continue to search for the "dream job", it may well not exist, whereas the "good enough jobs that are not isolated 9-to-5 soul-sucking slogs" do.

Absolutely 100% this. I worked for several very large organizations, and I am one of those people who just cannot cope with what feels like the pure insanity of it all. I would far, far rather take a huge pay cut for a more sane life, and I did. The alternative is feeling like I'm slowly dying.

Another thing-- even if your job is 'easy', the commute, the drudgery and the psychological stress we've been discussing leaves people like me drained at the end of the day. So the idea of finding fulfillment in hobbies doesn't work out in practice, because the energy just isn't there. Everything feels too hard, and not good enough.

> It may even work for most workers but for some us, we cannot mentally "compartmentalize" the day job as the isolated 9-to-5 soul-sucking slog and then use the weekend activities to make up for it.

Remember that the absolute majority of humanity are working soul-sucking slog jobs to get a salary to be able to afford a home and food and some nice things.

We who work in tech are extremely fortunate to be able to find jobs that are both very well-paying as well as fulfilling. Thank your lucky stars that this is a possibility for you.

This is meant to be helpful, but it does not help.

And you cannot say to someone that is depressed - most out there are worse off than you. It will not help with the depression.

Not all feelings of "this sucks" are necessarily depression, though.

Of course not. I was reaching for an analogy

And also, we are not his therapist. I am not concerned with helping his depression.

I did not imply that the poster has depression.

In my experience menial jobs are not necessarily soul sucking. One of my jobs was literally 90 percent cutting open plastic bags and throwing their contents into a machine. Sure that is not nearly as rewarding as cleaning up some messy code or thinking up an elegant software architecture but it beats having to deal with an horrible third-party API day in and day out without any hope of fixing it. During a lot of menial work you can let your thoughts float around so I digested many an abstract idea which I had read about the day before while my body was engaged in an activity that only needed a fraction of my attention.

This is an important perspective. I'm grateful for what I have, but I deeply struggle with the same feelings others have shared in this thread. Knowing that I'm fortunate to not be subsistence farming doesn't fill that hole where purpose should be. It seems some humans might not be wired to feel okay about this, no matter how hard they try.

Maybe our goal should be to free everyone else from soul sucking slog jobs through automation/reorganization of incentives to not have these make work jobs? I'm really interested in finding/working towards a solution for everyone.

> but I deeply struggle with the same feelings others have shared in this thread.

Yeah, it's like the old saying "rich people problems are still problems". :-)

I get it and I sympathize, everyone should strive to make their lives as fulfilling as possible. But a tiny bit of humility and outside perspective works wonders.

> Maybe our goal should be to free everyone else from soul sucking slog jobs through automation/reorganization of incentives to not have these make work jobs?

110% this. We must reach post labour as soon as possible to stop the insane waste of human potential.

Citation needed!

The global employment rate is about 60%, for reference... So nearly all of the employed would have to have such a demoralizing job to make an absolute majority.

I think many relatively low income workers still have things meaningful social relationships at work, or perform jobs frequently rated as meaningful like nursing/farming, which can make up for some of it.

In nearly all western countries people could get all the things you mentioned even as unemployed, but most people choose to work, frequently because they like luxuries and status.


I've been quite miserable in my day job for the last 2-3 years.. At first it was allright, but the shit just kept coming. I even started looking for something new late last year, but when the lockdowns etc came, I gave up on the job hunt, since my anxiety of "nobody is going to hire me" now had two companions named "who in their right mind would be hiring now?" and "i don't want to meet any new people" XD

Since jan or feb I've been getting up everyday at 5am to work on an assortment of private projects until I have to leave for my day-job at 9am. I love working on these projects, I used to play Overwatch a lot, but now my favorite pasttime is my non-day-job work.

I still would love to get rid of my day-job but just to commit even more time to my own projects.

However, none of these pay any bills, and so I toil away...

Oh yeah, and to top it off I meditate for 15 minutes in the car before I get in the office. Helps me alot against "the shit" that just wont stop coming.

May I suggest finding a cause you truly believe in and volunteering your tech skills. Most non-profits and advocacy groups have such a huge tech deficit that they could use someone like you.

But why would you do this passionate activity for someone else to profit from? Why not build it for yourself? And I don't mean necessarily starting your own business but if your day job is something else you put some amount of effort into that to accomplish whatever you've set as the minimum standard for meeting your work goals and then you put the rest of your energy doing what you ready want to do?

I feel the same way. I don't see the point in wasting 40hrs of my life every week doing something I hate, I'd rather go all-in on something that interests me and have something to show for the hours I put in.

Have you tried finding fulfillment in having a family?

I'm sorry if I'm taking this the wrong way but that sounds like settling for mediocrity to me.

Who said jobs can't be fulfilling?

> Who said jobs can't be fulfilling?

The person you're responding to did not claim that jobs can't be fulfilling.

They merely said that people shouldn't expect to work a fulfilling job. And they're totally right.

In fact, I'd argue that the extreme majority of jobs are not fulfilling for the majority of the people working them. Retail, fast food, call centers...nobody enjoys those jobs. And yet people work them because they have to, because they pay so little that trying to get out of them takes an incredible amount of work, which is hard to find the motivation to do when you're so beat down by how incredibly shit your job is combined with constantly being stressed about lack of money.

Of course they can be, but the problem is finding one that has some overlap between:

- Fulfilling

- Stable

- Decent salary

I find that it’s hard to get all of them in the same position.

> Who said jobs can't be fulfilling?

Life experience. ;-)

Yours maybe

Are you telling me that if you had the financial freedom to work on any project you wanted, you’d choose what you’re doing right now?

I'm not there person you replied to, but I think I would probably stay at my current job if I was financially independent.

I work for a small company. The company does foreign language training. Most of the business is one-on-one classes between real teachers and students. My job is basically R&D to figure out ways we might use software to improve the teaching/leaning process. My primary focus is on virtual reality, but I'm also exploring a lot in teleconferencing.

For about a year, I was the only software developer on staff. Our company website and our student portal are all developed by a consulting firm. I got to hire another developer about a month ago. We will never be responsible for the website. We strictly work on these R&D projects.

It's been the best job I've ever had. Most money I've ever made. It helps that the company culture is strongly tilted towards "employee empowerment", and not just as a platitude. Nobody brow beats me over anything. Nobody asks me to justify any hardware purchases (though I still do, because I think it's an important part of developing and documenting the projects). When I say something will take X long, they believe me and that's that.

If you like your work, if you like to build things, try finding a small company that isn't a software company. Definitely avoid consulting companies. I spent 15 years in consulting across a variety of company sizes and it was universally soul sucking (though the smaller orgs were definitely less so, up to the best time I had as a consultant was as a freelancer. It still wasn't as good as my current job, though).

Edit: somehow my phone auto corrected 15 years to 25. I'm not quite that old.

This is awesome man, truly happy for ya.

Your comment isn't the first time I have heard this advice, "Find a small non tech company and get involved" however I have previously written this advice off for w/e reason.

I now find myself in search of a new opportunity and am very much like many other commenters in this thread, highly unsatisfied with "rat race" type jobs, and if I'm not happy I don't perform up to my ability well.

I'm actually very interested in exploring your path, possibility finding a small non tech company and seeing where/ if I could add value to their organization with my software development experience.

All my previous jobs have been found via standard software development job boards though, StackOverflow, LinkedIn, homegrown software job boards, etc. Do you have any advice on finding a small non tech company that might be looking to add a software developer to their ranks?

Honestly I'd love to chat with ya personally. If you're comfortable shoot me an email otherwise any incite here would be wonderful. Email in my Bio

Stooooop using job applications. You're limiting yourself to an extremely tiny pool of jobs when you go through the front-door of posted jobs. The vast majority of jobs are filled through networking, not cold applications.

My last 10 years of jobs have all been gotten through networking. I've still applied to jobs through postings, but I've mostly not gotten any replies from them. And definitely stop using recruiters. They don't have any access to jobs you can't find on your own. They're just trying to move candidates as fast as possible into companies that can't find employees on their own.

Get out into your community. Get to know people. Be friendly and helpful to them, and eventually they start asking you if you're looking for a job.

The primary problem is that you just don't know what work is out there. Networking is like getting dozens of people looking for jobs for you, and you don't even have to ask them to (and seriously, don't ask them to, it hurts your ability to build relationships with them).

That was the biggest change for me. I grew up in a podunk town and had to get out of it to find people I could stand to hang out with long enough to build useful relationships. I didn't realize at the time that that was what I was doing. And maybe if I understood the importance of finding "the good people", I could have worked harder back there to find the types of people I wanted to work with, and been fine even there. But it's definitely easier in a major metro center.

If you can't, go to conferences. Go to conferences in industries other than tech. Go to enough of them in one industry and you'll end up meeting the same people. It takes a little more time, but actually not a lot. Something about seeing the same people at conferences tends to open people up to each other.

And there are a lot of online conferences these days (for the obvious reason, but there were a lot before, too). Definitely use this time to get out and start meeting people. Hell, I live in DC and one of the communities I'm more active in is actually centered in Austin, TX, and I've never even been there. The particulars of why it happened aren't important, just that it's very much possible to get involved in different groups without actually having to travel.

You might even volunteer at a local foodbank or some other community service type thing. On the surface it will sound unrelated to what you want to do, but you're also meeting other volunteers. Some of whom might be people you want to work with. My first major freelancing gig came from an engineer at a sensor manufacturer that I met because we were volunteering at the same place to teach kids STEM skills.

Hell, take up marathon running. I have never done it, but my wife used to do it, and she always ran and bumped into the same people (if you'll excuse the pun). Anything that gets you into a position to reliably meet people. That's it.

It's hard when you're in a miserable job. All you can think about is the misery you're going to experience next week. And then a year goes by and you've had 52 miserable weeks without even realizing it. "The future always gets here". Literally do anything that breaks you out of that routine (short of shooting heroin, I guess) and you'll probably be a lot better off in a year.

I’m genuinely happy for you! Few people will ever get this level of satisfaction.

Yes, it's not easy to find, but it exists out there.

I think a lot of people's dissatisfaction comes from the narrative surrounding "financial freedom". We get bombarded with the idea that financial freedom is the one, true path to working on your passions.

For a variety of reasons, I think that's bullshit.

It creates a false hope that there is some state one can achieve that is free of misery. There is no perfect job. Every person working on their passion project also has a lot of chores they don't like that they have to perform or their project will never see the light of day. C'est la vie.

But more insidiously, it denies the concept that one could be happy working as an employee somewhere. It makes me wonder whether it's a narrative intentionally designed to keep people "in their place". By creating a narrative that "financial freedom" is necessary to work on one's passions, it pushes the worker to not look elsewhere for greener pastures. "Stay where you are, the grass is always greener, blah blah blah". Sure, we can certainly get into situations where we are blind to how good we have things. But there are also lots of very toxic places. And just because you're more likely to go from one toxic place to another doesn't mean that the toxicity is "natural" or "inevitable" or "just the way things are".

So the first step is to accept that happiness and satisfaction and having a contented disposition are choices one can make now, not the result of achieving some financial endpoint. Your boss wants you to work overtime to make an impossible deadline happen? His problem. You weren't the one to set the deadline. He needs to own up to his failures.

And then the second step is to be more open minded about where you might work or what work you might do. I used to do nothing but web and database development. I thought that was the only thing I'd ever get hired to do. And I had only ever done it for consulting companies. I tried to get out of it by getting a job doing software product development at a bunch of companies. I kept getting told that I didn't have any product experience, that my consulting experience "didn't apply", that I had never worked on a single project for 10 years straight.

Uh, I don't know a whole lot of people in any field who have worked on a single project for 10 years. They exist, and that's amazing, but that's just not the bulk of people in any industry.

So I just stopped asking permission to do the things I wanted to do. I just started writing exactly the software I wanted. I dragged it into my consulting work (a little easier when I was freelance, but ultimately not that hard even when I wasn't). I didn't ask approval for anything. Occasionally, I got in trouble for it, but most of the time either went completely unnoticed or the benefits were recognized, and it was fine. But the key point was that, even those few times I was getting in trouble for doing whatever the hell I wanted, it was still better than the long period when I was doing what I was told and getting brow-beat all the time to work overtime and do things "The Company Way" or whatever.

That's one of the reasons I constantly advocate for exclusively working for smaller companies. Most small companies don't care how the work gets done, as long as it gets done. Sure, Microsoft and Google and Facebook are going to flip their shit if you unilaterally decide "this code that I wrote is open source". They want you to ask permission first, to write up a business case for why it's better to be opened first, probably develop it in-house for a while before opening it, if ever opening it, if you ever get approval to work on it at all. And some smaller companies attempt to cargo-cult this behavior, but if you just end-run around them, they don't realy care. They just put up with it.

Or not. Maybe they fire you. But if they do, it's not the end of the world. I've only ever been fired from one job, and that was unrelated to my technology decisions. It was also one of the best things that ever happened to me, as it broke my fear of getting fired. I started on this life of "do whatever I want, but do it to the best of my ability" after that and everything has been so much better ever since.

Just... protect yourself. Be a little mercenary about your work. It's your work. Most places actually have lots of jobs, you just don't know where to look for them. Get out into the community and meet people to find them.

Most of our fears about what could happen with our employers and our work situations are pretty unrealistic. It's pretty rare for people to end up on the street, homeless, just because they refused to work overtime. It usually takes a substance abuse problem, or a mental health crisis. Which you're more likely to fall into if you're unhappy. So choose to be happy. And then do whatever it takes to protect that happiness.

I work at a company that's very much not FAANG (more of a small, niche CAD-flavored Adobe), and I do a lot of what you describe.

Namely, a lot of "whatever the hell I want," almost never asking permission, and I don't recall ever needing to beg forgiveness. The end result seems to be that I now know lots of trivia about dusty corners of our massive, legacy code-base and my manager seems to be consulting me on a bunch of architecture-level decisions. Granted, I ... exercise savvy about playing in a leaf-node sandbox vs. a trunk-node jenga tower, and I'm a fluent English speaker with a PhD-level math background so maybe I get a little more latitude than other people.

Still, I find that I feel a lot more free working here, under considerably less pressure to ship, than I did in the PhD program.

This post reads like someone who has achieved (or perhaps inherited) financial freedom and now does whatever they want and doesn't understand why others don't do the same thing. Your first third of your comment argues against trying to obtain financial freedom, but then tries to nudge the reader to do things that likely require financial freedom to achieve.

> Or not. Maybe they fire you. But if they do, it's not the end of the world.

For the majority of people, if they lose their job and don't get something new within two weeks, they don't pay their rent and lose their home.

No. We're not hurting, but we are not by any means financially independent.

You're kind of proving my point on "fears are typically unfounded". Missing a rent payment one month does not usually lead to immediately losing your home. Also, I would wager that a lot of people have friends and family through which they can get assistance if it goes longer than that. It's going to be extremely stressful, but it's not usually going to mean the person is suddenly homeless.

This is what I'm advocating: being more realistic about the worst case scenario. You're probably not actually going to get fired, and you're probably not going to end up homeless if you do.

If your personal, intersectional position is much more precarious, by all means, proceed with more caution. I'm just some dude on the internet. I don't know you. But I'm not writing specifically to you, I'm writing to the aggregate. It doesn't negate that most people have more fear than they need to about getting fired.

I enjoy doing what I do. I think it's possible to combine financial success with personal satisfaction. In fact I believe the greatest financial successes are the ones that are most intimately tied to their creator's personal satisfaction, enjoyment and alignment with what they do

> I enjoy doing what I do. I think it's possible to combine financial success with personal satisfaction.

That's supremely rare, mon ami. "Do what you love and you'll never work a day" doesn't apply to like 90% of the workforce. And even when you do cool stuff, there is often no shortage of BS to go with it.

You are very lucky to love your gig and be well compensated for it; most people are not well compensated and live lives full of endless drudgery.

not the question that was asked

You don’t need the money. You’ve been given the financial freedom to do whatever you want. And you seriously will just plug away at your job? You can’t think of a better way to spend your time and talents? That’s a bit sad.

I think you're projecting. I suppose in normal times I'd take more time off but otherwise I'm not sure I would quit and do something different. Admittedly lots of people get addicted to effectively the gamification aspects of compensation but there are still lots of people in tech and elsewhere that could absolutely retire comfortably and/or do whatever they wanted at a relatively young age if they wanted to.

bookmark this and come back in 20 years. your life should be fulfilling not your job.

I honestly don't see how a life could be fulfilling if you hate or even just don't care for what you spend most of your time on (work)

You're not always in control of whether your job is fulfilling. Maybe you've been lucky so far, but it's unlikely to last forever.

A piece of advice: The moment it stops being fulfilling for you, you may get the urge to change jobs to something that you think will make you happier. You may change jobs several times trying to rediscover that initial feeling that made you satisfied with your work. But it may never come back. And if it's anything like my situation, in the end, the first job you left may have been the best of the bunch, and you come to the realization that the original satisfaction you had was a fluke and you may never find it again.

There's two ways you could go about fixing this. One is to keep job hopping until you get something that was as good as the first job. The other is to accept that it's just a job, and to try and not derive too much of your happiness purely from work. (Or, more generally, try to not derive too much of your happiness from anything you can't control.)

I think it's important to figure out why you found some piece of work fulfilling. I think a lot of people don't have a good understanding of why they like doing the things they do.

I know a lot of people who say, "I do this job that I hate, and I have this other hobby that I truly love, but if I were to make my hobby my job, I think I'd learn to hate my hobby." I used to say it about a number of things. I love to cook, or I love to paint, or whatever, but I work as a programmer because it's what I can stand to do for work.

And then one day I had gotten so sick of working for terrible companies that I thought I couldn't be a programmer anymore. Then I spent about a year kicking around a bunch of bullshit ideas, trying to find work that wasn't programming, that was "more fulfilling". And ultimately ended up doing a lot of programming in that time, because I had falsely concluded that my terrible work experiences were just "the nature" of working as a programmer.

I didn't hate programming. I hated working for consulting companies ran by MBAs. What I eventually realized was that I love programming. If I had been a graphic designer in those same situations, it would have made life even worse. Programming itself was the thing that I was enjoying that mollified my discontent with my employment situation. Any other job would not have been as satisfying as programming, which is where the concept that I'd "learn to hate" photography or music or teaching or whatever.

Some people I know do the work because they love solving problems for their users. Some people do it because they love learning new things all the time. But I don't think they really know that about themselves. I think they have a surface understanding that, somewhere around this area of this job that I'm doing, there is something here that I like. But they don't have their thumb on what part, exactly, that they like.

I think it's very important to pin it down because I also think it's very important to be able to recognize if it is no longer the thing you love. It's perfectly valid to change your mind about what you love. You might start out on your career loving the intellectual challenge of programming, and you might learn over time that you love interfacing with users even more. But if you haven't taken the time to deeply introspect on what particular aspect of the work it is that you are enjoying, you'll lump it all together as "I love software development", and then wonder why things have gotten bad when you're still a software developer but are now working on database schemas rather than requirements gathering.

You can't know how to fix a thing if you don't know how it's broken. And you can't know it's broken if you don't know what it should look like when its fixed.

How about trying to get back into that first job? ;)

A man cannot step into the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man.

The circumstances that made the first job great were no longer there even before I left it, and the role doesn't even exist any more at this point. I've looked at joining (roughly) the same team again but the responsibilities have changed so much that I can't really recreate the same magic.

ninkendo has written some wisdom here.

Live close to work or remote. This reduces commute times and frees up time during your day. Take vacations and do things that excite you. If not remote, take advantage of days you can work from home and go for a long weekend somewhere. Or work from home for a week and go somewhere.

Work to live not the other way around. Clock out and do things.

I'm not sure that's quite the scenario the parent posited. But there is something of a middle ground where you don't necessarily love/are energized by every hour of every working day but you like it well enough on net and you have the flexibility and financial freedom to do things outside of or adjacent to your day to day job that you want to do.

Many people like jobs that are not fulfilling.

You have answered your own question :-)

> Who said jobs can't be fulfilling?

As a worker, a job will always have elements that are inherently stacked against you and are unfair, and those elements are enforced by the same laws that force you to accept such an arrangement otherwise you won't eat and your kid will never be able to see a doctor.

You give part a part of yourself you cannot get back, your time, a limited resource that you can't regain once spent. You often do this for little to no equity in the business you spend the majority of your waking time advancing, and you often have little to no say in how or where your time is spent. For the vast majority of people, they will never be paid enough to be able to live off of their assets, and their time will be spent building wealth for those whose income is derived from their assets.

Unsurprisingly, there are some people who aren't happy with such arrangements and have a lot to say about them.

Who said they must be?

You spend around half of your wakeful hours at your job, if it's unfulfilling you're trading misery in addition to time for money.

That's why they pay you money for it. If it was fun, people would do it for free (see the FOSS world and its endless discussions on how to monetize).

That answers a point I didn't make.

Everyone exchanges their time for money, if you work a job that's entirely unfulfilling you're trading happiness too. It's an exchange that no one wins.

The company might still win in that exchange, since they get the labor they paid for anyway. Whether you are happy or not is only important insomuch as it alters your productivity. Don't fall into the trap of thinking a company of FAANG size cares all that much about individual employees.

I'm not saying big companies deeply care about you as a person, but their interests are at least partially aligned with yours on this. Happier employees are more engaged, work harder, work longer hours. In many cases the things that make employees "happier" are a lot cheaper for employers than increasing someone's salary by x%.

> Don't fall into the trap of thinking a company of FAANG size cares all that much about individual employees.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking everyone posting on HN comes from a similar background. I work for a non-profit who go to great lengths to make the workplace comfortable.

Don't get me wrong, I think that's great and I'm happy you have a nice workplace. My comments were in the greater context of the thread, which is about working for FAANG companies.

Well, you adapt yourself to find some fun/fullfillment in the work that is available.

To approach work with the mindset "it must be fun or else!" can lead to a lifetime of misery.

They pay you money because you bring them value. Not because it's fulfilling or not for you in any way.

> They pay you money because you bring them value

Not at all. They pay what it would cost to replace you. If someone accepted to do the same job for cheaper (or free), they'd take it, regardless of the value it generates.

> If someone accepted to do the same job for cheaper (or free), they'd take it, regardless of the value it generates.

They wouldn’t hire you for the job in the first place if it generated negative value.

Do you not agree that value creation is correlated with salary?

Not particularly strongly.

Salary is correlated with market demand and alternatives, both for the company and the employee.

For example, I know engineers who are some of the most valuable people in the company, and some engineers who are borderline useless. You can be borderline useless but good at self promotion / good at negotiation and be paid a lot more than very valuable eng. fwiw, I'm on the business side of the house, but used to be an engineer. So I think primarily in terms of business value.

Or think of CSMs. They get paid a lot less, on average, than engineers. Are they less valuable / do they create less value? It's quite hard to make that argument: No CSMs, no customers and no upsells.

I agree salary is correlated with demand, but I also believe there's a reason for that demand.

CSMs have no leverage. Engineers are powerful because their work can have an org-wide impact.

If we're talking about business value I think that sales (B2B), marketing (B2C/DTC) and engineers are the largest generators of business value in companies because of the leverage they have.

I have worked in b2b selling to enterprise or midmarket for my whole career, so individual customers are generally noticeable amounts of revenue. And our lowest end customers have CLVs in the 250k+ range. So that obviously influences my view of whether CSMs have org-wide impact.

I can see how that differs with a different business model, but I don't see how you can simultaneously believe CSMs don't have leverage, but salespeople do. In a business -- particularly in a saas model -- where you have CSMs and AEs, CSMs have more leverage, because you probably barely break even on year one of a customer.

If half of all software engineers suddenly died, the remaining software engineers would be able to negotiate higher salaries. But they wouldn't be adding any more value to any given company than they were previously. Conversely, if a spaceship landed with 10 million highly capable software engineers, we'd all be on minimum wage. It doesn't matter how much value you generate. If there are hundreds of other people who could do your job equally well, then you won't be able to negotiate a good salary.

But it's cute that serfs under the yoke of capitalist exploitation think that they are being paid in proportion to the value they generate!

If it was the case, salaries wouldn't vary so much depending on geography.

They pay because you wouldn't bring them value if they didn't pay. Otherwise Facebook would be paying the developers of every open source project that they use.

Not value, money. Every job centers around money because we're working for businesses. "Value" is just a side effect (and not a necessary one at that).

Some people find making money meaningful and fulfilling, many of us don't.

My job brings me opportunities of scale that I'm unlikely to find elsewhere, and I genuinely enjoy the challenges, but I'd work on something else if they didn't pay me to do it.

It's not that it's not fun, but fun doesn't pay the bills. If it didn't _have_ to pay the bills, I'd probably still develop software but with a very different focus.

Got to believe that it’s possible before you can find it.

If it was fun, it would be a sole proprietorship.

welcome to the workforce! Where you receive money for doing a task you don't care to do.


Marx was big on getting people to the place where they don't feel like their work is pointless. But in order to get there, you have to get rid of the social stratification of the current system, where some people do their labor and give it to somebody else to sell. That seller not only gets to keep the majority of the profit, but it also keeps the work from being very fulfilling since you're disconnected from the end product of your effort.

So Marx didn't say it was impossible. He just said that getting from here to there was going to require changes -- changes that could easily be unpleasant.

I agree. Don't look for personal fulfilment in work: that's not what it's for.

Work for money, and use it as one of the tools you have for seeking fulfilment, not as an end in itself. Life isn't short but it's not long either, and the only thing you really have is time.

And that is how under-performing teams like OP describes are born.

Do you think like, high performing teams at a FAANG corporation is the meaning of life, or?

I would like to think like this but can't, may be some elaboration can help me and others who can't think this way.

For several times, I left a comfortable job for an adventure, and ended up wasting months (sometimes years) for no outcome actually.

If I only had an answer for this; how would we convince ourselves to not do more than we can and be satisfied with the reward of getting relatively better paid than the market ?

And what is out there outside the job that can fill the gap of doing nothing 40 hours a week for whole life ? Traveling the world ? Check. Getting scuba diving licenses? Check. Pottery workshops ? Check.

What would we head towards while getting used to the comfort of thick paychecks and not really growing on the other hand ? It feels like we're not in charge of our lives in that case and something can come up and take what we're given by those comfortable jobs. Isn't that a concern for anybody else ?

I think you are right, and that makes me sad.

There's much more to life than working a job. Work-life balance can be tricky, especially if you seek fulfillment, it may take years/decades to find what you seek, be fulfilled and then contribute from your own source.

This is a healthy thing, and one would do well to pay attention and focus on what matters.

I think you're on the money with this answer. I would recommend to the OP to consider hiking, bike touring or some other multi-day slow consistent outdoor pursuit. Working inside all day is a special kind of hell.

>If the market value of such incompetence if FAANG salary, how can I do good work and get paid preportionally?

You're going to have to learn that, as a laborer at a firm, the quality of work you do is, at best, loosely correlated to your monetary compensation. Sometimes you can do good work, sometimes you can do bad work, but how much you're paid is going to depend greatly on a number of surrounding factors.

So, accepting that there is perhaps not a strong link between doing work that you're proud of at work and being paid well, which would you rather have first?

If you finish work at the well-paid FAANG job feeling like you still have energy to do good work, you can contribute to open source, build some side project, or, even better, none of those things. You can use your extra time an energy learning new things or engaging in a hobby. You don't need to define yourself by your profession.

If, on the other hand, you'd rather not feel like you're just collecting a check from your job, there are certainly positions and fields that will actually ask employees to move mountains. I'd imagine that firms like SpaceX don't have room for desk fillers. There are lots of scrappy upstarts trying to solve big problems, but you will almost certainly make more if you stay parked in FAANG.

I personally am a game developer; the challenges are unique and satisfying and i don't have to worry about whether I'm contributing to something worthwhile. I also make probably less than 50% of what my friends at Amazon and Microsoft are making. C'est la vie.

> You're going to have to learn that, as a laborer at a firm, the quality of work you do is, at best, loosely correlated to your monetary compensation. Sometimes you can do good work, sometimes you can do bad work, but how much you're paid is going to depend greatly on a number of surrounding factors.

This is really good advice. Your organization is given tens of millions of dollars to meet a set of goals. Those goals take X SDEs to accomplish. SDEs get paid roughly the same amount, regardless of their day to day.

At some point you will be in crunch mode on a highly visible project. Other times you will be updating wikis or doing things that don't need an SDE (I spend a lot of time getting paid as an SDE to work on tech documentation). The later are great times to do something you find interesting (maybe even loosely correlated with your org).

If you are an enjoyable person who can get things done, you are well worth the money. (except at amazon where the first part is frustratingly optional :)

> You're going to have to learn that, as a laborer at a firm, the quality of work you do is, at best, loosely correlated to your monetary compensation.

This has been one of the most disorienting and most important realizations of my career. Hard work, or even effectiveness, are only loosely correlated with comp. Often it’s even inverted, and that sense you get that your higher-paid betters aren’t very good and are barely even working is actually true when you get there yourself. It’s very weird but you must not tie expectations of effort or difficulty to compensation. Remember, we’re operating in an economic system where some of the best-compensated and richest people do essentially no work at all. It’s a topsy-turvy world out there. Your hardest work, highest stress, and most abusive job can easily be the one you’re paid the worst for.


Isnt it interesting:

Economic theory is so incomplete that it is wrong

Currently taking note of economic inconsistencies and compiling them on the side so that we can create a more complete economic theory in a few years' time.

You don't need to @ the person you're replying to. It's clear from the comment threading and only adds unnecessary noise.

As a fellow game developer I really identify with this. I found a job that I am passionate about, even though it came at a significant tradeoff in terms of total compensation compared to FAANG. I would rather optimize for personal fulfillment and building something worthwhile, even if it comes at the expense of money.

Please don't take this as a disparaging comment because it's not meant to be, but...how to you define "worthwhile"? I had to read the OP's comment twice because it wasn't immediately apparent to me that coding in the gaming industry met my intuitive definition of a "worthwhile" endeavor.

FWIW, I think it's awesome you found something that meets your personal goal, I'm just curious how you arrived at that definition of what constitutes "worthwhile".

Worthwhile for me means that it has a net positive impact on the world. Specifically, that people who play games I've worked on derive meaning from their interaction with it or simply find an escape for a few minutes at a time. I make entertainment for a living; ultimately, the creative goal is to make people happy.

This is a compilation of people reacting in real time to the next game I'm working on. Nothing I could ever build at a FAANG company compares to this.


That’s not gameplay. Actually playing the game will look completely different. You might as well just be making an animated film.


What are you talking about. That's people reacting to the announcement trailer for the game. The point being that nothing I could ever produce at Facebook or Amazon would ever produce that sort of genuine reaction from people.

You said FAANG. Either way, I think you greatly overestimate the importance of a video game trailer and greatly underestimates the joy Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, etc. bring to people. Not to mention that for many, they also provide an income and livelihood. BTW: Youtube is filled with reaction videos like that for all kinds of products and stuff.

This is the fallacy of modern tech-based capitalism and I hate it. The job that I enjoyed the least and where I also did the least amount of work was the best salary I ever had. The value that I added through that job was nominal at best.

Other jobs that paid less felt more challenging and exponentially more interesting. Needless to say that happiness was proportional as well.

I came to terms with the idea of lowering my salary just to have more impact and work in interesting things in cultures that I enjoy. But there's something that feels so wrong about it. Imagine a Corolla being more expensive than a Mercedes C Class. This is the equivalent to that but in the opposite side on the equation.

It doesn't make sense but there's probably little you can do about it. Big tech companies ruined the job market. Not because they pay well, but because they pay too well for mediocre IC and Manager positions that barely move the needle.

> This is the fallacy of modern tech-based capitalism and I hate it

I hate to break it to you but no capitalism (and for that matter no non-capitalism) has ever been structured in a way that would satisfy you. For labor to be compensated for its "true worth" there needs to be a way to accurately judge what the "true worth" of the labor is, and honestly, the person to whom it matters the most is the laborer. This suffers from several problems: 1) most people don't know what they are worth, ofetn aiming too high (dunning-kruger) or aiming too low (impostor syndrome) and 2) even if they did, it's quite impossible to read the laborer's mind, because worth is tied up in different values, that are not necessarily in alignment with the values of the employer (or the state, in the case of non-capitalisms).

I think these days things might even be a bit worse because we have a strong narrative of "do what you love"/"do what makes you happy" in most western societies (not necessarily a bad thing). But there is no corresponding "though may not correlate to what other people want of you, be prepared to pay the difference in price" narrative.

I do think "do what you love" and its cousin "shoot for the stars" get a lot of people in trouble.

Personally, "doing" in all its myriad forms isn't something I'm really capable of "loving." Similarly, "dreams" are more of a crushing anxiety-burden than a source of joy.

I think about this a lot because my younger sister, whose personality was similar to mine, but with more conscientiousness thrown in, took her own life in 2014, while enrolled in a top-14 law school and after graduating from Stanford. I get a lot of the mental-illness platitudes re: that, amounting to the idea that if only society had done a better job of ensuring that she got herself to the brain-mechanic and providing better brain-mechanics she'd be a high-achieving lawyer, passionate about the causes she's representing, today.

I wonder, though. She was not ambitious as a kid, and maybe if people had treated this as her personality and not a pathology, she'd have gone to a worse school, taken an easier path, and been happy and alive today.

Me, I have like, some ambitions, and I enjoy my job at times, but it's all in service of the comfort and security of my family and self. And honestly I think this "slacker" personality is on balance an asset for fatherhood.

I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I'm trying to make the connection to what happened and your comment:

>I do think "do what you love" and its cousin "shoot for the stars" get a lot of people in trouble.

Are you implying your sister was doing what she loved and it got her in trouble? Because the opposite comes to mind when I read stories like this, that perhaps people feel driven to follow the path they feel they are "supposed" to and are worse off for it.

I'm genuinely curious about your perspective but I hope it goes without saying that you don't need to respond if it's too painful.

In her suicide note, which I read six years ago and not since, she branded herself destined for failure and declared her intention to spare her family from the burden she was destined to be. She tried her hand at several careers and I think she didn't come close to loving any of them, and was conscientious enough for this to wrack her with guilt.

If you're told "do what you love" doing something you don't love is failure. But most people don't love work. That's why it's called fucking "work". If you're very ambitious, you do love work, because fulfilling your ambition makes up for, you know, working. If you are neither ambitious nor conscientious, you dismiss "love what you do" for bullshit and get on with your life.

If you are conscientious, but not ambitious - that's the dangerous combination. You can't bring yourself to dismiss people's expectations, so you blame yourself.

So, yeah. Maybe I'm full of shit. Maybe I'm just making up a narcissistic story where she wouldn't have killed herself if she were more of an amoral slacker, like me.

But I just wish there were more of a sense of permission to just shrug, say "it's a living" and live your life.

Thank you for sharing. As someone who scores much, much higher on the “conscientious” scale than the other big five personality traits, what you said rings very true, but you framed it in a way I had not previously thought of.

I wonder if this is worse in the US where Americans find so much identity in their jobs. Regardless, as you said, people need room to just “make a living” and find purpose (and hopefully contentment) outside of one's work if we can’t all be following our passion (if we’re lucky enough to have even found our passion)

Thank you for sharing your story.

All you've said is that labor market is fundamentally flawed in terms of price efficiency.

Well, no. I also explain why.

> This is the fallacy of modern tech-based capitalism and I hate it. The job that I enjoyed the least and where I also did the least amount of work was the best salary I ever had. The value that I added through that job was nominal at best.

I don't understand what point you're trying to make. There is no fallacy, only a collosal misconception. Salary is not, not ever was, a proxy for happiness. At most, it's a reflection of the employer's willingness and capacity to pay.

Of course a company that makes billions and wants to poach the best talent out there has the means and opportunity to pay a whole lot more than a small company with no viable business model that's burning through cash. Hell, boring institutional jobs on old banks and insurance companies pay handsomely, even though you might be required to wear a suit and tie to churn out that sweet sweet COBOL code.

Salary is not a fun index. Some industries pay more than others, and are more fun than others. This isn't news. Where is the need to spin this a capitalist conspiracy?

You know you are not a machine, right?

I think being part of a big company will always be like that. The 10x performers will get paid 1.3x and the .5 performers will get paid .8x, so if you're smart and not particularly passionate about your work it makes much more sense to be a .5x performer. Also, usually the codebases tend to be quite complex with little to no documentation since that kind of work is not rewarded. This means the hundreds of engineers who later work on that will take 10x as long to complete anything but it doesn't matter because the person who wrote it already got promoted and left the company. Then these engineers lose motivation as a task that should have taken 1 month takes 10 months, and that also brings productivity down. This is why I look for teams that use open source technology because there is competition there and if your documentation sucks no one will use your code or another competitor will take over. This is why I'm convinced places that use proprietary tech are going to fail in the future since the natural forces of competition will cause the internal technology to stagnate.

> This is why I'm convinced places that use proprietary tech are going to fail in the future since the natural forces of competition will cause the internal technology to stagnate

This was Bezos' reasoning for making as much of their internal software available to the public via AWS, a) now it's required to be documented, b) it's now subject to competition, you know it's not the best if no one's using it.

This meme needs to die. AWS was always built from the ground up to be a new product not an offshoot from Amazon retail.


Jeff issued a famous memo early on that mandaded public interfaces even for internal usage [1].

GP was talking how this improves reward structure, not about AWS

[1] https://medium.com/slingr/what-year-did-bezos-issue-the-api-...

Which has nothing to do with

This was Bezos' reasoning for making as much of their internal software available to the public via AWS

Those APIs had nothing to do with AWS. So how was the original poster not talking about AWS when they mentioned AWS?

Also a clean public interface says nothing about how badly written and documented the underlying code is.

I'm using AWS to mean the 212 different cloudy services they offer, not the original compute and storage products

No Amazon retail doesn’t develop a service internally and turn it over to AWS so they can sell it to customers. AWS treats Amazon Retail as just another customer that sometimes gets access to services before they are made publicly available. They talk about this all of the time at reinvent.

I mean Amazon as a whole, not specifically the retail arm. Wasn't the point that every internal service should be able to be productised? This was much later than when AWS was started.

So I guess I should disclose this now. I work as an implementation consultant (not my official title but it’s more descriptive - I actually do hands on keyboard coding) at AWS. But I’m just as far removed from the going ons between AWS and Amazon retail as anyone on the outside. So I’m definitely not trying to do the “appeal to authority”.

The mandate was in 2001. AWS first launched in 2006. From reading the letter, it wasn’t about being able to make services productizable. It was more so teams could work independently and choose whichever underlying technology they wanted. It also prevents the issue the original poster was having. It’s much easier to make changes to a small API than a monolith.

It takes a lot to go from internal API to product even on a small scale. Werner Vogels said at the last Reinvent that S3 is made you of hundred or more separate internal services exposed internally via an API. My last company we also had a mandate to be “API first”. Not because we were trying to be like Amazon with less than 75 people, but we actually sold access to our APIs to our customers - large business that used them as the backend for their websites and mobile apps. We also used the APIs internally for our websites and large ETL jobs where sour clients would send us files for bulk changes.

> This is why I'm convinced places that use proprietary tech are going to fail in the future since the natural forces of competition will cause the internal technology to stagnate.

I doubt proprietary tech is going to fade completely, but it's true that maybe there are forces that are pushing for big companies to make more and more projects open source. If you think about it it makes sense: the employees are happier because their work has more impact, they also benefit because they can showcase it in their CV. For the company they externalize testing, quality improves because employees are going to be more careful when their code is in the open and they are more motivated. It can also make hiring easier.

I think you're incorrect, although I hope you're not.

This idea will never become a reality for the vast majority of companies, for the exact same reason that companies fear piracy. If I open source my product then anyone who uses that open source code is a lost sale. A lost sale means I make less money, less money means the board is mad, on and on and on...

The bottom line is money, and open sourcing their code means (to them) a loss in potential revenue.

Well, that’s only true if you plan to sell the code. Much code exists not for its own sake, but to support the business. Maybe you need to build an in house inventory system for some kind of complex product you’re building. You were never gonna sell that software, but you still won’t open source it because that would help your competitors...

Well, and if it's so tied into an in-house inventory system just tossing a bunch of code into a Github repo is about 99% useless. There is almost zero value to just tossing some open source code over the wall.

A counterpoint is that companies making money through sale of software code alone is the lowest ever. Google loses nothing from open source, as they sell nothing. The biggest companies have moved to SaaS stacks or enterprise sales models. We're seeing less value in the code itself, so the release of it is getting easier every day.

Open source is going to be used to co-opt people into service contracts. For example one product I use right now. If you use it in a very particular way you do not have to pay much if at all to use it. But if you get out of that lane you need to goto the 'service contract' route. I am not talking 10 dollars a month either. I am talking 1-3k per machine. These things almost all want clusters. So usually at least 3. If you are using that level you probably will want at least 2 areas (dev, prod), more if you are doing it 'right'. So now your 'free' stuff just went sideways and now costs 200k+ just to get the software, per year. Oh but just use AWS/Azure/Google you say, add even more to that cost as they bury it in their usage fees. Then on top of that you need to develop your own programs.

I predict the open source bits will be bait. With many 90% solutions. The proprietary bits will be the ones you need to make it work like a real program. Oh there will still be soup to nuts full on free stacks. But I seeing more and more of this service fee way.

As for making hiring easier? Not so much. When you can get 100+ applicants for 1 position. The reality is at least 99 of those have to go away. One more filter does not do much other than let you round bin things faster say 'cant find anyone' then grab your favorite contracting firm and hire them anyway.

Elasticsearch was (is?) like that with AWS. The managed version lacked a lot of important enterprise features (LDAP integration) and was "optimized" to require several times as many machines for the same storage, since you had a ~1.5TB disk limit per node.

But I went from needing technical support from elastic 4-5 times a year, to zero and found work arounds for the other limitations, like cognito for authorization and storing less data in the cluster. The end result was a six-figure savings on licensing and less weekend work for me at the cost of a five-figure increase in AWS costs.

I'd say it was worth it.

This is a very interesting perspective, had not noticed this advantage for companies to have more open source projects.

During my nearly five years at Google, I have switched a number of teams and projects, as a contracting SDE.

There were vast differences in the pace, communication style, and project success rate among them. There were very fast-paced projects with extremely sharp colleagues. There were small projects in contact with the prospective (non-engineering) users of the tool being built. There were slowish projects with some red tape thrown in. One project was outright canceled because of architecture not matching the changed requirements.

No, not al FAANG is "like this". No, every single company inside FAANG is huge, and very much varied within.

Walk around. Talk to people. Get interested in what other teams are doing. Do some research, because I bet the tools to look into other teams' work are there, as are informal internal forums. Find a better team, and migrate to it.

Seconding this, I had some similar questions as OP at my Amazon internship (moreso stemming from going from Data Science work to web dev). The thing is every team at Amazon is so different u can find teams moving at breakneck speed in JS monorepos and u can find teams barely moving just fixing random build configs for months without even many unit tests in their repo (some people enjoy maintaining mature software in a customer focused team).

I suggest OP browse through the internal code search tool, find a team that fits their needs/values, and then try to find a job under that manager. OP has the unique ability to see the actual day to day work a team is doing before applying, they should take advantage of that. You can find a team like OP describes at any company but how many times can you see the day to day work before applying, take advantage.

Not FANG, but at Fortune 50 company. I can second to this. There are teams that move quickly, use new technology, create new products. But most of the SWEs work on mature products with moats- the development is slow because of the complexity of the product, and redtape.

I remember talking to a senior person at FB (wears a suit on friday). I asked "how is hiring?". Their response: terrible. People like this OP game systems, know how to test, understands what the boss wants, know ahead of time the questions they will be asked, etc. They have gamed the entire system. So! They tend to get through the interview with ease. The problem is... now what. What is the next thing they need to game? Turns out, they are in it for the 'game' itself. Eventually they wake up, realize their life now is to ensure people click on FB ads. Basically, they finished the last level on Mario Bros. and now begin a bizarre existential crisis.

I don't understand what you mean by "people like this OP". They don't say that they struggled with the hiring process or feel like a fraud. Rather they seem to be easily capable of the work.

Actually I'm not sure what any of your post is about. Your friend doesn't like their job because they're hiring people to make facebook ads more effective?

Hiring doesn’t show whether you’re capable of the work, it just answers whether you might be hired.

The reply here is entirely in line with the poster; they didn’t say anything about feeling like a fraud, they said candidates in tech minmax career choices with no thought as to their actual purpose.

And yeah anyone remotely self-aware would feel disgusting working on adtech. It’s just that most tech workers do not think about such things.

Some of us end up working at jobs infinitely worse than adtech, the public service.

What? What do you mean by worse...

Worse as in you try to get things done in a cost effective way in order to deliver value to taxpayers but have to deal with lifers, deadwood, and clueless managers who are completely risk-averse. I know. I work in the public service.

Right there with you. Not saying I'm a bright shining star, but it is amazing the level of incompetence you sometimes run across. It is legitimately the first place where I've found people who actually cost time/resources for anything they touch or interact with.

The other thing is the supreme deference to rank at the cost of initiative.

It was mind blowing coming from a more competitive corporate world.

And in addition slacks as much as he can get away with. There is that option where even if it looks like you can get away with working only on Mondays spreading results, you would work on Tuesday, Wendsday etc too.

I was in the same boat as OP a few years back at an old grimy tech megacorp. I worked my ass off, and couldn't make any progress because of terrible tools, terrible teammates, terrible process. It was a fucking nightmare.*

If that'd been my first tech job, I might have just ragequit the whole industry.

Fortunately, I'd already been around the block a couple of times, so I knew that I just had a particularly bad team at a mediocre company. I hopped ship, and everything was great at the next company.

*A bad job:

My teammates were annoyed any time I asked them any questions. "Just read the code! It's in the code!" Yeah, OK, I'll spend 8 hours digging through this fucking code when you could have spent 10 minutes explaining it. I think this is probably the worst thing for productivity I've come across in my career. Any time someone asks you for help at work, DROP EVERYTHING AND FUCKING HELP THEM. Teach them how to fish, too, don't just walk them through things. Show them where you're finding documentation, show them the local equivalent of a man page, introduce them to the people with the tribal knowledge. If they spent an honest 10 minutes trying to figure something out on their own, it's part of your job to go help them out.

I'd fix a bug, then have to go to meeting after meeting after meeting to try and get permission to check in my fix. It'd often be either rejected, or I'd have to redo the same handful of lines of code a dozen times before I could get it in.

I'd have to set up some internally-developed test infrastructure, but it was a 40 step procedure to get the tool running and if any one of those steps went wrong, you'd have to go back to the start and start over. Nobody who was familiar with it was willing to walk me through it, so it took an incredible amount of willpower to force myself to get that shit set up.

There was another team working on the exact same thing as my team in another org, but we weren't "tented" (AKA: "disclosed") on each other's super secret projects, so we weren't allowed to work together at all or share any information. My team hated the other team, and they in turn hated our team. (I knew this because I had a close personal friend on the other team)

The development environment was almost completely paralyzed by company-wide bugs. The company was sharing a single insanely gigantic codebase across thousand and thousands of engineers, and there'd be month+ long stretches where the build and tools were broken. Since things were broken so long, people would check in new build breaks without realizing it, and it ended up in a vicious circle of badness.

And of course, the product we were building was a useless piece of crap that everybody hated.

If you're hiring smart people and they get into your company and find no way of succeeding, that's because your company sucks, not your hiring. This person isn't complaining that the job is to make people click on facebook ads, they're complaining because the company is so badly organised that 90% of the time is wasted not even on doing the job.

He didn't say they were hiring smart people, he said they were hiring people who could pass the interviews.

But there's literally nothing to indicate this person isn't smart. There's evidence that they are smart- they passed the interview, which let's face it, might not be perfect but certainly requires some level of intelligence. There's nothing int he Op post that indicates they're not capable of doing good work, only that they're in a situation where they and their colleagues aren't.

Smart enough to know yourself > smart enough to pass interview.

Knowing oneself has little correlation to intelligence as far as I can tell.

Any effective 'theory of mind' requires intelligence.


It's a wisdom skill.

I knew a very smart guy who even won some competitions and such.

He never found a company or position where he would be productive. He was "demotivated" in multiple companies (I met his former colleges from other companies who confirmed and seen him in multiple teams).

Reminds me of Paul Graham’s essay: http://paulgraham.com/lesson.html

“I had avoided working for big companies. But if you'd asked why, I'd have said it was because they were bogus, or bureaucratic. Or just yuck. I never understood how much of my dislike of big companies was due to the fact that you win by hacking bad tests."

What you are trying to say sounds interesting, but not entirely clear. Was the FB exec complaining that when they hire, they are getting what they asked for ? Ie people who are very good at tests.

They hire people who can pass algorithm tests, those same people once employeed game the performance review process. You can't fire them because they "meet expectations" but they also have no interest in maximizing their impact towards helping the company succeed.

For example, if the company gives you a goal of contributing to OSS you could add some feature that no one asked for and contribute 200 lines of code quickly. Or you could debug and fix a bug that many people complained about and that may take much longer and may be just a one line change. But your manager doesn't have the time to drill down into the details of that on your performance review. So the bug fixers looks worse than the feature adder during performance review.

You could say the problem is management for having a bad review system but as soon as they update the review system it will be gamed by the people who don't care about the company.

This is a side-effect of hiring smart people to do simple work.

These companies optimize for hiring people who've spent their live trying to beat the next "level" of their lives with a bigger score than all of their peers. And once you have them, you make them QA the game of life on easy mode. Some people will invent some meager challenges to stay sane, and others will just be bored and miserable without a challenge and the prestige that comes from overcoming them.

Maybe the focus on leetcode is not the best way to hire.

Every company wants to automate or streamline the hiring process to get warm bodies in chairs in front of computers.

What about culture and vision? What type of people do you really want working for you? A cog?

The only thing I disagree with is that it's "bizarre." I think on average people have 6 careers in their lives. And people change jobs every few years as well. It's just a part of life to improve or change what you work on and there is no shame in that. I've worked in the bay area for almost 4 years at the same company and I think about changing things all the time.

>And people change jobs every few years as well.

That's a fairly tech (and probably Bay Area) view of the world. I've been ~10 years or longer at three separate companies and I know tons of people in the same boat.

If you look at leetcode style interviews this is pretty much exactly how I'd expect it to end up. FB probably is worst as most people would only go there for the money.

I have a different take: Nothing really wrong with gaming the system. If someone has successfully "gamed" the interview but not effective at their role, then the interview isn't testing the candidate for the role and sounds like a broken interview loop.

I'm struggling with the purpose of my job too.

I’ve been struggling with just purpose in general for years. I’m a husband and father - those are supposed to be my purpose. But sometimes I don’t feel very good at them. Hang in there. We’ll figure this all out.

Me too. I've stuck with my miserable job for the last 4 years so I can support them. I feel like if I quit I'd be failing them.

I'm probably not one to be giving advice but I feel like your family might gain more from having a happy fulfilled parent with less wealth possibly? How that might affect you/the way you act/the things you do day to day could be more valuable long term. Obviously thats ignoring a lot e.g. finances, practicality.

That would be nice, but I'm responsible for all our bills and I can't get a job that pays the same or better due to my experience in obscure tech, like Neoxam.

I'll just continue to grind in this job until I get fired, die, or hopefully can retire someday (maybe coastFI).

Yeah, it's never simple unfortunately. Good luck all the same.

You too!

Feeling like you're not doing well at something is a key motivator towards growth & getting better. And yet through growth you have to grapple with the truth -- you're not doing as well at something as you could be. Some days I really struggle because the more you're growing the more you'll deal with intrusive thoughts that originate in that growth. Like you said -- keep going :).

Yeah, I'm familiar with the pyramid/staircase of mastery and the inertia period as it pertains to intrusive thoughts.

I like to learn new things, struggle (within reason), and iterate on my previous attempts or prototypes to build a better product that I can be proud of. I did this when I was building my android apps and loved it.

My problem is that the company sets us up for failure and doesn't even realize it. The business consistently gives us terrible requirements. They can't build a business process map or anything else to describe the processes they follow. They constantly miss big pieces so we end up with systems that are spaghetti code to cover all these things they miss.

The company also views struggling with new tech or roles as a negative. They don't provide any real training either, but I guess the Plural Sight self-learning trend is more of an industry thing. I joined my new team about 4 months ago and worked on a AWS Lambda in Python, Slunk alerts/dashboards, Tableau dashboards, and I have no training in any of it. I had to self-teach AWS (2 certs), Python, Splunk (User cert), and Tableau. The demoralizing part is that little of this seen as valuable. I can't improve my career by "developing" Tableau or Splunk dashboards. I need to have a steady diet of AWS and Python where the requirements are 90% there so I can architect and develop elegant, or at least practical, solutions to an interesting business problem.

I've gotta read up on the staircase of mastery cause I am not familiar :D

When you say self-teaching you mean you're paying for certs/doing on your own time? Or work is paying on one hand but going out after it isn't seen as valuable on the other? I'm just curious but by no means am I saying that there's not just bad situations to get out of, just that discomfort and feeling like you're not doing well aren't _solely_ reasons to leave. Hope your situation improves though, sounds like you're doing the work.

They will pay for AWS certs (contract price goes down as certs in org go up) and a few others, but you have to do it on your own time, which is fair.

I guess the better way to put it is: would you assign Tableau work to someone who has no training or experience in it and then tell them they are taking too long? The only way to do it is to learn it as you go, which is going to be slower than someone who is trained. I really want to become an expert in something useful/marketable like AWS and Python, but these no-value assignments are throwing a wrench in that.

Hysterically this usually "turns" for a company right around the point where someone successfully pitches they really need someone coming to the office in a suit on a Friday to signal seriousness.

Formal Friday was a very loose excuse for a happy hour, I assure you :)

This is on the companies themselves. You show young talent some kind of game then that's the game they'll play.


Reminds me of Goodhart's Law: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."

considering that the entire point of programming is to automate your job, i'd say it's just about right.

But they can always point to their resume, which lists a prestigious faang company.

I worked for a well-known tech company for a couple years, with a grueling interview process. I regularly get cold called by recruiters asking me about "my time at X".

So it's a good thing, from a career perspective. Whether it's a worthwhile thing of itself is a personal choice.

Does this ever get old? From what I've seen, former FAANG hires get paraded around like some exotic pet at some smaller companies. It's kind of cringy as an onlooker. I once worked at a place with executives who had "hire 3 people from google" as a KPI.

It's cringey as hell, but from a "making my career" perspective, it's clearly valuable to many in charge of hiring.

At Apple, the amount of debate, code review delays, and interdepartmental meetings made everything take forever. I once waited 2 months for a code review there. A feature I wrote and pushed for Leopard didn’t actually ship until Lion.

Back then there was severe priority inversion, anything the desktop needed got delayed by iOS priorities but also the senior engineers with magic rubber stamp powers were working on iOS. So changes for the desktop stack never got approved without significant and needless delays.

I don't know if I should feel happy or sad that even the employees are getting the app store review treatment.

This really goes a long way towards explaining the current state of macOS.

MacOS is less than 10% of their sales, so makes sense.

Being less than 10% of $260b in sales doesn't excuse neglecting the product. Also maybe their Mac sales would be higher if they hadn't destroyed their laptop by replacing the function keys with a touchbar.

Counterpoint: All iOS apps, and the OS itself, are built macOS. Measuring importance in terms of sales seems shortsighted to me.

And that means if you care about writing iOS apps, you have to buy a Mac whether you like it or not.

It also means, if a critical mass hate developing on Macs, then iOS software will suffer. App store fees are already a business pain point for app developers. And web browsers are getting capable enough now that it's probably feasible for a lot of apps to go back to being browser only.

It's going to be hard to reverse a trend away from Apple if it starts. Imagine what would happen if Microsoft Visual Studio becomes the IDE of choice for iOS development after devs ditch macOS in droves. Microsoft won't play nice.

Apple isn't watching their flanks by letting macOS atrophy and a competitor will step in if they don't cover it.

You act like developers have a choice. Companies go where the money is and developers do what companies tell them. The supremacy of the indie developer died a decade ago.

There are very few apps that could be web only apps that are making money via in app purchases. Most of the money being made in the App Store are pay to win games. Most of the subscriptions apps that use to allow in app purchases are already forcing users to pay outside of the App Store - including Netflix and Spotify.

I doubt any company would prefer to spend its time on the small product vs it’s cash cow (iPhone).

Most interesting post of this whole thread!

At apple, you cannot browse internal resources. At fb and google, it is called SWE instead of SDE. Amazon has SDEs. (perhaps netflix too?)

Although you might be smart enough to know that and misdirect.

Even at the best universities, best tech companies, best startups, you will find pools of miserable and unmotivated people.

Don't get stuck.

There are brilliant people everywhere and certainly at faang. Find them, learn, and seize your opportunity to have an interesting life.

> There are brilliant people everywhere and certainly at faang. Find them, learn, and seize your opportunity to have an interesting life.

You mean interesting career. That may impact your life -- may. I've known a lot of STEM types who made good money, worked 60 hours a week, hated their lives -- but they had a good career! -- and eventually moved on to something else.

Don't lose sight of that career/life divergence. Being at a FAANG gives you access to a lot of good opportunities, but they're only good if they can get you the lifestyle you want.

edit: see jupiter90000's post, which does a far better job explaining my points :/

> At apple, you cannot browse internal resources.

What does this mean? Aren't there resources for onboarding, training, project wikis, repos, etc. which are accessible to employees but not the general public?

I believe he means you can't just arbitrarily browse the source code for any Apple software you're curious about.

I know engineers at Apple and they have full access to the source for almost any project.

Microsoft has SDEs as well

No 'M' in FAANG ;-)

(Sorry, couldn't help myself! Many people still refer to it as a FAANG company)

FAAMG is so much more appropriate to describe the dominant tech players. People just like the sound of "FAANG".

Netflix doesn't come close to matching Microsoft or the others.

In terms of what? Money and power? Certainly not.

Engineering chops? Well-run organizations? Doing interesting and fun work? Absolutely. Probably even more so.

Market Cap

I keep hearing FAMGAN to describe these, Facebook Apple Microsoft Google Amazon Netflix.

I just go with FAGMAN, it rolls off the tongue nicely

It probably depends on the criteria. Is this the biggest West Coast relatively sexy tech employers or is it the large-ish companies with the highest average comp for a given level of software engineer? (I actually agree that, in general, Microsoft probably belongs on the list more than Netflix does.)

In France the acronym that stuck was GAFA, or GAFAM if you want to includes Microsoft. I always prefered GAFA / GAFAM to FAANG.

However GAFA probably sounds better to the ear when pronounced the French way than the English way. This may explains that.

Does Microsoft generally pay software engineers as much as Netflix though? My impression is no.

Also my impression. FAANG isn't necessarily about market cap, it's about the highest paying and sexiest jobs you can get for a large employer

The term FANG (and FAANG) was coined and popularized by stock market investors, not tech workers/job hunters. So it's about the highest growth large-cap tech stocks, not the absolute largest market caps or most well-paid/prestigious jobs.

It was coined in the Ballmer days, when MSFT's stock price had been stagnant for about a decade, so no surprise that it got left out. Things are different today though.


Thanks to cheems I now prefer the sound of FAAMG :) https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/cheems

GAFAM is the more sensible acronym.

which is why we ought to switch to the all-encompassing FAGMAN acronym

ive heard FANMAG mulitple times nowadays.

If you drop a few you can have MAGA - Microsoft Amazon Google Apple :-)

If you add a fictional one and switch out a social network you can cave MATH - Microsoft Amazon Twitter Hooli

I think that for it to make sense, Netflix needs to be removed just as much as Microsoft needs to be added.

I think you're underestimating the international potential of Netflix. The only place where they are facing any competition is the US.

Even there the content produced by their competitors is getting bought by Netflix later down the line for international distribution.

Hollywood is terrified of Netflix. It's much more exciting than Microsoft.

Question: shouldn't G actually be another A? Or are we actually referring to Google entity of Alphabet corporation?

FA*M. Or we could add SFDC, Uber, and Palantir to form


It is not a FAANG, by definition :)

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